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Federal court approves warrantless tracking of cell phone users

RT | July 31, 2013

A ruling this week in a United States appeals court means officers of the law can legally and physically track down suspects based off of cell phone data without ever obtaining a warrant.

A 2-1 decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday means law enforcement needn’t prove probable cause when asking a telecom company for location data that could be used to pinpoint suspected criminals.

The verdict overturns a ruling made in 2011 by a magistrate judge from Houston, Texas who said federal authorities weren’t able to compel telecoms for 60 days’ worth of cell phone records without a warrant.

Following that ruling from US District Judge Lynn Hughes, the federal government filed an appeal asking the Fifth Circuit to step-in. On Tuesday, justices there overturned Hughes’ decision and said cell phone companies and their customers had no Fourth Amendment protected right to refute the government’s request for information.

A cell subscriber, said the appeals court, “like a telephone user, understands that his cellphone must send a signal to a nearby cell tower in order to wirelessly connect his call.” That data, the court concluded, is thus “clearly a business record” and can be collected by investigators bypassing what would otherwise require a warrant.

“We understand the cell phone users may reasonably want their location information to remain private,” wrote the court. “But the recourse for these desires is in the market or the political process: in demanding that service providers do away with such records… or in lobbying elected representatives to enact statutory protections. The Fourth Amendment, safeguarded by the courts, protects only reasonable expectations of privacy.”

Had the court ruled otherwise, federal investigators could be told they must show a judge evidence of probable cause to obtain a warrant for location data. Instead, however, the appeals court agreed that only a substantially easier to acquire court order could be used to compel telecoms for that data.

Unlike a search warrant, a court order in such a case only requires authorities to argue there are reasonable grounds that the information is relevant to an investigation.

Privacy advocates attacked Tuesday’s ruling, including George Washington University law professor, who filed an amicus brief in the case opposing the side the appeals court took.

“The opinion is clear that the government can access cell site records without Fourth Amendment oversight,” Kerr told the New York Times this week.

“This decision is a big deal,” Catherine Crump of the American Civil Liberties Union added to the Times. “It’s a big deal and a big blow to Americans’ privacy rights.”

But while the appeals verdict impacts how federal investigations will be conducted for now, recent legislation adopted in two US states have taken the first steps towards installing local laws that limit the ability to collect location data. Both Montana and New Jersey approved legislation in June and July, respectively, saying a search warrant is required by state investigators in order to collect cell phone location data.

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Federal court approves warrantless tracking of cell phone users

World Health Organization still stalling release of report on Iraqi cancers and birth defects

By Mozhgan Savabieasfahani | July 30, 2013

To the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Health: (New signatures added)  

The back-breaking burden of cancers and birth defects continues to weigh heavily on the Iraqi people. 

The joint WHO and Iraqi Ministry of Health Report on cancers and birth defect in Iraq was originally due to be released in November 2012. It has been delayed repeatedly and now has no release date whatsoever. 

By March 2013, staff from the Iraqi Ministry of Health announced that this report will show an increase in cancers and birth defects due to the explosions of war. This was broadcasted repeatedly on the BBC. 

Therefore we are baffled and alarmed at the WHO’s inability to release any of its findings, despite our urgent request of May 2013, for the WHO to release its report.  

The Iraqi birth defects epidemic, by itself, would outrage anyone with the simplest understanding of population health and disease. Who could justify blocking the release of information from a long-completed investigation of that epidemic? 

Why have our inquiries failed to break the WHO’s apparent filibuster against releasing that data? WHO has a staff of thousands, including medical doctors, public health specialists, scientists, and sophisticated epidemiologists. They are certainly capable of presenting that data to the public by now. 

The need for a timely response to public health emergencies (such as the one unfolding in Iraq) is at the heart of all epidemiological studies. Delivering adequate and timely population relief should be the focal point of this WHO report — but where is the report? Where is the data which was clearly summarized (without numbers) on the BBC in March 2013? 

We are now told that some new decisions were taken during a June 25th 2013 meeting http://www.emro.who.int/irq/iraq-infocus/faq-congenital-birth-defect-study.html between WHO and high level authorities of the Iraqi Ministry. They decided that not even a few bits of that birth-defects report can be released before WHO jumps these new hurdles: 

(1) “additional analyses not originally conceived”,

(2) “in addition to further analyses, it was determined the work should also undergo the scientific standard of peer review”.

(3) recruitment of a “team of independent scientists… to review the planned analyses”.

(4) “preparation for that meeting”,

(5) “a summary report of that meeting”

(6) “key findings from the analysis” to be released following steps 1-5 above. 

To an untrained ear, these might sound like reasonable explanations.  We are certainly not opposed to additional steps like analyses, peer review, etc.  

Yet none of those steps should be interposed as excuses for further delay in releasing the data which is already known. If it was known in March 2013, when the BBC broadcasted the Iraqi Ministry’s comments on that data, then surely now that information can be released. Why is it still treated like a state secret? 

However, large-scale epidemiological studies, such as the WHO report on Iraq birth defects, are expensive to fund. Hence, highly competitive proposals are elicited for such studies. It is a matter of routine practice to include a detailed study time-line in such proposals from the beginning — not at the end. The time-line routinely includes an estimation of time for data analysis and reanalysis, followed by publication of findings (i.e. peer-review). This normally means there is a clear and defined timeframe in which the data is expected to be published.  The originally reported release date (November 2012) is now long gone. So yes, the continuing delay, augmented by fresh excuses for more delay, concerns us. 

The past record of the WHO when dealing with related findings from the region are also a source of serious concern.  

The British Medical Journal published an article entitled” WHO suppressed evidence on effects of depleted uranium, expert says” in November 2006. It suggested that earlier WHO reports were compromised by the omission of a full account of depleted uranium genotoxicity.  

Additionally, recent revelations by Hans von Sponeck, the former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, suggest that WHO may be susceptible to pressure from its member states. Mr. von Sponeck has said that “The US government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where depleted uranium had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers.”  

Given the urgent public health crisis in Iraq, we the undersigned encourage the WHO and the Iraqi Health Ministry to release all available data from their completed study on birth defects and cancers immediately.  

The Iraqi people’s health will be further harmed if you continue to delay that release. Allowing the public to examine that data cannot possibly hamper the WHO’s own expanded analysis.  

Affiliations are listed only for identification purposes, unless otherwise indicated.

1) Muhsin Al-Sabbak , Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Al Basrah Maternity Hospital, Basrah, Iraq.

2) Susan Sadik Ali, Professor of Dentistry, Al Basrah Maternity Hospital, Basrah, Iraq.

3) Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, Researcher, Environmental Toxicologist, Tehran, Iran.

4) Saeed Dastgiri, Professor of Epidemiology, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran.

5) Azadeh Shahshahani, National Lawyers Guild, Atlanta, Georgia U.S.A.

6) As`ad AbuKhalil, Professor, Dept. of Politics, California State University, Stanislaus; U.S.A.

7) Maged Agour MD, Consultant Psychiatrist, U.K. 

8) A Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Chair of the Department of International Development Studies Trent University, Canada.

9) Izzeldin Abuelaish, Associate Professor of Global Health, University of Toronto, Canada.

10) Michael Albert, American activist, economist, speaker, and writer.

11) Riad Bacho, Associate Professor, Lebanese University, Beirut, Lebanon.

12) Haim Bresheeth, Professor of film studies, filmmaker, photographer, University of East London, U.K.

13) David O. Carpenter, M.D. Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University at Albany, N.Y.

14) Noam Chomsky, Professor of linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A.

15) Blaine Coleman, Human rights activist and attorney, U.S.A.

16) Michael Collins, Professor, UCLA School of Public Health, Department of Molecular Toxicology, Environmental Health Sciences, Los Angeles U.S.A.

17) David Cromwell Co-Editor, Media Lens, U.K.

18) Tom Davis, Chief Program Officer, Food for the Hungry, U.S.A.

19) Peter Eglin, Department of Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.

20) Christo El Morr, Assistant Professor of Health Informatics, York University, Canada.

21) Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University, Canada.

22) Irene Gendzier, Professor, Dept of Political Science, Boston University, USA.

23) Jess Ghannam, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, and Global Health Sciences University of California, San Francisco, USA.

24) Prof. David Ingleby, Centre for Social Science and Global Health, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

25) Kazuko Ito, Secretary General, signing on behalf of Human Rights Now, Japan.

26) Ms. Nahoko Tahako, Human Rights Now, Japan.

27) Jon Jureidini Professor and Child Psychiatrist, Department of Psychological Medicine Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, University of Adelaide and Senior Research Fellow Department of Philosophy, Flinders University, South Australia.

28) Ilan Kapoor, Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada.

29) Leili Kashani, Human rights activist, Center for constitutional rights, U.S.A.

30) Michael Keefer, Professor emeritus School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada.

31) Imad Khadduri, Iraqi nuclear scientist. U.K.

32) David Klein, Professor of Mathematics, California State University, Northridge, U.S.A.

33) Mustafa Koc, Professor, Department of Sociology and Centre for Studies in Food Security, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

34) Hans Koechler, Professor and Chair of Political Philosophy and Philosophical Anthropology University of Innsbruck, President of the International Progress Organization, Vienna, Austria. 

35) Malcolm Levitt, School of Chemistry, University of Southampton, U.K.

36) Drake Logan Civilian-Soldier Alliance, Right to Heal Initiative Right to Heal/Operation Recovery Research Team New York, United States.

37) Rudy List, Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, University of Birmingham, U.K.

38) Ken Loach, television and film director. U.K.

39) Moshe Machover, Professor Emeritus of philosophy, King’s College, London, U.K.

40) Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Boston, U.S.A.

41) Mary Anne Mercer, DrPH, Senior Mother & Child Health Advisor, on behalf of Health Alliance International Seattle, U.S.A.

42) David Nicholl, MD, Consultant Neurologist, Birmingham, U.K.

43) David Ozonoff, Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University, Boston, U.S.A.

44) David Peterson, Chicago-based writer and researcher. U.S.A.

45) Mr. John Pilger, journalist and film director. U.K.

46) Elaine Power, Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University Kingston, Canada.

47) Hilary Rose, Professor of Social Policy, University of Bradford Emerita Professor of Genetics and Society, Gresham College, London, former consultant to the WHO Copenhagen, Denmark.

48) Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Biology (neuroscience) Department of Life Health and Chemical Sciences The Open University Milton Keynes, MK76AA Emeritus Professor of Physick (Genetics and Society) Gresham College London

49) Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, Department of Management, London School of Economics.

50) Pamela Spees, Senior Staff Attorney, on behalf of Center for Constitutional Rights, United States.

51) Ruqayya Sulaiman-Hill, Centre for Rural Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia.

52) Susanne Soederberg, Professor of Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

53) John Tirman, Executive Director and Principal Research Scientist, Center for International Studies, MIT, U.S.A.

54) Tahir Zaman, Center for Research on Migration and Belonging, University of East London, U.K. 

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , | Comments Off on World Health Organization still stalling release of report on Iraqi cancers and birth defects

Syria to allow UN chemical weapon investigators to explore three sites

RT | July 31, 2013

Syria has agreed to let three sites undergo investigation by a team of UN chemical weapons experts to assess whether the accusations that the country employed the devices during the country’s two year civil war carried any weight.

“The Mission will travel to Syria as soon as possible to contemporaneously investigate three of the reported incidents, including Khan al-Asal,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s press office told Reuters in a statement.

Syria contends that rebels were responsible for some chemical weapons usage in the region while the rebels accuse the government of playing a role. Earlier this month, Russia submitted to the UN its analysis of samples taken in Aleppo, where chemical weapons had allegedly been used in March.

Russia’s findings indicated that it was rebels – not the Syrian army – behind the Khan al-Assal incident, in which more than 30 people died.

“We submitted a full set of documents [to the UN]. That’s over 80 pages, including photographs and precise geographic coordinates [of places where samples were taken], procedures and results,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out.

The United States cast doubt on the Russian analysis.

July 31, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | Comments Off on Syria to allow UN chemical weapon investigators to explore three sites

Palestine: Dividing Land, Erasing Identity in Qalandiya

By Malik Samara | Al-Akhbar | July 31, 2013

Qalandiya, a village on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem, has become a stark example of the crimes of the Israeli occupation. In the name of “security needs,” Israel has bisected the village, dividing both land and people, even splitting one family in two.

Ramallah – To the north of occupied Jerusalem, there is a small, isolated village with a population of no more than 1,100. But the village occupies a strategic position on the outskirts of Jerusalem, between several factories and vital installations, including Israeli military manufacturing sites.

The village is adjacent to the airport of Jerusalem known as Qalandiya Airport, which was built during the British Mandate. Today, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) wants the facility to become its official airport in a future Palestinian state.

The location of this village, like many others around Jerusalem, has made it vulnerable to Israeli military and settlement schemes, which always invoke the “security needs” of the Jewish state. Recently, Israel “annexed” the eastern part of Qalandiya into the areas falling behind the Green Line – the demarcation line marking the de facto border between Israel proper and the territories it captured in 1967.

But what Israel calls “annexation” is in fact a process to alter the route of the separation barrier, dividing the village in half – with only three homes in the eastern part annexed to the Jewish state and the remaining homes under PNA control. In other words, the village’s map changed overnight at the stroke of a pen. The village’s population, which has been living as a unified community for hundreds of years, is now subject to the whims of Israeli occupation officers.

Today, only three families live in the eastern part of the village, including two that carry the blue Israeli identity card, and one that carries the green Palestinian card, despite being related to one another. This is one of the many absurdities that come with the Israeli occupation, with members of the same family carrying different identification documents.

In the part of Qalandiya that has not been annexed, for example, some carry blue cards and others green cards, and though some are directly related to people in the eastern part, only blue card holders are allowed to go there to visit their relatives. “Even those who have permits to go to Jerusalem are not allowed to visit this area,” said Youssef Awadallah, head of Qalandiya’s village council.

In the annexed part of the village, the lives of the three resident families are now restricted by the occupation’s daily schedule. These residents are allowed to leave and return for only three hours each day through the checkpoint established by the occupation in the village, from 7 to 8:30 AM, then from 12:30 to 1 PM, and then from 4 to 5 PM.

But why did the Israelis sequester the eastern part of the village specifically?

Mahmoud Awadallah said, “The importance of this region has to do with its strategic position. The village is adjacent to the airport and the Atarot industrial park, as well as the strategic Route 443 and Atarot’s entrance. They did not want to put the wall directly along the route, and annexed this segment of the village to put the wall beyond it, in order to leave a buffer zone. The village is also close to a plant operated by Mata, an Israeli aerospace company that manufactures and upgrades helicopters.”

Curfews and Checkpoints

Among the families in the annexed part of Qalandiya, activist Mahmoud Awadallah’s family has the most intriguing circumstances, being the only family with Palestinian green ID cards. This means that the Awadallah family lives inside an Israeli “enclave,” in semi-isolation from the world.

This family cannot move freely within the Green Line, like the other two, or the West Bank, except during hours determined by the occupation. More often than not, the Israelis do not show any leniency for humanitarian or family emergencies. The Awadallah family embodies the occupation’s sharp disregard for the Palestinian lives.

Mahmoud Awadallah said, “One night, after the occupation authorities closed the village gates, my mother fell ill, but we were prevented from taking her to hospital. We had to wait until the next day before we could move her.”

Cars are not allowed to enter or leave the area, Awadallah added, and even those holding blue ID cards have to take a lengthy route to reach the second part of the village outside “visitation hours.” In other words, the occupation turns a five-minute journey between the two parts of the small village into a one-hour trek.

Even social relations between families now depend on the mood of Israeli occupation authorities. This includes marital relations, for instance, when one spouse carries an Israeli card and the other a Palestinian.

Youssef Awadallah said, “I carry the blue card, and I am forced to cross a large distance to get to the second part of the village. But what good is an ID card if I am isolated from my land and my relatives? I live in the eastern part, and my children and siblings live in the Arab part. Ever since the village was divided, our daily visits have stopped.”

Above all, what the area’s residents fear most is isolation from their families and surroundings in the event of a major escalation, when the entire region could be shut off.

Meanwhile, none of the petitions submitted by village residents to Israeli courts have borne fruit yet. Awadallah said, “So far, they have refused to respond or even consider the issue.” Now, the residents intend to go to the Israeli Supreme Court, to demand either full freedom of movement, or Jerusalem residence permits.

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

How Zimmerman Could – and Should – Have Been Convicted Under Florida Law

By Rob Hager | Black Agenda Report | July 31, 2013

Many people are troubled by the idea that someone can willfully follow another person down the street, right to the person’s own home, have malicious intent, put the followed person in fear or apprehension, kill the person, and then not be held guilty of some criminal offense that includes at least some responsibility for the killing, even if perhaps unintended.

Juror B29 in the Trayvon Martin murder trial has expressed the feeling on behalf of the jury that many of us are also experiencing: “in our hearts we felt he was guilty,” she said. “George Zimmerman got away with murder … [But] the law couldn’t prove it.”

On the facts the jury knew, shouldn’t there be a law that can “prove it?”

Actually, there is such a law. In Florida: “A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows [or] harasses … another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree.” Fla. Stat. § 784.048.

“Willfully [and] maliciously” are evidenced by Zimmerman’s own words to the police dispatcher. The word “repeatedly” is not defined in the Florida statue. But the statute does define the similar term, “course of conduct,” “[which] means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.” So “repeatedly” as used in the statute might simply mean “continuously” or “sustained.” George Zimmerman did sustain his following of Trayvon Martin “over a period of time, however short, which evidence[d] his continuity of purpose” in targeting Trayvon Martin to challenge his presence in the neighborhood. Indeed he repeated his following of Martin even after the dispatcher told him he did not need to do that.

Such stalking may be motivated to get the targeted person out of the neighborhood, to bully, to feel physically superior to another person for an ego boost, to look for a fight or confrontation, or any other reason. If it was intended to and did credibly threaten a 17 year old who is on the street alone at night, that is a felony in Florida. Zimmerman apparently had sufficient experience with such matters to know the effect his behavior would have.

Each state has different laws covering this issue. Before stalking or felonious menacing laws were enacted this offense would come within the general meaning of assault. Acts that are intended to and do put another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate physical harm constitute the common law crime and tort of assault. Following someone in a threatening way that puts them in fear or apprehension is one way of committing an assault.

Ohio’s stalking law contains additional detail that identifies the specific aggravating circumstances that generally concern people about the Trayvon Martin case.

Ohio law provides:

“2903.211 Menacing by stalking.

“(A) (1) No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person.
“B)(2) Menacing by stalking is a felony of the fourth degree if any of the following applies: …

(d) The victim of the offense is a minor.

(e) The offender has a history of … other violent acts toward … any other person.

(f) While committing the offense … the offender had a deadly weapon on or about the offender’s person or under the offender’s control.”

This pretty well describes the specifics of the wrong that many are concerned that George Zimmerman actually did commit. Criminal law is intended to protect not just victims, but society’s interests. Society does not want people with a known propensity for violence going about the streets armed and stalking minors. This is independent of what he or the victim knew about these aggravating circumstances.

Felonious menacing or stalking may not be a serious enough crime to suit the circumstances of loss of life. But in Florida there is a very strict felony murder law that is designed to address just that concern, that when life is unnecessarily lost, even if unintentional, there should be heightened responsibility.

Felony murder laws assure that if Zimmerman started something unlawful – namely felonious stalking – that got out of control for whatever reason, resulting in loss of life, he must take some responsibility for that loss of life.

In Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982) the U.S. Supreme Court thought Florida set the level of that responsibility too high. In that case a robbery get-away driver was convicted under Florida’s felony murder law although he did not pull the trigger, did not touch a murder weapon, was not present at the murder scene, did not know about or discuss the prospect of the murders until after they happened, and so had no intent to kill. In the U.S. Supreme Court, four Republican dissenters would have allowed Florida to execute the driver for felony murder anyway, even though all he did was drive and had no intent to kill. But the majority preferred him to have actually participated in the killing in some way if he was to be executed for it, but also would not require evidence of intent to kill.

In Florida, aggravated stalking furnishes a predicate for felony murder. Fla. Stat. § 782.04(1)(a)(1.n) punishes any “killing of a human being … committed by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate … aggravated stalking.”

By repeatedly following and then confronting Trayvon Martin, was George Zimmerman attempting to communicate a credible threat to Martin, perhaps that Martin should leave what happened to be his own neighborhood?

Many people think that, whatever his motive, this is what Zimmerman did. Unless there is a civil suit or a retrial on this criminal charge, it will be difficult to determine whether this felony, more likely than not, did happen.

The criminal trial jury was not asked to decide that question. It was led astray by being asked to focus on the end rather than the beginning of the fatal encounter. As juror B29 said about the charges, “a lot of us that wanted to find something bad, something that we could connect to the law, because for myself he’s guilty. … But as the law was read to me if you have no proof that he killed him intentionally you can’t say he’s guilty. … As much as we were trying to find this man guilty…there was nothing that we could do about it.” Distraught about voting to acquit Martin’s killer, she said “I feel I killed him,” but pointed to “the choices that they gave us” as responsible.

If the criminal trial jurors had been given the choice to decide whether Zimmerman was engaged in or attempting felonious stalking prior the fracas that the jurors were asked by the prosecutors to decide upon, then exactly what happened during that fracas that caused the killing, which is not really knowable beyond a reasonable doubt in any event, becomes irrelevant. The purpose of felony murder is to attach responsibility for a killing not because of the killer’s intent or how the killing took place but because it was committed by a killer who was “engaged in” a felony like aggravated stalking. There can be no question that without Zimmerman’s original stalking neither the fracas nor the killing would have happened.

If Zimmerman had been charged with, and convicted of aggravated stalking he would also have been guilty of first degree felony murder, a capital offense in Florida. In that event, in our hearts we along with the jurors, could feel justice had been done. Instead we, like the jurors as reported by Juror B29, are left with the false impression that the law on the books is not written to protect us from a murderer who got a way with it.

But it seems like it is more the judicial system that failed us and the jurors in this case by failing to use the laws on the books. If that failure means the civil right of Trayvon Martin to walk the streets was denied with impunity, a result which makes the civil rights of all of us less secure, then a federal prosecution or retrial on these new charges would be appropriate. For double jeopardy purposes, it is not clear that first degree capital felony murder is a lesser included offense of manslaughter or second degree murder, particularly since stalking was not an element of the latter offenses.

Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief in the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, and has worked as an international consultant on law reform and anti-corruption issues.

Rob can be contacted at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=132806564HYPERLINK “http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=132806564&trk=hb_tab_pro_top”&HYPERLINK “http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=132806564&trk=hb_tab_pro_top”trk=hb_tab_pro_top

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Comments Off on How Zimmerman Could – and Should – Have Been Convicted Under Florida Law

Ex-CIA Agent Accuses Top Bush Officials of Approving Kidnapping in Italy and then Abandoning those who Followed Orders

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | July 31, 2013

A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer has gone public with claims that the George W. Bush administration agreed to an Italian trial of CIA officials for abducting an Islamic cleric in 2003, so that the president and other senior leaders would be protected from prosecution.

Sabrina De Sousa told McClatchy Newspapers that administration officials inflated the threat posed by Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr, who was kidnapped by a CIA team in Milan and flown to Egypt, where he was held for almost four years without charges and allegedly tortured.

In November 2009, an Italian court tried 23 Americans, including De Sousa, in absentia for the kidnapping. All of the convicted received jail sentences of seven years, except for Robert Seldon Lady, the former Milan CIA station chief, who had his sentence increased to nine years after appealing.

During the trial, Lady told an Italian newspaper he was not guilty—but also indicated he may have been involved in the abduction. “I’m only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors,” he told Il Giornale.

The U.S. government refused to turn over any of those convicted. Lady was arrested in Panama on an INTERPOL warrant on July 18, 2013, but was returned to the United States the next day.

In her interview, De Sousa told McClatchy:

–Jeffrey Castelli, former CIA station chief in Rome, was the mastermind of the operation, and that he exaggerated Nasr’s terrorist threat to win approval for the kidnapping and misled his superiors that Italian military intelligence had agreed to the operation.

–Senior CIA officials, including then-CIA Director George Tenet, approved the operation even though Nasr wasn’t wanted in Egypt and wasn’t on the U.S. list of top al-Qaeda terrorists.

–Condoleezza Rice, then the White House national security adviser, also had misgivings about the case, especially what Italy would do if the CIA were caught, but she eventually agreed to it and recommended that President Bush approve the abduction.

De Sousa said her claims are based on classified CIA cables that she read before resigning from the agency in February 2009, as well as on Italian legal documents and news reports.

She denied being involved in the kidnapping, although she acknowledged that she served as the interpreter for a CIA “snatch” team that visited Milan in 2002 to plan the abduction.

“I was being held accountable for decisions that someone else took and I wanted to see on what basis the decisions were made,” De Sousa told McClatchy, explaining why she had delved into the CIA archives. “And especially because I was willing to talk to the Hill [Congress] about this because I knew that the CIA would not be upfront with them.”

She added that she did not possess any of the cables, seemingly in an attempt to avoid the CIA going after her for stolen classified materials.

De Sousa is one of only several former CIA officers who have spoken publicly about the Bush administration’s secret rendition operations. It has been reported that more than 130 people were kidnapped, many of whom were tortured at “black sites” in specially selected countries.

Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has admitted to involvement in the Nasr operation.

De Sousa accused the U.S. and Italy of collaborating in “scapegoating a bunch of people …while the ones who approved this stupid rendition are all free.” She also named the U.S. House and Senate intelligence companies as enablers of the cover-up, given their inaction in response to the information she gave them about the case, and their refusal to treat her as a whistleblower.

“Despite the scale of the human rights violations associated with the rendition program, the United States hasn’t held a single individual accountable,” she told McClatchy. “It’s always the minions of the federal government who are thrown under the bus by officials who consistently violate international law and sometimes domestic law and who are all immune from prosecution. Their lives are fine. They’re making millions of dollars sitting on [corporate] boards.”

De Sousa said she could face prosecution for speaking out. “You’ve seen what’s happened lately to anyone who has tried to disclose anything,” she said. “You have no protection whatsoever. Zero.”

To Learn More:

U.S. Allowed Italian Kidnap Prosecution to Shield Higher-Ups, Ex-CIA Officer Says (by Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy)

Lessons from Edward Snowden and Robert Seldon Lady (by Tom Engelhardt, Mother Jones)

Italy Imprisons Military Intelligence Chief for Helping CIA Kidnap Egyptian Cleric (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Italy’s Highest Court Upholds CIA Kidnapping Convictions (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Judge Rejects Diplomatic Immunity for CIA Agent Accused in Italian Kidnapping Case (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ex-CIA Agent Accuses Top Bush Officials of Approving Kidnapping in Italy and then Abandoning those who Followed Orders

Obama and GOP Speak Same Language: Corp Tax Cuts = Jobs

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | July 31, 2013

President Obama went to a low wage warehouse in Chattanooga in the right-to-work state of Tennessee to renew his offer to massively lower corporate tax rates – from 35 to 28 percent – and had the nerve to call it a Grand Bargain for the middle class. Surrounding the president were employees who do backbreaking work for $11 or $12 an hour – and can by no stretch of imagination be considered middle class. Obama praised their cut-throat Amazon corporation bosses as the sort of benign masters that he’s depending on to bring the country back to economic health – once they’ve been properly incentivized with lower tax rates, on the one hand, and outright public subsidies, on the other. Amazon is only invested in Tennessee because the state has given the corporation huge tax breaks that will allow it to undercut other book sellers, forcing them out of business and their workers into unemployment. Amazon’s 7,000 new, low wage jobs come at the cost of lay-offs and bankruptcies among its competitors. It’s the Wal-Mart business model, which is quite popular at the White House.

The Obamas have a special place in their hearts for corporations of all kinds, as long as they’re big. The president told the Amazon warehouse workers, whose jobs are not very good, that he wants to create good jobs in other industries through renewable energy and electric cars and cheap natural gas – that is, “fracking.” Of course, by that he means providing additional government subsidies and tax breaks to corporations. Good jobs, presumably, will trickle down. Obama urged Congress to pass his Fix-It-First program to rebuild bridges and other public infrastructure, while blaming the Republicans for gutting government through “sequester” of spending. But it was Obama who proposed the sequestration disaster in the first place, as part of his earlier Grand Bargain with the GOP, in 2011.

Obama used the Chattanooga visit to re-pitch much of his last State of the Union Address, in which he pledged to work for a public private partnership to upgrade the privately-owned U.S. infrastructure, such as energy grids and ports. That’s a euphemism for spending billions in public monies to subsidize private, profit making corporations. Obama calls that a jobs program.

He also thinks workers should be appreciative of the Free Trade deals whose proliferation has coincided with the destruction of the U.S. manufacturing base and the loss of millions of jobs that really were “good.” Obama promised to call a meeting of the CEOs of the same corporations that sent the jobs overseas, to ask them to do more for the country – as if they haven’t done enough, already. He’s got another program, called Select USA, that offers tax breaks and other incentives to foreign corporations that locate facilities in the U.S. Since so many U.S. headquartered high-tech corporations, like Apple, are actually Chinese companies for purposes of employment, Obama might as well combine his various tax break programs and hand out the goodies to CEOs regardless of nationality. In fact, that’s close to the actual practice. There is no jobs creation plan, only a series of corporate tax giveaway programs.

For workers, there’s the minimum wage, now set at $7.25 an hour. Obama promised, once again, in Chattanooga, to try to raise that to $9.00. But, back in 2008, candidate Obama vowed to fight for $9.50. I guess, somewhere along the way, he lost his incentive.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Comments Off on Obama and GOP Speak Same Language: Corp Tax Cuts = Jobs

Israeli forces raid Cremisan Monastery in Bethlehem

IMEMC & Agencies | July 30, 2013

Witnesses reported that Israeli forces raided the Cremisan Monastery in Bethlehem late on Sunday [July 28]. The witnesses told the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) that Israeli soldiers broke into the monastery, held the people who were inside, and inspected their personal documents.

The Cremisan Monastery, founded in 1885 (Photo courtesy of cremisan.org)

The Cremisan Monastery, founded in 1885 (Photo courtesy of cremisan.org)

The raid was condemned as a violation of the sanctity of places of worship, and a violation of international law. Under Human Rights Law, Israel must “ensure that religious places, sites, shrines and symbols are fully respected and protected”, and “take additional measures in cases where they are vulnerable to desecration or destruction.”

The Cremisan Valley area has been a hotbed of resistance against Israel’s annexation wall, because the Salesian Sisters of Cremisan Convent and the Palestinians of Beit Jala will soon be the annexation wall’s latest victims. The planned route of the annexation wall will separate more than 50 Palestinian families of Beit Jala from their agricultural land, and they will have only limited access to the land via an agricultural gate. Furthermore, the wall will separate the Salesian Convent from 75% of its land. The convent’s land, along with the monastery, will be on the Israeli side, whereas the convent and primary school will be on the Palestinian side.

To fight the planned annexation of their land, the Palestinians of Beit Jala and the Salesian Sisters of Cremisan launched a seven-year-long legal appeal that was supported by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. However, on April 26, 2013, the Special Appeals Committee of the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ruled in favour of the planned route of the annexation wall. The annexation wall is illegal according to international law and the fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

According to the United Nations, 85% of the annexation wall is built illegally inside the West Bank, thereby annexing roughly 10% of its land.

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How UN Schemers Screwed up Middle East Peace Prospects for All Time

By Stuart Littlewood | Palestine Chronicle | July 30, 2013

Why, after 65 years, is the Palestinian homeland still under foreign military occupation and total blockade when international law and the United Nations say it shouldn’t be?

And why have the Palestinians been pressured – yet again – to submit to ‘direct negotiations’, lamb versus voracious wolf, to haggle and plead for their freedom?

The answer appears to lie in the deliberate hash made of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967. Here is what it said:

The UN Security Council…

Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,

Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

1. Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories [i..e. Gaza, West Bank including Jerusalem, and Golan Heights belonging to Syria] occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2. Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

It was adopted unanimously.

Article 2 of the UN Charter referred to states, among other things, that all Members “shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered” and “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”.

Nothing too difficult there for men of integrity and goodwill, one would have thought. But after 45 years nothing has happened to give effect to these fine words or to deliver the tiniest semblance of peace, or allow the Palestinians to live in security and free from threats or acts of force. As for law and justice, these words seem to have been dropped from the UN dictionary.

This dereliction of duty began with careless use of language – or more exactly the non-use of a particular word, the “the” word which should have been inserted in front of “territories” but was deliberately omitted by the schemers who drafted the resolution.

No Intention of Making Israel Withdraw

Arthur J. Goldberg, the US Ambassador to the UN in 1967 and a key draftee of Resolution 242, stated: “There is lacking a declaration requiring Israel to withdraw from the (or all the) territories occupied by it on and after June 5, 1967. Instead, the resolution stipulates withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal. And it can be inferred from the incorporation of the words ‘secure and recognized boundaries’ that the territorial adjustments to be made by the parties in their peace settlements could encompass less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories.”

According to Lord Caradon, then the UK Ambassador to the UN and another key drafter, “The essential phrase which is not sufficiently recognized is that withdrawal should take place to secure and recognized boundaries, and these words were very carefully chosen: they have to be secure and they have to be recognized. They will not be secure unless they are recognized. And that is why one has to work for agreement. This is essential. I would defend absolutely what we did. It was not for us to lay down exactly where the border should be. I know the 1967 border very well. It is not a satisfactory border, it is where troops had to stop in 1947, just where they happened to be that night, that is not a permanent boundary … ” In a 1974 statement he said: “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of 4 June 1967… That’s why we didn’t demand that the Israelis return to them and I think we were right not to.”

Professor Eugene Rostow, then US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and also helping to draft the resolution, went on record in 1991 explaining that Resolution 242 ”calls on the parties to make peace and allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until ‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces ‘from territories’ it occupied during the Six-Day War – not from ‘the’ territories nor from ‘all’ the territories, but from some of the territories, which included the Sinai Desert, the West Bank, the

Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.” Israel was not to be forced back to the fragile and vulnerable Armistice Demarcation Lines (the ‘Green Line’).

So according to Rostow Israel would get to keep some unspecified territory it seized in war. Goldberg and Rostow were both Jewish by the way, and Zionists. Extraordinary how the US always wheels in such people to ‘resolve’ an Israeli-provoked Middle East crisis when there’s no shortage of non-Jews for the task. Like Kerry has recruited Martin Indyk to supervise the bogus peace talks in Washington…

In the meantime Arab leaders had picked up on the fact that the precious “the” word in relation to territories was included in other language versions of the draft resolution (e.g. the French document) and it was therefore widely understood to mean that Israel must withdraw from all territories captured in 1967. Unfortunately, under international law, English is the official language and the English version was the conclusive reference point.

For Israel Mr Eban said: “The establishment for the first time of agreed and secure boundaries as part of a peace settlement is the only key which can unlock the present situation and set on foot a momentum of constructive and peaceful progress. As the representative of the United Kingdom indicated in his address on 16 November, the action to be taken must be within the framework of a permanent peace and of secure and recognized boundaries. It has been pointed out in the Security Council, and it is stated in the 1949 Agreements, that the armistice demarcation lines have never been regarded as boundaries so that, as the representative of the United States has said, the boundaries between Israel and her neighbors: “must be mutually worked out and recognized by the parties themselves as part of the peace-making process” [1377th meeting, para. 65].

“We continue to believe that the States of the region, in direct negotiation with each other, have the sovereign responsibility for shaping their common future. It is the duty of international agencies at the behest of the parties to act in the measure that agreement can be promoted and a mutually accepted settlement can be advanced. We do not believe that Member States have the right to refuse direct negotiation with those to whom they address their claims. It is only when they come together that the Arab States and Israel will reveal the full potentialities of a peaceful settlement.”

‘Acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible’, right?

So here was Israel, cued by the devious drafters, pressing for direct negotiations as far back as 1967 sensing that defenseless and impoverished Palestine, conveniently under their military jackboot, would be ‘easy meat’.

But the Russian, Kuznetsov, wasn’t fooled. “In the resolution adopted by the Security Council, the ‘withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict’ becomes the first necessary principle for the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Near East. We understand the decision taken to mean the withdrawal of Israel forces from all, and we repeat, all territories belonging to Arab States and seized by Israel following its attack on those States on 5 June 1967. This is borne out by the preamble to the United Kingdom draft resolution [S/8247] which stresses the ‘inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’. It follows that the provision contained in that draft relating to the right of all States in the Near East ‘to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries’ cannot serve as a pretext for the maintenance of Israel forces on any part of the Arab territories seized by them as a result of war.”

He insisted that this was the basic content of the resolution and how it had been interpreted by all the members of the Security Council. “In the resolution presented by Latin American countries [A/L.523/Rev.1] and in that submitted by non-aligned States [A/L.522/Rev.3], the provision relating to the withdrawal of forces was stated so clearly that it could not possibly have been misinterpreted.”

He added that the most important task was secure the withdrawal of Israel forces from all territory occupied by them as a result of aggression.

Your average native English speaker would not have been fooled by a missing word either. To the man on the Clapham omnibus “withdrawal from territories occupied in the recent conflict” plainly means “get the hell out of there”.

US Secretary of State Dean Rusk writing in 1990 remarked: “We wanted [it] to be left a little vague and subject to future negotiation because we thought the Israeli border along the West Bank could be “rationalized”; certain anomalies could easily be straightened out with some exchanges of territory, making a more sensible border for all parties…. But we never contemplated any significant grant of territory to Israel as a result of the June 1967 war. On that point we and the Israelis to this day remain sharply divided. This situation could lead to real trouble in the future. Although every President since Harry Truman has committed the United States to the security and independence of Israel, I’m not aware of any commitment the United States has made to assist Israel in retaining territories seized in the Six-Day War.”

1967 borders not good enough? Back to the ’47 lines, then,

Resolution 242 in any event should have specified a line to which Israel’s forces had to withdraw, even if it didn’t represent the fullest extent. How else was a genuine ‘peace process’ supposed to get off the ground? Was one party supposed to bargain from a position of intolerable weakness, still under brutal military occupation, half starved, isolated and imprisoned within the disconnected remnants of his homeland?

As to those much-bandied words “agreed and secure boundaries”, had UN members so easily forgotten about the Palestinian lands seized and ethnically cleansed before 1967? You know, those important towns and cities and hundreds of villages that had been allocated to a future Palestinian state but were seized by Jewish terrorist groups and Israel militia while the ink was still drying on the 1947 UN Partition Plan? Actually, recognized borders do exist. They were set down in the Partition and incorporated into UN Resolution 181. They are “recognized” because they were duly voted on and accepted by the Zionists and their allies, were they not?

As everyone knows, Israel has never declared its borders nor respected the UN-specified borders. It is still hell-bent on thieving lands and resources, so no border is ever secure enough or final. Nor is the Israeli regime likely to agree to secure borders for a Palestinian state, should one ever emerge. So going down the talks path again and again to seek sensible agreement is fruitless. Borders should be imposed by the proper international bodies and enforced. That has to be the start-point. Adjustments can then be made with mutual consent.

Incidentally, Article 33 of the UN Charter says that parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger international peace and security, shall first of all seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.

A judicial settlement? That would be something to see.

Article 37 then says: “Should the parties to a dispute of the nature referred to in Article 33 fail to settle it by the means indicated in that Article, they shall refer it to the Security Council. If the Security Council deems that the continuance of the dispute is in fact likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, it shall decide whether to take action under Article 36 or to recommend such terms of settlement as it may consider appropriate.”

Article 36 declares that “in making recommendations under this Article the Security Council should also take into consideration that legal disputes should as a general rule be referred by the parties to the International Court of Justice in accordance with the provisions of the Statute of the Court.”

What is this if not a legal dispute? The UN, having twiddled its thumbs, now has much to do to get to grips with the problem it created nearly 66 years ago.

With all these options apparently open to the Palestinians, why have they again allowed themselves to become locked in discredited ‘negotiations’ with a disreputable enemy that keeps them under brutal occupation and holds a gun to their heads? Indeed, why does that mighty guardian of world peace, the UN, permit it?

The UN, for its part, has proved itself time and again not fit for purpose. On the Middle East it remains especially dysfunctional. We all know it, and we’re all in despair. Except the Israelis and their loathsome pimps – they’re having a laugh.

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on How UN Schemers Screwed up Middle East Peace Prospects for All Time

Snowden deals blow to ‘global electronic prison camp’ – Russian Orthodox Church

RT | July 30, 2013

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin has praised Russian authorities for not caving in to pressure from abroad, saying granting asylum to US whistleblower Edward Snowden would help prevent the establishment of a ‘global electronic prison camp’.

“It is encouraging news that Russia is demonstrating its independence in this case as it has in many others, despite the pressure” said the head of the Holy Synod’s Department for Relations between the Church and Society.

Vsevolod Chaplin added that the Snowden saga has been broadly discussed both on the domestic and international level, with Russia’s position potentially bolstering its image as a country upholding “the true freedom of ideals.”

The Russian cleric further argued that Snowden’s revelations confirmed the existence of a pernicious problem discussed by Orthodox Christians for many years – “the prospective of a global electronic-totalitarian prison camp”.

“First they get people addicted to convenient means of communication with the authorities, businesses and among each other. In a while people become rigidly connected to these services and as a result the economic and political owners of these services get tremendous and terrifying power. They cannot help feeling the temptation to use this power to control the personality and such control might eventually be much stricter that all known totalitarian systems of the twentieth century,” Interfax news agency quoted Chaplin as saying.

The church official added that in his view true democracy remained an unreachable ideal.

“Any political system fixes the domination of a few over many. In the twentieth century the harshest forms of such political power used brute force, but now they are using soft power, through total data collecting and through soft persuasion of people, first through slogans but then through legal acts,” Chaplin explained. He noted that currently the soft power system was promoting such topics as declaring the western political system as the only viable option, making religion a marginal trend, and sidelining both criticism of market fundamentalism and leftist political platforms.

Chaplin urged Russian authorities to defend “real freedom, the freedom from the global ideological dictate and from the electronic prison camp.”

The cleric also offered a possible solution – the development of its own electronic communications system that would be independent from foreign-based mediums. “The nation has the brains for this and I hope we will also have a will,” Chaplin declared.

Russia is currently considering Edward Snowden’s request for temporary asylum and the former NSA contractor still remains in the transit zone of the Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The Russian Justice Ministry on Tuesday sent a formal response to a letter from US Attorney General, who assured Moscow that Snowden would not face the prospect of death or torture if handed over to the United States.

The Russian ministry did not provide the details of its reply to the press.

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Analysis from National Endowment for Democracy Used in The Atlantic, with Significant Errors and Omissions

By Stephan Lefebvre | CEPR Americas Blog | July 30, 2013

This month, readers of The Atlantic were treated to a lengthy article documenting alarming threats to democracy in certain Latin American countries with progressive and leftist heads of government. The piece, written by Kurt Weyland and titled “Why Latin America is Becoming Less Democratic,” is riddled with significant errors and mischaracterizations. Perhaps even worse, editors at The Atlantic didn’t make clear that the article was first published in a “journal” that is funded by the U.S. government.

The original article was published in the Journal of Democracy, which has long focused on providing analysis to justify U.S. government intervention abroad. The Journal of Democracy is an official publication of the National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) International Forum for Democratic Studies. Although nominally a “nongovernmental” organization, the NED receives most of its funding from the U.S. Congress. In 1991, Allen Weinstein, who helped found and then became the NED’s acting president, told the Washington Post, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA” [1].

Some examples of the NED’s work include using U.S. government resources to fund groups and individuals involved in the short-lived 2002 coup d’état in Venezuela, and two years later funding organizers of the recall effort against then-president Hugo Chávez. One of the NED’s core grantees is the International Republican Institute, which played a major role in overthrowing the democratically-elected government of Haiti in 2004.

These are just a few examples that highlight the NED’s disreputable history in Latin America, which would take far more space than a blog post to tell.  While it clearly would have been worth noting the source of the article, the article itself is full of both factual errors and egregious mischaracterizations. To keep this post brief, I’ll only review a few of the most egregious errors here.

    1. Weyland writes: “Since the third wave reached Latin America in 1978, the region had seen only occasional threats and temporary interruptions of democracy in individual nations.”

This statement is only reasonable if one completely ignores the U.S. government’s role in the region, which constituted a threat to democracy that was neither “temporary” nor limited to “individual nations.” Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. conducted a massive and well-organized campaign, especially in Central America, using Cold War pretexts to install and support leaders who would foster favorable conditions for U.S. business interests.

In Nicaragua, the campaign involved massive illegal military aid to the contra paramilitary forces who used those weapons to kill health care workers, teachers and elected officials in their fight against the  democratically-elected Sandinista government, bringing condemnation from the World Court, as well as Amnesty International, Americas Watch and other human rights groups and international bodies.

At the same time, the U.S.-backed Guatemalan General José Efraín Ríos Montt, massacred and tortured the people of Guatemala — with U.N. estimates indicating over 200,000 were killed or disappeared in acts of genocide. The same Cold War premise of fighting “communists” was used to justify large-scale atrocities in El Salvador and Honduras. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the U.S. supported brutal dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, and other countries, and militarily invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989). More recently, of course, the U.S. supported coups in Venezuela, Honduras and Haiti.

It could not be more clear that democracy in Latin America is threatened and actually has been compromised on many occasions by the U.S.’s foreign policy, especially in the post-1978 period that Weyland names. Rewriting history to minimize and erase these events serves the interests of the U.S. government, so it is perhaps no surprise that publications like the Journal of Democracy carry out this work diligently, but when government propaganda makes its way into independent publications like The Atlantic without comment, it is cause for alarm, especially when there are numerous factual errors.

    1. Weyland writes that “Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina (2007-), whose fervent supporters take inspiration from Chávez, is eyeing constitutional changes and renewed reelection.”

Fact check: President Cristina Fernández has not said anything to this effect.  She has  proposed constitutional amendments focused on reforms to the judiciary, and she has already addressed the Argentine congress specifically, saying that she is not planning to pursue reforms that would allow her to run for a third consecutive term. Weyland would be right in noting that some of her supporters floated the idea of a third term, but Weyland’s claim as written is simply not true.  If this seems like a minor point, consider that Honduran ex-president Manuel Zelaya’s support for a non-binding referendum on a constituent assembly was misreported in the media as a bid to extend his presidency and was used as a justification for his removal both within Honduras and internationally.  Weyland perpetuates this myth, saying that Zelaya “was stopped” before he could “boost[] the presidency’s powers and pave[] the way toward indefinite reelection to that office.”  By presenting the coup that removed Zelaya as an event that forestalled a nondemocratic turn, in particular saying nothing about events following the coup, much of Weyland’s argument supposedly in favor of democracy in Latin America is rendered moot.

    1. “That Venezuela had already fallen under nondemocratic rule was confirmed in October 2012 by Chávez’s unfair reelection, achieved with the help of intimidation tactics, tight restrictions on the opposition, and the massive misuse of the state apparatus.”

The 2012 elections in Venezuela were declared free and fair by election accompanying groups and by monitors such as the Carter Center, which noted that “the whole opposition leadership, including, most importantly, Capriles himself, unequivocally reject those claims [of election fraud favoring Chávez], stating that the results reflected the will of the electorate.”  Journalists and human rights watchers monitoring the electoral process praised the system while giving detailed reports about what they saw.

    1. “With its electoral façade and progressive rhetoric about helping the excluded, the soft authoritarianism that is taking hold in parts of Latin America has an attractive face.”

In sweeping statements such as this one, Weyland casts doubt on both the electoral victories and the policies of progressive and left governments in Latin America. He suggests that the people’s will is not represented in the official outcomes of national elections, and even if left-wing politicians seem popular that is because they trick and/or intimidate citizens and do not deliver on promises to the poor and other disenfranchised sectors of society.

Actually, these are not elections whose legitimacy is seriously questioned by any but those on the extreme right. And the implication that progressive and left governments are limiting their policies to “progressive rhetoric,” is absurd. The overall trend in the countries that have elected progressive and left leaders has been the enactment of policy alternatives to neoliberalism, and their effect has been large reductions in income inequality, a reduction in poverty, and provision of health care, education and important services to many people who previously could not access them. These policies have included reforming and regulating the financial sector in Ecuador, investing oil profits into social missions in Venezuela, and successfully managing a large financial crisis and debt default in Argentina — resulting in only one quarter of negative economic growth followed by nine years of some of the highest growth in the region.

Weyland’s reference to an “electoral façade” betrays the central goal of the NED: what sociologist William Robinson refers to as “promoting polyarchy.”  As opposed to experiments in direct democracy occurring on various levels in countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia, the NED ultimately promotes only representative forms of democracy, or polyarchy. In Robinson’s definition, this is “a system in which a small group actually rules, and mass participation in decision-making is confined to choosing leaders in elections that are carefully managed by competing elites.” In Venezuela, Chávez’s Bolivarian project did away with a polyarchic system, and across much of the continent NED-backed parties and candidates have failed in election after election. When Washington’s candidates don’t win, often the elections are depicted as illegitimate and sometimes the electoral process is attacked – as seen with the most recent Venezuelan election, or with the U.S.’ interference, via the OAS, in Haiti’s last presidential election.

    1. “As soon as [Chávez] was elected president of Venezuela, he set about revamping the country’s institutional framework. First, he called a constituent assembly.”

Weyland’s claims here come after stating that “graver and more sustained danger is coming from the leftist variant” of populism than the rightist version, but is the Venezuelan constituent assembly really evidence of anti-democratic tendencies? No again. Calling for a constituent assembly was exactly what Venezuelans elected Chávez to do. Ending the ossified political arrangement known as “Punto Fijo” – in which political parties routinely alternated in and out of power – and calling a constituent assembly were key campaign promises he made ahead of the 1998 elections. Chávez was fulfilling his campaign promises– a much more infrequent phenomenon in the U.S.

    1. “[Ecuadorean president Rafael] Correa also seized on a 2010 police rebellion—painted by him as a coup attempt—as a pretext for cracking down on independent social and political forces.”

Many observers both in and outside of Ecuador characterize the events of September 30, 2010 as an attempted coup d’état: after assaulting him with tear gas, rebelling police officers later held the president hostage in the hospital where he was being treated. The coup attempt was condemned as such by presidents and representatives of UNASUR, foreign dignitaries such as the president of Spain, and the OAS. Weyland and The Journal of Democracy may be taking the U.S. government’s line, one of the few countries that declined to recognize the events as a coup attempt, even though then-Secretary of State Clinton did issue a statement in expressing “our full support for President Rafael Correa.”

    1. “Bypassing or subjugating intermediate institutions such as firmly organized parties, the leader—often a charismatic figure—establishes face-to-face contact with large number of citizens. In earlier decades, mass rallies were crucial; now-a-days, television allows populists to reach their followers ‘in person.’ Chávez hosted a regular Sunday talk show.”

Calling for respect of “firmly organized parties” in Venezuela in the context of Chávez’s rise in politics obscures that one of the central political problems in Venezuela during the 90s was deep distrust in the main political parties and their “Punto Fijo” arrangement, which Robinson describes as a polyarchic system.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that President Obama has a weekly address on YouTube, and yet he is not derided as an illegitimate president because of his use of social media. Presidents and major politicians all over the world have Twitter and Facebook accounts that they use to communicate with constituents, and many even make appearances on talk shows. Is such “face-to-face contact” somehow nefarious?

    1. “In Bolivia, the Morales government shut the opposition out of decisive stages of the constitution drafting process.”

Weyland is again telling only half the story, which in this case is worse than none. The truth is that opposition legislators boycotted stages of the constitution drafting process because they disagreed with the direction in which things were going. Bolivia had elected its first indigenous president, with massive support from the country’s social movements, and he was facilitating a transformation of society to one in which a racial minority and tiny elite did not wield power over the majority of Bolivians. Evo Morales’s election drew comparisons to the symbolic end of apartheid in South Africa with the election of Nelson Mandela, and the new constitution was compared to the Freedom Charter.

It is not surprising that extreme elements in the opposition boycotted the process of installing a new constitution that cemented the rights of the indigenous majority, and it is misleading to describe these events as a “populist” power-grab.

This has been a brief review of some major claims that Weyland uses in arguing his point, namely that “democracy in the region is facing a sustained, coordinated authoritarian threat” from the progressive and left governments in Latin America. I have detailed not only mischaracterizations and significant omissions, but also argued for more independence in the practice of journalism. One of the responsibilities of a well-functioning press is to clearly indicate when articles are reused from sources funded mostly by the U.S. government.

[1] Ignatius, David. “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups.” The Washington Post. Sep 22, 1991: C1. Print.

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Analysis from National Endowment for Democracy Used in The Atlantic, with Significant Errors and Omissions

Bolivia: New Factory to Make Coca Products for Medicinal Use

By Marc Rogers | The Argentina Independent | July 30, 2013

Bolivian president Evo Morales today inaugurated the first factory for coca-based products, highlighting their health benefits and medicinal uses.

The new plant, opened in a suburb of La Paz, will process around 75,000 tonnes of coca leaf a year to make drinkable infusions, such as coca mate and teas.

Coca cultivation is illegal is much of world, but permitted in Bolivia. In January the UN agreed to exempt Bolivia from its 1961 ruling to criminalise the coca leaf, one that Morales called a “historic error“.

“It’s good for me,” said Morales of chewing the coca leaf at the inauguration of the new factory. “Many people are fighting diabetes with coca – that has been proven.” The president also pointed to a Harvard University investigation from the 1990s that found considerable health benefits could be derived from eating coca.

The factory will be administered by the Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca), and was built with support from the national and city governments, as well as the EU.

Morales added that he would present the coca products to his Ecuadorian counterpart Rafael Correa on the fringes of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) summit to see about exporting the goods.

Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are the world’s principal coca producers.

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , | Comments Off on Bolivia: New Factory to Make Coca Products for Medicinal Use