More documents have been uncovered (via FOI requests) that show local law enforcement agencies in California have been operating cell phone tower spoofers (stingray devices) in complete secrecy and wholly unregulated.
Sacramento News10 has obtained documents from agencies in San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Alameda County — all of which point to stingray deployment. As has been the case in the past, the devices are acquired with DHS grants and put into use without oversight or guidelines to ensure privacy protections. The stingrays in use are mainly limited to collecting data, but as the ACLU points out, many manufacturers offer devices that also capture content.
Some of these agencies have had these devices for several years now. Documents obtained from the Oakland Police Dept. show the agency has had stingrays in use since at least 2007, citing 21 “stingray arrests” during that year. This is hardly a surprising development as the city has been pushing for a total surveillance network for years now, something that (until very recently) seemed to be more slowed by contractor ineptitude than growing public outrage.
The device manufacturer’s (Harris) troubling non-disclosure agreement (which has been used to keep evidence of stingray usage out of court cases as well as has been deployed as an excuse for not securing warrants) rears its misshapen head again, mentioned both in one obtained document as well as by a spokesperson reached for comment. One document states:
“The Harris (REDACTED) equipment is proprietary and used for surveillance missions,” the agreement reads. “Its capabilities can only be discussed with sworn law enforcement officers, the military or federal government. This equipment’s capabilities are not for public knowledge and are protected under non-disclosure agreements as well as Title 18 USC 2512.”
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Dept. had this to (not) say when asked about its stingray usage:
“While I am not familiar with what San Jose has said, my understanding is that the acquisition or use of this technology comes with a strict non-disclosure requirement,” said Under sheriff James Lewis in an emailed statement. “Therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment about any agency that may be using the technology.”
Law enforcement agencies are conveniently choosing to believe a manufacturer’s non-disclosure agreement trumps public interest or even their own protection of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.
The devices aren’t cheap, either. Taxpayers are shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for these cell tower spoofers, and the agencies acquiring them are doing very little to ensure the money is spent wisely. ACLU’s examination of the documents shows that many of the agencies purchased devices without soliciting bids.
It’s hard to know whether San José or any of the other agencies that have purchased stingray devices are getting good value for their money because the contract was “sole source,” in other words, not put out to competitive bidding. The justification for skirting ordinary bidding processes is that Harris Corporation is the only manufacturer of this kind of device. (We are aware of other surveillance vendors that manufacture these devices, though a separate Freedom of Information Request we submitted to the Federal Communications Commission suggests that, as of June 2013, the only company to have obtained an equipment authorization from the FCC for this kind of device is Harris.)
With Harris effectively locking the market down, buyers are pretty much ensured prices far higher than the market would bear if opened to competition. (Not that I’m advocating for a robust surveillance device marketplace, but if you’re going to spend taxpayers’ money on products to spy on them, the least you can do is try to get the best value for their money… ) Using federal grants also allows these departments to further avoid public scrutiny of the purchase and use by circumventing the normal acquisition process.
Beyond the obvious Fourth Amendment concerns looms the very real threat of mission creep. These agencies cite combating terrorism when applying for federal funds, but put the devices to use for ordinary law enforcement purposes. The documents cite stingray-related arrests, but since so little is known about the purchase, much less the deployment, there’s really no way to tell how much data and content totally unrelated to criminal investigations has been collected (and held) by these agencies.
Washington – Ecuadorian bankers Roberto and William Isaias, current fugitives, donated large sums of money to campaigns of U.S. politicians, the press revealed today.
Reports underline that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating cases that involve Congressional Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, among other politicians.
New York’s NBC network says the FBI suspects that Menendez, through phone calls and recommendation letters to the Department of State and other bodies, helped the Ecuadorian brothers establish themselves in the U.S. in exchange for donations to his reelection campaign.
Journalist and blogger Alberto Padilla claims he can confirm that, since they arrived to live in Miami, the Isaias have financed an active lobbying campaign against the Rafael Correa administration in Ecuador and have also aided senators, in exchange for being allowed to remain in the United States.
The Isaias were sentenced in absentia to eight years of imprisonment on April 11, 2012 by the National Court of Justice after a judicial process that lasted 13 years and in which 54 judges participated.
In the Ros-Lehtinen case, the Daily Beast website assured that she recently received money from the former bankers in exchange for help.
The Isaias had donated at least $23,700 USD to Ros-Lehtinen during the 2010, 2012 and 2014 electoral cycles, according to federal contribution campaign registers.
The Isaias also contributed to the campaign funds of Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson, and Congresswoman and also President of the National Democrat Committee Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Representative Joe Garcia.
Editor’s Note: This article by Freeman shows that, despite the presence in the new Ukraine government of the Svoboda nationalists, its president, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (who has three ethnically Jewish grandparents) is firmly affiliated with neocons, Western economic interests, and prominent figures associated with hostility toward Russia.
Second Editor’s Note, 3/12: The website for Open Ukraine (http://openukraine.org/ua) has reappeared but without the list of partners that so clearly show its sympathies with the neocons and Western NGOs and financial institutions.
By Freeman, translated from German by Michael Colhaze
Since the 27th of February 2014 Arseniy Yatsenyuk is “prime minister” of the present and entirely illegal regime of Ukraine. As we have learned from the intercepted Nuland – Pyatt telephone conversation, he is the preferred candidate of Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland, which is the reason why the US State Department made him the top echelon of its coup.
Did you know that Mr. Yatsenyuk owns an organization called “Open Ukraine Foundation”? If you do, you might be surprised to learn that all traces of this foundation have been eradicated from the internet. The website of the Arseniy Yatsenyuk Foundation (openukraine.org) and its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Open-Ukraine-Foundation) have simply disappeared. The Wikipedia entry still exists, but the links lead nowhere.
As we know, the Internet forgets nothing and therefore a screen-shot of the website is still on hand. And what do we see there? A list of the foundation’s partners, and looking at it, you may say with some awe that it is an exceptionally impressive collection of the usual suspects. Which, we strongly suspect, must be the reason why the foundation is now defunct and its tracks have been obliterated.
What follows is an extract from the list of partners:
- Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (A Project of the German Marshall Fund)
- Chatham House
- NATO Information and Documentation Centre
- State Department of the United States of America
- NED National Endowment for Democracy
- Horizon Capital
With such partners, and in this present scenario, it is small wonder that the page has been deleted. Because it can be clearly seen who stands right behind Mr. Arseniy Yatsenyuk and the coup.
Let us start with the German Marshall Fund, whose Chairman is Guido Goldman. His father, Nahum Goldman, was co-founder of the World Jewish Congress, Chairman of the Jewish Agency and president of the World Zionist Organization. Guido studied at Harvard and one of his teachers was the former presidential security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Henry Kissinger later supervised Guido’s doctoral thesis. The money for the Fund has been approved by the former German finance minister Alex Möller. Who, on occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, funded the organization with 150 million German marks for the next 15 years, ostensibly to promote relations between Europe and the U.S.
This context alone is revealing, since it cites some of the most virulent Russia Haters around.
But let us look at Chatham House. The Foundation, established in 1920, known until 2004 as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a private and world-leading British think tank based in London, whose members engage in study programs, working groups, roundtable conferences and seminars current issues and political events on an international level. The expertise and recommendations created there are circulated by the international members worldwide. Some key projects are funded and sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, NATO or the EU. In addition to the corporate members, consisting of 75 large corporations, plus investment banks, energy companies and 263 other companies, Chatham House currently has 2770 prominent personalities from 75 countries as members, all employed in business, diplomacy, science, politics and the media. A patron of Chatham House is Queen Elizabeth II.
This would sound like an absurd joke, were it not so truly awesome. Because now we understand clearly why the upheaval in Ukraine took place: the supreme fat-cats of the so-called World Elite wanted it to happen.
The NATO chiefs wanted the incorporation of Ukraine into this particular war club, so that missiles can be deployed even closer to Russia. In 2008 NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer paid a visit to Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his Foundation.
The U.S. State Department has been instrumental in the coup, as already mentioned with regard to Victoria Nuland and her now famous injunction. Doling out massive funds, it determined which puppets could join the regime and which not. Whereby that goof Vitali Klitschko got the short straw, just as the abominable noodle Nuland wanted it to happen.
The NED or National Endowment for Democracy is an American foundation with the stated objective to promote democracy worldwide. It is a [neocon front group that] was established in 1983 by the U.S. Congress, and receives its annual funding from the U.S. federal budget. Thus money directly milked from the U.S. taxpayer is diverted for the illegal regime change in Ukraine and many other countries.
This backdrop is very revealing. When Hedge Funds and banks such as Horizon Capital and Swedbank are affiliated with Yatsenyuk’s foundation, it is clear that they are the vultures who are waiting to plunder Ukraine.
A good friend of Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his Foundation is Mikheil Saakashvili, the puppet installed by Washington [see here and here], who was allowed to play the President of Georgia from 2004 to 2013. The latest news concerning his person seem to prove that he is also a murderer. According to the Georgian newspaper Asawal - Dasawali he has been involved in the death of former Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania of Georgia. The Prosecutor’s Office of Tbilisi has discovered proof of Saakashvili’s direct complicity, the newspaper writes, citing a source within the investigation authority where a secret recording with the audible voice of Saakashvili can be heard ordering: “Get the corpse out of the way and do everything as agreed.”
Yes, such a fine “partner” used to be a guest of honour in the now defunct Arseniy Yatsenyuk Open Ukraine Foundation. Unusual is that even in the Google cache nothing about it can be found anymore.
Now we understand why Arseniy Yatsenyuk has been installed by Merkel and Co, the EU, the NATO and Washington as head of the Ukrainian “government.” He is simply the new puppet intended to implement their interests in Ukraine, but certainly not the interests of the Ukrainian people.
Robert Holleyman in the Seat
The machinery to dominate global intellectual property by American fiat was further tightened by the announcement of Robert Holleyman as deputy US trade representative. President Obama’s announcement is just another reminder of what sources of inspiration are governing the drive by Washington to control the downloading and dissemination of information via the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After all, Holleyman was a former lobbyist of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the bill introduced by US Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tx) to gift US law enforcement authorities with the means to combat copyright infringements.
Indeed, Holleyman’s own blurb as an author for The Huffington Post considers him as “one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world”, an individual who “was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law.” Such is the nature of mislabelled internationalism – Washington’s policy by another name.
Holleyman has also been heavily involved as a former president of the Business Software Alliance, a body representing the main software vendors including Apple, IBM, and Microsoft. Through the consortium, Holleyman unintentionally put the problems of SOPA, and its sister legislation, PROTECT-IP, in the bright spotlight. He found himself fighting, at least for a time, a losing battle. Protest against them was extensive, with January 18, 2012 featuring the “largest online protest in history”. Congress took heed, shelving the bills. The vendors pondered the next move.
SOPA’s reach would have been global, enabling US law enforcement the means to target websites and individuals outside its jurisdiction. The carceral provisions of the bill were also hefty – five year prison terms for downloading unauthorised content.
It would have also been a rather formidable mechanism to insinuate censorship into the Internet. The legislation would allow the content provider or the US Justice Department to block sites hosting material supposedly in breach of copyright. Having such a provision would effectively overburden internet service providers to err on the side of caution and “over-block” material. If ever you want to enshrine censorship, a fine way of doing so is frightening the hosts into censoring themselves.
The secret negotiations of the TPP have proven to be a feast of select company. The negotiators themselves, such as Stefan Selig, nominee for under-secretary for international trade at the Commerce Department, have a direct line to the Bank of America. Selig’s accounts have been inflated to the tune of $9.1 million in bonus pay and $5.1 million in incentive pay. Happy is the bank that can sue for diminished assets and target governments in courts of law.
The clubbable ones are the software demons who have been “cleared” to have briefings, some 700 “stakeholders”. The “cleared advisors” also represent groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Entertainment Software Association, and the Recording Industry Association of America.
While the premise of having such vendors involved is ostensibly to protect innovation, the converse is true. The world of innovation does not matter to those who claim they have the ideas and want to protect them at cost. That is a recipe for sloppiness and envy.
The anti-democratic slant in the TPP process has also impressed itself upon observers. The press, and even members of Congress, have been kept at bay. Till parts of the treaty were published by WikiLeaks, elected officials could only view the document on visiting the Trade Representative Office. They would not be able to reproduce or transcribe it.
While SOPA and its twin PIPA were shelved indefinitely, the Obama administration has decided to shop in other forums to enforce some of their provisions. One way of doing so is through the faulty premise of free trade, which is simply another way of making some trade freer than others. The American firm features prominently in that guise of freedom.
Aspects of the leaked intellectual property chapter of the TPP so far indicate a model with SOPA trimmings. Provisions, for example, holding ISPs liable for hosting copyright infringement, have been preserved. The life of certain, corporate-owned copyrights will also be extended. In other words, this is SOPA by stealth, a process that “could not [be] achieved through an open democratic process.”
The fact that the Obama administration has also sought to sideline Congress in the debate is indicative of that. As Henry Farrell observed, “The United States appears to be using the non-transparent Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations as a deliberate end run around Congress on intellectual property, to achieve a presumably unpopular set of policy goals.” Senate Democrats have been mindful of their shrinking role, and have blocked the president’s attempt to obtain “fast-track authorisation”.
The effect of such authorisation would give the administration scope to limit congressional consultation while using its prerogative powers. Congress would become, in effect, a chamber of marionettes. Appointments such as Holleyman’s show little change of heart away from that policy. The copyright vanguard, along with the dance of secrecy, is digging its heels in.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: email@example.com.
By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | March 6, 2014
Legally, Washington and its European allies haven’t a leg to stand on. Both can be rightly accused of violating international law from their gross interference in Ukrainian sovereign affairs – from the instigation of violent street protests that led to the sacking of an elected president and government, to the subsequent climate of lawlessness and fear sweeping across Ukraine and felt in particular by the majority Russian ethnic population in the east and south of the country.
The latest revelations that killings in Kiev’s Maidan Square among protesters and police were covertly carried out by snipers working for the Western-backed agitators are further proof that a coup d’état was orchestrated. A leaked phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, dated February 25, indicates that snipers were used as provocateurs during the demonstrations, with the intention of heightening violence and blaming it on the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.
In the phone call, reported by Russia Today, Paet is heard to say: «There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new [Western-backed] coalition».
Ashton replied: «I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh».
The evidence for Western-sponsored subversion in Ukraine is so glaring – from the parade of American and European politicians over the past four months whipping up protesters in Kiev, to documented infiltration of civic organizations by the CIA, USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the Adenauer Foundation, among others, to their own words of admission from the likes of State Department official Victoria Nuland on the desired formation of a new governing administration in Kiev – that in order to distract from this mountain of damning evidence, the Western governments and their servile media are trying to shift the terrain of discourse away from the panoramic obvious.
The latest revelation of snipers used as provocateurs adds a new sinister twist.
However, against all the evidence, it is not the West that is in violation over Ukraine; it is Russia – so they claim.
More than this, the Western leaders and media have gone into hysterical mode, accusing Russia of «brazen aggression» and «bringing the region to the brink of war». Ironically, given the astounding denial of reality by the West, it is now turning around and accusing Russia of peddling propaganda over recent events in Ukraine. One France 24 headline read: «The fanciful claims of Russian propaganda».
Never mind fanciful claims, how about just some hard facts – facts that Western media are in abject denial of?
Apart from the above litany of outrageous Western interference in Ukrainian politics, the fact is that President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a violent putsch at the end of last month.
Yanukovych was elected in 2010; and in a constitutional democracy his removal from office requires a vote by the electorate, not the diktats of a bunch of gun-wielding paramilitaries. We may not have liked Yanukovych’s alleged authoritarian style of governance or accusations of cronyism, but the only legal way to correct that would have been for an orderly constitutional process of elections or some other form of due process.
Yanukovych signed a national unity deal with political opponents on February 21, which European Union ministers had been involved in brokering. But his opponents immediately trashed the deal with threats of violence unless Yanukovych stood down.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore correct when he told a press conference this week that what has happened in Kiev is «an unconstitutional coup» and «an armed seizure of power».
Legally speaking, and even under the terms of the EU-brokered national unity accord signed on February 21, Viktor Yanukovych is still the lawful president of Ukraine. When Yanukovych subsequently sent a formal letter to Putin requesting military assistance in the light of unconstitutional and violent upheaval, the Russian Federation had a legal and moral mandate to enter into Ukrainian territory.
The differing responses to the February 21 «event» are instructive. Both Washington and Brussels immediately recognized the new office holders in Kiev as the «legitimate government» of Ukraine with its self-declared president Oleksandr Torchynov and prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The new cabinet, comprising members of the fascist Svoboda party who had been previously waging street war, was also conferred with official Western recognition. The Western media have since gone on to use euphemisms like Kiev’s «fledgling government».
A more accurate definition of the new administration in Kiev is an unelected, self-imposed junta. But the violent, unconstitutional means of taking political power has not stopped British foreign secretary William Hague coming to Kiev this week, followed by US secretary of state John Kerry, to shake hands with the junta. Brussels also invited the mob rulers in Kiev to a ministerial summit this week.
By contrast, Russia is calling for a return to the national unity deal signed on February 21 – a deal which recognizes Yanukovych as the president in office until mutually agreed constitutional reforms are worked out and mandated by the entire electorate of Ukraine – as the legal starting point for any future political settlement. This is the most reasonable and constitutionally legal way forward. Let the people decide whom they want in government by voting, that is by democracy, which, pointedly, Western leaders do not seem able or willing to countenance. The latter prefer imposing governance by force according to their diktat because the real agenda is the economic pillaging of Ukraine by Western capital, an outcome that the Ukrainian people would not vote for if they truly had a democratic choice in the matter.
Given the self-publicized threats of aggression towards ethnic Russians in Ukraine and other perceived political opponents issued by Svoboda and its Right Sector paramilitaries, together with documented acts of recent violence in Kiev, it is was eminently legal and appropriate that Moscow embarked on defensive security measures in Ukraine. Securing military bases and a majority Russian-speaking population in the autonomous southern republic of Crimea this week – at the written requests of President Yanukovych and the Crimean regional prime minister Sergei Aksyonov, as well as under the legal terms of a long-standing bilateral agreement with Ukraine – all that gives Moscow an irrefutable mandate to do so.
Yet, with frothing hysteria, the Western governments and their media have turned reality upside down. There is not a mention of the unlawful Western interference and subversion in the Ukraine or of its hand-in-fist association with neo-Nazi street mobs in executing a violent putsch in Kiev. US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power brazenly denied reality earlier this week when she accused Moscow of citing «imaginary threats» in Ukraine. The bitter irony of that is that Samantha Power is one of the cheerleaders for the so-called «responsibility to protect» which has given her country the fictitious cover to illegally intervene and militarily overthrow governments in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and anywhere else the US deems desirable for regime change.
In a feat of sheer doublethink, the West has accused Russia of «illegal invasion» in Ukraine and of using «pretexts for acts of aggression». This hysterical rhetoric is being used to cover up the West’s own glaring transgressions in Ukraine and to shift the blame for the turmoil.
Unabashed by its unequivocal involvement in engineering regime change in Ukraine, American and European leaders are demanding that Russia withdraw troops from Crimea or face sanctions. Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry said the US would isolate Russia «economically, politically and diplomatically» if it did not reverse security measures, or as Kerry put it «aggression».
Meanwhile, there is not a scintilla of indication that the Americans and Europeans have any intention of reversing their unlawful interference in Ukraine. Far from it, Kerry on his visit to the junta in Kiev this week said that the US was offering $1 billion in loan guarantees. The New York Times explained: «The purpose of the loan guarantees is to support Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the West».
European Union ministers this week somehow found reserves of €11 billion for the new «Western friendly» administration in Kiev – against the backdrop of millions of EU citizens suffering from unemployment and deprivation. The International Monetary Fund is also drawing up a lure (loan) of $2 billion.
With pro-Western, pro-capitalist Yatsenyuk now at the helm in Kiev (as Nuland prescribed), Ukraine is being steered inexorably into debt bondage by the West. This bondage, facilitated by an unelected junta, will entail an austerity assault on Ukrainian workers, beginning with swingeing cuts in public spending, wages and subsidies on fuel. It will also lead to privatization of Ukrainian oil and gas industries and the full take over of other prodigious Ukrainian natural resources, such as its wheat agriculture, by Western capital. Yatsenyuk, who talks with pride about being willing to commit political suicide for the sake of pro-Western reforms, that is Western subjugation, is exactly the kind of ideologue the West want and need in Kiev, as Nuland duly recognized.
Interestingly, this week the new Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus, Mykhailo Yeshel, admitted in a media interview that loans (lures) from Washington were being offered on condition of the Ukraine permitting the deployment of American missile systems on its territory – right on the border with Russia.
The emerging picture is clear. Despite all the hysterical nonsense being spouted by Western leaders and their media propaganda machine, demanding Russia to «back off» from Ukraine, the Western regime-change operation in that country is not just being consolidated – it is being ramped up.
WASHINGTON – The CIA’s inspector general is investigating whether the agency may have been monitoring the computer usage of Senate Intelligence Committee staff members, according to articles today by The New York Times and McClatchy. The inspector general’s office has reportedly referred the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.
Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, had this reaction:
“If it turns out that the CIA was spying on the Senate committee that oversees the agency, it would be an outrageous violation of separation of powers. The CIA is prohibited from spying in the United States itself, and there can be few greater violations of that rule than spying on congressional staff carrying out the constitutional duty of being a check on the CIA’s powers. CIA surveillance of Congress would be another sign that the intelligence community has come to believe that they are above the law, and should get only deference from the other branches of government, not the meaningful oversight that’s required by the Constitution. Checks and balances, especially for agencies like the CIA and NSA that have many secret operations, are essential for democratic government. At the very least, these reports should spur the committee to vote quickly for the declassification and release of its full report into the CIA’s torture program so the American people can see what it is that the CIA is so eager to hide.”
In December 2012, the committee adopted a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s Bush-era rendition, secret detention, and torture program. The report concluded that abusive methods were ineffective, and the CIA wrote an extensive response, countering many of the Senate report’s conclusions. There is also a secret CIA report commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, which is reportedly consistent with the Senate report findings and contradicts the CIA’s response to the Senate report. All three reports are classified.
The self-proclaimed government in Kiev has appointed two of Ukraine’s richest men to govern large industrial regions in the defiant east. One of the reasons for the Maidan protest was the influence the rich have on politics in the country.
The appointments of new governors of Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk Regions are among 18 made on Sunday by Kiev, which is struggling to consolidate power after the coup which ousted President Yanukovich last month.
The newly-appointed Dnepropetrovsk governor is Igor Kolomoysky, Ukraine’s third-wealthiest man, with an estimated fortune of $2.4 billion. He co-owns the informal commercial group Privat, which includes Ukraine’s largest bank Privatbank, which Kolomoysky heads, as well as assets in the oil, ferroalloys and food industries, agriculture and transport.
A former ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, Kolomoysky reportedly had a falling out with her and refused to finance her election campaign in 2010, which the ex-prime minister subsequently lost to Yanukovich. Kolomoysky was reported to be a principal sponsor of the UDAR party, which is one of the three fueling the street campaign to oust Yanukovich. Kolomoysky has a dual Ukrainian-Israeli citizenship and controls his business empire from Switzerland.
The new governor of Donetsk Region is Sergey Taruta, who is estimated to worth around $2 billion, putting him among the top-10 wealthiest people in Ukraine. He heads ISD, one of the biggest mining and smelting companies in the world, and also own Donetsk-based Metallurg Football Club.
Not a stranger to politics, he used to sponsor Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power in Ukraine after the Orange Revolution of 2004. Among his personal habits is a reputed love for luxurious jewelry and ostentatious gold statues, reports RT’s Peter Oliver.
The appointments will have “a positive effect on the regional aspect,” believes Vladimir Groisman, who was appointed vice-president for regional development in the self-installed government.
“They are well-known and wealthy people. They had a choice – they could buy a plane ticket or fly their own plane and go to another country and wait for the developments there. Or they could take responsibility. I respect their choice,” he said.
Among the accusations mounted on Yanukovich by protesting crowds in Kiev was the charge that he used his presidential power to take over assets of Ukrainian businessmen and make an illegal fortune for himself and his allies. Some Ukraine observers suggested that the oligarchs, threatened by presidential greed, financed the Maidan protests, seeing them as leverage on the government.
After his ouster, photos from Yanukovich’s opulent residence of gilded furniture and a private zoo in suburban Kiev made headlines worldwide. There is little doubt that many of those who sought to topple him for being corruptly enriched would eye the appointment of affluent businessmen to offices of power with a deal of suspicion.
The feeling is palpable in many comments in Ukrainian media.
“That’s good news. I’m tired of those businessmen in power,” said one sarcastic commenter at the site of the Ukrainskaya Pravda a leading online news service.
“It’s OK. The oligarchs have been controlling the regions anyway. I think they will provide order, because only they have the authority, unlike some middle-rank appointees,” soothes another one.
“Are they handing out fiefs? I’m sick of it. Is that what the people died for at the Maidan?” another commenter says.
There is also the regional aspect, which Groisman mentioned. The better-developed industrial east of Ukraine depends on business ties with Russia and would be hurt badly by the EU association agreement, which the new government wants to sign as soon as possible. Mistrust towards Kiev is growing in the east, with several regions already declaring they would not be taking orders from the capital.
The defiant regions seek greater autonomy from the central authorities. Having the right to elect their own governors, as opposed to have them appointed in Kiev, is one of the demands regularly voiced at the protest rallies in eastern and southern Ukraine.
From the tenth-floor balcony of our hotel in Buenaventura, we sit with community leader Miguel Duarte and watch as the sunset over the Pacific Ocean streaks the sky with peach and mauve before fading to a shroud of lavender-gray and darkness. Below us, teenage girls chase a soccer ball. A few hundred yards away, a patch of the island is covered with tree tops like the heads of broccoli. “Take a photo of that island,” says Duarte, pointing at the tree line. “There are thousands of dead bodies buried on it.”
“We need a commission from the Attorney General’s office to count the bodies,” he continues. “The island is controlled by paramilitaries.”
The violence in Buenaventura is staggering, yet reliable statistics are hard to attain: official documentation is lacking and it’s left to community leaders, like 18-year-old Jesús, to try to compile the data independently. At our meeting, he pulls out his notebook and begins reading off his handwritten list of victims from a recent massacre. He gets to the end of his list, glances up, and says, “Children were cut up and heads were found in barrios Santa Monica and Campo Alegro. Last night Alberto’s cousin was killed in a confrontation. That one made the newspaper.”
According to a report issued in January 2014, the city sees two-to-three murders and three-to-six forced disappearances daily. In November 2013 alone, fighting between different armed groups displaced 2,500 families in Buenaventura.
“We’re convinced of one thing,” says Duarte. “This pressure is so that people leave.”
On the heels of shoot-outs in waterfront neighborhoods, city officials arrive and ask residents if they’re ready to sign documents in which they agree to vacate the zone. On February 5 and 6, local security forces staged an elaborately orchestrated tsunami drill for neighborhoods near the port, with armed men blocking off streets and redirecting traffic into the night. According to Colombian Process of Black Communities (PCN), the exercise was yet another effort to brainwash Buenaventura’s Bajamar residents into believing that it’s not safe to live in the area and that they should be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
Many point out that Buenaventura is dangerous for people who live in neighborhoods slated for commercial development but that, paradoxically, these same areas are safe for tourists. Below our hotel, a seafood fusion-sushi bar does slow business just yards from a neighborhood where armed groups recently did battle.
It’s Friday night in this commerce town, and clubs cater to weekend carousers with pockets full of pesos. Against a backdrop of giraffe-like cranes, half-built high-rises sprouting rebar, and a balmy breeze dispersing salsa beats, Duarte explains that 15 or 20 years ago, people began to talk about megaprojects in the region: port expansion, a cargo terminal, a tourist boardwalk, and an international airport in nearby Cali. Those conversations coincided with the beginning of the market liberalization process, as the port changed from public to private ownership.
Over the past 15 years, as the armed conflict arrived to nearby rural areas, many residents fled their farming communities at the outskirts of Buenaventura and settled in ocean-front neighborhoods near the city center, joining communities of Afro-Colombians who had arrived generations ago. In 2005, the FARC and Colombian military battled in Buenaventura. In 2006, paramilitaries entered the urban zone to protect businesses and terrorize the local population.
The first interurban displacement in Buenaventura—in which people fled from one neighborhood to another within the city—was in 2009. Today, ground zero for violent displacement coincides perfectly with zones marked for port expansion, a coal warehouse, a massive container storage area, and a tourist promenade. The violence, PCN states, is “part of the war strategy to control territory and clean out the zone to bring in projects.”
Residents in vulnerable neighborhoods are not opposed to the city’s economic growth, per se. But many feel that projects should benefit all people in the area, not bring prosperity to few while forcing misery on most.
That’s what Remedios’ husband, Eduardo believed. Their home in Caucana, about 45 minutes from the port, is along the road being widened to facilitate port expansion and accompanying projects in order to make Buenaventura competitive for Free Trade Agreement projects.
The old road is narrow, windy, and unpaved, meaning that it currently takes a truck seven or eight hours to make the trip from Buenaventura to Bugalagrande, a town along the Pan-American Highway. The new road will reduce the journey to about an hour.
Eduardo opposed the road expansion through their community because small children play there, and the project was contaminating their air and bad for people’s health. Remedios said, “He’d been looking to strengthen the community. He didn’t want to leave people in misery.” He’d been advocating for the community’s right to Free Prior and Informed Consent for new projects on their land guaranteed under Law 70, or the “Law of Black Communities.”
One morning Eduardo got a call that warned him he’d be killed if he ran in upcoming community council elections. For months he lived under the dark cloud of death threats, and on February 23, 2013, he was murdered. A year later, despite the efforts of his wife and other community members to seek justice, the government has made no progress in the investigation of his death.
“It has left me desperate, my kids too. They’re struggling at school. They don’t remember their vowels, just sleep, play, fight, scream….My children want to know why their father was murdered. They’re small, thinking bad thoughts, seeking vengeance. I’m asking for help because I don’t want my kids to become bad people.”
While we are in Buenaventura, a death threat is circulated, naming as military targets indigenous groups, campesinos, Marcha Patriotica members, protestors who block roads, and “guerilla-defending” NGOs—the name often used by paramilitaries to refer to NGOs that work on human rights issues.
Back on the tenth-floor balcony, a man whose community is surrounded by illegal armed groups looks out over the port, past the island of dead bodies, to the green lights blinking at the edge of the bay. He says, “If we don’t act quickly in Buenaventura, there will be more deaths.”
Margaret Boehme is a member of the Witness for Peace Colombia team based in Bogotá.
In the wake of President Obama’s promise to stop spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the US intelligence has switched its attention to her top government officials, a German newspaper reported.
Washington’s relations with Germany were strained last year after revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting mass surveillance in Germany and even tapped the mobile phone of Chancellor Merkel.
Facing the German outrage, President Barack Obama pledged that the US would stop spying on the leader of the European country, which is among the closest and most powerful allies of America.
After the promise was made, the NSA has stepped up surveillance of senior German officials, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag (BamS) reported on Sunday.
“We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we are no longer able to monitor the chancellor’s communication directly,” it quoted a top NSA employee in Germany as saying.
BamS said the NSA had 297 employees stationed in Germany and was surveying 320 key individuals, most of them German decision-makers involved in politics and business.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is of particular interest to the US, the report said, because he is a close aide of Merkel, who seeks his advice on many issues and was rumored to be promoting his candidacy for the post of NATO secretary-general.
A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry told the newspaper it would not comment on the “allegations of unnamed individuals.”
Privacy issues are a very sensitive area in Germany, which holds the memory of invasive state surveillance practices by the Nazi government and later by the Communist government in the former East Germany.
Part of the outrage in Germany was caused by the allegation that US intelligence is using its surveillance capabilities not only to provide national security, but also to gain business advantage for American companies over their foreign competitors.
Berlin has been pushing for a ‘no-spying deal’ with the US for months, but so far with little success. Germany is also advocating the creation of a European computer network which would allow communication traffic not to pass through US-based servers and thus avoid the NSA tapping.
Many empires have risen and fallen over the course of recorded history. All were created by force. Yet all have tried to legitimize that force, by passing laws and seeking to establish some sort of order that would outlive their military supremacy. Some have been more successful at this than others. The Atlantic Empire, on the other hand, is the only example in history of an imperial enterprise destroying its own laws, undermining its own legitimacy in pursuit of power.
Atlantist politicians invoke “democracy” almost as a totem, a sacred idea whose veneration magically bestows legitimacy upon governments and peoples. Thus framed, the totem does not bear closer scrutiny, and even defies definition. It is whatever the Empire says it is.
In actuality, democracy is just one political decision-making process. Politics, like chess or football, is a stand-in for war, designed to ritualize conflict so as to prevent bloodshed. As long as everyone abides by the rules, and accepts the restrictions of the system, that is all fine and good. Democracy has been described as “civil war with ballots instead of bullets.” Once someone decides to cheat, or even rewrite the rules to “I win, you lose,” the ballots lose their meaning. And bullets are the only thing left.
Or are they? Though the Atlantic Empire has not hesitated to use brute force to impose its will (e.g. the 1999 “Kosovo War”), such interventions have always been risky, costly and complicated. In 1999, for example, it took 78 days for the combined might of NATO to win a negotiated armistice with the outnumbered and outgunned Yugoslavia, allowing the Empire to occupy the province of Kosovo, but not the country entire. So the Atlantists turned to other means.
A student organization, “Otpor,” was taken over and turned into a revolutionary force. With millions of dollars in US taxpayer funding, promotional materials, “training” by the National Endowment for Democracy and other government instructors in nearby Hungary, these “activists” ran a media campaign against the Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government rounded up some 18 opposition parties, wrote their program, and handpicked the front-man for the presidential elections of September 2000: a mild-mannered translator of the Federalist Papers who was never supposed to have any actual power. That would be reserved for the real leader of the “Democratic Opposition of Serbia” (DOS), whose popular support ran in single digits.
The government was caught between “Otpor” and DOS, appealing to the citizenry not to elect foreign agents. When the results of the election showed that DOS did not win, but may have won enough votes to force a runoff, “Otpor” activists and militia personally loyal to the DOS leader started a riot, burning the ballots at the National Assembly building. When the military and the police refused to intervene, president Milosevic resigned. It later emerged that the head of Yugoslavia’s state security had been a CIA informant for almost a decade, as were several high-ranking generals.
If this scenario sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Having been successfully tested in Serbia, the model was then applied elsewhere: 2003 in Georgia (“Rose Revolution”), 2004 in Ukraine (“Orange Revolution”), 2005 in Kyrgizstan (“Tulip Revolution”) and Lebanon (“Cedar Revolution”). The “Jeans Revolution” in Belarus (2006) failed, as did the “Green Revolution” in Iran (2009) and the “White Revolution” in Russia (2012). In all cases, the supposedly popular revolt followed a pattern straight out of the playbook used in Serbia – even to the clenched-fist symbol used by the “student activists” supposedly organizing the protests.
In early 2011, a series of revolts erupted in North Africa, bearing all the hallmarks of the astroturf “color revolutions”: governments were toppled in Tunisia and Egypt. Fringe protests in Libya and Syria escalated into all-out civil war. Meanwhile, a genuine popular protest in Bahrain was crushed by force; Bahrain is a major U.S. fleet base and a client-state of Saudi Arabia.
In every case, the Western media narrative has been the same: young people everywhere demanding “democracy” and overthrowing the evil regimes oppressing them. And if there is any fault to be found in Washington on EU capitals, it is for “standing idly by” and “not helping enough.”
In mid-2011, some European filmmakers made a documentary called “The Revolution Business”, daring to notice the common thread in the supposedly spontaneous outpourings of street riots demanding democracy throughout the world. They spent a lot of time with Srdja Popovic, former Otpor leader that went on to become a professional revolutionary. Otpor having folded years ago into Serbia’s ruling Democratic Party, Popovic now runs an outfit called CANVAS (Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies), lecturing all over the world and training activists in dozens of countries to replicate the Serbian coup. In that mission he is helped by an instruction booklet written by Gene Sharp, a scholar from Boston.
The tactics and techniques of the revolutionaries have been described in some detail, both in Sharp’s book and by outside observers (such as John Laughland). Suffice to say they are all about exploiting the genuine public sentiment — real discontent where it exists, manufactured where it does not — and using the tricks from their toolbox to nudge it in the desired direction.
They always target the young, known for the excess of zeal and shortage of forethought. Who doesn’t want freedom and democracy – which they envision as the hedonist lifestyle seen on American films and TV. And here are all these “consultants”, teaching them for “free”. Even those who dislike and mistrust the Empire find it hard to argue against such gifts without seeming unduly paranoid.
Between the anvil of internal rebellion and the hammer of the Imperial media and diplomatic assault, the “oppressive regime” usually loses its nerve and folds. The “good democrats” installed in power soon start ruling in the interest of the Empire, and the activists realize the “training and consultation” they received weren’t free after all. The Empire always collects its debts.
Yet the revolutionaries rarely revolt after finding out they’ve been used thus. Even if they somehow overcame the crushingly demoralizing effect of finding out they were the agents of their own subjugation, that very fact destroys their credibility at home. Having supped from the cannibal pot, they are marked forever.
Then there are some who enjoy the taste, and become willing agents of the Empire. Popovic is proud of his revolution-exporting adventures. He gladly points out that the Otpor logo — a stenciled fist — has been used by local franchises from Ukraine to Venezuela. On several occasions, the backdrop to Popovic is an Otpor poster, showing the fist and the motto, “Because I love Serbia.” It is a particularly vicious lie: in the Serbia the Empire had Otpor create, only those who hate it prosper.
Popovic does try to obscure his Imperial connections, claiming that CANVAS is an entirely private organization, funded with Serbian money. Why, then, is its name an English acronym? And where did they get the money, in a country first systematically impoverished by a decade of UN sanctions, then bombed to rubble, and finally looted by the Empire’s “democrats”? So looted, in fact, that rummaging through garbage is close to becoming a major branch of agriculture…
And that is the other thing no one dares mention about the “color revolutions”: the governments they put into power are inevitably lackeys of the Empire, imposing horrifyingly destructive policies at home. Even when the people try to vote them out, the Empire simply bribes the winning politicians into switching sides, as it has done in Serbia in 2008 and 2012. Recent events in Ukraine, following the government’s rejection of an economic suicide offer from the EU, demonstrate that the Empire has become more desperate and less scrupulous about denying reality when doing so suits its interests. The legitimately elected government in Kiev has been demonized as “abolishing democracy,” while the violent protesters – representing fringe leaders micro-managed by U.S. and German diplomats – are extolled as authentic democrats and patriots.
Tracing the pattern of astroturfed “revolutions” over the past decade and a half, one cannot help but notice that they are suffering from diminishing marginal returns. In Serbia, a threat of violence and a lot of smoke and mirrors were sufficient to topple the government that successfully defended against conventional warfare. Eleven years later in Libya, it actually took an open military intervention (“kinetic military action” in Pentagonese) to make the rebels win, while the Syrian rebels are steadily losing the war despite all the aid and propaganda in their favor.
Another pernicious consequence of CANVAS in the governments the Empire decides to dislike is that any legitimate protest against genuinely repressive governments becomes that much less likely. Having seen country after country devastated by “color revolutions”, ruining the future of millions for the sake of a handful of quislings, people around the world are that much more reluctant to take politics into the streets. And with the ballot box increasingly discredited by Empire-backed “democrats” who refused to accept democracy if and when they lose, elections may soon become discredited as well. Leaving what, exactly, as a civilized form of conflict-resolution?
The Empire claims to champion democracy, but the end result of its actions is the exact opposite. There is no world order at work here, new or otherwise. Just chaos.
The media coverage of the events unfolding in Venezuela provides a troubling example of how the imperial ambitions of the United States can magnify crises—especially when contrasted with the current political situation in Haiti.
Both Venezuela and Haiti have been facing anti-government protests, with the respective oppositions citing poor leadership, corruption, electoral fraud, and a deteriorating economy as their primary motivations in calling for change. However, the international media’s escalation of the Venezuelan crisis and their complete silence when it comes to Haiti, raises some important questions about the United States’ inconsistency in upholding the values of human rights and democracy.
Haiti has been enduring a political crisis since the highly controversial election of President Michel Martelly, who received his mandate from only 16.7 percent of registered voters, and has been running the country without a fully functioning government in order to avoid dealing with constitutionally mandated checks and balances. For the third year in a row, Martelly has promised to hold elections to fill legislative and local seats without yet following through.
As evidence of Martelly’s unbridled commitment to democracy, instead of holding elections for mayors whose terms expired in 2012, he personally handpicked the representatives, appointing them as “municipal agents.” As a result of Martelly’s political inaction on the national level, one third of the seats in the Haitian Senate remain empty. This congressional inability to establish quorum on issues of national importance has been particularly convenient for the President. In September 2013, the Senate put forward a resolution to indict President Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, and the Minister of Justice Jean Renel Sanon for high treason, lying to the public, and playing a harmful role in the death of Judge Jean Serge Joseph.
Earlier in 2013, Judge Joseph had been given the task of overseeing a high profile corruption investigation against President Michel Martelly’s wife Sophia and their son Olivier. Judge Joseph had reported receiving threats to dismiss the corruption case during a meeting with Martelly, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Justice and Public Security. Joseph refused, and two days later he died under suspicious circumstances.
Because the Haitian Senate has only 16 of 30 members currently active, the impeachment vote was not passed on a technicality. This was in spite of the decision, which saw 7 of the 16 members vote in favor of Martelly’s impeachment, with 9 abstentions and 0 voting against the motion. According to the Haitian Constitution, abstentions do not count as votes—with Article 117 stating that “All acts of the Legislature must be approved by a majority of the members present [emphasis added].” Thus, in regular circumstances the decision by the Senate would move forward with the impeachment. Therefore, this purposefully fragmented political system does a great deal to serve the interests of impunity.
This political crisis is especially worrying when the murder of opposition leaders in Haiti has gone largely unreported in the international press. Most recently, on February 8, Daniel Dorsainvil, one of Haiti’s leading human rights activists and his wife Girldy Lareche were gunned down in Port au Prince. While conflicted motives for the shooting have emerged, Haiti’s human rights community fears that the murders were politically motivated. Dorsainvil was the Coordinator of the Platform for Haitian Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights (POHDH). POHDH was established after the coup d’état of Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1991. According to POHDH’s website, “The systematic suppression of the military against the democratic and popular movement, which followed this event, and the mass amount of human rights violations in general, was the motivation for social and community development organizations to regroup with the purpose of initiating actions specifically in the field of human rights.”
A civil engineer by training, Dorsainvil had been a tireless advocate for justice, routinely speaking out against the Martelly government for its disregard of human rights, political scandals, and the consistent delaying of elections. Dorsainvil’s latest initiative was the establishment of the Patriotic People’s Democratic Movement (MPDP), a group of thirty political and social organizations openly standing in opposition to Martelly’s government. While this attack is tragic on its own, it comes after numerous threats against Haitian human rights defenders such as Patrice Florvilus, Mario Joseph, and André Michel.
In May 2013, Patrice Florvilus, the Executive Director of Defenders of the Oppressed, was subjected to numerous death threats. Margaret Satterthwaite, Director of the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law, remarked:
The targeting of Patrice Florvilus and other attorneys demonstrates a troubling pattern of state obstruction of legitimate human rights work in Haiti…The government’s use of state institutions such as law enforcement, and its failure to address judicial and extra-legal threats leave human rights defenders dangerously exposed. All sectors of the government, from the police to the courts, are responsible for safeguarding human rights.
Due to the neglect and failure of the Haitian government to protect Florvilus and his family from attacks, he has had to relocate to Montreal in December 2013.
In October 2013, human rights lawyer Andre Michel was arrested by the Haitian National Police due to his initiation of legal proceedings against Martelly’s wife and son related to charges of corruption, which Judge Joseph oversaw before his death. Haitian human rights organizations condemned the arrest as an arbitrary and politically motivated attempt to intimidate human rights activists and members of the opposition.
Thus, while Martelly was praised by President Obama in early February for his leadership, Haiti has also seen a slew of anti-government protests due to the political crisis, human rights abuses, and economic decline. The lack of media attention regarding Martelly’s consistent attacks on popular organizations and human rights defenders in Haiti, in contrast to Venezuela is a stark reminder of how abuses of power can be marginalized if one has influential friends in the right places.
Yet another official at the nation’s most challenging environmental cleanup project has been fired after raising serious safety concerns.
This time it was Donna Busche, the head of nuclear safety for cleaning up the former nuclear weapons site at Hanford, Washington, which sits atop 53 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks.
“The Energy Department’s overall safety culture is broken and all they are doing now is sitting idly by,” Busche told the Los Angeles Times.
Her termination came after she repeatedly warned company executives that the radioactive-waste solution being used was flawed and posed safety problems.
URS denied that her firing had anything to do with her safety complaints, saying she was let go for “unprofessional conduct.”
Busche was the second senior project official fired at Hanford. A third official resigned, after citing safety-related concerns with the $13.4-billion construction project.
Walter Tamosaitis, who headed research at URS, was fired in 2013 after he questioned whether the company’s decision to mix the waste in large tanks might result in a buildup of hydrogen gas, which can explode.
In addition, Gary Brunson, the Energy Department’s engineering division director at Hanford, quit after warning of nearly three-dozen problems not being addressed by another site contractor, Bechtel.
But the worries don’t stop there. The Energy Department’s inspector general and other federal investigators have also warned of management and safety issues at Hanford. With 150 aging nuclear-waste tanks, many of which are leaking, it’s the largest cleanup project leftover from the Cold War.
To Learn More:
Official Who Raised Safety Concerns at Hanford Nuclear Site is Fired (by Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times)
Whistle-Blower Fired From Hanford Nuclear Site (by Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press)
As Hanford Radioactive Leak Continues, Clean-Up Contractor Pays Fraud Penalty (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Six Underground Tanks Leaking Nuclear Waste in Washington State (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)