Ahead of a two-day Net Mundial international conference in Sao Paulo on the future of the Internet, Brazil’s Senate has unanimously adopted a bill which guarantees online privacy of Brazilian users and enshrines equal access to the global network.
The bill known as the “Internet constitution” was first introduced in the wake of the NSA spying scandal and is now expected to be signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff – one of the primary targets of the US intelligence apparatus, as leaks by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden revealed.
Rousseff plans to present the law on Wednesday at a global Internet conference.
The bill promotes freedom of information, making service providers not liable for content published by their users, but instead forcing the companies to obey court orders to remove any offensive material.
The principle of neutrality, calling on providers to grant equal access to service without charging higher rates for greater bandwidth use is also promoted. The legislation also limits the gathering and use of metadata on Internet users in Brazil.
Approval of the Senate was assured after the government dropped a provision in the legislation requiring Internet companies such as Twitter and Facebook to store data on Brazilian users at home.
The final version bill states that companies collecting data on Brazilian accounts must obey Brazilian data protection laws even if the data is collected and stored on servers abroad.
The demand of the use of Brazilian data centers had been added to the legislation last year after Snowden’s leaks revealed the extent of NSA’s spying network and wiretapping of President Dilma Rousseff communications.
The NSA was also involved in spying on Brazil’s strategic business sector, particularly on state-run oil company Petrobras. In response to US spying, Rousseff canceled a state visit to Washington in October and called on the UN, together with Germany, to adopt a UN resolution guaranteeing internet freedoms.
The adoption of the bill was a top priority for the Brazilian leader as a two-day Net Mundial conference in Sao Paulo is scheduled to open in Brazil on Wednesday.
The aim of the global event on internet governance is to discuss cyber security amid the NSA spying scandal. Safeguarding privacy and freedom of expression on the Internet are among the topics to be discussed according to a draft agenda.
US officials will attend the meeting alongside representatives from dozens of other states.
“All of them should have equal participation in this multi-stakeholder process,” Virgilio Almeida, Brazil’s secretary for IT policy, who will chair the conference, told Reuters.
As part of the discussion, Russia and China have submitted a proposal jointly with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan asking for the UN to develop a code of conduct for the Internet.
“Most participants here want a multi-stakeholder model for the Internet,” Almeida told Reuters. “China wants a treaty at the United Nations, but only governments are represented there.”
The event is not expected to result in any binding policy decisions, but Almeida said it will facilitate a debate that will “sow the seeds” for future reforms of internet governance.
We’ve covered the ridiculousness of the UK’s “voluntary” web filters. UK officials have been pushing such things for years and finally pushed them through by focusing on stopping “pornography” (for the children, of course). While it quickly came out that the filters were blocking tons of legitimate content (as filters always do), the UK government quickly moved to talk about ways to expand what the filters covered.
The pattern is not hard to recognize, because it happens over and over again. Government officials find some absolute horror — the kind of thing that no one will stand up for — to push for some form of censorship. Few fight back because no one wants to be seen as standing up for something absolutely horrific online, or be seen as being against “family values.” But, then, once the filters are in place, it becomes so easy both to ignore the fact that the filters don’t work (and censor lots of legitimate content) and to constantly expand and expand and expand them. And people will have much less of a leg to stand on, because they didn’t fight back at the beginning.
That appears to be happening at an astonishingly fast pace in the UK. Index On Censorship has a fantastic article, discussing how a UK government official has already admitted to plans to expand the filter to “unsavoury” content rather than just “illegal.”
James Brokenshire was giving an interview to the Financial Times last month about his role in the government’s online counter-extremism programme. Ministers are trying to figure out how to block content that’s illegal in the UK but hosted overseas. For a while the interview stayed on course. There was “more work to do” negotiating with internet service providers (ISPs), he said. And then, quite suddenly, he let the cat out the bag. The internet firms would have to deal with “material that may not be illegal but certainly is unsavoury”, he said.
And there it was. The sneaking suspicion of free thinkers was confirmed. The government was no longer restricting itself to censoring web content which was illegal. It was going to start censoring content which it simply didn’t like.
It goes on, in fairly great detail, to describe just how quickly the UK is sliding away down that slippery slope of censorship. It highlights how these filters were kicked off as an “anti-porn” effort, where the details were left intentionally vague.
But David Cameron positioned himself differently, by starting up an anti-porn crusade. It was an extremely effective manouvre. ISPs now suddenly faced the prospect of being made to look like apologists for the sexualisation of childhood.
Or at least, that’s how it was sold. By the time Cameron had done a couple of breakfast shows, the precise subject of discussion was becoming difficult to establish. Was this about child abuse content? Or rape porn? Or ‘normal’ porn? It was increasingly hard to tell.
And, of course, the fact that the filters go too far, is never seen as a serious problem.
The filters went well beyond what Cameron had been talking about. Suddenly, sexual health sites had been blocked, as had domestic violence support sites, gay and lesbian sites, eating disorder sites, alcohol and smoking sites, ‘web forums’ and, most baffling of all, ‘esoteric material’. Childline, Refuge, Stonewall and the Samaritans were blocked, as was the site of Claire Perry, the Tory MP who led the call for the opt-in filtering. The software was unable to distinguish between her description of what children should be protected from and the things themselves.
At the same time, the filtering software was failing to get at the sites it was supposed to be targeting. Under-blocking was at somewhere between 5% and 35%.
Children who were supposed to be protected from pornography were now being denied advice about sexual health. People trying to escape abuse were prevented from accessing websites which could offer support.
And something else curious was happening too: A reactionary view of human sexuality was taking over. Websites which dealt with breast feeding or fine art were being blocked. The male eye was winning: impressing the sense that the only function for the naked female body was sexual.
But, of course, no one in the UK government seems to care. In fact, they’re looking to expand the program. Because it was never about actually stopping porn. It was always about having a tool for mass censorship.
The list was supposed to be a collection of child abuse sites, which were automatically blocked via a system called Cleanfeed. But soon, criminally obscene material was added to it – a famously difficult benchmark to demonstrate in law. Then, in 2011, the Motion Picture Association started court proceedings to add a site indexing downloads of copyrighted material.
There are no safeguards to stop the list being extended to include other types of sites.
This is not an ideal system. For a start, it involves blocking material which has not been found illegal in a court of law. The Crown Prosecution Service is tasked with saying whether a site reaches the criminal threshold. This is like coming to a ruling before the start of a trial. The CPS is not an arbiter of whether something is illegal. It is an arbiter, and not always a very good one, of whether there is a realistic chance of conviction.
As the IWF admits on its website, it is looking for potentially criminal activity – content can only be confirmed to be criminal by a court of law. This is the hinterland of legality, the grey area where momentum and secrecy count for more than a judge’s ruling.
There may have been court supervision in putting in place the blocking process itself but it is not present for individual cases. Record companies are requesting sites be taken down and it is happening. The sites are only being notified afterwards, are only able to make representations afterwards. The traditional course of justice has been turned on its head.
And it just keeps going on and on. As the report notes, “the possibilities for mission creep are extensive.” You don’t say. They also note that technologically clueless politicians love this because they can claim they’re solving a hard problem when they’re really doing no such thing (and really are just creating other problems at the same time):
MPs like filtering software because it seems like a simple solution to a complex problem. It is simple. So simple it does not exist.
Of course, if you recognize that the continued expansion of such filters was likely the plan from the beginning, then everything is going according to plan. The fact that it doesn’t solve any problems the public are dealing with is meaningless. It solves a problem that the politicians are dealing with: how to be able to say they’ve “done something” to “protect the children” while at the same time building up the tools and powers of the government to stifle any speech they don’t like. To those folks, the system is working perfectly.
A journalist for Russia’s LifeNews has been released after being detained and questioned for 15 hours by Ukraine law enforcement. Police allegedly “kicked” the reporter and “other peaceful civilians” during an armed confrontation in Mariupol on Wednesday.
Kristina Babayeva was detained following an armed confrontation between anti-government protesters and soldiers stationed at a military base in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Her colleague, camerawoman Maria Povalyaeva, still remains at the local police station.
“She is being actively interrogated,” Babayeva told RT.
Babayeva said she was working at the scene when the shooting began. She said the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and police then “launched an operation,” throwing her and other peaceful civilians on the ground.
“Many were kicked, including me. They were talking to us really harshly and said that if we moved a finger they would shoot to kill,” the journalist said, adding that she received several bruises.
According to the reporter, there was “total chaos” and police were shooting in different directions. Once anyone flashed a torch, they “fired at that direction without a warning,” Babayeva said, adding that real bullets were used – not rubber ones.
People were kept on the ground, their faces down, for about half an hour, before they were placed in a van to be taken to a local police station, Babayeva said.
She was questioned for 15 hours by the SBU and police officers, who attempted to accuse her of complicity in the armed seizure of the military base located in the turbulent Donetsk region.
Babayeva said police were aware that she is a Russian journalist and saw all her documents, seized her microphone, and two phones.
“They saw that I had made calls to activist – on the eve of the incident we were filming a report near the city council building. That’s why they accused me in complicity to the armed seizure, as they put it,” she said.
No violence was used against her at the police station, she said.
According to LifeNews, the journalist demanded that she be provided with a lawyer and given an opportunity to speak to a Russian consul, but law enforcers refused to do so.
New documents released by the FBI show that the Bureau is well on its way toward its goal of a fully operational face recognition database by this summer.
EFF received these records in response to our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for information on Next Generation Identification (NGI)—the FBI’s massive biometric database that may hold records on as much as one third of the U.S. population. The facial recognition component of this database poses real threats to privacy for all Americans.
What is NGI?
NGI builds on the FBI’s legacy fingerprint database—which already contains well over 100 million individual records—and has been designed to include multiple forms of biometric data, including palm prints and iris scans in addition to fingerprints and face recognition data. NGI combines all these forms of data in each individual’s file, linking them to personal and biographic data like name, home address, ID number, immigration status, age, race, etc. This immense database is shared with other federal agencies and with the approximately 18,000 tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States.
The records we received show that the face recognition component of NGI may include as many as 52 million face images by 2015. By 2012, NGI already contained 13.6 million images representing between 7 and 8 million individuals, and by the middle of 2013, the size of the database increased to 16 million images. The new records reveal that the database will be capable of processing 55,000 direct photo enrollments daily and of conducting tens of thousands of searches every day.
NGI Will Include Non-Criminal as well as Criminal Photos
One of our biggest concerns about NGI has been the fact that it will include non-criminal as well as criminal face images. We now know that FBI projects that by 2015, the database will include 4.3 million images taken for non-criminal purposes.
Currently, if you apply for any type of job that requires fingerprinting or a background check, your prints are sent to and stored by the FBI in its civil print database. However, the FBI has never before collected a photograph along with those prints. This is changing with NGI. Now an employer could require you to provide a “mug shot” photo along with your fingerprints. If that’s the case, then the FBI will store both your face print and your fingerprints along with your biographic data.
In the past, the FBI has never linked the criminal and non-criminal fingerprint databases. This has meant that any search of the criminal print database (such as to identify a suspect or a latent print at a crime scene) would not touch the non-criminal database. This will also change with NGI. Now every record—whether criminal or non—will have a “Universal Control Number” (UCN), and every search will be run against all records in the database. This means that even if you have never been arrested for a crime, if your employer requires you to submit a photo as part of your background check, your face image could be searched—and you could be implicated as a criminal suspect—just by virtue of having that image in the non-criminal file.
Many States Are Already Participating in NGI
The records detail the many states and law enforcement agencies the FBI has already been working with to build out its database of images (see map below). By 2012, nearly half of U.S. states had at least expressed an interest in participating in the NGI pilot program, and several of those states had already shared their entire criminal mug shot database with the FBI. The FBI hopes to bring all states online with NGI by this year.
The FBI worked particularly closely with Oregon through a special project called “Face Report Card.” The goal of the project was to determine and provide feedback on the quality of the images that states already have in their databases. Through Face Report Card, examiners reviewed 14,408 of Oregon’s face images and found significant problems with image resolution, lighting, background and interference. Examiners also found that the median resolution of images was “well-below” the recommended resolution of .75 megapixels (in comparison, newer iPhone cameras are capable of 8 megapixel resolution).
FBI Disclaims Responsibility for Accuracy
At such a low resolution, it is hard to imagine that identification will be accurate.1 However, the FBI has disclaimed responsibility for accuracy, stating that “[t]he candidate list is an investigative lead not an identification.”
Because the system is designed to provide a ranked list of candidates, the FBI states NGI never actually makes a “positive identification,” and “therefore, there is no false positive rate.” In fact, the FBI only ensures that “the candidate will be returned in the top 50 candidates” 85 percent of the time “when the true candidate exists in the gallery.”
It is unclear what happens when the “true candidate” does not exist in the gallery—does NGI still return possible matches? Could those people then be subject to criminal investigation for no other reason than that a computer thought their face was mathematically similar to a suspect’s? This doesn’t seem to matter much to the FBI—the Bureau notes that because “this is an investigative search and caveats will be prevalent on the return detailing that the [non-FBI] agency is responsible for determining the identity of the subject, there should be NO legal issues.”
Nearly 1 Million Images Will Come from Unexplained Sources
One of the most curious things to come out of these records is the fact that NGI may include up to 1 million face images in two categories that are not explained anywhere in the documents. According to the FBI, by 2015, NGI may include:
- 46 million criminal images
- 4.3 million civil images
- 215,000 images from the Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC)
- 750,000 images from a “Special Population Cognizant” (SPC) category
- 215,000 images from “New Repositories”
However, the FBI does not define either the “Special Population Cognizant” database or the “new repositories” category. This is a problem because we do not know what rules govern these categories, where the data comes from, how the images are gathered, who has access to them, and whose privacy is impacted.
A 2007 FBI document available on the web describes SPC as “a service provided to Other Federal Organizations (OFOs), or other agencies with special needs by agreement with the FBI” and notes that “[t]hese SPC Files can be specific to a particular case or subject set (e.g., gang or terrorist related), or can be generic agency files consisting of employee records.” If these SPC files and the images in the “new repositories” category are assigned a Universal Control Number along with the rest of the NGI records, then these likely non-criminal records would also be subject to invasive criminal searches.
Government Contractor Responsible for NGI has built some of the Largest Face Recognition Databases in the World
The company responsible for building NGI’s facial recognition component—MorphoTrust (formerly L-1 Identity Solutions)—is also the company that has built the face recognition systems used by approximately 35 state DMVs and many commercial businesses.2 MorphoTrust built and maintains the face recognition systems for the Department of State, which has the “largest facial recognition system deployed in the world” with more than 244 million records,3 and for the Department of Defense, which shares its records with the FBI.
The FBI failed to release records discussing whether MorphoTrust uses a standard (likely proprietary) algorithm for its face templates. If it does, it is quite possible that the face templates at each of these disparate agencies could be shared across agencies—raising again the issue that the photograph you thought you were taking just to get a passport or driver’s license is then searched every time the government is investigating a crime. The FBI seems to be leaning in this direction: an FBI employee email notes that the “best requirements for sending an image in the FR system” include “obtain[ing] DMV version of photo whenever possible.”
Why Should We Care About NGI?
There are several reasons to be concerned about this massive expansion of governmental face recognition data collection. First, as noted above, NGI will allow law enforcement at all levels to search non-criminal and criminal face records at the same time. This means you could become a suspect in a criminal case merely because you applied for a job that required you to submit a photo with your background check.
Second, the FBI and Congress have thus far failed to enact meaningful restrictions on what types of data can be submitted to the system, who can access the data, and how the data can be used. For example, although the FBI has said in these documents that it will not allow non-mug shot photos such as images from social networking sites to be saved to the system, there are no legal or even written FBI policy restrictions in place to prevent this from occurring. As we have stated before, the Privacy Impact Assessment for NGI’s face recognition component hasn’t been updated since 2008, well before the current database was even in development. It cannot therefore address all the privacy issues impacted by NGI.
Finally, even though FBI claims that its ranked candidate list prevents the problem of false positives (someone being falsely identified), this is not the case. A system that only purports to provide the true candidate in the top 50 candidates 85 percent of the time will return a lot of images of the wrong people. We know from researchers that the risk of false positives increases as the size of the dataset increases—and, at 52 million images, the FBI’s face recognition is a very large dataset. This means that many people will be presented as suspects for crimes they didn’t commit. This is not how our system of justice was designed and should not be a system that Americans tacitly consent to move towards.
For more on our concerns about the increased role of face recognition in criminal and civil contexts, read Jennifer Lynch’s 2012 Senate Testimony. We will continue to monitor the FBI’s expansion of NGI.
Here are the documents:
- 1. In fact, another document notes that “since the trend for the quality of data received by the customer is lower and lower quality, specific research and development plans for low quality submission accuracy improvement is highly desirable.”
- 2. MorphoTrust’s parent company, Safran Morpho, describes itself as “[t]he world leader in biometric systems,” is largely responsible for implementing India’s Aadhaar project, which, ultimately, will collect biometric data from nearly 1.2 billion people.
- 3. One could argue that Facebook’s is larger. Facebook states that its users have uploaded more than 250 billion photos. However, Facebook never performs face recognition searches on that entire 250 billion photo database.
In the wake of the American Studies Association’s December 2013 endorsement of the Palestinian civil society call for an academic boycott of Israel – and as two efforts to legislate against academic boycotts fail to move forward in the Illinois and Maryland state legislatures – the ASA has gained new members and support. Over the past several months, the ASA has welcomed more than 700 new members. The ASA has also collected more membership revenue in the past three months than in any other three-month period over the past quarter-century and its ongoing “Stand with the ASA” grassroots fundraising campaign has exceeded the association’s expectations thus far.
Last week, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, released a statement in support of the ASA’s boycott efforts. In it, he states that: “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. … The [anti-boycott] legislation being proposed in the United States would have made participation in a movement like the one that ended Apartheid in South Africa extremely difficult.” The day before his statement was released, an Illinois State Senate Committee rejected a resolution condemning academic boycotts. A bill to defund universities that subsidize faculty associations with organizations supporting boycotts was also scuttled in Maryland, where non-binding condemnatory language was instead inserted into the budget bill.
ASA President Curtis Marez stated, “Despite the backlash of the last few months, the ASA is thriving. The boycott vote is consistent with our longstanding support for human rights and opposition to war and militarism. Many Americans are now for the first time hearing about their government’s support for the occupation and discriminatory laws against Palestinians. I’m proud that the ASA helped open up discussion about BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) and the difference it can make.” Commentary by ASA leaders, members and supporters was published in the Los Angeles Times, Chronicle of Higher Education,Washington Post, New York Times, CNN.com, and the Chicago Tribune, among other news outlets.
In response to the legislative threats from politicians, threatened legal action, and physical threats from others, veteran attorneys have stepped forward to assist the ASA in responding to such legal bullying for taking a principled stand in support of Palestinian human rights. The ASA is not the only organization to face such bullying; in 2013 alone, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, an initiative built in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights,documented more than 100 cases of legal and other intimidation against Palestinian rights activists on U.S. campuses.
Incoming ASA president Lisa Duggan noted, “We are looking forward to our upcoming annual meeting in November, which will feature a wealth of panels and events presenting first-rate American Studies scholarship on topics ranging from the politics of settler colonialism and transnational Black studies to popular culture and contemporary performance art. We will be welcoming Palestinian and Israeli scholars along with large contingents of other international ASA members poised to continue addressing matters of global concern affecting all of us.”
Palestinian journalist and political activist Majd Kayyal
Israel’s security services secretly arrested Palestinian activist-journalist Majd Kayyal. The arrest is under gag order
I received an urgent message from Jamil Dakwar of the ACLU that Palestinian journalist and political activist, Majd Kayyal, age 22, was arrested on his return to Israel from a trip to Lebanon and Jordan. I’ve checked with an Israeli source who tells me he was arrested as a national security suspect. The combination of his trip to Lebanon, where he attended an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of As-Safir (considered a pro-Hezbollah publication), his participation in a 2011 flotilla voyage to break the Gaza siege, and his activist role in Adalah (where he was the website editor) and Balad (Hebrew), made him a ready target.
At midnight Saturday Israel-time, a few hours after his arrest, the security police raided his Haifa home and confiscated his computer and other electronic devices and materials. Jamil reports he has been denied access to an attorney, which is standard procedure for Israeli Palestinian security suspects. A judge will be asked to extend his remand tomorrow and will automatically do so, again as is standard for the Only Democracy in the Middle East. Majd can also expect abuse and even torture from his security service interrogators just as Ameer Makhoul did.
For those with good memories, who’ve been reading this blog for several years, you’ll recall his case. He was also a Palestinian community activist from Haifa who founded the Ittijah NGO. He too returned from a trip to Jordan, where he allegedly met a fellow activist Hassan Jaja at an environment conference. The Shabak made Jaja out to be a key Hezbollah operative, when in reality he owned a landscaping business in Amman. My guess is that Shabak discovered a similar meeting Kayyal had with a suspect individual who the security forces can turn into an Islamist bogeyman.
This persecution is part of the ongoing effort by Israeli secret police to criminalize Israeli Palestinian nationalism. As I’ve reported here, Yuval Diskin, then Shabak chief, said in 2007 that any such political expression would be viewed as sedition and criminally prosecuted by the State. That is what is happening in this case. Nothing more. [...]
This arrest, which constitutes a severe assault on press freedom, since Kayyal is an Israeli Palestinian journalist, is under gag order in Israel. It has not been reported in Israeli media. I hope this publication will poke a hole in the shroud of opacity that favors such assaults by the security apparatus. An international group of activists joined together to fight on Ameer’s behalf. I’ve begun a process which I hope will lead to the same support for Majd.
By Gilad Atzmon | October 6, 2009
The question of “who is a Jew?” has been debated in Israel since it attained statehood. In the Jewish state the authorities, Rabbis and the media would dig into one’s bloodline with no shame whatsoever. For the Israelis and orthodox Jews, Jewishness is obviously a blood related concept. However, Jewishness and blood concerns are becoming a subject of a growing debate in the UK. In the last few days The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian are trying to decide whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a ‘self hating Jew’ or just an ordinary anti-Semite. Like the Israeli Rabbis they both dig into his bloodline.
Ahmadinejad is revealed to have a ‘Jewish past’ said the Daily Telegraph on Saturday. According to the paper, a photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 “clearly” suggests that his family had Jewish roots. The Telegraph even found the ‘experts’ who suggested that “Mr Ahmadinejad’s track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.” Needless to say that Ahmadinejad has never come on record with a single anti-Jewish ‘hate- filled’ attack as the Telegraph suggests. He is indeed extremely critical of the Jewish state and its raison d’etre. He is also highly critical of the crude and manipulative mobilisation of the holocaust at the expense of the Palestinian people.
One may wonder why a Western media outlet happens to selectively engage with issues to do with the racial or ethnic origin of the Iranian president. At the end of the day, digging into peoples ethnic past and family bloodline is not a common practice you expect from the Western press. It is something you tend to leave for racists, Nazis and Rabbis. For one reason or another, no one in the so called free press tried to dwell on the close ties between multibillion swindler Bernie Maddof and his tribe. The ‘free press’ saved itself also from dealing with Wolfowitz’s ethnicity, in spite of the fact that the Zionist war he brought on us has cost 1.5 million lives by now. If you wonder how it is that the Western free media is reverting to ‘pathology’ in order to deal with a Muslim president, the answer is simple not to say trivial:
The so called ‘liberal West’ is yet to find the answers to President Ahmadinejad within the realm of reason. It lacks the argumentative capacity to address Ahmadinejad. Instead, it insists to spin banal racially orientated ideas that cannot hold water, “By making anti-Israeli statements” says The Daily Telegraph, “he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections.” The truth of the matter is clear. Ahmadinejad has already managed to re-direct a floodlight of reasoning and skepticism just to enlighten our darkest corner of hypocrisy. He somehow manages to remind us all what thinking is all about.
It is pretty much impossible to deny the fact that Ahmadinejad’s take on the holocaust and Israel is coherent, consistent and valid. He seems to have three main issues with the narrative:
1. Around sixty Million died in WWII, the vast majority of them were innocent civilians. How is it, asks Ahmadinejad, that we insist to concentrate on the particularity of the suffering of one ‘very’ specific group of people i.e. the Jews?
2. The Iranian president rightly maintains that this historical chapter must be historically examined. This would mean as well that every event in the past should be subject to scrutiny, elaboration and revision. “If we allow ourselves to question God and the Prophets, we may as well allow ourselves to question the holocaust.”
3. Regardless of the truthfulness of the holocaust, it is not a trivial fact that the suffering of the Jews in Europe had nothing to do with the Palestinian people. Hence, there is no reason for the Palestinians to pay for crimes committed by others. If some Western Leaders feel guilty for crimes committed against the Jews by their ancestors, which they seem to claim, they better allocate some land for the Jews within their territories rather than expect the Palestinians to keep upholding the Zionist murderous burden.
As much as it is obviously clear that the above points raised by Ahmadinejad are totally valid, it is also painfully transparent that the West lacks the means to address those issues. Instead we seem to revert to supremacy and pseudo scientific discourse dwelling on blood, pathology and lame psychoanalysis.
As embarrassing as it may seem, in just three moves Ahmadinejad manages to expose the current deceptive Western mode of discussion. He, in fact identifies the holocaust as the core of our hypocritical stand, a tendency that has managed to shatter our ethical judgment. The holocaust was there to divert the attention from the colossal crimes committed by the allies: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden are just brief examples of institutionalized genocide at the hands of the English Speaking Empire. The holocaust has successfully matured into a new religion. Yet, it lacks theology. It doesn’t allow any form of criticism or reformism. It is in fact an anti-Western religion inspired by hate and vengeance. It is dark, it is blind and it lacks mercy and compassion. It is a faith that declares an assault on any form of doubt. It is a crude brutal belief system that stands in opposition to the notions of liberty and goodness. As if this is not enough, those who subscribe to this religion are complicit in an ongoing assault against grace and peace.
As things stand at the moment, The British media is yet to decide whether Ahmadinejad is a ‘Jew rebel’ or just a ‘Meshugena Goy’. The Guardian was very quick to publish its own take on the subject refuting the Telegraph’s account. However, one thing is clear, neither the Guardian nor the Telegraph or any other so called ‘free media’ outlets are free enough to address the questions raised by Ahmadinejad.
1. Why only the Jews?
2. Why do you all say NO to scrutinizing the past?
3. Why do the Palestinians have to pay the price?
Instead of engaging in these crucial elementary questions. The British main papers succumb to racially orientated bloodline digging.
Rather than following the banal Zionist query ‘who is a Jew?’ I suggest that we take the discourse one step further and ask a very simple question: What Jewishness stands for?
“Freedom of the Press” and “The Shield Law”: “Protecting the Public” from Independent Alternatives to the Mainstream Media
Currently being debated by the Senate, but rarely discussed on mainstream television, is the Shield Law. While on the surface it may seem to be rather innocuous, some of the language in it and its implications are quite problematic for journalists.
A Shield Law is a law which “provides statutory protection for the ‘reporters’ privilege’— legal rules which protect journalists against the government requiring them to reveal confidential sources or other information.” Generally, this is a positive occurrence as journalists are much more able to conduct their work and bring information to public light if they do not need to worry about having to reveal their sources. While Shield Laws have occurred in the past, they have only been on the state level. This currently proposed Shield Law is the first one to reach the federal level and the main goal is to protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources in federal cases.
However, there are certain instances in which journalists will have to reveal sources, such as “(1) The party seeking disclosure has exhausted all reasonable alternative sources of the information; (2) The requested information is essential to resolving the matter; (3) Disclosure of the requested information would not be contrary to the public interest; and (4) In criminal cases, if the requesting party is the federal government, the government must show that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has occurred.”
While overall it may seem like a good bill, there are a number of problems with this Shield Law, officially known as the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013. For starters, this law would “allow the government to seize reporters’ records without notifying them for 45 days – a period of time that could be renewed by a judge 45 additional days – if investigators convince a judge pre-notification ‘would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of a criminal investigation.’” This power of seizing records without notifying reporters was used most recently in regards to the Associated Press, when the federal government seized their phone records in May of last year, with the government only saying that “they were needed for investigation of an unspecified criminal matter.” Oh yes! What transparency and accountability! Infringing upon the First Amendment rights of reporters and then only giving what is essentially a BS, purposefully vague explanation.
In addition to this, the government can force journalists to give up information in the name of national security. This is quite worrying as the US government has time and time again been involved in operations of entrapment.[7,8] Due to this, they could potentially have a scenario where they create a case of entrapment, label it terrorism, and then force all journalists to give up information on any and all sources as well as seize their records under the guise of national security.
Yet in this current bill, not only can the government continue to engage in the above behavior, but they are also defining who is and who is not a journalist. Initially, the bill defined a journalist as “a person who has a ‘primary intent to investigate events and procure material’ in order to inform the public by regularly gathering information through interviews and observations” and added the stipulation that “The person also must intend to report on the news at the start of obtaining any protected information and must plan to publish that news.” This seems to be rather fine as it would include mainstream and independent journalists. However, the situation became problematic when in September 2013, an amendment to the bill was proposed that- let’s just say- ‘more clearly’ defined who and who was not a journalist.
Kevin Gostolza of Firedoglake discussed this amendment last year and it would be appropriate to quote him now at some length:
A “covered journalist,” under the amendment, would be the following: an employee, independent contractor, or agent of an entity or service that disseminates news or information by means of newspaper; nonfiction book; wire service; news agency; news website, mobile application or other news or information service (whether distributed digitally or other wise); news program; magazine or other periodical, whether in print, electronic, or other format; or through television or radio broadcast, multichannel video programming distributor (as such term is defined in section 602(13) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 522(13)), or motion picture for public showing… That person must also have the “primary intent to investigate events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information concerning local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest.” Or, that person should be engaged in the “regular gathering, preparation, collection, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting or publishing on such matters.” A person would also qualify as a “covered journalist” if they had experience in journalism and had “substantially contributed, as an author, editor, photographer, or producer, to a significant number of articles, stories, programs, or publications” in the past twenty years. As Feinstein said, it would “cover a legitimate journalist such as a Dan Rather who leaves his media entity and takes to publishing freelance stories on the web.” (emphasis added)
Now, let’s begin to take those paragraphs apart and analyze them, bit by bit.
In the first paragraph, the law defines a journalist as “an employee, independent contractor, or agent of an entity or service that disseminates news or information” and then goes on to define the many mediums by which the news can be disseminated. Some of this language seems to be problematic. What exactly do they mean by “independent contractor?” Do they mean a freelancer? Do they mean someone like myself who researches and writes independently?
In the next paragraph, it adds a caveat to the definition of journalist, stating that the individual in question must also “have the ‘primary intent to investigate events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information concerning local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest.’” Well, how do you prove that this is one’s primary intent? Do you just have to state as such? And what do they even mean by the term “primary intent?” Isn’t the main goal of most if not all journalists to disseminate news to the public?
The final paragraph offers an alternative if one is not with a mainstream source by stating that they are covered if “they had experience in journalism and had ‘substantially contributed, as an author, editor, photographer, or producer, to a significant number of articles, stories, programs, or publications’ in the past twenty years.” Does this mean that contributing to sites such as Truthout could qualify one as a journalist under this law?
Apparently, in an earlier version of the bill, the law defined “journalists so narrowly that it excludes bloggers, citizen reporters and even some freelancers,” and thus the amendment was added. However, this amendment seems to leave more questions than answers.
In addition to this, many supporters of this bill have been using some rather bellicose language. For example, Senator Dianne Feinstein has been quoted as saying that “real journalists draw salaries” and stating that the First Amendment is “a privilege,” which is rather worrying.
On top of all these other problems, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, has written that this bill would “give judges too much power to decide on their own whether the disclosure of the information would be contrary to the public interest and thus not protected.” This means the issue of deciding whether or not information that is being withheld by journalists, say, sources for example, violates the public interest in the form of national security would be decided by judges. If the judges do decide that the information being withheld does violate the public interest, then the journalist would be forced to hand over that information.
While judges do from time to time uphold the rights of the people, they seem to have often sided with the national security state as of recent. For example in 2010, a federal appeals court “ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information,” last year, the US Supreme Court decided to “allow the National Security Agency’s surveillance of domestic telephone communication records to continue.”
This year it was reported that the US Supreme Court “rejected [the Center for Constitutional Rights] lawsuit against Bush-era warrantless surveillance, which “guarantees that the federal courts will never address a fundamental question: Was the warrantless surveillance program the NSA carried out on President Bush’s orders legal?” Thus, it seems that the situation of on whose side the courts would rule in a case regarding national security is rather iffy. This is made all the more strenuous by the fact that if a case were to make it up all the way to the Supreme Court and they ruled in favor of the US government, it has the potential to set a precedent which could only be overturned by an entirely new Supreme Court case.
As of now, there are conflicting reports about whether or not Chuck Shumer (D.-N.Y.) has the votes to pass the bill in the Senate, with Schumer saying he does and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) saying he doesn’t. However, if it does pass, there is no doubt about it going into law as Obama has already voiced his support for it.
By essentially giving the government the power to define what a journalist is, it has the potential to hurt independent media when it is needed now more than ever. The mainstream media consistently sits on stories to please the US government. It was reported in 2006 that the New York Times made a decision to “[withhold] a story about the Bush administration’s program of illegal domestic spying until after the 2004 election.” More recently, the US media reported again and again that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Ghouta and that the UN report confirmed it, when in reality, the question is still up in the air as new information has come to light that puts the official narrative in doubt.
We need independent alternatives to the mainstream media like Corbett Report, Citizen Radio, and Black Agenda Report to allow people to get a glimpse behind the wall of misinformation that permeates much of the mainstream and get an idea of what is truly going on in the world. If this law gives the government the power to define who a journalist is, we may just lose that.
1: Society of Professional Journalists, Shield Law 101: Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.spj.org/shieldlaw-faq.asp
2: Rem Reider, “Media Shield Law Moves Forward,” USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/09/12/senate-judiciary-committee-approves-media-shield-bill/2807045/ (September 12, 2013)
3: Chris Palmer, Josh Stearns, “The Journalism Shield Law: How We Got Here,” Free Press, http://www.freepress.net/blog/2013/08/06/journalism-shield-law-how-we-got-here (August 6, 2013
4: Steven Nelson, “Holes in Media Shield Law Worry Opponents, and Even Some Supporters,” US News, http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/09/18/holes-in-media-shield-law-worry-opponents-and-even-some-supporters (September 18, 2013)
5: Roger Yu, “Feds Seize AP Phone Records For Criminal Probe,” USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2013/05/13/justice-department-associated-press-telephone-records/2156521/ (May 13, 2013)
6: Zoë Carpenter, “Flawed Media Shield Law Goes to the Senate Floor,” The Nation, http://www.thenation.com/blog/176166/flawed-media-shield-law-goes-senate-floor (September 13, 2013)
7: Alex Newman, “FBI Celebrates Foiling Its Own Terrorist Plot, Again,” The New American, http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/13263-fbi-celebrates-foiling-its-own-terror-plot-again (October 18, 2012)
8: Glenn Greenwald, ”The FBI Again Thwarts Its Own Terror Plot,” Salon, http://www.salon.com/2011/09/29/fbi_terror/ (September 29, 2011)
9: Tim Cushing, “Sen. Feinstein During ‘Shield’ Law Debate: ‘Real’ Journalists Draw Salaries,” Techdirt, https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130807/13153224102/sen-feinstein-during-shield-law-debate-real-journalists-draw-salaries.shtml (August 8, 2013)
10: Kevin Gosztola, “Media Shield Law, Which Aims to Protect Only ‘Real Reporters,’ Moves Onward to the Senate,” Firedoglake, http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2013/09/12/media-shield-law-which-defines-covered-journalists-moves-onward-to-the-senate/ (September 12, 2013)
11: Free Press, (August 6, 2013)
12: Morgan Weiland, “Why Sen. Feinstein Is Wrong About Who’s a ‘Real Reporter,’” Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/08/why-sen-feinstein-wrong-about-whos-real-reporter (August 9, 2013)
13: Mark Whitney, “Dianne Feinstein First Amendment Is A Special Privilege,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bywtn9RIDRw
14: Jacob Gershman, “Mukasey: Beware the Proposed Media-Shield Law,” Wall Street Journal, http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2013/12/02/mukasey-beware-of-the-proposed-media-shield-law/ (December 2, 2013)
15: Charlie Savage, “Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A.,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/us/09secrets.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (September 8, 2010)
16: Bill Mears, “Supreme Court allows NSA to continue looking at telephone records for now,” CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/18/politics/supreme-court-nsa-phone-records/ (November 8, 2013)
17: Kevin Gosztola, “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case That Would Have Challenged NSA Warrantless Surveillance of Lawyers,” Firedoglake, http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2014/03/04/supreme-court-declines-to-hear-case-that-would-have-challenged-nsa-surveillance-of-lawyers/ (March 4, 2014)
18: Fox News, Schumer: Senate Has Votes for Media Shield Law, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/03/21/schumer-senate-has-votes-for-media-shield-law/ (March 21, 2014)
19: Hadas Gold, “Cornyn: Schumer Doesn’t Have Votes for Shield Law,” Politico, http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/03/cornyn-schumer-doesnt-have-votes-for-shield-law-185862.html (March 27, 2014)
20: David Jackson, “Obama backs ‘Shield Law’ for Reporters,” USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/05/15/obama-schumer-associated-press-shield-law/2161913/ (May 15, 2013)
21: Barry Grey, David Walsh, “A Damning Admission: New York Times Concealed NSA Spying Until After 2004 Election,” World Socialist Web Site, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2006/08/nyti-a22.html (August 22, 2006)
22: Bill Chapel, “U.N. Report Confirms Chemical Weapons Were Used In Syria,” NPR, http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/12/12/250572623/u-n-report-confirms-chemical-weapons-were-used-in-syria (December 12, 2013)
23: Matthew Schofield, “New Analysis of Rocket Used In Syria Chemical Attack Undercuts U.S. Claims,” McClatchy, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/01/15/214656/new-analysis-of-rocket-used-in.html (January 15, 2014)
Devon DB is a 22 year old independent writer and researcher. He can be contacted at devondb[at]mail[dot]com.
BETHLEHEM – Video emerged on Sunday of the moment an Israeli sniper shot a Palestinian cameraman in the stomach while he was covering a protest at Ofer prison on Friday.
Israeli security forces shot and injured Mohammed Basman Yasin, a volunteer cameraman for the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, while he was filming a protest in the West Bank city of Beitunia, according to Israeli website +972.
The video, which could not be independently verified, appears to show Palestinian protesters sitting on the road when Israel forces arrive and begin firing tear gas canisters at them.
At times, protesters are seen throwing rocks at Israeli forces, although in other scenes activists can be seen walking towards an ambulance when Israeli forces open fire without warning in their direction.
At 5:30, meanwhile, two activists can be seen throwing rocks at the heavily-armed Israeli soldiers, when the video cuts to a scene showing Yasin, who is at the back of a large crowd watching the scene, being shot in the stomach.
Israeli forces caused severe damage to his internal organs, and according to B’tselem, doctors have said they may be forced to remove his liver and kidneys.
Yasin is currently hospitalized in Ramallah.
The clashes took place near the Israeli Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, in protest against the Israeli government’s refusal to release a fourth group of veteran Palestinian prisoners it had previously agreed to release as part of ongoing US-sponsored negotiations with the PLO.
13 were reported injured during the clashes, including seven with live bullets.
An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an that Israeli forces fired at “rioters” who threw rocks and burning tires at security forces, “lightly injuring” five.
Mike Rogers’ Plan To ‘Stop’ Bulk Collection Of Phone Records Riddled With Dangerous Loopholes That Will Expand Surveillance
Now that people have had a chance to go through the proposal by Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger to “stop” the bulk phone record collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, they’re finding more and more things to be concerned about. We had noted some potential easter eggs in there for law enforcement, but the deeper people look, the worse it gets. Trevor Timm notes that the bill is really a trojan horse to expand surveillance capabilities, while pretending to end them.
Curiously, a large majority of the House bill focuses on new ways for the government to collect data from “electronic communications service providers” – also known as the internet companies. Why is a bill that’s supposedly about ending bulk collection of phone-call data focused on more collection of data from internet companies?
From there, we turn to Julian Sanchez, who has given one of the most thorough explanations of what’s actually in the bill, noting that it fails to really end the bulk collection of phone records while also potentially massively expanding other surveillance capabilities.
First, the HPSCI bill’s seemingly broad prohibition on bulk collection turns out to be riddled with ambiguities and potential loopholes. The fuzzy definition of “specific identifiers” leaves the door open to collection that’s extremely broad even if not completely indiscriminate. Because the provision dealing with “call detail records” applies only to §:215 and the provision dealing with “electronic communications records” excludes telephony records, the law does not bar the bulk collection of telephony records under FISA provisions other than §215. The prohibition on non-specific acquisition of other communications “records” probably does not preclude bulk collection under the FISA pen register provision that was previously used for the NSA Internet metadata dragnet. And, of course, none of these prohibitions apply to National Security Letters. If the government wanted to keep collecting metadata in bulk, it would have plenty of ways to do so within the parameters of this statute given a modicum of creative lawyering—at least if the FISC were to continue being as accommodating as it has been in the past.
Second, something like the novel authority created here may well be necessary to enable fast and flexible acquisition of targeted records without dragnet collection. However, once we get down to details—and even leaving aside the question of ex-post versus ex-ante judicial approval—this authority is in some respects broader than either the current §215 telephony program, the president’s proposal, or the pre-Snowden understanding of the FISA business records authority. Critically, it eliminates the required link to a predicated investigation—which, in the case of U.S. persons, must be for counterterror or counterespionage purposes.
In other words, this appears to be a superficial attempt to end bulk collection “under this program,” while at the same time knocking down a bunch of barriers to much broader bulk collection under other authorities, with less oversight and fewer ways to push back against abuse. Did anyone really expect anything different from the NSA’s two biggest defenders in the House?