The UK Parliament is presenting itself as a complete joke. Rather than looking into controlling the GCHQ (the UK’s equivalent to the NSA), it has instead held a hearing to interrogate and threaten Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger for actually reporting on the Snowden leak documents and revealing the widespread abuses of the intelligence community. The hearing included the insulting and ridiculous question: “do you love this country?”
Committee chair, Keith Vaz: Some of the criticisms against you and the Guardian have been very, very personal. You and I were both born outside this country, but I love this country. Do you love this country?
Alan Rusbridger: We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question but, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things.
Perhaps equally ridiculous: after UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the destruction of Guardian hard drives, urged the Parliament to start this very investigation and flat out threatened news publications for reporting on government abuse, folks in Parliament have the gall to suggest that it’s Rusbridger who broke the law in sharing some of the Snowden docs with the NY Times? Maybe if Cameron hadn’t done everything he could to try to stifle a free UK press, the Guardian wouldn’t have felt the need to share documents with a competitor.
Conservative MP Michael Ellis: Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by [National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere. Yes or no?
Rusbridger: Well I think I’ve already dealt with that.
Ellis: Well if you could just answer the question.
Rusbridger: I think it’s been known for six months that these documents contained names and that I shared them with the New York Times.
Ellis: Do you accept that that is a criminal offence under section 58(a) of the Terrorism Act, 2000?
Rusbridger: You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I’m not.
And from there it took a turn to the bizarre as Ellis started talking about how Rusbridger might reveal that GCHQ agents were gay. I’m not kidding.
Ellis: Secret and top-secret documents. And do you accept that the information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?
Rusbridger: The sexual orientation thing is completely new to me. If you could explain how we’ve done that then I’d be most interested.
Ellis: In part, from your own newspaper on 2 August, which is still available online, because you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff and I suggest to you that the data contained within the 58,000 documents also contained data that allowed your newspaper to report that information. It is therefore information now that is not any longer protected under the laws and that jeopardises those individuals, does it not?
Rusbridger: You’ve completely lost me Mr Ellis. There are gay members of GCHQ, is that a surprise?
Ellis: It’s not amusing Mr Rusbridger. They shouldn’t be outed by you and your newspaper.
[Brief inaudible exchange in which both men are talking]
Rusbridger: The notion of the existence of a Pride group within GCHQ, actually if you go to the Stonewall website you can find the same information there. I fail to see how that outs a single member of GCHQ.
Ellis: You said it was news to you, so you know about the Stonewall website, so it’s not news to you. It was in your newspaper. What about the fact that GCHQ organised trips to Disneyland in Paris, that’s also been printed in your newspaper, does that mean if you knew that, information including the family details of members of GCHQ is also within the 58,000 documents – the security of which you have seriously jeopardised?
Rusbridger: Again, your references are lost to me. The fact that there was a family outing from GCHQ to Disneyland … [CUT OFF]
There was much more in the hearing, with multiple UK members of parliament making statements that suggest that they are ignorant of a variety of things, including how encryption works and the nature of a free and open press.
But, really, just the fact that they’re spending time investigating Rusbridger in the first place, rather than looking more closely at what the GCHQ is doing, makes a complete mockery of the UK Parliament.
The City of Montreal has purchased 24 drones to help law enforcement tackle crime as authorities look to cut back the police force over the next 15 years. The UAVs, equipped with facial recognition technology, will be armed to ‘neutralize suspects’.
“It’s very exciting,” the chief of police for the borough where the drones will be deployed, Montreal North, told the Montreal Journal.
“The drones with facial recognition will patrol the streets 24 hours a day. Officers will interrogate individuals suspected of criminal acts or searched directly through speakers and microphones installed in the drones, but soon they can be provided with equipment capable of neutralizing on-site suspects pending the intervention of the law enforcement officers. It will mainly make our work less dangerous, especially in an area where there is a lot of social tension,” he said.
When asked to clarify what intermediate weapons would be used to neutralize suspects, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesman told the Journal the “UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] will carry persuasive technologies, but non-lethal types, such as electric shock, blinding or paralyzing gases.”
He added that despite the seemingly limitless possibilities, only non-lethal weapons are “intended for the moment.”
The drones are set to be deployed in early 2014.
Despite the $400-million- plus price tag, the drones are intended to facilitate cutbacks to the city’s police force in line with nationwide efforts to curb RCMP expenditures, which have doubled over the last 15 years.
Employing new technology to create leaner, more effective law enforcements agencies, however, remains highly contentious.
A late 2012 poll conducted by Jennifer Stoddart, the privacy commissioner of Canada, found the public remains ambivalent about the use of UAVs in policing.
While 80 percent of those surveyed were comfortable with police use of drones for search-and-rescue missions, only 40 percent of respondents felt comfortable with their use in monitoring public events or protests.
“Considering the capacity of UAVs for surreptitious operation, the potential for the technology to be used for general surveillance purposes, and their increasing prevalence — including for civilian purposes — our office will be closely following their expanded use,” the report read.
“We will also continue to engage federal government institutions to ensure that any planned operation of UAVs is done in accordance with privacy requirements.”
The RCMP national drone is thus far in its infancy, with Mounties promising they will not be used to conduct general surveillance against the public.
A study released last month – Unmanned Eyes in the Sky – found that despite drones’ potential benefits for police, law enforcement had not “sought feedback from the public on how UAVs should or should not be adopted as a tool to serve the public interest,” the Canadian Press reported.
The study concluded that in light of the “potential for intrusive and massive surveillance,” Canadians needed reassurances that they would not be spied on once the drone program goes into full swing.
- Facial recognition, once a battlefield tool, lands in San Diego County (backcountryvoices.wordpress.com)
- Montreal buys 24 drones with facial recognition that will interrogate suspected criminals (blacklistednews.com)
The United Nations is set to carry out an investigation into the spying activities of the US and UK, a senior judge has said. The probe will examine the espionage programs and assess whether they conform to UN regulations.
UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC told British newspaper The Guardian that the UN will conduct an inquiry into the NSA and the GCHQ’s spying antics. Following Edward Snowden’s revelations, which blew the whistle on both agencies’ intelligence gathering programs, Emmerson said the issue was at “the very apex of public interest and concerns.”
The report will broach a number of contentious issues, said Emmerson, including whether Snowden should be granted the legal protection afforded to a whistleblower, whether the data he handed over to the media did significant harm to national security, whether intelligence agencies need to scale down their surveillance programs and whether the UK government was misled about the extent of intelligence gathering.
“When it comes to assessing the balance that must be struck between maintaining secrecy and exposing information in the public interest, there are often borderline cases,” Emmerson told The Guardian.
Emmerson also mentioned the raid this summer on The Guardian’s London offices in search of hard drives containing data from Snowden. Addressing the allegations made by the chiefs of British spy agencies MI5, GCHQ and MI6, that publishing Snowden’s material was “a gift to terrorists,” Emmerson said it was the media’s job to hold governments to account for their actions.
“The astonishing suggestion that this sort of responsible journalism can somehow be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively,” said Emmerson, who will present the conclusions of his inquiry to the UN General Assembly next autumn.
Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is set to appear before a Commons home affairs committee in a hearing about the newspaper publishing of Snowden’s security leaks. British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement in September, warning of a possible crackdown if media continued to publish information on covert intelligence gathering programs.
He said the government had not yet been “heavy-handed” in its dealings with the press, but it would be difficult not to act if the press does not “demonstrate some social responsibility.” Cameron added that the UK was a more dangerous place after the Guardian published Snowden’s material.
Snowden’s revelations of the international spying activities of the UK and US have embarrassed the White House and Downing Street. Recent leaks show that the NSA and GCHQ not only monitored millions of civilian communications using programs such as PRISM and Tempora, but also eavesdropped on high-profile businessmen and politicians. Moreover, it was revealed that the NSA also spied on the UN’s headquarters in New York.
Both nations have sought to justify their intelligence gathering programs as being in the interests of national security.
It seems that the NSA’s “talking points” keep on leaking. The latest is a two pager it sent home with employees prior to Thanksgiving, so they’d have substance-free pablum to say in response to any family and friends who might actually have been paying attention to the news lately, and have some concerns to raise about the NSA violating our privacy and the Constitution. The document is broadly split into five sections, with sub talking points within each section. Here are the key points (underlines in the original):
- NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation”
- NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy
- NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that’s what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world
- The people who work for NSA are loyal Americans with expert skills who make sacrifices to help protect the freedoms we all cherish
- NSA is committed to increased transparency, public dialog and faithful implementation of any changes required by our overseers.
Almost all of the talking points are misleading, with some clearly being outright lies. Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake, who first obtained and published these talking points, does an incredibly thorough demolishing of the talking points, so I highly recommend reading that. Here’s a short snippet:
“NSA programs protect Americans and our Allies,” the document reads. “As an example, they have helped to understand and disrupt 54 terrorist events since 9/11: 25 in Europe, 11 in Asia and 5 in Africa. Thirteen of those had a homeland nexus.”
Deputy Director John Inglis admitted in August during a Senate hearing, when pressed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, that US bulk records phone spying had been “critical” in stopping just one terrorist plot. He clarified that the spying on phone records had only “made a contribution” to discovering the 13 plots.
Sens. Ron Wyden, Mark Udall & Martin Heinrich, who filed a brief in support of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit challenging the collection of phone records of all Americans, explained the Executive Branch has defended the program by conflating it with “other foreign intelligence authorities.” The senators highlighted the fact that the collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act had played “little or no role in most of these disruptions.”
“Indeed of the original fifty-four that the government pointed to, officials have only been able to describe two that involved materially useful information obtained through the bulk call-records program,” the senators added. “Even the two supposed success stories involved information that [the senators] believe—after repeated requests to the government for evidence to the contrary—could readily have been obtained without a database of all Americans’ call records.”
At this point, any intelligence agency leader, member of Congress or government official who highlights 54 “thwarted” plots is advancing propaganda to save the NSA from being forced into giving up this power to collect the phone records of all Americans.
There’s much, much more at the original. Go read it. Most of these talking points are pretty much what you’d expect, and the standard doublespeak we’ve been hearing from the NSA and its defenders ever since the Snowden revelations began. At best they’re setting up strawmen to knock down. No one has argued that NSA employees aren’t American citizens. We just question what they’re doing. Furthermore, the whole “lawful, compliant” thing is kind of laughable, given the numerous examples of abuses, and the regular discussions from the courts about how the NSA has abused its mandate. Even more to the point, many of these programs simply have not been challenged in court in an actual trial, so claiming that they’re legal is a huge stretch.
Maybe it’s time that someone put together a list of “talking points” for friends and family of NSA employees to read back to them the next time they spew these kinds of bogus claims.
Bonus: The folks at Gawker worked the talking points into a script. Here’s a snippet:
DAD: So, Ted, how’s work lately?
UNCLE TED: NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation.
DAD: Oh, for sure. I was just thinking since it’s been in the news a lot…
UNCLE TED: NSA performs timely, actionable intelligence to political and military customers who use that information in a range of activities from decisionmaking to military operations.
MOM: Honey, maybe Ted doesn’t want to talk abou—
UNCLE TED: NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant, and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy.
KEITH ALEXANDER: Pass the salt?
Moment of shooting
On November 27th B’Tselem volunteer videographer Abu Ahmad documented clashes between Palestinian youth and soldiers in Beit Ummar. An officer fired a canister that hit him in the chest, while he filmed. Abu Ahmad was bruised and required medical treatment. The firing of tear gas canisters directly at individuals is a routine practice by security forces and has already claimed the lives of two people and injured dozens. The military continues to deny the existence of the practice and avoids addressing it systematically.
- B’Tselem Investigation finds illegal use of force by Israeli troops in killing of young man (imemc.org)
- Israeli forces fire tear gas at 2 schools in Beit Ummar (maannews.net)
- Masked settlers assault and injure B’Tselem camera volunteer harvesting olives near Adei Ad settlement outpost, 26 October 2013 (aanewswire.wordpress.com)
It appears that the heads of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mike Rogers, are recognizing that their strategy for keeping their co-dependent relationship with the NSA going is failing and that the American public and an increasingly large segment of Congress no longer believes their bogus claims. Perhaps that’s because every time they open their mouths, it takes all of about an hour before many of their claims are completely debunked, if not outright mocked for obviously being bogus. So their latest strategy? To basically yell “Ooga Booga Terrorists!” as loud as they can to try to scare people based on absolutely nothing.
Feinstein and Rogers did a little dance on Sunday political TV shows insisting that “the terrorism threat is increasing” and we’re all going to die if we stop trying to make sure the NSA actually, you know, respects the Constitution. Asked if we were “safer” now than a year or two years ago, Feinstein kicked off the FUD:
“I don’t think so,” Feinstein replied. “I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that. The fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs. Trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnetometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there.”
And Rogers quickly followed:
“I absolutely agree that we’re not safer today for the same very reasons,” he said. “So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it’s getting more difficult.”
Of course, Feinstein’s claim that “terror is up worldwide” is — as is so often the case with her (and Rogers’) claims about terrorism — sorta true, but highly misleading. Yes, recent stats show an uptick in terrorist attacks and fatalities in 2012 — but you can also see that it’s highly variable. Earlier in the year, before the 2012 numbers came out, people were commenting on the fact that terror attacks and fatalities around the globe had been on the decline since 2007. Terrorism is highly variable and dependent on a few big successful attacks. Furthermore, if we look at attacks on the US, we find that there have basically been next to none in the US since 2001. You could make the case that 16 people have died in US “terrorist” attacks since 2001 (including the 13 soldiers killed by Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood), but you have to have a very broad definition of terrorism to do so.
Nearly all of the “terrorist” attacks in that original report that Feinstein is obviously relying on, appear to take place in areas that are considered war zones: Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And, um, I hate to bring this part up, but part of the reason why those are war zones is because, you know, the US invaded both places. This isn’t to say that there aren’t terrorists out there who would like to attack the US. There clearly are. But it seems highly misleading to make the claims that both Feinstein and Rogers are making here, as the “data” they’re talking about don’t show any heightened risk in the US at all.
Either way, this whole thing — having both appear together, both making vague “we’re all going to die” statements without any details to back it up combined with an exceptionally misleading use of statistics — suggests that this is the typical FUD. It’s Feinstein and Rogers shouting “terror” in a crowded theater, because they know that they’ve already lost public opinion on this, and are quickly losing Congress as well.
The Ahrar Center for Detainees Studies and Human Rights issued its monthly report Sunday revealing that Israel soldiers shot and killed 13 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in November, while more than 374 Palestinians, including eight women, have been kidnapped.
Ahrar said that, similar to previous months, the southern West Bank district of Hebron witnessed the largest number of Israeli violations, while the army also kidnapped 95 Palestinians.
The Center stated that eight Palestinian women, including two teenagers, were among the kidnapped in Hebron. All kidnapped women, except the two young women, were released later on.
In occupied Jerusalem, soldiers kidnapped 85 Palestinians, including a journalist identified as Mohammad Abu Khdeir, who works for the Al-Quds daily; he was taken prisoner at the Ben Gurion Airport after concluding a visit to Egypt.
In Jenin, the army kidnapped 47 Palestinians, while 45 Palestinians were kidnapped in Nablus, 34 in Bethlehem, 30 in Ramallah, 18 in Qalqilia, 10 in Tulkarem, and one Palestinian has been kidnapped in Jericho.
Israeli soldiers also kidnapped nine Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including three who allegedly tried to cross the border fence.
The Israeli Navy continued its attacks and assaults against the Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and kidnapped four fishermen in Palestinian waters after the soldiers opened fire on them and their boats.
Soldiers also kidnapped a Palestinian patient from the Gaza Strip after he headed to the Erez terminal on his way for medical treatment at a hospital in Jerusalem. Israel granted him a permit to head to Jerusalem, but the soldiers still kidnapped him.
Ahrar added that soldiers also kidnapped a Palestinian from Gaza after he allegedly approached the border fence and “hurled a grenade” at an Israeli military vehicle.
In Jerusalem, soldiers kidnapped two Palestinian women, both teachers, and a young woman was kidnapped at an Israeli military roadblock near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem. She is a college student from Nablus.
As for Palestinians killed by Israeli military fire in November, Ahrar said that Israeli soldiers shot and killed 13 Palestinians, including four from the Gaza Strip.
The four killed in Gaza have been identified as Rabee’ Baraka, 23, Khaled Mohammad Abu Bakra, 35, Mohammad Rashid Dawoud, 26, and Mohammad Issam Al-Qassam, 23; all were killed after the army bombarded Gaza on November 1st.
In the West Bank, detainee Hasan Toraby, 22, from the northern West Bank city of Nablus, died of cancer at the Al-‘Affoula Hospital after Israel failed to provide him with the needed medical treatment, and only moved him to hospital after having a very serious deterioration in his health condition.
On the night of November 7, resident Bashir Habaneen, 28, a university teacher from the northern West Bank city of Jenin, was shot and killed by soldiers at the Za’tara roadblock, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
On the same night, Anas Al-Atrash, 22, from Hebron, was killed at the Container roadblock, near Bethlehem.
On November 26, soldiers assassinated three Palestinian from the southern West bank city of Hebron. The three have been identified as Mohammad Nairoukh, Mahmoud Najjar, and Mousa Fansha.
On November 28, Mahmoud Awwad, 24, from the central West Bank city of Ramallah, died of serious injuries he suffered in March. He was shot in the head and remained in a coma until his death.
On the same day, a Palestinian child identified as Nour Mohammad Affana, 14, died at an Israeli military roadblock as the soldiers closed the roadblock and prevented an ambulance, transporting her to a hospital in Bethlehem, from crossing.
On November 30, Israeli officers shot and killed Antar Al-Aqdra’, 24, from Qablan town, as he was working in the Petah Tikva area, north of historic Palestine. Twelve workers were taken prisoner.
Furthermore, Ahrar said that Israeli soldiers have escalated their attacks and assaults against Palestinian political prisoners, forced several detainees into solitary confinement, and denied family visits to dozens of detainees.
Palestinian researcher, former detainee and the head of the Ahrar Center, Fuad Al-khoffash, said that Israel’s violations, including deadly attacks and arrests, are ongoing, while extremist Israeli settlers carried out dozens of attacks, as part of organized assaults against the Palestinians, their lands and property, in the occupied West Bank, and occupied Jerusalem.
It has now been five years since the sentencing of the Holy Land Five: Muslim-American humanitarians who were falsely convicted of providing “material support for terrorism” because of their charitable work in Palestine. To mark the occasion, the daughters of the Holy Land Five have produced a powerful video message featuring the families of those imprisoned, as well as people around the world, expressing solidarity with the innocent men.
Alas the overtly politicised case against the Holy Land Five is only one among many. Since 11 September 2001, there have been numerous legal efforts to criminalise compassion in the US, ultimately denying Muslim-Americans of the right to freely practice their religion.
Founded in 1989, the Holy Land Foundation was once the largest Islamic charity in the US. The Texas-based foundation helped to raise funds for people misplaced by both natural and man-made disasters, focusing primarily on Palestinian refugees living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well as in the neighbouring countries, but also helping both American and international victims of tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. The Foundation even assisted the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
However three months after the 11/9 attacks, the US government suddenly designated the Holy Land Foundation as a terrorist organisation, closing down the charity and seizing all its assets. Federal prosecutors accused the foundation and its members of providing financial assistance to individuals and organisations linked to Hamas, claiming that this constituted “material support for terrorism” as stipulated in the USA PATRIOT Act. The government based its case on the twisted logic that the money the foundation was sending to zakat associations in Gaza to build hospitals and feed the poor relieved the social organisations affiliated with Hamas of carrying out this responsibility.
None of the zakat associations were listed as “Specially Designated Nationals” (SDNs) at the time of the alleged offence. The US Treasury Department considers SDNs to be criminal actors and thus “their assets are blocked and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.” But it did not matter because the government has consistently adopted a loose interpretation of the material support clause to target Muslim-Americans, often using ex post facto relationships to prove that suspects are, according to President George W. Bush’s Executive Order 13224 of September 24, 2001, “otherwise associated with” terrorists.
While the US government does indeed classify Hamas as an SDN, the Islamist movement is not at all connected to Al-Qaeda or the attacks on 11/9 which precipitated the closure of the Holy Land Foundation. After all, the Foundation had been operating since 1989, so why else would the government wait twelve years to target the charity except to conflate all Muslims with terrorism after 11/9, creating a climate of fear that would lead Americans to support the so-called war on terror and the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush even called the closure of the Foundation “another step in the war on terrorism”.
Leading up to the trial, the government amassed an amazing 197 counts against six members of the Holy Land Foundation, many of them trumped up criminal charges. However, in 2007 the case ended in mistrial for five of the defendants, with one defendant being found not guilty of all but one charge against him, for which the jury was deadlocked.
Nevertheless, the government refused to drop its case, and a retrial was ordered in late 2008 against the Holy Land Five: Ghassan Elashi, co-founder and chairman of the board; Shukri Abu-Baker, president and CEO; Mohammad El-Mezain, co-founder and the California office representative; Mufid Abdulqader, volunteer fundraiser and Abdulrahman Odeh, the New Jersey office representative.
For the 2008 retrial, the government dropped almost half of the original charges and called an anonymous Israeli intelligence expert as a witness, who according to Mondoweiss testified that he knew the defendants had ties to Hamas because he “could smell Hamas”. Several lawyers have noted that the use of an anonymous witness was a legal first, and clearly violates the defendants’ sixth amendment right to face their accusers in court.
Needless to say, in the second trial the Holy Land Five were found guilty of every criminal charge that was brought against them. They were given draconian sentences of between 15 and 65 years in prison, a devastating punishment for them and their families.
In addition to putting the Holy Land Five in jail for what could possibly be the rest of their lives, according to the New York Times the government also “publicly named more than 300 individuals and American Muslim organisations as ‘unindicted co-conspirators’, without allowing them to hear the evidence against them or defend themselves in court.”
So much for innocent until proven guilty.
The Holy Land Five tried to appeal their convictions, but the US Supreme Court declined their final appeal in 2012. They have now exhausted all their legal options. Four of the five men are currently imprisoned in a severely restricted facility for prisoners deemed to be “security threats” known as the Communications Management Unit (CMU). After 11/9 two CMUs were built, one in Indiana and the other in Illinois, and the vast majority of prisoners in both are Muslims. Most prisoners have extremely limited contact with the outside world, including their families. American public radio station NPR has called the CMUs “Guantanamo North” and the Nation magazine describes them as “Gitmo in the Heartland.”
To date, the US government still has not published a list of approved Islamic charities, probably because the current ambiguity allows federal officials to selectively pursue politically motivated cases. This has had a chilling effect on charitable giving.
The Holy Land Foundation case did inspire one Washington-based group called the American Task Force on Palestine to come up with a list of acceptable projects for individuals and charities to support in Palestine, which have all been vetted by the US Agency for International Development. Unsurprisingly, the American Task Force on Palestine has been described by one Palestinian-American writing for Al-Jazeera as “a Washington organisation designed to promote a particular line on Palestine. The group is tasked with feeding the State Department palatable fictions – like, ‘two states for two peoples’. In return, organisation heads are invited to dinners with important people.”
The overt politicisation of the American judiciary to deny Muslims in America of their rights is not exclusive to individuals and charities working in Palestine. Since 11/9, thousands of Muslim-Americans have been detained, deported or profiled, even though very few are ever prosecuted in the courts, and dozens of Islamic charities have been either closed down or financially disabled, creating a climate of fear that denies Muslim-Americans of the right to give to charity, rendering them unable to practice zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Similar to the Holy Land Foundation, many of the individuals and charities that have been targeted were singled out to justify foreign invasions. When President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress on 20 September 2001 to declare, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” the “us” he was referring to was not the American people, but American empire. He was saying that you must support our foreign invasion and occupation, otherwise you will be criminalised. And in fact, Muslims in America were never even given a choice, because the government had already started to reproduce a particular typology of Muslims-as-terrorists. As scholar Mustafa Bayoumi has argued, immigrant males from targeted countries were obliged to “misidentify from the Muslim-as-terrorist figure” or else face the consequences, a typology repeatedly emphasized in the media.
For example, in February 2003, Dr Rafil Dhafir, a prominent Iraqi-American oncologist and respected imam living in Central New York, was arrested because his charity Help the Needy was sending humanitarian aid to Iraq, including money to build mosques, parcels of food and medical supplies, all of which allegedly violated the UN sanctions, measures which Dennis Halliday, the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, says killed around one million Iraqis. Although the FBI had kept Dhafir under surveillance since at least 1997, Help the Needy was never prevented from delivering the supposedly illegal aid to Iraq. Instead, the charity openly carried out its operations until 85 agents went to Dhafir’s home to arrest him only weeks before the launch of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The same morning he was arrested, around 150 Muslim contributors to the charity living in Central New York were also questioned by various government agencies.
To dispel any doubts about this case being linked to the invasion of Iraq, former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft referred to Dhafir as a terrorist when he was apprehended, a charge repeated by former New York Governor George Pataki. The Washington Post called Dhafir a “high profile suspect” and reported that: “A federal prosecutor suggested that an Arab engineer who was a friend of Dhafir’s might be proficient in fashioning ‘dirty bombs’.”
However when Dhafir finally went to trial, he was only accused of white-collar crimes, with the most serious counts being related to money-laundering. He did not face any charges of terrorism. Nevertheless, by then the US had already invaded Iraq in the name of fighting the war on terror. The reason for Dhafir’s “high profile” arrest was already a moot point, and the alleged terrorist was only found guilty of criminal activity. However, we was given a harsh sentence of 22 years in prison and was initially placed in the CMU prison in Indiana. He has since been transferred to a lower security facility.
Although it was not mentioned at all during the trial because the information was sealed, during the sentencing the prosecution suggested that the government had evidence that while volunteering with Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan during the 1980s, Dhafir had met with a member of the mujahedin who later became a supporter of Al-Qaeda, leaving out the context of Washington’s financial and military support for the mujahedin at that time.
Indeed the National Security Division of the Department of Justice subsequently listed the case against Dhafir and his charity as a successful terrorist prosecution. He too has lost every judicial appeal, exhausting all his legal options for seeking justice.
Numerous other Islamic charities have also been targeted since 11/9. These include Benevolence International Foundation, Global Relief Foundation, Kind Hearts USA and Islamic American Relief Agency. The witch hunt even led the American Civil Liberties Union to release a report in 2009 entitled “Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity“.
In 2006 the FBI raided the Michigan offices of Life for Relief and Development, a large and highly regarded Islamic charity, on the eve of Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast and make considerable charitable contributions. The charity was reportedly under investigation in connection with its activities in Iraq. Despite having its property seized, the case against the charity was ultimately closed and it was allowed to remain open. Nevertheless, the timing of the raid had already achieved a wider purpose.
In another timely coincidence, on the first day of the 2007 trial against the Holy Land Foundation, federal agents raided the offices of the Michigan-based branch of the Al-Mabarrat Association, a charity affiliated with the late Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah in Lebanon, as well as the offices of the Goodwill Charitable Organization, also connected to Lebanon. The US Treasury Department accused the latter of having ties to Hizbullah’s Martyr’s Foundation, an organisation already on the SDN list. The same day, the FBI searched a number of local businesses and homes, again traumatising the community. Subsequently the Goodwill Charitable Organization was shut down and also listed as an SDN. However the FBI allowed Al-Mabarrat Association’s Michigan offices to remain open.
It is important to note that while each case is uniquely tragic, non are unusual. There have been many other domestic victims of the US war on terror, including many Islamic charities. Indeed these coordinated and well-publicised actions against both Muslims and Islamic charities have successfully created a climate of fear that makes it extremely difficult for Muslims in America to give or perform charity, thus criminalising compassion and denying Muslim-Americans of their constitutionally guaranteed right to freely practice their religion.
The Spanish government has approved a new draft law which imposes harsh penalties on Spaniards taking part in unauthorized anti-government demonstrations, a move criticized by the opposition as trying to silence protests.
The draft law, presented by Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz on Friday, sets fines of up to 30,000 euros ($40,800) for offenses like torching the national flag, affronting the state or causing serious troubles outside parliament.
Fines of up to 1,000 euros will be imposed on people insulting or intimidating police officers.
Four “very serious” offenses, including interfering in electoral processes and illegal protests at strategic facilities such as airports or nuclear power plants, could be fined up to 600,000 euros (about $1,000,000).
The opposition says the bill is meant to prevent demonstrations against the government as the country struggles with a debt crisis and high unemployment.
“When more than 20 percent of people are unemployed, I don’t think this legislation is what we require,” said Alejandro Tourino, from law firm Ecija.
The government, however, has defended the bill, saying it will create discipline and safeguard public freedoms.
It will help “regulate and protect public freedoms,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.
Madrid’s harsh spending cuts and rising unemployment have sparked massive anti-government protests across the country in recent years. Protesters argue that the government-imposed measures have failed to curb rising poverty or help extricate the country from its worst recession in years.
The draft law must be approved by parliament, where it may change to some extent. However, it will probably be ratified as the governing party has an absolute majority in the parliament.
Spain has seen numerous protests in recent years. On November 20, students gathered in front of the Education Ministry in Madrid to show their anger at the government’s austerity cuts, rising fees and other changes to the education system.
The Spanish government has been sharply criticized over the austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest.
Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.
Glenn Greenwald on sharp form, as ever, and the BBC interviewer, on this occasion Stephen Sackur, on woeful form, as ever.
The last five-minute exchange, starting at about 19.20 mins, when Sackur ends up defending Britain’s security services against Greenwald’s charge that they lied during the Iraq war, is simply jaw-dropping in its asinine, dangerous complacency.
How do these BBC mouthpieces have the nerve to call themselves journalists?
Policing activists for anti-Semitism is a distraction from the fight against Jewish tyranny
By Karin Friedemann with Joachim Martillo | January 15, 2009
My previous article talked about guarding yourself against destructive Jewish behavior patterns. These behaviors are learned and not genetic. Israel Advocacy organizations like the David Project even give workshops in linguistic aggressive-defense tactics for whenever someone uses the word “Jew” or criticizes Israel. Always manipulate the conversation so that the focus is turned on Israel’s accuser. It’s a psychological intimidation tactic aimed at getting the person to apologize for hurting Jewish sensitivities, or for conflating Jews and Zionists, or for thinking all Zionists are bad. Jews do not seem to hold themselves accountable to the same moral standard as they hold others. All Gentiles have to apologize for the Holocaust, yet all Jews don’t have to apologize for Israel. [ecumenical deal: Jews accept Christian apology as long as Christians don't criticize Israel].
The current Jewish argument seems to be:
You are anti-Semitic for linking Zionism and Jewishness.
You are anti-Semitic for not acknowledging the special connection of Israel to Jewishness.
You can’t win!
You are bad.
Therefore we will talk about what you did, not what Jews did.
The socially suicidal person who is bravely trying to do the right thing, to struggle against total evil, is often made to feel guilty and ashamed and very alone, when actually the Jew is the one that should be apologizing for the people he/she chooses to identify with, and I stress chooses, because “Jew” is a chosen identity. Jews are those who call themselves Jews. Nobody knows if you are a Jew or not unless you mention it. Jews who do not wish to participate in Jewish hegemony should be the ones in the front lines, demanding the asset seizure, imprisonment and public execution of the Zionist leadership who did this to the Palestinian people, not to mention the US economy.
Peace Jews are for the most part coordinated by the Israeli government via the various liberal Jewish organizations in the US. They serve to deflect blame from Jews as a group by creating a false cover for the perpetrators of racist genocide. Instead of confronting the supporters of mass murder in their own community, they act as representatives of the Jewish community, creating a false impression of Jewish non-support for Israel. In truth, even the peace Jews tend to unite with the far right when the question is Jewish Israel’s American tax funded existence. An example of this was when Tikkun united aggressively with the Neocon establishment to snuff out a City Council vote on taking public moneys out of Israeli investments in Somerville, Ma. This “peace” Zionist organization deliberately misled the public on the issues involved in a local ballot question regarding the Palestinian Right of Return.
Let’s get this straight. Israel’s existence depends on committing genocide with your tax money. All the aggression that Israel commits is done in defense of Israel’s existence.
Therefore, duh, Israel should not exist. Israel cannot exist as a Jewish state AND give people back their homes and give them all a vote, which is their right under international law.
Any Jew whose family lost their home in Germany or Poland is allowed by law to claim back the property. It’s elementary property rights law. Human rights include property rights. Jews have to give back what they stole. Israel’s existence was dependent on the UN Resolution 181. Israel’s existence depends on the condition that the Jews have to let the Palestinians stay in their homes and give them equal citizenship rights. This has never happened. Within hours of signing that agreement Israel was ethnically cleansing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948.
Many people in Gaza have property in Sredot. It used to be their land, until they were evicted at gunpoint by Jewish murdering thugs. The racist settlers living on other people’s stolen property in Sredot have absolutely no right to expect to live in security or peace. Americans who hear Jews and non-Jews say such genocidal racist and sick statements like Israel has the right to defend itself should be ashamed. Instead, they want you to apologize for calling Jews “Jews.”
No, I really mean Jews. My fight is with the Jewish power establishment and not the Israelis per se.
Do any of the Jewish organizations support the right of Hamas to exist?
When people accept Israel’s “right” to exist, or more accurately, the Jewish “right” to mass murder and plunder non-Jews including Americans, they are accepting a criminal ideology. Israel’s existence does not exist in a vacuum. It is a result of American Jewish organizations, and to a large extent, European. All Americans are indoctrinated by American Jewish organizations via the media and Hollywood and even the Pentagon is informed of all its plans by the Jewish organizations.
Also alarming, nearly all American Jews go through an indoctrination process within the Jewish community that is even more extreme. It includes training in psychological manipulation tactics aimed at shifting the blame away from Jews any time someone mentions the obvious, for example, “Jews are killing Palestinans.” The trick is always to make the person apologize for believing that Jews would kill Palestinians. All bystanders would be made to revile the person stating the obvious as a flaming racist. It’s an interesting game. But it doesn’t work forever.
The good news is, there is nothing behind the Jewish facade, the linguistic traps of mixed messages. That is, the banal statements of believing in peace plus the absolute refusal to do what it takes to be a good person – give the Palestinians their lands back and give them citizenship rights in some country. It probably doesn’t matter what you call it at this point but that’s the minimum requirement for peace.
Once you get people to the point where they admit the truth, that all humans are created equal, and therefore Israel’s existence is a really bad idea, they can either agree with you, or short-circuit. Those who know Israel is wrong and do not strive against its existence are just like all the Gentiles whom the Jews routinely condemn for “doing nothing” about the Holocaust. Jewish Liberals should not serve as human shields using a battle of guilt trips to stop people from discussing how to limit Jewish power.
The Islamophobic hate campaign was not just created by Israel. It was created, coordinated and disseminated in the US by Jewish organizations. Every Jew in the Jewish community participates in some way with the Zionist agenda of racist indoctrination. They are fed a steady stream of anti-Islam and anti-Arab propaganda and are brainwashed to believe that Israel has a right to exist. If you are not with the genocidaires, then, why are you shielding them?
One may choose to opt out of Jewish organizational behavior; that does not erase the very real and scary fact that this destructive deliberate and well-funded organized violent crime and extortion racket is backed up by all the well-meaning Jewish foot soldiers who are simply loyal to “Israel” or to the Jewish people without fully knowing what that means.
It is hard to see the big picture even once one notices the pattern. One of the reasons is because in polite society we are not allowed to discuss Jewish racism. Always, one of the little footsoldiers chimes in, wanting an exception to the group accusation to Jews. But this policing against anti-semitism, instead of responding in a moral and appropriate way, is exactly the Jewish behavior that the Jew has been programmed for by the B’nai B’rith Society. Rabbi Lerner, who has never been to the Occupied Territories, gets his “media updates” and talking points from the JCRC. The Liberal Zionists are trained and coordinated to cover for the Right Wing Jews. They don’t even realize that their behavior is clinically abnormal and morally bankrupt.
In a recent article, former Israeli philosopher Gilad Atzmon writes:
“The Jewish state is the ultimate threat to humanity and our notion of humanism. Christianity, Islam and humanism came along with an attempt to amend Jewish tribal fundamentalism and to replace it with universal ethics. Enlightenment, liberalism and emancipation allowed Jews to redeem themselves from their ancient tribal supremacist traits. Since the mid 19th century, many Jews had been breaking out of their cultural and tribal chain. Tragically enough, Zionism managed to pull many Jews back in. Currently, Israel and Zionism are the only collective voice available for Jews.
The last twelve days of merciless offensive against the Palestinian civilian population does not leave any room for doubt. Israel is the gravest danger to world peace. Clearly the nations made a tragic mistake in 1947 giving a volatile racially orientated identity an opportunity to set itself into a national state. However, the nations’ duty now is to peacefully dismantle that state before it is too late. We must do it before the Jewish state and its forceful lobbies around the world manage to pull us all into a global war in the ‘name’ of one banal populist ideology or another (democracy, war against terror, cultural clash and so on). We have to wake up now before our one and only planet is transformed into a bursting boil of hatred.”
I think if a Jew wants to live in the Holy Land he or she should accept to live under majority rule: Hamas rule. A modern Islamic state, whose Constitution includes a Bill of Rights for non-Muslims, is really the only viable option for peace in Historic Palestine. Hamas has every right, under international law, to fight against the occupying power, including lobbing pipe bombs over the Apartheid Wall. Israel has no right to blockade any part of a civilian population, preventing them from getting to work, getting food, or medical aid. Israel has no right to build a wall.
I’ve been through this Jewish indignation thing during the Jenin Massacre and so it’s harder to fool me now. Among the various threads of Zionist thought, from the condescending racism of Tikkun to the openly aggressive settler movement, there is nothing cool.
My goal is to stop the evil so it is necessary to observe the evil – not just walk away saying “How sad.”
Levels of guilt:
those who commit atrocities
those who justify the atrocities
those who deny the atrocities
those who benefit from atrocities
those who participated in a society that allows atrocities
So let’s reiterate the obvious.
Israel does NOT have any “right” to exist nor any right to defend itself.
The UN has the right to dismantle Israel.
When Israel says they want to eradicate “Hamas” they mean anyone who might have ever voted for Hamas.
Meaning: all Palestinians
The Palestinians DO have the right to shoot rockets at an occupier.
We are engaged in genocide when we neglect to use the word Palestine in our speech.
We DO need good strategy for eradicating Jewish tyranny.
Anita Kumar, a reporter at McClatchy, has a good article highlighting how, for all the talk by the Obama administration about how it needs to be more open and transparent about what the NSA is doing, in actuality, the administration has built up the walls even higher, increasing the levels of secrecy… including secrecy about how he’s responded to everything:
Obama has been gradually tweaking his vast government surveillance policies. But he is not disclosing those changes to the public. Has he stopped spying on friendly world leaders? He won’t say. Has he stopped eavesdropping on the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? He won’t say.
Even the report by the group Obama created to review and recommend changes to his surveillance programs has been kept secret.
As is noted in the article, the administration, which likes to pretend it’s the most transparent in history, is actually one of the most secretive. Its attempts at transparency have almost exclusively been focused on where it can get the most political bang, not for what areas people expect the government to be transparent about — such as how it interprets the laws that allow the government to spy on everyone…
What’s incredible is that it appears that no one high up in the administration seems to recognize how this is a strategy that will almost certainly make things worse, not better. It may be how the administration is used to functioning, but it makes it much more difficult to believe anything that is said about a supposed “vigorous public debate” being held on the surveillance activities. It also means that as more leaks come out revealing more questionable practices, the constant backtracking and excuses will just destroy whatever credibility the administration has left on this issue. If, instead, it were to actually be transparent and simply reveal things like how it interprets the law, and allow for a real public discussion on these matters, that would actually result in some frank discussions that the administration seems terrified of actually having.
Extreme secrecy may seem like the easier short-term strategy, but it’s just digging an ever deeper hole that the administration is going to have to try to climb out of in the long-term. Hiding reality from a public that’s going to find out eventually is just making the problem worse.