British anti-war campaigners, the Stop the War Coalition, have organized two protest rallies for next week against the war in Afghanistan and the threats on Iran and Syria.
The Sunday rally in London’s Trafalgar Square will be held on the 11th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan to commemorate those killed in an event dubbed Naming of the Dead.
The protest will also call for an end to the British government’s involvement in the “unjustified and futile war” and bring the troops home by Christmas.
Paul Flynn who was recently sacked from the British parliament for saying the government has been lying about Afghanistan will be among the participants in the event.
Also on Tuesday, the Stop the War Coalition will hold a rally at the University of London Union against the “western intervention in Syria” and the threats of military action against Iran.
The Stop the War Coalition’s core idea of a joint rally against the intervention in Syria and the threats on Iran is that Syria is only an excuse for an attack on Iran.
“An attack on Iran remains the ultimate goal for the US. Intervention in Syria is a stepping stone toward that goal,” the group said in a statement on its website.
The group is also warning that any intervention will have “huge regional and global consequences” and will at best “deny the Syrian people the right to determine their own future.”
“It will place the opposition leadership in the hands of the western powers and their allies, who will act in their own interests,” the group said.
The rallies come amid sporadic reports and confirmations by British officials including Foreign Secretary William Hague that London is helping Syrian terrorists with military equipment and intelligence supplies.
- Tutu: Try Blair and Bush for war crimes (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Ending the Violence in Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- | MP ejected from parliament for saying UK Govt lying about Afghan War! (truthaholics.wordpress.com)
With the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012 drawing near, the colossal security apparatus surrounding the Summer Games has come into focus.
For starters, things got messy in London last week when G4S, the private firm that won the contract to provide security for the games, admitted it wouldn’t be able to deliver the promised number of security guards. To make up for the shortfall, the UK government plans to deploy an additional 3,500 soldiers.
Meanwhile, private guards are only half the equation when it comes to safeguarding the world’s most prominent sporting event. Preparations for the Summer Olympic Games amount to Britian’s largest-ever peacetime security operation, replete with warships, ground troops, and security cameras. “Special drones” will even cruise overhead to conduct crowd surveillance, an unnamed salesman at an Israeli company told the Associated Press. All of this is unfolding in a city already famous for its ubiquitous detection equipment, at a time when a bid for increased governmental surveillance powers has privacy advocates up in arms.
Meanwhile, this latest Olympics security production seems to follow a long-term trend that so far has gone largely unexamined. In the past, the Olympic Games have generated millions of dollars in security spending, only to leave the host cities with upgraded surveillance infrastructure in place long after the athletes have departed. In this article EFF’s international privacy team examines this trend of how intensified surveillance of public space can become a lasting legacy for cities that play host to the world’s largest sporting event.
In a few short months, London will take centre stage when it hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics – and while international broadcasting networks aim their lenses at world-class athletes, a proliferation of surveillance technologies and security cameras will track the movements of spectators and residents. With security costs approaching £1 billion (US$1.6 billion), considerably higher than originally estimated, this year’s Olympic Games is on track to be one of the most heavily surveilled in the Games’s history.
With surveillance and security around the Olympics intensifying from country to country, purportedly to prevent terrorism and serious crimes, activists are increasingly concerned about a growing trend: once the Games are finished, authorities rarely cut back on public surveillance. And with the pricey new infrastructure installed for good, individuals’ rights to personal privacy are at risk of being permanently diminished.
London already bears distinction among privacy watchdogs as being one of the most closely surveilled cities in the world, yet routine security practices pale in comparison with the exhaustive measures to be imposed during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Surveillance and security measures were recently described in the UK’s Independent newspaper as the ‘biggest operation since the Second World War’ to be undertaken by UK intelligence agency MI5. Plans call for the installation of a new monitoring and intelligence gathering system, plus the mobilisation of nearly all of MI5’s 3,800 agents. While details of the intelligence-gathering programme remain classified, it appears to be intended for long-term use.
As London beefs up its security infrastructure, meanwhile, Brazil has already begun mapping out a security strategy in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The situation there is shaping up to be another cause for concern, particularly because the government seems eager to follow London’s lead – and Rio is also one of the most surveilled cities in democratic countries around the world. According to Agence France Presse (AFP) reporter Javier Tovar, Brazilian security agencies plan to use surveillance drones, tough border controls and IP-based surveillance systems during the 2016 Olympics.
Brazil will also host the World Cup in 2014, run by the international governing body for football, FIFA. For both competitions, most of the events will take place in poor urban suburbs of Brazilian cities, where the homicide rate is among the highest in South America. Because of rising crime rates, the announcement that Brazil will host these high-profile sporting events led to a spike in Brazil’s video surveillance market, according to market analyst firm 6Wresearch. The surveillance measures are largely going unchallenged – there seems to be little public debate or attention focused on these issues or the privacy implications they present.
Brazil’s video surveillance market generated US$124.96 million in 2011 and is expected to reach $362.69 million by 2016, research analysts predicted, with a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 24 per cent from 2011 to 2016. 6Wresearch expects ‘a shift towards more secured IP-based surveillance systems’ since advantages include ‘low cost, video analytics, remote accessibility and [are] easy to integrate with wireless networks’.
No sooner had Rio been selected for the 2016 Olympic Games than the US government sought to strike a partnership with the Brazilian government on security and information-sharing strategies, according to secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. In December 2009, the US embassy in Brazil sent a cable to the US government entitled, ‘The future is now’. The message encouraged the US to use the Olympic Games to justify the expansion of its influence over Brazil’s critical infrastructure development and cyber security measures. By highlighting concerns about the possibility of power outages or breakdowns in infrastructure, particularly in the months leading up to the Games, the US government could justify a bid for increased co-operation with Brazil on counterterrorism activities. There were ‘opportunities for engagement on infrastructure development’ and ‘possibly cyber security’, the cable stated. In a second cable, sent on 24 December 2009, the embassy again emphasised its interest in broadening US objectives in Brazil. ‘Taking advantage of the Games to work security issues should be a priority, as should co-operation on cybercrime and broader information security,’ it read.
In the lengthy diplomatic exchanges between the US embassy in Brazil and the US government, the absence of any reference to the very serious privacy, civil liberties and public accountability implications of widespread surveillance technologies stood out as a glaring omission. The same could be said for current public discourse in Brazil. So far, there has not been any significant criticism of the security and surveillance measures being introduced – in marked contrast to the UK, where privacy campaigners have been active.
Brazil’s safeguards for privacy in the face of such pressure aren’t especially promising. There is a need for an impact assessment to evaluate whether cameras installed to help combat crime in Rio are actually needed and to ensure that these intrusive measures do not become an Olympic Games legacy, especially if there are less intrusive methods of combatting serious crimes. There is no legislation pertaining to the privacy of personal information in Brazil, but a draft bill that, if introduced, would protect the collection, use and disclosure of this information is under consideration. It remains to be seen whether the bill will bypass privacy protections by allowing exemptions – namely, databases created for the sole purposes of public security, national security or law enforcement activities.
It’s too early to say exactly what security and privacy protocols Brazil will keep once the 2016 Summer Olympic Games end, or to what extent the Brazilian government will agree to go along with an agenda carved out by the US. But if history is any guide, there is reason to believe that a surveillance regime ushered in by the Olympics will continue to pose threats to individual privacy well into the future. Privacy advocates, having assessed the range of measures implemented in connection with previous Olympic Games, warn of a ‘climate of fear and surveillance’ that could have a detrimental effect on ‘democracy, transparency, and international and national human rights law’.
But the proliferation of surveillance technology around the Olympics is hardly new. Greece’s contract with technology company SAIC called for the creation and support of a C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) system to ‘allow Greek authorities to collect, analyse, and disseminate information’ by leveraging SAIC’s expertise in telecommunications, wireless communications and video surveillance. The technology blends the use of data-mining, data-matching, and profiling capabilities. Those researching this area have referred to the adoption of such security measures as an emergence of a ‘super-panopticon’ and a ‘marriage of camera, computers and databases’.
One report revealed that Greek law enforcement and intelligence agencies installed more than 1,000 surveillance cameras in Athens in advance of the 2004 Summer Olympics – and then continued to make use of them for policing purposes long after athletes and spectators had packed up and left. While the stated purpose for the continued use of the cameras in Greece was to monitor high-traffic roadways, the report found that they were actually employed to monitor public spaces – including during political demonstrations. This revelation triggered heated exchanges between law enforcement officials and the Greek Data Protection Authority, leading to the resignation of the authority’s head, Dimitris Gourgourakis, and his deputies. At the time, Gourgourakis stated that police use of surveillance cameras ‘directly breached’ privacy regulations. In 2007, the country’s data protection law was amended to exempt surveillance cameras from its privacy provisions.
The use of surveillance cameras in Athens barely registers in comparison with the all-out monitoring campaign Chinese authorities implemented in 2008, when the Olympic Games were held in Beijing. Chinese authorities installed a whopping 200,000 cameras and employed other surveillance measures in an effort to make Beijing secure. And, in a move that drew widespread condemnation, the Chinese government ordered foreign-owned hotels to install internet monitoring equipment to spy on hotel guests.
When it was announced that Vancouver had won the bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Canadian civil society organisations feared a repeat of the privacy-invading security measures adopted by Greece and China. Privacy advocates called for the government to remain open and transparent about the necessary security and surveillance practices that were planned; they called for a full, independent public assessment of these measures after the Games and sought to prevent ‘a permanent legacy of increased video surveillance’ and other security measures. ‘It is already clear that the event allowed for new surveillance technologies to gain a foothold in Vancouver that would never otherwise have been accepted,’ noted Tamir Israel of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.
The message appeared to get through. In the run up to the Games, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, in conjunction with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, issued recommendations to prevent security measures from unduly infringing on individual’s rights. ‘The duty of governments to provide for the security of citizens must, in democratic societies, be tempered by the values that underpin our way of life,’ said Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada. ‘The right to privacy must be upheld, even during mega-events like the Olympic games, where the threat to security is higher than usual. ’ At this critical juncture, the agencies seeking to implement security measures in London and Rio would do well to heed her words.
Violations of individuals’ privacy can range from the loss of anonymity in public places to the inability to communicate and associate freely with others. The capabilities of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) have risen dramatically, and due to the technology’s relative affordability, street cameras are now everywhere. Technological advances make it possible for CCTV to perform surveillance tasks similar to electronic wiretapping, intelligence sharing and identification systems that link images not stored on databases with images that have actually been archived. Given the prevalence of this technology and how easy it’s become to identify one unnamed face amidst thousands, individuals who care about anonymity will have a very difficult time protecting their identity in the imminent future.
While it’s important to take security precautions prior to the Olympics, these actions should not result in the implementation of public surveillance without regard for personal privacy. It’s crucial that the public scrutinise the security and privacy measures the Brazilian government is considering. There must be an informed and open debate about privacy and security.
Most importantly, the public has a right to know whether enhanced security measures will be reversed after the games. The true spirit of the Olympics as an opportunity for cultural exchange ought to be preserved. Using the Games as an excuse for trampling civil liberties violates this spirit.
Pro-Palestine campaigners have disrupted a performance by the Israeli regime’s theatre company at London’s Globe Theatre by standing up during the performance with Palestinian flags and banners denouncing “The Israeli Apartheid regime.”
On May 28, when Israel’s Habima Company was performing Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant Of Venice’ during the Globe to Globe festival, a group of 15 demonstrators started waving Palestinian flags.
The police also arrested a man on suspicion of assault on a security guard, with the Scotland Yard confirming his keeping in custody.
The Palestinian-led global movement for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel had made a call to boycott the Habima’s Hebrew-language performance as the Israeli company was working with the apartheid regime of Israel as a “cultural ambassador.”
“This campaign is not an attack on individual artists, we are not censoring the content of their work nor are we concerned about their ethnicity or the language they speak,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, coordinator with the Boycott Israel Network.
“As with South African sport in the apartheid era, this is about refusing to allow culture to be used to whitewash oppression.”
London theatre has vowed “enhanced security” for Israel by sending a letter to ticket holders, outlining extraordinary measures including extensive bag and “random body searches,” aiming to prevent protesters expected to disrupt the controversial performance on 28-29 May 2012.
However, the boycott Israel activist group London BDS accused the Globe of “turning the theater into an Israeli-style checkpoint.”
“We tried non-violently to convey the message that culture may not be used to give a civilized gloss to a state that perpetrates human rights abuses,” said protester Zoe Mars.
Military rockets left unguarded outside a block of flats in London
Amateur video posted on the internet shows military rockets left unguarded outside a block of flats in Bow, East London, as Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) prepares to deploy missiles on top of flats in London during the 2012 Olympics.
The video was posted by journalist Brian Whelan who lives in Bow Quarter, London. The video shows unguarded military rockets with nobody around.
The unguarded military rockets were part of the MoD’s security plans for the London Olympics. Earlier this week, the MoD confirmed that six sites, including two residential blocks of flats, would be tested as launch pads for missile systems in order to combat air threats during the Olympics.
Local residents have expressed their anger over the plans saying they were not consulted and questioning why the MoD did not build a missile base instead of using residential flats as a missile base.
Experts have also expressed concerns over the security risks for people. Military liaison officer Lieutenant Colonel Brian said flats could be targeted because of missiles deployed on their roof tops.
Furthermore, experts have called into question the usefulness of the missiles saying they would be useless in poor weather because the missile systems rely on the operator being able to see the target.
Writing on his blog, Whelan also described how these missiles work. The missile battery is the HVM A5 Missile System. Whelan revealed that only a small number of A5 missiles were fired in trials and even two malfunctioned during trials.
A major case in the British High Court has revealed fresh evidence of civilian deaths during a notorious CIA drone strike in Pakistan last year.
Sworn witness testimonies reveal in graphic detail how the village of Datta Khel burned for hours after the attack. Many of the dozens killed had to be buried in pieces.
Legal proceedings were begun in London recently against British Foreign Secretary William Hague, over possible British complicity in CIA drone strikes.
Britain’s GCHQ – its secret monitoring and surveillance agency – is reported to have provided ‘locational evidence’ to US authorities for use in drone strikes, a move which is reportedly illegal in the United Kingdom.
The High Court case focuses in particular on a CIA drone strike in March 2011 which killed up to 53 people.
Sworn affidavits presented in court and seen by the Bureau offer extensive new details of a strike the CIA still apparently claims ‘killed no non-combatants’.
‘We were in the middle of our discussion when the missile hit and I was thrown about 24 feet from where I was sitting. I was knocked unconscious and when I awoke I saw many individuals who were dead or injured,’ he says in his affidavit.
Most of those who died in Datta Khel village that day were civilians. The Bureau has so far identified by name 24 of those killed, whilst Associated Press recently reported that it has the names of 42 civilians who died that day.
Pakistan’s president, prime minister and army chief all condemned the Datta Khel attack. A recent Bureau investigation with the Sunday Times quoted Brigadier Abdullah Dogar, who commanded Pakistani military forces in the area at the time.
We in the Pakistan military knew about the meeting, we’d got the request ten days earlier. It was held in broad daylight, people were sitting out in Nomada bus depot when the missile strikes came. Maybe there were one or two Taliban at that Jirga – they have their people attending – but does that justify a drone strike which kills 42 mostly innocent people?
Yet the US intelligence community has consistently denied that any civilians died.
Last year an anonymous US official told the New York Times: ‘The fact is that a large group of heavily armed men, some of whom were clearly connected to al Qaeda and all of whom acted in a manner consistent with AQ [Al Qaeda] -linked militants, were killed.’
The sworn affidavits seen by the Bureau offer a very different perspective. Imran Khan’s father Ismail was another of the elders who died that day. Imran says of his father: ‘He always did the right thing for the community and the tribe. He opposed terrorism and militancy and was not himself in any way connected to these things.’
Khalil Khan’s late father Hajji Babat was a local policeman who was ‘not an enemy of the United States of America or any other country.’ His son describes in his affidavit how he rushed back to his village to find his father dead, the bus station and surrounding buildings still burning six hours after the drone strike.
And Fateh Khan, who once worked for British Telecom, lost his 25-year old nephew Din Mohammed in the CIA attack. He reports that his nephew’s body had to be buried in pieces, and that ‘he left behind four children, all of whom now live in my house. His eldest child is currently only five years old.’
The most senior tribal elder to die that day was Daud Khan. Initially he was claimed to have been a senior Taliban figure. His son Noor told the Bureau that this was ‘an absolute lie’.
‘My father was not a militant but an elder who was working day and night for his people. There have been many children who have been killed in drone strikes. I ask the US if they think those children were militants and combatants and dangerous enough to be killed in such a manner?’
The CIA declined to comment when asked whether it still believed it had killed no ‘non-combatants’ in Pakistan since May 2010, or that no civilians died in Datta Khel last year.
In London, legal campaigners are seeking a judicial review in the High Court – a process by which senior judges can question and even overturn any government policy on aiding US drone strikes.
The case is being brought by legal charity Reprieve, and by the Islamabad-based lawyer Shahzad Akbar and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, which focuses on civilian victims of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.
The British government is understood to have firmly challenged the grounds of the case on a number of fronts.
Follow @chrisjwoods on Twitter
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Deir Yassin Day commemorates the Deir Yassin massacre of April 9th 1948.
Not the only massacre at that time and by no means the worst, Deir Yassin signaled and has come to symbolise, the dispossession of the Palestinian people and their continuing exile.
April 23 is also the birthday of Miguel Cervantes creator of Don Quixote and of Roy Orbison creator of “Only the Lonely” – and a man who, just when you thought he could go no higher – up an octave he’d go. It’s also the birth- and death day of William Shakespeare – highly appropriate for a man known for his immaculate dramatic structure and pleasing endings.
But in England April 23rd is above all, St. George’s Day. St George is the patron Saint of England and strangely, St George was a Palestinian.
George hailed from the Palestinian town of Lydda, turned into an airport in 1948 and named Lod, and named again after the great ethnic-cleanser David Ben Gurion. Like Deir Yassin itself, the story of Lydda could serve as a template for all the expulsions and massacres of 1948.
At Deir Yassin the perpetrators massacred over a hundred villagers and burned their bodies. Others were loaded onto trucks and paraded through the streets of Jewish Jerusalem, then taken to a nearby quarry and shot. Orphaned children of Deir Yassin, dragged from under the bodies of their dead and dying relatives were taken and dumped, dazed and bleeding, in a Jerusalem alley.
At Lydda the Israelis massacred 426 men, women, and children; 176 slaughtered in the town’s main mosque and the remainder driven into exile. Forced to walk in the summer heat, they left behind them a trail of bodies – men, women and children. It was the Palestinians’ very own ‘Trail of Tears’.
And, just like at Deir Yassin, the town of Lydda was repopulated with Jewish immigrants, the name Hebraised to Lod and, like the name Deir Yassin, the name Lydda was wiped off the map.
At our commemoration DYR and GUPS will be joined by the Palestinian Delegation, the Palestinian community of the U.K. and many British and other supporters. We will also be joined by Abu Ashraf, now of Azaria but once of Deir Yassin – because in April 1948 Abu Ashraf lived in Deir Yassin and, on April 9th at the time of the massacre, was a few days short of his eighth birthday.
So, it’s fitting that our commemoration be held on April 23rd, St. George’s Day; in London, the capital of England, and led by Abu Ashraf of Deir Yassin.
* (With thanks to Stuart Littlewood)
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