Aletho News


Saudi Hires Occupation-Friendly Company for Hajj Security

By Orouba Othman | Al-Akhbar | October 7, 2013

This year, the mandatory Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, will compound the Palestinians’ woes. Palestinian pilgrims will be greeted by a company that assists in their repression – and even torture – under the Israeli occupation regime. Indeed, hajj this year will be brought to you by none other than G4S.

This is not the first time that the Saudi government has hired the private security firm, which has recruited a staggering 700,000 to provide hajj-related services this year, according to exclusive information obtained by Al-Akhbar. Most of the leaked reports indicate that security for the hajj season since 2010 has been entrusted to al-Majal G4S, an affiliate of the parent company G4S.

The CEO of al-Majal G4S is a former security official in Saudi named Khaled Baghdadi. The Saudi subsidiary is fully owned by the British-Danish firm.

The parent company has not disclosed the nature of the contracts it has signed with the Saudi authorities. In its periodic reports, G4S makes limited references to its Saudi operations, such as winning a contract with Jeddah Metro to assist with security during the hajj, or stating that the company assists in the transport of more than 3 million pilgrims who visit Mecca each year. In 2011, the website Asrar Ararabiya – Arab Secrets – published an ad by the company asking people to apply to work in Mecca for seven days only, during hajj.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has not been sitting idly by. In a press conference on Wednesday, October 2, the campaign sent a clear message to the Saudi government, urging it to terminate the contract with the company that happens to provide equipment and security services to protect Israeli settlements, occupation checkpoints, and police facilities. The private security contractor has also been implicated in enabling the torture of administrative detainees in Palestine, including children, according to BDS activist Zaid Shuaibi.

BDS activists were not the only ones to react to the news. Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the head of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem and the imam of al-Aqsa Mosque, has proclaimed, “This company operates in security, and has activities and commitments in areas under Israeli occupation. Those who help the occupation must be held accountable and are complicit in the crime, as those who help aggressors also are aggressors.”

Shuaibi, speaking to Al-Akhbar, said that the BDS campaign contacted the Palestinian Ministry of Economy, being the competent authority in the issue of boycotting settlements, such as the ones serviced by G4S. But according to Shuaibi, “The ministry did not bother to respond or take action to stop the abuse, even as the company violates Palestinian law by continuing to provide services to the settlements.”

G4S in Israeli Prisons and Interrogation Centers

G4S’ subsidiary in Israel (Hashmira) was awarded a contract with the Israeli Prison Service in July 2007 to supply equipment and security services that enable violations of Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The company provides security systems and centralized control systems to the Hasharon-Ramonim prison, which contains a section for Palestinian political prisoners.

G4S has installed a central command room in Megiddo Prison, in addition to supplying a wide array of security services to the Damon and Ketziot prisons. In Ofer, the prison where more than 1,500 Palestinians are detained – mostly administrative prisoners – G4S has also installed a central command room and provided protection through peripheral defense systems on the walls surrounding the prison. The company routinely supplies systems for command and control, IT, CCTV, and communications to Israeli prisons.

In the Jalma and Maskoubieh interrogation centers, which are also serviced by G4S, not even children are spared from torture. It is in one of those centers that Palestinian detainee Arafat Jaradat was tortured to death earlier this year. There, too, Luay al-Ashqar, a Palestinian administrative detainee, became permanently paralyzed in his left leg when he suffered a triple fracture in his spine during his detention.

Under Israeli military law, prisoners can be detained for investigation for 60 days without access to a lawyer, which means that lawyers cannot witness interrogation methods used against their clients. All these practices and more are facilitated by G4S.

Checkpoints, Settlements, and Police Stations

According to a report by Who Profits, “G4S Israel supplied luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners to several checkpoints in the West Bank, including the Qalandia checkpoint, the Bethlehem checkpoint…[and] the Erez checkpoint in Gaza.” The company also provides security equipment to Israeli police facilities in the E1 zone of the West Bank, near the settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

Meanwhile, G4S-serviced checkpoints make life extremely difficult for more than 23,000 Palestinians who work in Jerusalem and the territories of 1948 (Israel proper), who have to wait and are often delayed as they undergo humiliating inspection each morning. G4S also operates in the Israeli settlements, catering to businesses and private citizens.

Europe Reacts

BDS campaigns have been able to achieve some success in Europe while Saudi Arabia continues to ignore appeals to terminate contracts with G4S. The company lost several contracts in Europe, including with Oslo University back in July after pressure by student groups.

In the United Kingdom, the East London Teachers Association put pressure on local authorities to terminate contracts with G4S, which provides services to more than 25 schools in the British capital. Campaigns to boycott G4S have spread to Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and the rest of Europe. In April this year, G4S failed to renew a 2008 contract to provide security services for parliament buildings in Europe.

G4S in the Arab World

The scope of G4S’ operations and profits in the Arab world is nearly six times the size of its operations and profits in the Jewish state. In truth, its market share in Saudi alone is about 10 times its share in Israel.

The company is active in 16 Arab countries, with a turnover of 501 million British pounds ($805 million) last year, or 6 percent of its total revenues. It employs nearly 44,000, who work in operations ranging from providing security for airports in Baghdad and Dubai, Arab embassies, various Arab sports events, as well as protection for private businesses.

In comparison, G4S earns about 100 million pounds ($160 million) from its Israeli operations, or 1 percent of its total yearly revenues.

Follow Orouba Othman on Twitter.

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Bahrain sentences nine activists to life in prison

Al-Akhbar | October 7, 2013

A Bahraini court jailed nine activists for life Monday after alleging that they made bombs for “terrorist” purposes, a judicial source said.

Four of the defendants were in court for the verdict and the remaining five, tried in absentia, were handed an 10 additional years in jail for failing to hand themselves in. Life imprisonment in Bahrain is a 25-year-sentence.

Human rights groups have slammed the Bahraini dictatorship’s persecution of activists and political opponents since a pro-democracy movement swept the tiny Gulf kingdom two and a half years ago.

The courts, whose judges are appointed by the Bahraini king, have jailed hundreds of peace activists and human rights leaders on terrorism-related charges in recent months.

Monday’s ruling brings to 104 the number of activists jailed since September 29 over terrorism-related charges in the western and Saudi-backed Gulf kingdom.

The four men told the court that they were tortured, mistreated and held in solitary confinement – a routine procedure in country to force confessions, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

The defendants were found guilty of “joining a group with the intention of disturbing public order and using terrorism to endanger Bahrain’s security,” the charge sheet said.

They were also convicted of making bombs and training others how to produce them, and “owning and using explosives for a terrorist purpose and carrying out bombings to terrorize citizens.”

BCHR says at least 89 people have been killed by Bahraini police and a Saudi-led Gulf force since the a popular, anti-government uprising erupted in February 2011.

Bahrain is the home base of the US Fifth Fleet and Washington is a long-standing ally of the Al-Khalifa ruling family.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Bahrain sentences nine activists to life in prison

Polls Continue to Show Majority of Americans Against NSA Spying

By Mark M. Jaycox | EFF | October 7, 2013

Shortly after the June leaks, numerous polls asked the American people if they approved or disapproved of the NSA spying, which includes collecting telephone records using Section 215 of the Patriot Act and collecting phone calls and emails using Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The answer then was a resounding no, and new polls released in August and September clearly show Americans’ increasing concern about privacy has continued.

Since July, many of the polls not only confirm the American people think the NSA’s actions violates their privacy, but think the surveillance should be stopped. For instance in an AP poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans said they oppose the NSA collecting data about their telephone and Internet usage. In another national poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, 74 percent of respondents said the NSA’s spying intrudes on their privacy rights. This majority should come as no surprise, as we’ve seen a sea change in opinion polls on privacy since the Edward Snowden revelations started in June.

What’s also important is that it crosses political party lines. The Washington Post/ABC News poll found 70 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans believe the NSA’s spying programs intrude on their privacy rights. This change is significant, showing that privacy is a bipartisan issue. In 2006, a similar question found only 50 percent of Republicans thought the government intruded on their privacy rights.

Americans also continue their skepticism of the federal government and its inability to conduct proper oversight. In a recent poll, Rasmusson—though sometimes known for push polling—revealed that there’s been a 30 percent increase in people who believe it is now more likely that the government will monitor their phone calls. Maybe even more significant is that this skepticism carries over into whether or not Americans believe the government’s claim that it “robustly oversees” the NSA’s programs. In a Huffpost/You Gov poll, 53 percent of respondents said they think “the federal courts and rules put in place by Congress” do not provide “adequate oversight.” Only 18 percent of people agreed with the statement.

Americans seem to be waking up from its surveillance state slumber as the leaks around the illegal and unconstitutional NSA spying continue. The anger Americans—especially younger Americans—have around the NSA spying is starting to show. President Obama has seen a 14-point swing in his approval and disapproval rating among voters aged 18-29 after the NSA spying disclosures.

These recent polls confirm that Americans are not only concerned with the fact that the spying infringes their privacy, but also that they want the spying to stop. And this is even more so for younger Americans. Now is the time for Congress to act: click here now to join the StopWatching.Us coalition.

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Polls Continue to Show Majority of Americans Against NSA Spying

FARC Insists on Need to Eliminate Factors Leading to State Terrorism

Prensa Latina | October 7, 2013

catatumboHavana – The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People”s Army (FARC-EP) insisted today on the need to reach an agreement and implement mechanisms to eliminate those factors that enable State terrorism, thus avoiding a post-conflict ”dirty war”.

Jesús Santrich, member of the guerrilla delegation, referred to the elimination of the National Security Doctrine, the conception of the internal enemy and paramilitarism, in a communique issued today here in Havana.

He also recalled the message from Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre, forecasting a ‘dirty war’ after the eventual signing of a peace treaty, and stressed the need to avoid it.

He added that this will be one of the greatest challenges for the Colombian State.

Santrich said that a peace agreement for Colombia cannot be reached without effective political guarantees and respect for human rights of all.

The FARC-EP insisted on the request to create a Commission to revise and clarify the history of the Colombian conflict, in order to analyze the circumstances of the current war.

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on FARC Insists on Need to Eliminate Factors Leading to State Terrorism

Canadian spy agency ‘dissected’ Brazilian Energy Ministry

RT | October 7, 2013

Canada, as well as the US, infiltrated and spied on the Brazilian Energy Ministry, a new leak by Edward Snowden has revealed. The leaked documents show how the data gleaned through espionage was shared with international spy network the ‘Five Eyes.’

Newly-released documents handed over to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald by former CIA employee Edward Snowden describe in detail how Canadian intelligence infiltrated Brazil’s Energy and Mines Ministry.

“I was overwhelmed by the power of the tools used. The Ministry of Energy and Mines was totally dissected,” security expert Paulo Pagliusi told Brazilian program Fantastico, which first reported on the leak.

The program showed documents from a meeting of the ‘Five Eyes’ spy network, comprising the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, in June of last year. In a presentation the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSRC) – the Canadian version of the NSA – outlined how they used a program called Olympia to break through the Brazilian ministry’s encryption.

The information gleaned from the ministry was then shared with all of the members of the ‘Five Eyes.’

“They [Five Eyes] are sharing all the information, handing over documents to let other countries know exactly what they are doing,” said Glen Greenwald.

As a result of the infiltration of the ministry over an unspecified period, the CSCE developed a detailed map of the institution’s communications. As well as monitoring email and electronic communications, the CSCE also eavesdropped on telephone conversations. Able to identify mobile numbers, SIM card registrations and the make of a phone, Olympia even snooped on former Brazilian ambassador to Canada Paulo Cordeiro.

Canada has so far refused to comment on the reports of its spy program. Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao told Fantastico that the reports were “serious” and should be condemned.

Canada is one of the world’s leading energy producers and has significant economic interests in Brazil.

“Canada has interests in Brazil, especially in the mining sector. Does this spying serve the commercial interests of select groups? I cannot say,” observed Lobao.

‘No economic espionage’

Previously, Brazilian newspaper Globo News reported that the NSA was monitoring Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras. Washington reacted to the allegations, stating that the US “does not engage in economic espionage.” The Obama administration has said on a number of occasions that US covert surveillance is in the interests of protecting US national security.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has condemned the reports of the NSA’s surveillance of Brazil and demanded the US account for its actions.

As a consequence, the Brazilian head of state postponed an official visit to Washington in October. Rousseff has also taken measures to tighten Brazilian internet security.

“I have sent an internet draft bill to Congress, an initiative that will protect the privacy of Brazilians,” Rousseff wrote on Twitter on Sunday. The government is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks.

Back in September, Rousseff slammed the US for “economic espionage,” dismissing US claims the NSA spying is a preventative measure to ensure national security. Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Rousseff stated that state-run Petrobras is “no threat to the security of any country. Rather, it represents one of the greatest assets of the world’s oil and the heritage of the Brazilian people.”

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Canadian spy agency ‘dissected’ Brazilian Energy Ministry

Rep. Mike Rogers Threatens Extrajudicial Execution

By Daniel McAdams | Neocon Watch | October 4, 2013

Mike Rogers

The US State Department every year releases its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, arrogating to itself the right to judge how the rest of the world measures up to US standards of respect for human rights.

One of the key measurements the US uses to determine whether the rest of the world is up to its stated standards of human rights protection is whether the country engages in “extrajudicial executions,” i.e. the state killing people without a legal trial. Needless to say, countries which engage in or promote extrajudicial killing are considered among the worst of the human rights abusers.

At a Washington Post sponsored panel yesterday on cybersecurity attended by former NSA/CIA chief Michael Hayden and by current Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers (R-MI), Hayden quipped that while NSA leaker Edward Snowden is on the consideration list for a European Human Rights Award, he had “also thought of nominating Mr. Snowden, but it was for a different list.”

Considering the input that Hayden had over the US administration’s “kill list,” the implication was fairly clear. One might imagine what among some at least was (hopefully) nervous laughter.

Is it funny to joke about killing someone when everyone knows you have had the power to make it happen? At least Hayden made the comment while he was no longer serving in a position where he could call out the drones.

What is worse, however, was the reaction of the neoconservative warmonger and enemy of civil liberties, Chairman Mike Rogers. To Hayden’s confession that he had thought of putting Snowden on “a different list,” Rogers did not miss a beat.

“I can help you with that,” Rogers said.

It is incredible to imagine that an individual in such a powerful position as is Mike Rogers — not just a Member of Congress but the Chairman of the Committee that coordinates with the CIA, NSA, and the rest of the Intelligence Community on matters covert and operational — would even if perhaps in a lighthearted moment make such a deeply disturbing comment.

Killing is so casual to people like Rogers.

It is the kind of thing that — were the US not the authors — would be written up in a report on human rights abuses and threats to the rule of law.

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on Rep. Mike Rogers Threatens Extrajudicial Execution