Washington, DC is littered with surveillance devices designed to trick surrounding mobile phones into logging onto signal-lifting networks, thereby allowing for tracking or call-monitoring purposes.
While traveling around the capital city with Washington Post reporters, a top executive using his company’s mobile-security technology detected as many as 18 such devices mimicking legitimate cell towers around the city, especially in sensitive areas around the likes of the White House, the US Capitol building, and foreign embassies.
Aaron Turner’s company Integricell is one of many outfits that has developed technology to indicate surveillance devices – known as ISMI catchers – used by police, intelligence entities, private individuals, and others to track surrounding devices or to even spy on phone calls.
ISMI catchers are named after a “unique identifying phone code called an ISMI,” according to the Post, and can hijack phone signals, tricking an average mobile phone attempting to hook into established cell networks such as Verizon or AT&T.
While Integricell found at least 18 such ISMI catchers, others believe that is simply the beginning.
“I think there’s even more here,” said Les Goldsmith, top executive with ESD America, a tech company partnering with Integricell to promote the company’s GSMK CryptoPhone. “That was just us driving around for a day and a half.”
Others expressed doubt to the Post that the CryptoPhone – currently marketed at $3,500 apiece – can accurately identify individual ISMI catchers.
“I would bet money that there are governments that are spying in DC,” said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Whether you can detect that with a $3,000 device, I don’t know.”
Goldsmith said that though there are ISMI catchers in the locations identified by Integricell’s technology, CryptoPhone cannot very well determine the source of espionage, whether it is the US government, local police, a foreign intelligence entity, or an individual.
The Federal Communications Commission has taken notice of ISMI-catching technology, as even skilled hobby technologists could build a surveillance device for less than $1,500. This summer, the FCC organized a task force to study potential use and abuse of ISMI catchers by foreign governments or private citizens. The FCC does not have authorization to police US government use of the catchers – which are illegal to use without a search warrant or other legal clearance.
Meanwhile, researchers across the globe are racing to counter ISMI catchers with a device known as “ISMI catcher-catcher.” These efforts include the development of free or inexpensive apps that could offer some protection from surveillance.
CryptoPhone looks for three indicators when attempting to identify an ISMI catcher: when a phone moves to a 2G network from a more-secure 3G one; when a phone connection “strips away” encryption; and when a cell tower does not offer a “neighbor’s list” of other cell towers in the area. ISMI catchers will not provide such lists, hoping to capture any phone that it comes in contact with in a general area.
When cruising around DC with the Post, Integricell’s Turner reported one or two of the three indicators. Only once in 90 minutes were all three indicators detected.
While there is a surge of interest in the likes of the CryptoPhone, researchers contend that makers of IMSI catchers will boost their own technology to outwit ISMI catcher-catchers, signaling an arms race in surveillance and counter-surveillance technology.
Earlier this month, Popular Science published a story – citing ESD America’s CEO Goldsmith – reporting that the CryptoPhone had found 17 different fake cell phone towers, or interceptors, across the United States in cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and more.
“Interceptor use in the US is much higher than people had anticipated,” Goldsmith told Popular Science. “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”
Although these interceptors act as fake cell phone towers, they are not necessarily large, physical structures. They could simply be small mobile devices that act exactly like a real tower, deceiving phones into giving up information. Such devices are known as ‘Stingrays,’ after the brand name of one popular type of interceptor.
Police agencies across the country are increasingly relying on Stingrays to conduct investigations, but the powerful tools aren’t often discussed in public.
In June, the US Marshals Service intervened in a dispute between a Florida police department and the state’s ACLU chapter, with the Marshals sweeping in at the last minute to seize controversial cell phone records obtained with a Stingray device before the ACLU was able to review them.
The ACLU has asserted that a Stingray enables the “electronic equivalent of dragnet ‘general searches’ prohibited by the Fourth Amendment,” and convinced a court to force the Sarasota police to make the documents available for review.
A senior European Union official has revealed that some EU member states have purchased oil from ISIL Takfiri militants despite their rhetoric against the group.
In a briefing to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Iraq Jana Hybas-kova said some European countries have purchased crude from the ISIL.
She, however, refused to disclose any names despite pressure by some Parliament members to do so.
The EU official also warned against any support by the West for separatist Kurdish groups who, she said, would destabilize the Middle East.
Earlier reports accused Turkey of buying and transporting oil from both the ISIL and Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. According to the reports, Western intelligence agencies could track ISIL oil shipments as they moved across Iraq and Turkey.
ISIL reportedly controls eleven oil fields in northern Iraq as well as Syria’s Raqqa province.
US intelligence officials estimate that the Takfiri militants earn more than USD 3 million a day from oil profit, theft, human trafficking and ransom. They say the militants sell oil and other products via established networks in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Turkey has denied reports of involvement in ISIL’s oil smuggling operations.
When placed in the proper context, recent events in Ukraine emerge as part of a pattern of “silent coups” typical of the era of President Barack Obama in which “regime change” is disguised as “democracy promotion” but actually overturns democratically elected leaders.
The Ukrainian coup unfolded in three stages: the establishment of the justification for the coup, the coup itself, and the exploitation of the coup to move Ukraine into the American sphere. All three stages bear the Obama administration’s fingerprint of looking like democracy even as the democratic will of a population is negated and reversed.
These modern coups are unlike the classic military coups executed by earlier U.S. presidents, such as those that removed Mossadeq in Iran in 1953, Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 and Allende in Chile in 1973. Nor are they like President George W. Bush’s “regime change” involving overt U.S. invasions. The Ukrainian coup was so disguised as to be unrecognizable as a coup. The Obama-era coups require no tanks and few guns. They usually don the trappings of “pro-democracy” domestic protests.
The first stage establishes the justification for the coup. It pretends to be the expression of the public will through mass democratic expression in the streets. But it actually amplifies the voice of a disaffected and defeated minority. This pattern under President Obama took shape in the streets of Tehran in 2009 after the people of Iran made the mistake of once again choosing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as their president – not the choice America wanted, so the choice had to be changed.
Next, the complaints of the U.S.-desired but defeated Hossein Mousavi and his Green Movement were picked up and amplified by the West, claiming that the election had been fraudulent, justifying a popular uprising for “regime change.” Except that the result hadn’t been forced on the people.
Despite frequent promises to furnish evidence and despite frequent opportunities to do so, Mousavi never delivered the case for electoral theft. And, as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself pointed out, this was no narrow victory where the rigging of a few votes or even a few hundred thousand votes could steal a victory. “How can they rig eleven million votes?” the Ayatollah asked of an election that got about an 85 percent turnout and saw 40 million people cast ballots.
But it is not just the titanic challenge of moving millions of votes from one side of the electoral ledger to the other. The polls, both before and after the election, continually showed that the votes were always there for Ahmadinejad. Former U.S. national security officials Flynt Leverett and Hilary Mann Leverett have documented that 14 methodologically sound polls — run externally by experienced Canadian and American polling organizations and internally by the University of Tehran — demonstrated the predictability, reasonableness and legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s 62.5 percent vote total.
On election night, the University of Tehran’s polls showed Ahmadinejad vacuuming up 57 percent of the vote. In post-election polls, between 55 percent and 66 percent of voters said they had voted for Ahmadinejad (who had a strong base of support among poorer Iranians and especially among rural voters whose opinions were less noticeable to the Western press).
The Western refusal to recognize the democratically elected Ahmadinejad coupled with the credence and amplification that America gave to the exaggeratedly popular Green Movement created the umbrella under which Mousavi’s movement could take to the streets and attempt the removal of a regime unwanted by Washington.
Such a coup-in-disguise exploits one of the potential troubles with democracy. It is the nature of democracy that the majority of people, not the unanimity of people, get to select the government. Even if a government wins a convincing 62.5 percent of the vote, that leaves a sometimes dissatisfied 37.5 percent of the people to take to the streets.
In a large country like Iran, where 40 million people voted, that translates into 15 million people who can take to the streets. When picked up by a sympathetic Western media, protests by even a fraction of those numbers can create the appearance of a mass social movement that justifies supporting what appears to be a popular demand for a change in regime. A “pro-democracy” social movement is born.
In Iran, a group that could not change the government through the democratic electoral process appeared to make a strong “democratic” case to change the government through social pressure. A mass minority protesting in the streets produced a cry heard more loudly around the world than a silent majority in a secret polling booth. It was still the minority, but – in such cases – “democracy” can be wielded as a weapon against democracy. If you can’t bring about the government you want in the polls, bring it about in the streets.
This Iran experiment of legitimizing a coup by transforming the minority, which failed to democratically change the government at the polls, into a mass movement expressing the “public will” to change the government in the streets fell short of its goal although creating a widespread impression in the West that Ahmadinejad’s reelection was illegitimate.
Other ‘Silent Coup’ Attempts
Four years later, a similar silent coup attempt appeared in the streets of Venezuela. With the death of Hugo Chavez, America saw the opportunity for the first time since 1988 to have a leader elected in Venezuela who did not insist on his country’s autonomy from the U.S. But, to America’s dismay, the people voted to continue the Bolivarian Revolution by electing Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolás Maduro.
The Western media lens immediately focused not on the election of Maduro and Chavez’s party but on the claims of fraud issued by Maduro’s opponent (and Washington’s choice) Henrique Capriles. Despite Maduro agreeing to an audit of the voting machines, despite Capriles never filing his legal charges, despite 150 electoral monitors from around the world – including the Carter Center – certifying the election as fair and despite recognition by every other country in the world, the U.S. State Department continued not to recognize the Maduro government and continued to call for a recount and review.
When Capriles called his democratically defeated supporters to the streets, the Western media lens, as in Iran four years earlier, focused on and amplified the protests. As with Iran, Washington’s refusal to recognize the elected government and the U.S. legitimization of the protests provided cover to the opposition while it attempted to overturn the election results and overthrow the elected government.
Once again, “democracy promotion” was wielded as a weapon against democracy. Yet, in Venezuela, the experiment failed again, as it may have in Turkey and Brazil where Washington also looked with disfavor on the election outcomes.
In Brazil, Lula da Silva won 61.3 percent of the vote in 2002 and 60.83 percent in 2006. In the most recent election, in 2010, Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, won a majority 56.05 percent of the vote. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, far from declining in popularity, had seen his government’s actions rewarded with increasing voter support: 34 percent in 2002, 46.66 percent in 2007 and 49.83 percent in 2011. Nevertheless, in both countries, the defeated minorities took to the streets to attempt what they could not achieve in the polls.
This silent coup technique would prove more successful in Egypt where the democratically elected Mohamed Morsi would be removed from office not by democracy and the ballot box but, at least in part, by the defeated minority walking out of the polls and into the streets. “Democracy promotion” protests in Cairo and elsewhere set the stage for Morsi’s ouster by the Egyptian military.
The Ukrainian ‘Success’
The first stage of the Ukrainian coup — the establishment of a justification for the coup — fits this same pattern. As Seamus Milne said in the Guardian, the protest in the streets of Ukraine was “played out through the western media according to a well-rehearsed script. Pro-democracy campaigners are battling an authoritarian government.” But, he adds: “it bears only the sketchiest relationship to reality.”
Though President Viktor Yanukovych is often portrayed in the Western media as a dictator who was flown in by Russia, the man the protestors were trying to remove on the streets was elected in 2010 by a plurality of 48.9 percent of the people in elections declared fair by international observers.
So this was not a mass “pro-democracy” movement ousting an unelected dictator. As in Iran, Venezuela and Egypt, this was the case of the losers of the last election trying to reverse those results by going into the streets. But, to make the script work, Western governments and media alter the roles and turn the democratically elected president into the undemocratic one and the opposition into the democracy.
Thus, the West cooperated in the de-legitimization of the elected government of Ukraine and the legitimization of a coup. Such a silent coup is made to appear “democratic” by making it look like a heroic “peoples” movement arising spontaneously from the street.
Having legitimized the cause of the coup-makers, the second stage is the silent coup itself. In this stage, the silent coup is disguised as the shuffling of the legal and constitutional workings of a nation’s parliament. Once again, the coup is executed by wielding “democracy” as the chief weapon.
This aspect of the silent coup – making it appear as simply a discontented population leading to a dispute among constitutional institutions – was developed and perfected in Latin America. During Obama’s presidency, it first appeared in Honduras where democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya was whisked out of the country in a kidnapping at gunpoint that was dressed up as a constitutional obligation because Zelaya had announced a plebiscite to determine whether Hondurans wanted to draft a new constitution (since the old one favored the privileged oligarchy).
The political establishment – hostile to Zelaya’s proposal – falsely translated his announcement into an unconstitutional intention to seek reelection. The ability to stand for a second term would have been considered in the constitutional discussions, but was never announced as an intention by Zelaya.
The Honduran Supreme Court declared the President’s plebiscite unconstitutional; the military kidnapped Zelaya; and the Supreme Court charged Zelaya with treason and declared a new president. In other words, it was a coup in constitutional disguise. As American diplomatic cables made clear, the U.S. State Department knew the change in regime was a coup cloaked in the costume of a constitutional act. (Nevertheless, the result of the coup was supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)
The second appearance of this coup pattern occurred in Paraguay when the right-wing Frederico Franco took the presidency from democratically elected, left-leaning Fernando Lugo in a replay of the parliamentary coup. As in Honduras, a coup was made to look like a constitutional transition.
The right-wing opposition opportunistically capitalized on a skirmish over disputed land that left at least 11 people dead to unfairly blame the deaths on President Lugo. It then impeached him after giving him only 24 hours to prepare his defense and only two hours to deliver it. Embassy cables again show that the U.S. was prepared to permit this kind of coup.
The Ukrainian coup is the third incarnation of this pattern of silent coup during the Obama administration. The coup that removed Viktor Yanukovych was disguised to appear as the workings of parliamentary democracy (after street protests in Kiev – supported by U.S. officials – and violent clashes between police and demonstrators created a crisis atmosphere).
With the clashes growing more intense, the parliamentary process that removed the democratically elected leader of Ukraine had three phases. In Act I, after Yanukovych had reached an agreement guaranteed by three European nations to accept reduced powers and to call early elections so he could be voted out of office, government security forces withdrew from the streets leaving public buildings unguarded. That allowed protesters to take control.
In Act II, the opposition made sure that it had the numbers and the strength to take over the parliament by pouncing when, according to the UK Guardian, “many of the MPs for southern and eastern Ukraine were absent from the session. Instead they were at a pre-scheduled congress of regional politicians in Kharkiv” and by intimidating those who remained who were loyal to Yanukovych.
Journalist Robert Parry wrote that neo-Nazi right-wing protesters occupied the government buildings “and forced Yanukovych and many of his allies to flee for their lives.”
In Act III, political parties that held just a minority of the Ukrainian parliament — mostly from the west — dismissed Yanukovych, favorably altered the constitution and formed a new government and began passing new laws often unanimously under intimidation. Parry wrote that “With Yanukovych and many of his supporters fleeing for their lives, the opposition parties seized control of parliament and began passing draconian new laws . . . as neo-Nazi thugs patrolled the scene” – a coup in constitutional disguise.
So, what was really a coup was made to look, as in Honduras and Paraguay, like the legitimate democratic actions of the parliament.
Creating a Pretext
The original issue used as a pretext for the coup was Yanukovych’s abandonment of an economic alliance with the European Union in favor of an economic alliance with Russia. But polls clearly demonstrate that the numbers on each side of the choice paralleled the numbers in the 2010 election: a nearly even split. So, the side that took over in the streets and in the parliament was the same side that lost in the 2010 election and did not represent a democratic change of the people.
As in Honduras and Paraguay, the silent coup in parliamentary disguise was assisted by the West. The trigger for the coup was consistently presented in the West as Yanukovych simply abandoning the E.U. in favor of Russia. But the West pushed him into a situation that made the crisis inevitable.
According to Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at Princeton, “it was the European Union, backed by Washington, that said in November to the democratically elected President of a profoundly divided country, Ukraine, ‘You must choose between Europe and Russia’.” Cohen added that Washington and the E.U. rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer of collaboration for the E.U., America and Russia all to help Ukraine without forcing it to choose.
Having said that Yanukovych must choose one or the other, the West then made it impossible for him to choose the West. Robert Parry reported that the E.U. was “demanding substantial economic ‘reforms,’ including an austerity plan dictated by the International Monetary Fund.” Russia, however, offered $15 billion in loans without such demands.
And in addition to the austerity measures, Cohen added that the E.U. proposal also “included ‘security policy’ provisions . . . that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO.” The provisions compelled Ukraine to “adhere to Europe’s ‘military and security’ policies.”
In effect, the West forced Yanukovych to choose Russia, thus setting the stage for the violent protests in the street. The U.S. government then protected and nurtured those protests. Both Sen. John McCain and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland publicly endorsed and supported the protesters’ undemocratic demand for regime change.
Washington then provided cover and legitimacy to the violent movement in the street by condemning not the protesters’ fire bombs and other acts of violence but the police response. And America did more than rhetorically support the protest: it helped finance the disruptions.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was created by Ronald Reagan in 1983 to, according to Robert Parry, “promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states.” Allen Weinstein, its original project director, said in 1991 that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the C.I.A.”
Parry reported that the U.S.-government-funded NED listed a staggering 65 projects that it funded inside Ukraine, creating “a shadow political structure of media and activist groups that could be deployed to stir up unrest when the Ukrainian government didn’t act as desired.” (In a September 2013, op-ed in the Washington Post, NED President Carl Gershman had referred to Ukraine as “the biggest prize.”)
In other words, NED money financed projects that helped drive the coup, but there was apparently much more U.S. money than what NED supplied. In December 2013, Victoria Nuland told an audience at the Ukraine Foundation Conference that the U.S. had invested over $5 billion in a “democratic Ukraine.”
But Nuland said more than that. She accidentally revealed the American handwriting on the Ukrainian coup script. In an intercepted phone call that was made public, she was caught plotting who the Americans wanted to be the winner of the regime change. She told the American ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, that Arseniy Yatsenyuk was America’s choice to replace Yanukovych (and he did).
Pyatt also refers to the West needing to “midwife this thing,” a metaphorical admission of America’s role in the coup. At one point, Nuland even seems to say that Vice President Joe Biden, himself, would be willing to do the midwifery.
The Third Stage
Having made what was clearly a coup appear to be the legitimate shuffling of parliamentary democracy, the new government was ripe to advance to the third stage: moving Ukraine into the American sphere. Like the silent justification of the coup and the silent coup in constitutional disguise, the moving of Ukraine into the American sphere was a silent takeover: no invasion necessary.
The new government formally asked to ally itself with the patrons who helped place it in power in the first place. On Aug. 29, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk—the very man Victoria Nuland was caught naming as America’s choice to replace Yanukovych – announced that his cabinet had approved a bill putting an end to Ukraine’s non-aligned status that would pave the way for “resumption of Ukraine’s course for NATO membership.” The bill will now be sent on to parliament.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen responded immediately to Yatsenyuk’s announcement by reminding the world of NATOs 2008 decision that Ukraine would become a member of NATO if it so wanted and added that NATO would “fully respect” Ukraine’s intention to join.
So the silent coup had set the stage for the silent takeover of Ukraine by the West, as Ukraine slides out of Russia’s orbit and into NATO’s, a hostile takeover of a country in democratic disguise.
On its own, the Ukrainian intervention clearly has the markings of a U.S.-backed coup. But, removed from isolation and placed into the context of other coups and attempted coups that have taken place during Obama’s presidency, the Ukrainian coup can be seen to be the culmination of a pattern of coups made to look not like coups but like the admirable exercise of “democracy.”
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in U.S. foreign policy and history.
In the true spirit of capitalism, I’ve identified a niche in the academic market and plan to fill it. First, let’s state the problem: the recent spate of campus firings from Yale to the University of Illinois (with earlier episodes at Princeton, Brooklyn College and other institutions) have left schools in the messy position of having to rid themselves of controversial, undesirable prospective faculty and, God knows, sometimes even chaplains. The ensuing bad publicity generated by activist troublemakers too often gives these institutions a black eye they don’t deserve.
Wouldn’t it be better if schools could vet job candidates with a group of trusted consultants who would explore their background (especially their Twitter feeds), seeking embarrassing material and ideologically suspect expression in order to save administrators the trouble of learning about it when it’s too late? I call this new product I plan on offering, ZioCredit™. It’s based on the model of accreditation committees which travel the country examining the fitness of universities to call themselves legitimate academic institutions.
In my case, for a small fee, schools throughout the United States (but especially in communities with large pro-Israel markets) may hire my company to ensure peace of mind. A few of the more cynical among you may liken what I propose to protection rackets in which the Mafia offered businesses protection from assault. Those who refused often met unpleasant ends. If that’s what you’re thinking, you can put your mind at ease. This is the 21st century after all. Not Little Italy in the 1950s. We don’t operate that way. We’re as clean and classy as our clients and sport academic pedigrees to prove it.
So this is how the process works: if we find a candidate in the ideologically lower-tier it would be best to be rid of him or her immediately. We can take care of that for you (no, you won’t find him at the bottom of the East River in cement shoes–I kid!). Why should you get your hands dirty?
We will accredit your university, department by department to ensure each one hews to a proper line. We will even examine course curricula and weed out overly contentious books, essays and ideas. We will examine individual job candidates and prepare them and their case files for presentation to hiring committees and boards of trustees. Earning our accreditation (hence the company name, ZioCredit™), is the pro-Israel Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Working with us will guarantee that you will never face the unwanted attention of the Israel Lobby because after all, we are the Israel Lobby! But we’re a manageable and cooperative version. We don’t aim to embarrass you publicly. And we ask for so little in return.
There may be a few of you Old School academics worried about values like free speech and academic freedom. I can assure you that your concerns are unwarranted. After all, these values are overrated. Like tenure, they’ve outlived their usefulness in the modern age.
The premise behind ZioCredit™ is that in this new academic age what students really want is comfort. They want to enjoy their academic experience. They want civility. They don’t want unpleasant interactions with alien groups they’ve never met in their life. Ideas should be challenging but not too challenging. After all, you don’t want to scare off your students by forcing them to face realities better off avoided.
We will help transform the campus environment from a raucous free-for-all, in which feelings become bruised and identities confused, into a polite, civil society in which everyone takes their turn and knowledge is parceled out in nice, bite-sized packages.
Back to my product, it takes into account that there may be some candidates who, though suspect, are still for various reasons beneficial to the faculty. They may fill an unspoken race or gender quota; or even an ideological quota. They may help promote the school within certain demographic profiles and market niches.
For an extra fee, my company will work with such candidates to reframe academic interests so as to be acceptable within the community. After all, academics are such unusual individuals raised like hothouse flowers in intellectual environments so alien to the average person (by which I mean any supporter of Israel). They need to be coaxed into the real world, to be shown proper manners and etiquette, if you will. In particularly awkward situations, we may even be engaged to cleanse reputations and eliminate particularly egregious examples of anti-Israel hate speech from a candidate’s internet identity.
If the University of Illinois had only had such a product available, it could’ve avoided all that Steve Salaita unpleasantness. So messy and so unnecessary.
Now I can hear a skeptic or two among you (a small minority of course) wondering how this consultancy will be structured. I assure you we will engage some of the foremost experts in the field of internet surveillance and Zionist identity politics. These will be individuals with impressive resumes and who are lionized by everyone who matters. Discussions have already commenced to hire such luminaries as Ayan Hirsi Ali, Carey Nelson and Alan Dershowitz. They know what a good candidate should bring to the table. Either they will help your job seeker to become the best pro-Israel candidate he can be; or they will tell you in no uncertain terms to toss him aside. After all, who wants to waste time on hopeless causes?
Since there is a growing acknowledgement that the customer should be represented at the table, we’re engaging students too, who’ve proven their allegiance to the cause, to sit on these vetting committees. Two of the stars of the field are Daniel Mael and Chloe Valdary. It’s a pretty tough environment for hiring such stellar young people. They have offers of employment at FoxNews and the Wall Street Journal respectively. But we hope to lure them with promises they will make the campuses of America safe for Israel. A more sacred mission I can’t conceive.
Though we believe this is a lucrative field we’re entering (creating, really), we don’t want our clients to think of us as money-grubbing capitalists. To that end, we plan on donating 5% of our net revenues (you didn’t think we were nuts enough to base this on gross revenues, did you?) to various worthy, non-political causes like Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, and one of our sister Israeli organizations, Im Tirzu. We’re proud of our association with our Israeli brethren who are bringing a “second Zionist revolution” to Israeli academe.
Please don’t get the idea that any of this is political. Zionism, after all, knows no denominations or sects. There are Christian, Jewish and heck, even Muslim Zionists. It’s entirely non-partisan. And that’s as it should be. There are so many enemies of the Jewish people out there flapping their mouths. God knows what they might say. But we know what’s right. And there isn’t a political bone in our body.
Don’t get the idea that we’re affiliated with one Israel Lobby group like Aipac. After all, how would it sound to say: Aipac Certified? That’s thinking too small. No, we’re going big. We want the whole enchilada. That’s why we call our process Zio Certification.
There may be a few holdout institutions who think they can do things the old-fashioned way. They can honor all the old cliches like academic freedom and pay the price by standing by faculty who speak inconveniently in public settings. To them I say, God speed. You don’t need our help. You need a time machine. You’ll find that you’re dinosaurs and this Brave New World we’re entering will soon pass you by.
My message to academe is: we’re ready to go–are you? Zionize or die.
Steven Salaita spoke today at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to the YMCA, where the event was held, some 400 students, faculty, staff, and supporters turned up.
Salaita opened with a statement. Here are some excerpts:
My name is Steven Salaita. I am a professor with an accomplished scholarly record; I have been a fair and devoted teacher to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students; I have been a valued and open-minded colleague to numerous faculty across disciplines and universities. My ideas and my identity are far more substantive and complex than the recent characterizations based on a selected handful of my Twitter posts.
Two weeks before my start date, and without any warning, I received a summary letter from University Chancellor Phyllis Wise informing me that my position was terminated, but with no explanation or opportunity to challenge her unilateral decision. As a result, my family has no income, no health insurance, and no home of our own. Our young son has been left without a preschool. I have lost the great achievement of a scholarly career – lifetime tenure, with its promised protections of academic freedom.
Even more troubling are the documented revelations that the decision to terminate me is a result of pressure from wealthy donors – individuals who expressly dislike my political views. As the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups have been tracking, this is part of a nationwide, concerted effort by wealthy and well-organized groups to attack pro-Palestinian students and faculty and silence their speech. This risks creating a Palestinian exception to the First Amendment and to academic freedom.
I am here to reaffirm my commitment to teaching and to a position with the American Indian Studies program at UIUC. I reiterate the demand that the University recognize the importance of respecting the faculty’s hiring decision and reinstate me. It is my sincere hope that I can – as a member of this academic institution – engage with the entire University community in a constructive conversation about the substance of my viewpoints on Palestinian human rights and about the values of academic freedom.
For me, the best part of his press conference was the Q and A with the media, which begins at 40:50 in the video below. I would encourage everyone to watch it because it gives you the best sense of Salaita the man, the thinker, and the teacher. As I’ve said, I don’t know Salaita personally, except through our interactions on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve never met him or heard him speak. I haven’t read his academic writings. But listening to and watching him field questions, it became clear to me why the American Indian Studies department was so eager to hire him.
My favorite exchange occurs at 43:30. Someone in the media asks him why he would want to still come and teach at UIUC. Looking around the room, which is filled with students, Salaita says:
The question is—and if I’m summarizing it incorrectly let me know—some people are wondering why I would want to work here after all of this has happened and whether it might be uncomfortable. The answer is… the answer is in this room.
One other point to note. At 55:00, one of Salaita’s attorneys is asked about what the litigation process would look like. The attorney replies:
There’s no question that if there is litigation there will be an intensive document retrieval process that will involve trying to get at the heart of exactly what the motivation was for this decision. We think, based on what is already known, the university is going to have some very hard arguments. But we will learn a lot. We will also be able to take depositions. And that is an opportunity to sit people down and ask them about their role in this process, their decision-making and other things. Again, Professor Salaita’s goal is not to have to go down that road. But he is prepared to do so if necessary.
I’ve long felt that one of the things that has to make the university nervous is the prospect of litigation. Yes, the university has tons of money and lawyers. But it also has interests. And one of those interests is protecting the privacy of its donors. I can’t for the life of me believe that the university really wants to risk the rage and rancor of donors having their names dragged into the harsh glare of the public spotlight. Once this case gets into court—and most experts, regardless of which side they fall, believe that Salaita has a good chance of getting into court—there will be discovery motions that will turn up all sorts of paper. What we’ve seen already is damning and embarrassing. But think about what could be coming down the pike: not only emails to and fro, but also records of phone calls, transcripts of meetings, and more. Even if the university were to win the case, they’d have to lose a lot in order to do so.
In other news, Chancellor Wise was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune.
On Monday, Wise acknowledged in an interview that she wished she had “been more consultative” before rescinding Salaita’s job offer, and said it could have led her to a different decision. She said the situation has been “challenging.”
She also said there was “no possibility” that he would work at the U. of I.
“I wish I had not consulted with just a few people and then written the letter to Professor Salaita,” Wise said. “I don’t know what the consultation would have led me to do.”
This is now the third time that Wise has said that she regrets not consulting with other voices on the campus. But this is the first time that she’s positively stated that not only did her firing of Salaita not reflect her own position, but also that she might have reached a different decision than the one she reached had she consulted other voices. Which is precisely the argument that so many of us have been making about whose voices Wise did and did not heed in this process. It almost seems as if she’s trying to give Salaita evidence for his case.
Last, Katherine Franke, who’s been leading the legal academic community on this issue, and Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a PhD candidate in political science at the CUNY Graduate Center, appeared today on Democracy Now.
I urge you to listen to the interview, in particular the part that begins at 47:00. There Kris, whom I know personally, speaks about his experience as an adjunct at Brooklyn College, where he was hired by my department to teach a course on Middle East politics for the spring of 2011 and then fired before the course began. Sound familiar? The reason he was fired? Pro-Israel forces objected to something he had written. Sound familiar? Here’s what one of the leaders of those forces, NYS Assemblyman Dov Hikind, said at the time about an academic paper Kris had written on suicide bombers:
Hikind, a staunch ally of Israel, sent a letter on Monday to Karen Gould, the college’s president, with a copy to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, in which he questioned the adjunct’s appointment. Calling Petersen-Overton “an overt supporter of terrorism,” Hikind said he was “better suited for a teaching position at the Islamic University of Gaza.”
Hikind, who said he earned his master’s degree in political science from Brooklyn College, told Inside Higher Ed that he reached these conclusions after spending “countless hours” reading the newly hired adjunct’s work. This included, chiefly, his unpublished paper, “Inventing the Martyr: Struggle, Sacrifice and the Signification of Palestinian National Identity,” in which he examines martyrdom as it “embodies ideals of struggle and sacrifice” in the context of national identity. Hikind said such works reflect an effort to “understand” suicide bombers. “There’s nothing to understand about someone who murders women and children,” he said. “You condemn.”
Kris didn’t say anything about anti-Semitism becoming honorable, he didn’t say anything about settlers going missing, he didn’t say anything about necklaces of teeth. His crime was trying “to understand about someone who murders women and children.” As Dostoevsky did in Crime and Punishment. That was enough to get him fired.
This is why I come to this whole Salaita affair with a bit of skepticism about the tweets. It’s skepticism born of my own personal experience with four controversial fights over Israel/Palestine. If it’s not the tweets, it’s the grad student paper trying to understand suicide bombers. If it’s not the grad student paper trying to understand suicide bombers, it’s the Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright who cannot receive an honorary degree because he’s voiced criticism of Israel. If it’s not the Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright who cannot receive an honorary degree because he’s voiced criticism of Israel, it’s the New York City Council threatening CUNY’s funding because the political science department at Brooklyn College is co-sponsoring—not endorsing, not organizing, not funding, but co-sponsoring—a panel on BDS. If it’s not the New York City Council threatening CUNY’s funding because the political science department at Brooklyn College is co-sponsoring a panel on BDS, it’s the NYS Legislature threatening a college’s funding if it financially supports individual faculty membership in the American Studies Association, which supports the academic boycott of Israel.
Every time it’s the same goddam story: supporters of Israel, increasingly anxious over the way the conversation about Israel is going in this country, flexing their muscles to muzzle a voice, to stop a debate. (Just today Buzzfeed is reporting that AIPAC is looking for ways to pass federal legislation to stop BDS in its tracks.) A Palestinian exception to the First Amendment?
Thankfully, in Kris’s case, we were able to rally a national campaign of prominent academics, particularly in political science, to support his reinstatement. We made his case a national story. Sound familiar?
And here’s the best part, dear reader: We won.
Since I came onto the interwebs, I’ve been involved in five fights over the place of Israel/Palestine in academe: the Petersen-Overton fight, which we won; the Tony Kushner fight, which we won; the BDS at Brooklyn College fight, which we won, the NYS Assembly fight, which we won, and now the Salaita affair.
There is a Palestinian exception to the First Amendment. And we’re fighting to end it. Because that’s the way the First Amendment has always advanced in this country: not simply through reasoned argument, but through struggle.
The United States has instructed Europol, the European Union’s police agency, to withhold its own annual internal data-protection review from EU lawmakers because the report was written without the US Treasury Department’s permission.
Europol drafted the data-protection report “without prior written authorisation from the information owner (in this case the Treasury Department),” according to the US, violating “security protocols” that could “undermine the relationship of trust needed to share sensitive information between enforcement agencies.”
The report, drafted by Europol’s Joint Supervisory Body, outlines how data concerning EU citizens and residents is transferred to the US, according to the EUobserver. The document is mainly known to monitor implementation of the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, or TFTP. Basically, the US Treasury Department is quite territorial about how the TFTP is adhering to European data protection compliance.
EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said Europol refused to allow her to see the report based on US demands. O’Reilly then confronted US ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardner in July. Gardner confirmed the order.
On Thursday, O’Reilly said she sent a letter to the European Parliament asking the body “to consider whether it is acceptable that an agreement with a foreign government should prevent the Ombudsman from doing her job.”
“If the US says ‘No disclosure’ then it won’t be disclosed, which is ridiculous because we are EU citizens, we vote, we pay taxes, we have EU laws, and we decide what happens on this continent. Nobody else,” Dutch MEP liberal Sophie In’t Veld told EUobserver. In’t Veld first requested the report in 2012.
In’t Veld said there is no top-secret information in the report that should be viewed as overly sensitive.
“There is no operational information, there is no intelligence, there is nothing in the document. So you really wonder why it is kept a secret,” she said.
The TFTP has received scrutiny in the last year after documents supplied by former US government contractor Edward Snowden showed mass spying by the US National Security Agency on citizens and officials across the world, including in the EU.
The Snowden leaks showed the NSA had gained a “back door” entrance into the SWIFT servers – SWIFT being a financial-record sharing program, which revealed the banking details of millions of European citizens, despite the fact that access to this financial data was limited by the TFTP.
New research shows how US Special Operations Command is outsourcing many of its most sensitive information activities, including interrogation, drone and psychological operations
Private military contractors are reaping billions of dollars in profitable rewards from the U.S. government’s global network of clandestine counter-terrorism and other overseas operations, according to a new report that examines the high-levels of integration between for-profit corporations and the Pentagon’s global military and surveillance apparatus.
The new report—titled US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record—written by researcher Crofton Black and commissioned by the U.K.-based Remote Control Project, shows that “corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive aspects” of operations conducted by the U.S. Special Operations Command (or USSOCOM). Those activities, according to the report include: flying drones and overseeing target acquisition, facilitating communications between forward operating locations and central command hubs, interrogating prisoners, translating captured material, and managing the flow of information between regional populations and the US military.
“[USSOCOM] is outsourcing many of its most sensitive information activities, including interrogation, drone and psychological operations,” explained Black in a statement. “Remote warfare is increasingly being shaped by the private sector.”
And Caroline Donnellan, manager of the Remote Control project, said, “This report is distinctive in that it mines data from the generally classified world of US special operations. It reveals the extent to which remote control activity is expanding in all its facets, with corporations becoming more and more integrated into very sensitive elements of warfare. The report’s findings are of concern given the challenges remote warfare poses for effective investigation, transparency, accountability and oversight. This highlights the difficulties in assessing the impact and consequences of remote control activity.”
Reviewing its contents for The Intercept on Monday, journalist Ryan Gallagher observed how the unprecedented research documents troubling ways in which these private corporations have engaged in overseas operations. Describing it as a “corporate bonanza” for these contractor, Gallagher reports:
USSOCOM tendered a $1.5 billion contract that required support with “Psychological Operations related to intelligence and information operations.” Prospective contractors were told they would have to provide “military and civilian persuasive communications planning, produce commercial quality products for unlimited foreign public broadcast, and develop lines of persuasion, themes, and designs for multi-media products.” The contract suggested that aim of these “persuasion” operations was to “engage local populations and counter nefarious influences” in parts of Europe and Africa.
A separate document related to the same contract noted that one purpose of the effort was to conduct “market research” of al-Qaida and its affiliates in Libya, Tunisia, Mali, Northern Nigeria, and Somalia. Four American companies eventually won the $1.5 billion contract: Tennessee-based Jacobs Technology and Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI-WGI, and SRA International.
Notably, while some 3,000 contractors provided service in some capacity to USSOCOM, just eight of the contractors earned more than 50 percent of the $13 billion total identified in Black’s report. Those were: Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications, Boeing, Harris Corporation, Jacobs Engineering Group, MA Federal, Raytheon, and ITT Corporation.
Arms firms that provide core military components for drones deployed by the US to conduct covert strikes in violation of international law allegedly bought access to NATO’s summit in Wales last week, a British human rights charity says.
The defense companies concerned doled out up to £300,000 to ‘exhibit’ their military wares at the conference in Newport. Among the firms present were General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and MBDA, according to a British government press release.
General Dynamics manufacture Hellfire missiles utilized in most US drone strikes, while Raytheon make the targeting system for the Reaper drone deployed by the CIA and other actors to conduct strikes across the globe. Lockheed Martin operates as a contractor to provide select support services for both the Reaper and Predator, and MBDA is a European company that manufactures the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Brimstone – a variant of the Hellfire missile.
The US drone program has received widespread public criticism both at home and abroad. Critics say attacks carried out in foreign countries, including Yemen and Pakistan, are in violation of both international and US law.
Although US drone strikes have culminated in hundreds of civilian casualties, they are subject to little oversight, according to Reprieve. President Barack Obama has refused to formally acknowledge the program’s existence.
Reprieve’s Legal Director Kat Craig said it’s “deeply worrying” that a group of firms who potentially profit most from this breach of international law were able to buy access into an international global summit like NATO.
“It is unacceptable that the US’ drone campaign, and the UK’s support for it, has been allowed to remain in the shadows for so long”, he added.
“President Obama must be far more open about it – as must his European allies, especially the UK and Germany, about the support they provide.”
Craig suggested the drone manufacturers’ presence at NATO signaled their inherent capacity to buy political influence “behind closed doors,” highlighting the opaque, illicit and legally questionable nature of much of the global arms trade.
FARC negotiator Marcos Calarca
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has accused the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel of prolonging Colombia’s guerilla war.
FARC negotiator Marcos Calarca leveled the accusation on Saturday at a news conference ahead of another round of peace talks with a delegation of the Colombian government in the Cuban capital Havana.
He pointed to “the responsibility of the government of the United States, of companies involved in the business of war, various intelligence agencies, especially the British and Israeli, whose involvement throughout the conflict encouraged its continuation, escalation and intensification.”
The latest accusation against Israeli and British agencies is a new twist in the 28th round of peace talks in Havana.
He, however, said, “The FARC will acknowledge its responsibility where it concerns us, on the understanding that our military actions have had essentially political goals, derived from our political project to take power.”
The FARC is Latin America’s oldest insurgent group and has been fighting the government since 1964.
Bogota estimates that 600,000 people have been killed and more than 4.5 million others have been displaced due to the fighting.
The rebel organization is thought to have around 8,000 fighters operating across a large swathe of the eastern jungles of the Andean nation.
Even though the Arab Bank, considered one of the oldest and largest Arab banks with assets in the tens of billions of dollars, left New York nine years ago because it was investigated on account of its Palestinian connection, US authorities continue to go after the bank threatening it with total bankruptcy. The case is not a new one but its developments demonstrate how far Israeli groups will go to destroy the Palestinian financial sector and even Jordanian and Lebanese banks with the assistance of the US legal system. The trial began in August and it is still going on amid fears of the negative repercussions on the Arab Bank in particular and the Arab banking system in general.
The issue began when lawsuits were filed against the Arab Bank in US courts 10 years ago by 297 Israelis demanding compensation for damages suffered as a result of attacks by Palestinians against Israeli targets in the first half of the last decade. The plaintiffs claim that the bank was responsible for transferring funds to Hamas. The Arab Bank asked the US Supreme Court to review an order issued by a federal court imposing stiff sanctions on the bank for its failure to turn over secret records belonging to its depositors and clients.
The order to impose sanctions on the Arab Bank was issued by U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon. The bank argued that it cannot meet the demands of US authorities without violating Jordan’s banking secrecy laws which will subject it to criminal fines. It argued that Judge Gershon’s ruling means that all foreign banks are subject to the same destructive pattern of indictments. The prosecutor can ask any foreign bank to hand over all their clients’ statements and if the bank refuses, it will be sanctioned.
The Arab Bank appealed the sanctions order to the Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the appeal in early July. Jordan asked for President Barack Obama’s help by recommending that the Supreme Court order Judge Gershon to reconsider her ruling and the State Department supported the appeal. But the Justice Department found Gershon’s decision useful in ending bank secrecy worldwide.
The Arab Bank is being tried in a court in Brooklyn, New York under the Anti-Terrorism Act issued in 1990. The charges against the bank include aiding Hamas on three levels.
One, by transferring funds provided by the Saudi Committee to 55 Palestinian families of suicide bombers. Two, by having accounts for dozens of charitable organizations that the Israeli plaintiffs say were a mere front for Hamas. Three, the bank had personal accounts for 30 Hamas leaders, including the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin who had been placed on the US terrorism list since 1995 and the late leader Salah Shehadeh, founder of Hamas’ military wing. According to the prosecutors, the bank knew these people’s relationship to Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the US.
The Arab Bank denied the charges saying that no account was opened for a person that was on a US terrorism list. The only exception was one transfer to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s account which was the result of a mistake by an employee. The transfers from the Saudi Committee were part of thousands of transfers that the group made to families in need and therefore for humanitarian purposes. US courts have refused any defense stating that the Arab Bank merely followed local laws in the countries where it operates or that the attacks were part of a historical context of violence in the region that the bank does not bear responsibility for.
The Israeli side had dozens of witnesses including a former official in the Israeli military who told the US District Court in Manhattan that the Jordanian bank transferred millions of dollars to the families of those he described as “suicide terrorists” from Hamas. The money came from Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah-affiliated al-Shahid Foundation during the period between 1998 and 2004, with evidence focused on the period between 2001 and 2004. There were monthly payments from the Saudi Committee at a rate of $140 per family.
The Arab Bank’s defense lawyer said there is no evidence that links the transfers to anti-Israel attacks, warning of the danger of this case that puts the responsibility on the shoulder of every bank employee anywhere in the world to investigate every little thing before completing any transaction or transfer. The bank said in a statement that the case raises very important issues for the international finance system which processes trillions of dollars in transfers each day. Most of these transfers are automated and the plaintiff’s theory, “if adopted by the Court, would undermine the automated compliance systems that regulators around the world require banks to employ, and create vast uncertainty and risk in the international finance system.”
Israeli witness Ronnie Shaked said that Hamas was responsible for every one of the 24 attacks before the court. According to the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post, this witness is a journalist who had previously served as an Israeli intelligence officer.
Another prosecution witness called Arieh Dan Spitzen said that 18 Hamas members were known by the staff at the Gaza branch of the Arab Bank and it is highly likely that they received thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars through the Arab Bank’s transfers.
The prosecution stressed that the burden of proof is on the bank which is refusing to hand over documents of accounts for individuals who are Hamas members to the court.
The bank’s defense lawyer argued that the prosecution is using Israeli laws and evidence in its suit while the bank is not allowed to rely in its defense on relevant laws in the areas where it operates in Jordan and Lebanon which have bank secrecy rules, concluding that the trial is based on double standards.
The court heard 24 testimonies by Israeli witnesses. The Arab Bank is expected to put on 21 witnesses including the bank’s director general. The defense is expected to challenge the impartiality of Judge Brian Cogan, who described an objection raised by the defense as absurd only to accept it later on without going back to the jury.
If the US lawsuit against the Arab Bank is successful, it will inevitably lead to the bank’s bankruptcy, as it might be forced to pay billions of dollars. It also means trouble for the Jordanian and Palestinian economies, as Israelis are expected to file thousands of lawsuits. The outcome might also force Arab countries to disclose all their bank secrets to the US justice system out of fear that they might be liable to similar lawsuits. This could mean capital flight and bankruptcy for these banks. The Swiss example is not encouraging in withstanding US and even European pressure.
How much longer is the farce of the Palestinian Authority going to continue? I ask because it has been obvious over the past few months that the PA, under President Mahmoud Abbas, is there more for Israel’s benefit than that of the people it is meant to serve, the Palestinians. In such circumstances, any claim of “victory” by the resistance groups in Gaza is illusory.
So-called “security cooperation” with the Israeli occupation forces makes the PA’s own 70,000-strong security agencies collaborators in the eyes of many Palestinians. Has anyone ever seen any PA security forces coming to the aid of Palestinian protesters against Israel’s Apartheid Wall at the weekly demonstrations across the occupied West Bank? Such protests usually start peacefully but end in violence as those taking part are attacked by Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers. Do Palestinian security officers rush to their defence? Well, do they? Of course not, for that is not their role; they exist to police the Palestinians on Israel’s behalf and stifle any form of resistance not tackled by the absurdly-named Israel Defence Forces. Hence, mass round-ups of non-Fatah activists and the suppression of anti-Israel demonstrations during the latest of the Zionist state’s attacks on the civilians of the Gaza Strip.
The EU is the “biggest multilateral donor of assistance to the Palestinians”, and in 2011 this aid amounted to €453 million. Ostensibly there to “build up the institutions of a future democratic, independent and viable Palestinian State living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security”, the bulk of the aid is spent on security and salaries for PA officials and employees. It has been said that one of the reasons for Mahmoud Abbas’ reluctance to sign up to the International Criminal Court to pursue alleged Israeli war criminals through legal means is that the funding which pays his and his cronies’ salaries and pensions will be cut-off if he takes such a step. In other words, he has sold out, placing his personal wellbeing over and above justice for his people.
The “international community”, meanwhile, goes through with the charade that the two-state solution is still viable and, through the “Middle East Quartet”, seeks to impose its own conditions on the Palestinians to get them to acquiesce and offer yet more concessions “for peace”. Israel is spared such pressure and gets away, literally, with murder as it continues to steal ever more Palestinian land while paying lip-service to a moribund peace process.
This is why I am concerned but not surprised to learn that PA negotiator Saeb Erekat has met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington to discuss ways to reopen negotiations with the Israelis. It is as if the recent slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza hasn’t happened; that Israel’s intense military bombardment and destruction of the infrastructure was just a blip on the screen; that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
Equally shocking is that the pre-Operation Protective Edge status quo is likely to be the “norm” that prevails, because that is what Israel and the Zionist Lobby in capitals around the world want. Israel will proceed with its expansion unhindered, with more and bigger settlements, arrest campaigns, torture (by Israeli and Palestinian security forces alike), checkpoints and all of the other paraphernalia of its brutal military occupation. The Palestinians will continue to be besieged, brutalised and killed by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers and settlers.
Despite all of this, Mahmoud Abbas and his team of negotiators will be pushed into giving Israel concessions that will not be reciprocated, with little thought, one is led to believe, for the fact that illegal settlements, land grabs and ethnic cleansing should never be subject to “negotiation” in the first place. It is a question that has been asked before but is worth repeating until someone involved in the whole sordid process can provide a legitimate answer: since when have criminals been able to “negotiate” their way out of paying for their crimes?
Euphoria in Palestinian circles, especially in Gaza, over the “victory” against the IDF is, I believe, not only premature but also misleading. How many more “victories” will be celebrated before the world wakes up to the reality that the two-state solution is long dead and buried and efforts to find a “solution” serve only Israeli interests; that we have all been duped by a slick Israeli PR machine aided and abetted by a compliant media and politicians in the West (which now includes a number of Arab capitals in thrall to Zionism) into believing that Israel is the victim in all of this and entitled to “self-defence”? Such a conclusion rides roughshod over international law and natural justice, but it is accepted by Washington, London, Berlin and the other capitals which support Israel right or wrong.
Only when its Western supporters stand up to Israel’s illegitimacy and illegal activity is there ever any likelihood that peace and genuine justice may prevail. Until and unless that happens (and I am not holding my breath), the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip will be squeezed between the rock of Israeli oppression and the hard place of the Palestinian Authority. They are now two sides of the same coin, but neither carries any currency for the people of Palestine.
More than a dozen “fake cell phone towers” could be secretly hijacking Americans’ mobile devices in order to listen in on phone calls or snoop on text messages, a security-focused cell phone company claims. It is not clear who controls the devices.
ESD America, which markets heavily-encrypted cell phones built within the body of a Samsung Galaxy S3, said it was able to locate numerous towers intercepting mobile communications – but does not know who is running them.
Speaking to Popular Science, ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith recently said that the company has used its phone – the CryptoPhone 500 – to map 17 different fake cell phone towers, dubbed “interceptors,” across the United States. Locations include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and more.
“Interceptor use in the US is much higher than people had anticipated,” he told the website. “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”
Although these interceptors act as fake cell phone towers, they are not necessarily large, physical structures. They could simply be small mobile devices that act exactly like a real tower, deceiving phones into giving up information. Such devices are known as “stingrays,” after the brand name of one popular type of interceptor.
Once connected to a person’s phone, they can bypass the mobile device’s encryption to either listen in on calls or capture texts. In some cases, they are also powerful enough to take over a device or make it seem as if it has shut down – only to leave the microphone on in order to eavesdrop.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been attempting to pry information about government and police use of stingray equipment, but its efforts have been met with resistance from federal officials.
According to Ars Technica, the Federal Communications Commission pledged in August to investigate the “illicit and unauthorized use” of interceptors – with a primary focus on foreign governments, criminals, and terrorists – but denied a Freedom of Information Act request to reveal more data about current stingray use.
For Goldsmith, determining who is using the interceptors is important. He speculated that the operators could be American agencies or foreign governments.
“What we find suspicious is that a lot of these interceptors are right on top of US military bases. So we begin to wonder – are some of them US government interceptors? Or are some of them Chinese interceptors?” he told PopSci. “Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that’s listening to calls around military bases? Is it just the US military, or are they foreign governments doing it? The point is: we don’t really know whose they are.”
Outside of national governments, local law enforcement agencies are also beefing up their stingray/interceptor capabilities. In Oakland, California, police are looking to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade their cell phone surveillance system.
Meanwhile, police in Tacoma, Washington have caught the eye of civil liberties advocates after the News Tribune revealed they have been using interceptor equipment to catch cell phone calls for the last six years. Some, including Mayor Marilyn Strickland, said it was legitimate for police to do so as long as people’s rights were not violated. However, the ACLU disagreed, arguing it was like “kicking down the doors of 50 homes and searching 50 homes because they don’t know where the bad guy is.”