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Obama, And The Return To the Medieval Period

By Sherwood Ross | Aletho News | May 30, 2015

Today, May 30, 2015, is the 584th anniversary of the day on which Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by the British forces occupying France.

The “Maid of Orleans” had the ill luck to be captured while she was rallying her countrymen to throw off the English yoke and a pro-English Bishop, Pierre Cauchon, after a grossly unjust trial, sentenced her to death by fire. “Bishop, I die through you!” she reportedly told him.

Saint Joan, as she is known since her canonization by the Roman Catholic church, was only 19. Despicable as the Bishop’s conduct was, he at least made a pretense of a legal proceeding.

Contrast this with the conduct of President Barack Obama, who likely may be responsible for the drone killings of more than a thousand innocent civilians across the Middle East, and who dispenses entirely with legal niceties.

How is it that Bishop Cauchon is reviled for a single murder yet President Obama routinely wipes out human life on a grand scale and is not prosecuted? How is it that foreign leaders will shake his hand?

Perhaps an indifferent American public is proving Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin correct when he told U.S. ambassador to Moscow W. Averell Harriman, “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism(BIJ), London, a non-profit organization known for its meticulous research, reported last month that 515 U.S. drone strikes since 2002 have killed at least, 2,887 people in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

The drone strikes, inaugurated by President George W. Bush, “increased during the Obama administration as did the number of casualties,” the BIJ reports. And McClatchy news service, citing a leaked CIA document, reported “the CIA killed people who only were suspected…” of association with militant groups.

As for the right of President Obama to murder people, which is the correct description of what he is doing, Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois and Magna Cum Laude graduate of Harvard Law School, says:

“The ‘honors’ graduate of Harvard Law School President Obama has set himself up as the sole Judge, Jury and Executioner of thousands of human beings in violation of international law, human rights law, the laws of war and the United States Constitution. Harvard Law School taught me that makes Obama a felon and a war criminal and impeachable.”

The president openly admits authorizing the drone killings. As pacifist/author David Swanson of Charlottesville, Va., pointed out in his book “War No More,” Obama killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who “was never charged with a crime, never indicted, and his extradition never sought.” Indeed, many of President Obama’s drone victims could have been arrested and tried had the U.S. gone to local authorities with evidence of their culpability. We need to ask ourselves, “What kind of nation prefers to murder people without a trial? Would you call it Fascist, Communist?”

Swanson cites figures to show that, in Pakistan alone between 2004 and 2013, America made 372 drone strikes, killing between 2,566 and 3,570 individuals, of whom as many as 890 were civilians, including nearly 200 children—every one of them by definition—younger than Joan of Arc.

Imagine, on this 584th anniversary of her death, a nation called America, a country whose evil genius has invented the deadliest killing machines ever, a country spending a trillion dollars a year on war, with 1,000 military bases overseas, and 11 battle fleets patrolling the Seven Seas, and troops in 175 countries, and with its lying spokespersons claiming it is all for ‘defense,’ is turning the clock back to the Medieval Period. Apparently, Americans have lost their sense of proportion, their ethics, their faith, their humanity, and worst of all, even their pity for the victims of their crimes. Saint Joan, be with us today!

May 30, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US government ordered to prepare Guantánamo force-feeding videos for release

Reprieve | May 29, 2015

An appeal court has today ordered the Obama Administration to redact 12 hours of secret Guantánamo force-feeding footage in preparation for its public release, rejecting the Administration’s argument that not one single frame should be seen by the public.

The classified videos, which show Guantánamo prisoner Abu Wa-‘el Dhiab being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed by the US military, were ordered to be released to the public by federal Judge Gladys Kessler in October 2014, following a First Amendment intervention from 16 US press organizations in the abuse case Dhiab v Obama.

The Obama Administration defied Judge Kessler’s order to prepare the videos for release, complaining that the process was too much work and insisting that revealing even one frame from the videos posed a national security risk. Leaving the videos unredacted, the Administration took the case straight to D.C.’s federal Court of Appeals in an attempt to get the order overturned.

In a judgment handed down today, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Administration’s refusal to comply with the lower court’s order was wrong, and rejected its attempt to use the ‘burdensome’ task of redacting videos as a reason to circumvent the First Amendment.

The Obama Administration must now comply with Judge Kessler’s original order to redact the videotapes to address national security concerns, and submit the redacted tapes to her court for reconsideration ahead of their release.

Alka Pradhan, Reprieve US attorney for Mr Dhiab, said: “The Obama Administration’s defiance of Judge Kessler’s order suggests a basic contempt for both the court’s authority and our First Amendment rights, which the Circuit judges recognized.

“The Administration is fighting hard because once those videotapes are redacted, they are one step closer to public release – and the government is one step closer to being held accountable for their treatment of Guantanamo detainees. Yet the harder the Administration resists, the more they confirm that they have much wrongdoing to hide.

“It is time to stop running absurd arguments, and simply to do the right thing: expose and end the ongoing abuse of hunger-strikers at Guantanamo Bay.”

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Struggling against the Surveillance State

By John V. Walsh | Dissident Voice | May 27, 2015

A struggle of some consequence is now being waged in Congress to keep on life support the NSA’s massive spying on the American people. And in this struggle the so-called progressives (more accurately referred to as liberals) are engaged in a massive betrayal of all they profess to believe in. Instead too many of them are scurrying about attacking Rand Paul, the libertarian, anti-interventionist, Republican Senator who is leading the charge against the Bush/Obama spying program. Among other things Senator Paul has engaged in a filibuster to stop this nefarious program. So far he has been successful.

Let us try to make the crucial events in Congress as simple and crystal clear as possible. There are two pieces of legislation that were before the Senate last week.

The first is the Patriot Act itself, Section 215 of which, in the government’s secret interpretation, allowed the NSA to vacuum up data on virtually every piece of electronic communication by every American and indeed everyone on the planet. This secret interpretation and use of 215 came to light only when the heroic Edward Snowden blew his whistle. Such massive spying has already been declared illegal by a recent opinion of the Second Circuit Court, although the NSA ignores this ruling. The Patriot Act is due to expire on June 1, and Obama is desperate to keep its essentials alive. Since the government has not been able to produce any convincing data that such surveillance has protected the U.S., one might well ask why Obama is so frantic, almost hysterical, to keep it alive. Why indeed.

The second is a “reform” of the Patriot Act, called the “USA Freedom Act,” proposed by Obama and company. However, the USA Freedom Act is not different in its essentials from the original Patriot Act. One “difference” is that the telephone and internet companies will hold the data rather than the government itself, and then the government will vacuum it up from those companies. A distinction without a difference, to be sure. Here is what the ACLU has to say about the “USA Freedom Act”:

“This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision—the material-support provision—would represent a significant step backwards,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement. “The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform.”

Jaffer wants Congress to let Section 215 sunset completely, a common sentiment among privacy activists who are USA Freedom Act skeptics—they’d rather let it expire and wait for a better reform package than endorse something half-baked.

Now we get to the meat of the politics and the possible victory over the Stasi State that we have within reach. Last week both these bills came up for a vote in the Senate. Rand Paul filibustered, a filibuster denigrated by many “progressives” as just a “long speech.” Nevertheless, it was enough that cloture had to be invoked to get a vote on the bills. That means 60 votes were needed to keep the legislation alive. First came the vote for the USA Freedom Act. There were less than 60 votes to keep it alive. Down it went. Then came the vote to continue the good ol’ Patriot Act and its atrocious Section 215. Again there were less than the 60 votes needed to keep it alive. Down it went. So as things stand now, Section 215 will be history as of June 1!

That in itself is an enormous victory and should be widely heralded. But here is the interesting thing. All the Democrats voted in favor of Obama’s phony reform, the USA Freedom Act. (As noted above, they could not, however, muster the 60 votes needed to bring it forward and get it passed.) They included the favorites of the faux progressives, Ron Wyden, Patrick Leahey, Elizabeth Warren and of course that notorious advocate of butchery in Gaza, Bernie Sanders. What motivated these Dems to take such a stand? First, it was Obama’s bill, and more importantly it gave some cover to these Dems since most of their constituents are horrified by the Spy State. Next, when it came time to vote for the original Bush/Obama Patriot Act, the sides switched and the Republicans voted in favor of that measure. But they also failed to muster the 60 votes needed to go forward and so that version of mass surveillance failed. Only Rand Paul and a few other Republicans stood firm on the issue of no mass surveillance and confronted the Republican majority, a clear proclamation of principle over Party. For progressives this is (yet another) massive failure of those Dems whom they labored to install in the Senate.

Now this week the bullies that “lead” Congress are conferring frantically to find a way to keep alive the government spying on us. Every sort of blackmail, payoff, bribe and other inducement is certainly on the table to bring the necessary number of Senators along. It is not beyond imagination that the NSA is providing some embarrassing confidential information on recalcitrant Senators, which has been hoovered up in the last decade. These Congressional leaders have until the weekend to muster the 60 Senate votes needed for this ugly task, and they are within 3 votes of getting their way right now. Today Obama himself urged Congress to do whatever it takes to continue the bulk spying law.

Clearly this is a time when progressive organizations, who are forever urging us to write and contact our Congresspeople, should be rolling into action. And here is the biggest problem. I have long been on many of the progressive mailing lists. On this issue I have received nothing from them – nada, zilch. So I checked to see what they had on their web sites. Would there be at least a mention of this issue, a plea to contact one’s Senator? I checked Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Green Party, Code Pink and Peace Action. None of them had a call to action on this issue as far as I could see as of May 26, which is very late in the game . To be fair, UNAC (United National Antiwar Coalition) did have a statement on this as an issue, dating from a while back and including condemnation of Obama for his actions. But even here there was no call to action – no call for phone or letters to Congress and certainly no calls for a street demonstration, which is almost an autonomic reflex with UNAC.

In short the pwogs have shown an abysmal failure to take action in halting the Spy State. And there is not much time to act. If you, dear reader, contribute to one of these organizations, stay your check writing hand until they do something. Dollars they understand – if not principles.

Moreover, what I have received recently in personal emails from progressive contacts is yet more excoriations of Rand Paul. Here the progressives have an ally in what should be an all important fight and they turn on him! In fact the pwogs are among the targets of this surveillance. Why then make an enemy of a potential ally in the fight against the police state? That is indeed worth thinking about.

One final point, Rand Paul in the Senate, and fellow libertarians in the House like Thomas Massie and Justin Amash (the only Palestinian American in Congress) and a few others (including a few Democrats like Mark Pocan and Zoe Lofgren) stand almost alone now in serious opposition to the entire imperial elite establishment, Republican and Democrat both, in this fight. And Rand Paul is taking the greatest hits – even from that corpulent bag of corruption and mendacity, Chris Christie.

A victory on this issue is possible now. It happened before when Obama halted a plan to bomb Syria because of opposition in Congress, an opposition fueled by letters to Congress, resulting in a bipartisan opposition to an attack on Syria.

A victory here would arouse more interest in the kind of Right/Left alliances on concrete issues that this writer, Ralph Nader and others have been advocating for some years.

So progressives should abandon their theological or religious approach to politics, an infantile disorder that produces little because it does not allow issues to be attacked one at a time. If one conducts one’s politics like a Church, then one’s influence will never extend far beyond the tiny groups huddled in Church basements.

John V. Walsh can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com

May 28, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The NSA’s Technotyranny: One Nation Under Surveillance

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | May 26, 2015

“The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control.”—William Binney, NSA whistleblower

We now have a fourth branch of government.

As I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.

You might know this branch of government as Surveillance, but I prefer “technotyranny,” a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies and their corporate ties.

Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it will all be recorded, stored and used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing. Privacy, as we have known it, is dead.

The police state is about to pass off the baton to the surveillance state.

Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are preparing to turn the nation’s soldier cops into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

This is about to be the new face of policing in America.

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been a perfect red herring, distracting us from the government’s broader, technology-driven campaign to render us helpless in the face of its prying eyes. In fact, long before the NSA became the agency we loved to hate, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration were carrying out their own secret mass surveillance on an unsuspecting populace.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people. Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies—the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it accessible for all those in power. And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine.

The raging debate over the fate of the NSA’s blatantly unconstitutional, illegal and ongoing domestic surveillance programs is just so much noise, what Shakespeare referred to as “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

It means nothing: the legislation, the revelations, the task forces, and the filibusters.

The government is not giving up, nor is it giving in. It has stopped listening to us. It has long since ceased to take orders from “we the people.”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, none of it—the military drills, the surveillance, the militarized police, the strip searches, the random pat downs, the stop-and-frisks, even the police-worn body cameras—is about fighting terrorism. It’s about controlling the populace.

Despite the fact that its data snooping has been shown to be ineffective at detecting, let alone stopping, any actual terror attacks, the NSA continues to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

Legislation such as the USA Patriot Act serves only to legitimize the actions of a secret agency run by a shadow government. Even the proposed and ultimately defeated USA Freedom Act, which purported to restrict the reach of the NSA’s phone surveillance program—at least on paper—by requiring the agency to secure a warrant before surveillance could be carried out on American citizens and prohibiting the agency from storing any data collected on Americans, amounted to little more than a paper tiger: threatening in appearance, but lacking any real bite.

The question of how to deal with the NSA—an agency that operates outside of the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution—is a divisive issue that polarizes even those who have opposed the NSA’s warrantless surveillance from the get-go, forcing all of us—cynics, idealists, politicians and realists alike—to grapple with a deeply unsatisfactory and dubious political “solution” to a problem that operates beyond the reach of voters and politicians: how do you trust a government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing to actually obey the law?

Since its official start in 1952, when President Harry S. Truman issued a secret executive order establishing the NSA as the hub of the government’s foreign intelligence activities, the agency—nicknamed “No Such Agency”—has operated covertly, unaccountable to Congress all the while using taxpayer dollars to fund its secret operations. It was only when the agency ballooned to 90,000 employees in 1969, making it the largest intelligence agency in the world with a significant footprint outside Washington, DC, that it became more difficult to deny its existence.

In the aftermath of Watergate in 1975, the Senate held meetings under the Church Committee in order to determine exactly what sorts of illicit activities the American intelligence apparatus was engaged in under the direction of President Nixon, and how future violations of the law could be stopped. It was the first time the NSA was exposed to public scrutiny since its creation.

The investigation revealed a sophisticated operation whose surveillance programs paid little heed to such things as the Constitution. For instance, under Project SHAMROCK, the NSA spied on telegrams to and from the U.S., as well as the correspondence of American citizens. Moreover, as the Saturday Evening Post reports, “Under Project MINARET, the NSA monitored the communications of civil rights leaders and opponents of the Vietnam War, including targets such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohammed Ali, Jane Fonda, and two active U.S. Senators. The NSA had launched this program in 1967 to monitor suspected terrorists and drug traffickers, but successive presidents used it to track all manner of political dissidents.”

Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the NSA, understood only too well the dangers inherent in allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Church recognized that such surveillance powers “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

Noting that the NSA could enable a dictator “to impose total tyranny” upon an utterly defenseless American public, Church declared that he did not “want to see this country ever go across the bridge” of constitutional protection, congressional oversight and popular demand for privacy. He avowed that “we,” implicating both Congress and its constituency in this duty, “must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

The result was the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the creation of the FISA Court, which was supposed to oversee and correct how intelligence information is collected and collated. The law requires that the NSA get clearance from the FISA Court, a secret surveillance court, before it can carry out surveillance on American citizens. Fast forward to the present day, and the so-called solution to the problem of government entities engaging in unjustified and illegal surveillance—the FISA Court—has unwittingly become the enabler of such activities, rubberstamping almost every warrant request submitted to it.

The 9/11 attacks served as a watershed moment in our nation’s history, ushering in an era in which immoral and/or illegal government activities such as surveillance, torture, strip searches, SWAT team raids are sanctioned as part of the quest to keep us “safe.”

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans’ phone calls and emails. That wireless wiretap program was reportedly ended in 2007 after the New York Times reported on it, to mass indignation.

Nothing changed under Barack Obama. In fact, the violations worsened, with the NSA authorized to secretly collect internet and telephone data on millions of Americans, as well as on foreign governments.

It was only after whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 that the American people fully understood the extent to which they had been betrayed once again.

What this brief history of the NSA makes clear is that you cannot reform the NSA.

As long as the government is allowed to make a mockery of the law—be it the Constitution, the FISA Act or any other law intended to limit its reach and curtail its activities—and is permitted to operate behind closed doors, relying on secret courts, secret budgets and secret interpretations of the laws of the land, there will be no reform.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have done much to put an end to the NSA’s “technotyranny.”

The beast has outgrown its chains. It will not be restrained.

The growing tension seen and felt throughout the country is a tension between those who wield power on behalf of the government—the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the militarized police, the technocrats, the faceless unelected bureaucrats who blindly obey and carry out government directives, no matter how immoral or unjust, and the corporations—and those among the populace who are finally waking up to the mounting injustices, seething corruption and endless tyrannies that are transforming our country into a technocrized police state.

At every turn, we have been handicapped in our quest for transparency, accountability and a representative democracy by an establishment culture of secrecy: secret agencies, secret experiments, secret military bases, secret surveillance, secret budgets, and secret court rulings, all of which exist beyond our reach, operate outside our knowledge, and do not answer to “we the people.”

What we have failed to truly comprehend is that the NSA is merely one small part of a shadowy permanent government comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control. For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for the CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts. Conveniently, as the Intercept recently revealed, many of the NSA’s loudest defenders have financial ties to NSA contractors.

Thus, if this secret regime not only exists but thrives, it is because we have allowed it through our ignorance, apathy and naïve trust in politicians who take their orders from Corporate America rather than the Constitution.

If this shadow government persists, it is because we have yet to get outraged enough to push back against its power grabs and put an end to its high-handed tactics.

And if this unelected bureaucracy succeeds in trampling underfoot our last vestiges of privacy and freedom, it will be because we let ourselves be fooled into believing that politics matters, that voting makes a difference, that politicians actually represent the citizenry, that the courts care about justice, and that everything that is being done is in our best interests.

Indeed, as political scientist Michael J. Glennon warns, you can vote all you want, but the people you elect aren’t actually the ones calling the shots. “The American people are deluded … that the institutions that provide the public face actually set American national security policy,” stated Glennon. “They believe that when they vote for a president or member of Congress or succeed in bringing a case before the courts, that policy is going to change. But … policy by and large in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter who occupies the White House: the secret government with its secret agencies, secret budgets and secret programs won’t change. It will simply continue to operate in secret until some whistleblower comes along to momentarily pull back the curtain and we dutifully—and fleetingly—play the part of the outraged public, demanding accountability and rattling our cages, all the while bringing about little real reform.

Thus, the lesson of the NSA and its vast network of domestic spy partners is simply this: once you allow the government to start breaking the law, no matter how seemingly justifiable the reason, you relinquish the contract between you and the government which establishes that the government works for and obeys you, the citizen—the employer—the master.

Once the government starts operating outside the law, answerable to no one but itself, there’s no way to rein it back in, short of revolution. And by revolution, I mean doing away with the entire structure, because the corruption and lawlessness have become that pervasive.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Kiev’s Repression of Anti-Fascism in Odessa

By ERIC DRAITSER | CounterPunch | May 27, 2015

There is a common misconception in the West that there is only one war in Ukraine: a war between the anti-Kiev rebels of the East, and the US-backed government in Kiev. While this conflict, with all its attendant geopolitical and strategic implications has stolen the majority of the headlines, there is another war raging in the country – a war to crush all dissent and opposition to the fascist-oligarch consensus. For while in the West many so called analysts and leftists debate whether there is really fascism in Ukraine or whether it’s all just “Russian propaganda,” a brutal war of political repression is taking place.

The authorities and their fascist thug auxiliaries have carried out everything from physical intimidation, to politically motivated arrests, kidnappings, torture, and targeted assassinations. All of this has been done under the auspices of “national unity,” the convenient pretext that every oppressive regime from time immemorial has used to justify its actions. Were one to read the Western narrative on Ukraine, one could be forgiven for believing that the country’s discontent and outrage is restricted solely to the area collectively known as Donbass – the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as they have declared themselves. Indeed, there is good reason for the media to portray such a distorted picture; it legitimizes the false claim that all Ukraine’s problems are due to Russian meddling and covert militarization.

Instead, the reality is that anger and opposition to the US-backed oligarch-fascist coalition government in Kiev is deeply rooted and permeates much of Ukraine. In politically, economically, and culturally important cities such as Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and Kherson, ghastly forms of political persecution are ongoing. However, nowhere is this repression more apparent than in the Black Sea port city of Odessa. And this is no accident.

Odessa: Center of Culture, Center of Resistance

For more than two centuries, Odessa has been the epicenter of multiculturalism in what is today called Ukraine, but what alternately was the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. With its vibrant history of immigration and trade, Odessa has been the heart of internationalism and cultural, religious, and ethnic coexistence in the Russian-speaking world. Its significant populations of Russians, Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Greeks, Tatars, Moldovans, Bulgarians and other ethnic and national identities made Odessa a truly international city, a cosmopolitan Black Sea port with French architecture, Ottoman influence, and rich Jewish and Russian/Soviet cultural history.

In many ways, Odessa was the quintessential Soviet city, one which, to a large extent, actually embodied the Soviet ideal enumerated in the state anthem – a city “united forever in friendship and labor.” And it is this spirit of multiculturalism and shared history which rejects the racist, chauvinist, fascist politics which now passes for standard political currency in “Democratic Ukraine.”

When in February 2014, the corrupt, though democratically elected, government of former President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in a US-backed coup, the people of Odessa, just as in many other cities, began to organize counter-demonstrations against what they perceived to be a Western-sponsored oligarch-fascist alliance seizing power over their country. In the ensuing weeks and months, tens of thousands turned out into the streets to air their discontent, including massive rallies held in February, March, and April.

This inchoate movement against the new dispensation in Kiev, handpicked by the US and its European allies, culminated in two critical events: the establishment of an anti-Maidan movement calling for federalization and greater autonomy for the Odessa region, and the massacre at the Trade Unions House carried out by fascist thugs which resulted in the deaths of more than fifty anti-fascist activists and demonstrators. As a protest organizer and eyewitness recounted to this author, “That was the moment when everything changed, when we knew what Ukraine had really become.”

The brutality of the pogrom – an appropriate word considering the long and violent history of this region – could hardly be believed even by hardened anti-fascist activists. Bodies with bullet wounds found inside the burned out building, survivors beaten on the streets after their desperate escape from the flames, and myriad other horrific accounts demonstrate unequivocally that what the Western media dishonestly and disgracefully referred to as “clashes with pro-Russian demonstrators,” was in fact a massacre; one that forever changed the nature of resistance in Odessa, and throughout much of Ukraine.

No longer were protesters simply airing their grievances against an illegitimate government sponsored by foreigners. No longer were there demonstrations simply in favor of federalization and greater autonomy. Instead, the nature of the resistance shifted to one of truly anti-fascist character seeking to get the truth about Ukraine out to the world at large. Where once Odessa had been the site of peaceful demands for fairness, instead it became the site of a brutal government crackdown aimed at destroying any semblance of political protest or resistance. Indeed, May 2, 2014 was a watershed. That was the day that politics became resistance.

The Reality of the Repression

The May 2, 2014 massacre in Odessa is one of the few examples of political repression that actually garnered some attention internationally. However, there have been numerous other examples of Kiev’s brutal and illegal crackdown on dissent in the critical coastal city and throughout the country, most of which remain almost entirely unreported.

In recent weeks and months, the local authorities have engaged in politically motivated arrests of key journalists and bloggers who have presented a critical perspective on the developments in Odessa. Most prominent among them are the editors of the website infocenter-odessa.com, a locally oriented news site that has been fiercely critical of the Kiev regime and its local authorities.

In late 2014, the editor of the site, Yevgeny Anukhin, was arrested without any warrant while he was attempting to register his human rights organization with the authorities. According to various sources, the primary reasons for his arrest were his possession of video evidence of illegal shelling by Ukrainian military of a checkpoint in Kotovka, and data on his computer which included a compilation of names of political prisoners held without trial in Odessa. With no evidence or warrant, and in breach of standard legal procedures, he was arrested and charged with recruitment of insurgents against the Ukrainian state.

In May 2015, the new editor of infocenter-odessa.com Vitaly Didenko, a leftist, anti-fascist activist and journalist was also arrested on trumped up charges of drug possession which, according to multiple sources in Odessa, are entirely fabricated by the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) secret police in order to create a pretext upon which to detain him. In the course of his arrest, Didenko was seriously injured, incurring several broken ribs and a broken arm. He is currently sitting in an Odessa jail, his case entirely ignored by Western media, including those organizations ostensibly committed to the protection of journalists.

Additionally, just this past weekend (May 24, 2015) there was yet another sickening display of political repression on the very spot of the May 2, 2014 massacre. Activists and ordinary Odessa citizens had been taking part in a memorial service for the victims of the tragedy when the demonstration was violently dispersed by armed men in either military or national guard uniforms (see here for photos). According to eyewitnesses, the military men instigated violence at the gathering and broke it up, all while both local police and OSCE monitors stood aside and watched. Naturally, this is par for the course in “Democratic Ukraine.”

Aside from journalists, a large number of activists have been detained, kidnapped, and/or tortured by Ukrainian authorities and their fascist goons. Key members of the Borotba (Struggle) leftist organization have been repeatedly harassed, arrested, and beaten by the police. One particularly infamous example was the detainment of Vladislav Wojciechowski, a member of Borotba and survivor of the May 2nd massacre. According to Borotba’s website, During the search of the apartment where he lived, explosives were planted. Nazi “self-defense” paramilitaries participated in his arrest. Vladislav was beaten, and it is possible that a confession was beaten out of him under torture.  Currently, he is in SBU custody.” He was ultimately charged with “terrorism” by the authorities after having been beaten and tortured by both Nazi goons and SBU agents.

Upon his release more than three months later in December 2014 in a “prisoner exchange” between Kiev and the eastern rebels, Wojciechowski defiantly stated, “I am very angry with the fascist government of Ukraine, which proved once again with its barbaric acts that it is willing to wade through corpses to defend its interests and those of the West. They failed to break me! And my will has become tempered steel. Now I’m even more convinced that it is impossible to save Ukraine without defeating fascism on its territory.” Wojciechowski was also the editor of the website 2May.org, a site dedicated to disseminating the truth about the Odessa massacre.

It should be noted though that Wojciechowski was arrested along with his comrades Pavel Shishman of the now outlawed Communist Party of Ukraine, and Nikolai Popov of the Communist Youth. These arrests should come as no surprise to observers of the political situation in Ukraine where all forms of leftist politics – the Communist party, Soviet symbols and names, etc. – have been outlawed and brutally repressed.

Kiev is not only engaged in an assault on political freedoms, but also a class war against the working class of Odessa and Ukraine generally. That the events leading up to the massacre took place at Kulikovo Field – a famous staging area for Soviet era demonstrations of working class politics – and the massacre itself took place in the adjacent Trade Unions House, there’s a symbolic resonance, the significance of which is not lost on the people of Odessa. It is the attempt to both erase the legacy of working class struggle and leftist politics, as well as the sacrifices of previous generations in a place where historical memory runs deep, and the scars of the past have yet to heel.

Aside from these shameful attacks on leftist formations, multicultural institutions too have been repressed under the pretext of “Russian separatism.” A multiethnic, multi-nationality organization known as the Popular Rada of Bessarabia (PRB) was founded in early April 2015 in order to push for regional autonomy and/or ethnic autonomy in response to the legal and extralegal attacks on minorities by the Kiev authorities. It was reported that within 24 hours of the founding congress, Ukraine’s SBU had detained the core leaders of the organization, including the Chair of the organization’s presidium Dmitry Zatuliveter whose whereabouts, according to this author’s latest information, remain unknown. Within two weeks 30 more PRB activists were arrested, including founding member Vera Shevchenko.

While the Western media and its armies of think tanks and propaganda mouthpieces steadfastly deny that an organization such as PRB can be anything other than “a project of Russian political consultants,” the reality is that such moves have been a reaction to repressive legislation and intimidation by the US-backed regime in Kiev which has done everything from outlawing the two most popular political parties of the Russian-speaking South and East (The Party of Regions and the Communist Party), to attempting to strip the Russian language of official status within Ukraine, a move interpreted by these groups as a direct threat against them and their regions where Russian, not Ukrainian, is the lingua franca.

As Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation and former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (read CIA front) contributor Vladimir Socor wrote last month in an article entitled Ukraine Defuses Pro-Russia Instigations in Odesa Province, “In the spirit of preventive action, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have arrested some 20 members of a centrifugal organization in Odesa [sic] province.. The timely intervention also stopped the publicity bandwagon that had just started rolling from Moscow in support of the Odesa [sic] group.” Interestingly, the author deceptively frames his apologia for so called “preventive detention” as merely a “timely intervention,” conveniently glossing over the blatant illegality of the action by Kiev, which has eschewed the rule of law in favor of brute force and repression.

And what is the PRB’s great crime in the eyes of Mr. Socor and the US interests for which he speaks? As he directly states in the article with typical condescension:

[BPR’s program and manifesto] include demands for: greater representation of ethnic groups in the administration of Ukraine’s Odesa [sic] province; promotion of the ethnic groups’ cultural identities and schools; conferral of a “national-cultural special status” to Bessarabia; a free economic zone, with specific reference to local control over Ukraine’s Black Sea and Danube ports; no integration of Ukraine with the European Union, the “enslavement practices of which would ruin the region and its agriculture”; and reinstatement of Ukraine’s [recently abandoned] international status of nonalignment, or else: “In the event of Ukraine moving close to NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization], we reserve the right to implement the self-determination of Bessarabia.”

A careful reading of these demands reveals that these are precisely the demands that any right-minded anti-imperialist position should espouse, including rejection of NATO integration, rejection of EU integration, rejection of opening up Ukraine’s agricultural sector to the likes of Monsanto and other Western corporations, and protection of ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities, among other things. While Socor writes of these demands derisively, the reality is that they constitute precisely the sort of program that is essential for defending both Ukraine’s sovereignty, and the rights of the people of Odessa and the region. But of course, for Socor, this is all just a Russian plot. Instead, he kneels to kiss the chocolate ring of Poroshenko… and perhaps other parts of Victoria Nuland and John Kerry, while vigorously cheer-leading further political repression.

A Message for the Left

The question facing leftists internationally is no longer whether they believe there are fascists in Ukraine, or whether they are an important part of the political establishment in the country; this is now impossible to refute. Rather, the challenge before the international left is whether it can overcome its deep-seated mistrust of Russia, and consequent inability to separate fact from fiction, and unwaveringly defend its comrades in Ukraine with the conviction and aplomb of its historical antecedents.

There is a whole history that is under assault, a whole people being oppressed, a leftist tradition being ground to dust under the heel of an imperialist agenda and comprador oligarch bourgeoisie. Some on the left choose to snicker derisively at this struggle, aligning themselves once again with the Empire just as they so often have in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. And then there are those who, like this author, refuse to be cowed by the baseless slur of “Russian apologist” and “Putin puppet”; those of us who choose not to look away while our comrades in Ukraine are beaten, kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned, and disappeared.

For while they speak out in the face of reprisals, in the midst of brutal repression, under threat of prison and death, the least we can do is speak out from our comfortable chairs. Anything less is moral cowardice and utter betrayal.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Second senior Brotherhood official dies in prison

MEMO | May 26, 2015

Senior Muslim Brotherhood official and former parliamentarian Mohamed Falahji, 58, died in an Egyptian prison on Monday morning, Quds Press has reported.

Falahji is the second top leader of the movement to have died in prison as a result of maltreatment or lack of proper medical attention. His death brings the number of prisoners who have died in Egyptian prisons since the ouster of the freely-elected President Mohamed Morsi in August 2013 to 265.

The parliamentarian was arrested on 26 August, 2013 on charges of affiliation with a “terrorist” organisation, taking part in demonstrations and inciting violence. He was sent to Jamasah Prison, northern Egypt just over a month later. It was there that he started to experience a lot of pain.

After several calls by his family and appeals by his lawyer, he was transferred to the public hospital in Damietta last month. After examination, he was found to be suffering from kidney stones and inflammation of the gall bladder. He was sent back to prison without receiving any proper treatment.

Falahji’s death comes just a few days after former lawmaker and official in the Freedom and Justice Party Farid Ismail died of liver failure in a Cairo hospital. He was also 58 years old.

Isamil, who was sentenced to seven years in prison last year, was moved from jail in Al-Zagazig to Al-Aqrab Prison Hospital in Tora, south of Cairo, a few days before his death. He was in a coma for several days before he was pronounced dead by the authorities.

On 27 September, 2013, a Brotherhood official in Daqhaliyya, Safwat Khalil, 57, died of cancer in Al-Mansoura Prison. Several others at different leadership levels and members of the Islamic movement have also died in custody due to different diseases or in mysterious circumstances.

The Egyptian authorities insist that all prison inmates have access to proper medical treatment. They stress that they are following international standards and conventions in this regard.

According to Ahmed Mufreh, the director of the Egypt portfolio with NGO Al-Karama for Human Rights, 135 prisoners have died in Egyptian custody since Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led the coup against Morsi in 2013.

May 26, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment

American ‘democracy’ at work

By Jay Syrmopoulos | The Free Thought Project | May 25, 2015

Atlanta, Ga. – An investigative team for an Atlanta television station WXIA, exposed massive government corruption when they found a secret meeting at a Georgia resort hotel held by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The stunning investigative report included video footage of corporate lobbyists and legislators admitting that the legislators are paid by the lobbyists to attend the events.

Reporter Brendan Keefe attempted to gain entrance to the conference but was summarily denied access by ALEC staff and was subsequently escorted from the hotel, where Keefe was a paying guest.

In the video, Keefe approaches the conference room and is blocked by a woman who closes the door to the camera. The woman tells Keefe and the camera-person to follow her away from the room, as Keefe asks if there are legislators in the room.

As Keefe persists in questioning why he is not allowed access, he is confronted by Bill Meierling, an ALEC Director of Communications, accompanied by four sheriff’s deputies.

Keefe attempts to interview Meierling when he approaches, but the ALEC representative refuses and threatens to have the reporter “escorted from the building.” The fact that Keefe is a paying guest of the hotel is seemingly irrelevant when big business is attempting to conceal its incestuous relationship with government.

Why all the secrecy if there is nothing to hide?

Don’t Americans have a right to know that their elected representatives don’t actually represent them, but are simply the rubber stamp for corporate America to enact law?

The lack of transparency in the legislative process should raise serious red flags. The secretive process taking place in the video happens all across the country and in reality is how law is made in the U.S.

Prior to the hotel confrontation, Keefe interviewed Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock, a former ALEC member, who exposed the secretive activities taking place.

“(ALEC) is really a corporate ‘bill mill.’ I mean, they’re cranking out legislation and put it in the hands of legislators who go back and file it. … There are votes taken, that have the corporate votes, voting at the same table with the legislators on what bills to pick. That, at its core, just screams out, ‘inappropriate.’ … (Corporations) absolutely vote, and the truth be told, they write the bills,” said Orrock.

The hustle being pulled on the American public is laid bare, and the order followers enforcing it have been exposed.

ALEC is technically listed as a 501(c)(3) organization, for “charitable and educational purposes,” thus giving legislators a tax write-off for any funds received from the organization.

To provide a clearer example of this process, Keefe explains that ALEC will write a model bill, such as the Georgia Asbestos Claims Priorities Act, which effectively shields corporations from being sued by asbestos victims. The bill eventually presented was an almost exact duplicate of an ALEC bill first approved in a secretive closed-door meeting in a Las Vegas casino.

Unsurprisingly, the three Georgia Senators that sponsored the bill had received over $22,000 in ALEC “scholarships” to attend resort meetings around the same time the asbestos bill was initially being forwarded.

How can anyone continue to put faith in the state after realizing exactly how the corrupt legislative process truly works?

May 25, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Video | | 2 Comments

Virginia Cop Resigns After Tasering and Pepper Spraying Man Having Medical Emergency

By Carlos Miller | PINAC | May 22, 2015

A Virginia cop who tasered a man sitting in the driver’s seat of his car, following it with a ten-second blast of pepper spray into the man’s face, was forced to resign last week after his chief said he had used excessive force.

But Fredericksburg police officer Shaun Jergens said he only did it because the man in the car was not complying.

However, David Washington was experiencing a medical emergency, perhaps a diabetic seizure, which is why he struck another vehicle before running over a median and knocking over a city sign.

When the car came to rest, the 34-year-old man remained motionless in his car with the seat belt strapping him in.

“Get out the car or I’m going to fucking smoke you,” Jergens yelled after tasering and pepper spraying him.

“I can’t see,” Washington responded.

“That’s the point, get out. Don’t move around,” Jergens said, barking contradictory orders the way cops tend to do.

The cop ended up having to drag him out of the car, laying him face-down on the street where Washington remained handcuffed, continuing to moan that “I can’t see.”

Meanwhile, one of the three cops at the scene entered Washington’s car through the passenger’s side, causing the car to roll back on the suspect’s foot, adding to the pain and torture he was already enduring.

A female cop at the scene realized what was happening and jumped in the car to move it off his foot as Washington continued to moan in pain.

“You’re ok? We’re going to help you out,” asked one of the male cops who put him in that position.

Another cop then crouched down to Washington and asked, “you’re sick? Sick how?”

As if getting tased, pepper sprayed and his foot run over while laying face down on the hot asphalt wasn’t enough evidence of his medical emergency, it was later discovered he was having an actual medical emergency, not that any of the three cops were able to recognize that.

After all, they’re only trained to hurt, not help.

And that is important to understand anytime you hear the Police PR Spin Machine talking about how they are keeping everybody safe.

No, they’re only keeping themselves safe as was evident in this video where all three of them kept their guns trained on him, ordering him to show his hands when he was having a medical emergency.

Washington was transported to the hospital and will be charged with hit-and-run, hit-and-run (property damage), reckless driving, and driving on a revoked or suspended license.

In 2013, Fredericksburg police made the news for tasering a man for 42 seconds straight.

Below are three videos from each of the officers’ body cams.

May 25, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Video | , | 2 Comments

Free Speech Takes Huge Hit as Oakland Implements Anti-Protest Curfew

OAKLAND-BANS-NIGHT-TIME-PROTESTS

By John Vibes | The Free Thought Project | May 24, 2015

Oakland, CA — This week, the mayor of Oakland has decided to use an old and unknown law to impose an anti-protest curfew to keep demonstrators off the streets at night.

This curfew does not apply to everyone in the city, only those who are involved in organized protests. Mayor Libby Schaaf put the order into effect in the midst of this week’s #SayHerName protest where women and children peacefully protested victims of police brutality.

During the demonstration, protesters were prevented from marching to the police station and were threatened with arrest if they stepped off of the sidewalk. Police informed protesters through a giant sound system that their march was not permitted, and that they could be arrested under Vehicle Code Section 2800, which makes it illegal to disobey anything a police officer says.

Cat Brooks, one of the organizers of the protest says that their right to freely and peacefully assemble was infringed upon.

“The fact is we were threatened with arrest for marching. This was a Black women’s and children’s rally saying to the police, please stop killing us, and our woman mayor organized the harshest response we’ve seen yet,” Brooks told the East Bay Express.

In an interview with the East Bay Express this week, Mayor Schaaf admitted that she ordered a prohibition on nighttime protests as a result of the demonstrations, and explained that she used a law that was already on the books.

“There have been no changes to any city policy or enactment of any new ordinances in any way to prohibit peaceful protests. We are making better use of our existing policies to prevent vandalism and violence. Our intent is to ensure that freedom of expression is not compromised by illegal activity and that demonstrators, bystanders, and property are kept safe,” Schaaf told the Express.

While the mayor admitted to the protest curfew, she denied that the protest itself was declared illegal.

“That demonstration was never declared unlawful and never ordered to disperse. My understanding is that protesters were told that once it became dark they needed to get off the roadways. Our intent is that by using better crowd management, not control, but management, that we can get demonstrators into safe spaces after sunset, once it’s dark, and this will better protect everyone’s safety, freedom of speech, and assembly,” Schaaf said.

However, local legal experts say that the new order is both illegal and unconstitutional.

“My general impression is the police took an unduly aggressive approach that not only violated their own crowd control policy, but also the First Amendment,” civil rights attorney Rachel Lederman told the Express.

“This was an unreasonable interference with the demonstration given that there had been no serious crimes committed. A local government can impose a reasonable time, manner, and place restriction on speech, but the Oakland crowd control policy specifically states that OPD will facilitate marches in the street regardless of whether a permit has be obtained as long as it’s feasible to do so. The reasonableness is determined by what’s actually happening there. You can’t ban street marches at night because on some past occasions some people broke windows. That’s completely unconstitutional,” Lederman said.

As we reported yesterday, The national demonstrations came on the heels of a report released Wednesday by the African American Policy Forum titled Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women. The forum is dedicated to telling the stories of a number of black women who were victims of police brutality.

May 24, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

The Right to Record Police

By REBECCA K. SMITH | CounterPunch | May 22, 2015

Last week, federal courts issued two decisions affirming the right of citizens to record police under the First Amendment. In Atlanta, a court held the police department in contempt of court for violating a prior court order to allow citizens to record police. In New York, a court held that recording police is a “clearly established right” under the U.S. Constitution, and that if a police officer violates that right, he or she can be sued in federal court.

First, in Anderson v. Atlanta, the court addressed a prior court order that had ordered the Atlanta police to implement reforms to their training policies and conduct mandatory in-person training for all officers regarding those reforms. In part, the new required policy states: “All employees shall be prohibited from interfering with a citizen’s right to record police activity by photographic, video, or audio means. This prohibition is in effect only as long as the recording by the citizen does not physically interfere with the performance of an officer’s duties.” An officer’s violation of this policy would result in dismissal.

In the court’s contempt order, it found that the Atlanta police had not made the required changes to its policy, and therefore had also failed to implement and enforce the required changes. The court held the Atlanta police in contempt of court, imposed sanctions, and awarded the plaintiff $30,000 in attorney fees for litigating the contempt motion. The court gave the police 45 days to comply with its order. The court stated that after the 45 days expired the court would impose a fine of $10,000 per day.

Second, in Higginbotham v. New York, the court addressed a lawsuit alleging that a journalist covering the Occupy Wall Street protests was falsely arrested and preventing from exercising his First Amendment rights. In 2011, the plaintiff had been working as a freelance video-journalist covering an Occupy Wall Street protest. The plaintiff had climbed on top of a phone booth to record a nearby arrest. A police officer ordered him to climb down but he did not immediately comply because there were too many people surrounding him. When he did begin to climb down, officers grabbed his legs, he dropped his camera, and he fell to the ground. The officers placed him in handcuffs and held him in custody for four hours before releasing him. He was charged with disorderly conduct, but the charge was later dismissed.

In the case, the court rejected the officers’ motion to dismiss the complaint. The court held that the complaint raised a plausible claim of false arrest. The court further held that the complaint raised a plausible claim that the plaintiff was arrested in retaliation for attempting to exercise First Amendment rights. The court noted that “[a]ll of the circuit courts that have [addressed the issue] have concluded that the First Amendment protects the right to record police officers performing their duties in a public space, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.” After discussing the important goals of prohibiting government censorship and promoting free discussion of government affairs, the court held that “[t]he videotaping of police officers in the performance of their duties in public plainly furthers these First Amendment goals.” The court further held that “[v]ideotaping from a reasonable distance is arguably less of a hindrance to legitimate police activity than the verbal challenges [to police officers] that the First Amendment unquestionably protects.”

Rebecca K. Smith is Board Secretary and Cooperating Attorney at the Civil Liberties Defense Center.

 

May 23, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

Dragnet surveillance is about power and social control, not public safety

PRIVACYSOS | May 22, 2015

Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that USA Patriot Act dragnet spy powers must be extended or else the terrorists will get us.

Lynch said Friday the country would be “less safe” if Congress fails to renew surveillance programs included in the Patriot Act.

Lynch joined other top Obama administration officials, who are urging the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would reform the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk phone records collection program while renewing other key parts of the post-Sept. 11 law.

“Our biggest fear is that we will lose important eyes on people who have made it clear that their mission is to harm American people here and abroad,” Lynch told CBS News in her first interview since becoming attorney general.
If NSA’s phone metadata program expires completely, Lynch said the U.S. government would lose “important tools” to identify terror threats.

“I think that we run the risk of essentially being less safe,” Lynch added. “I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past. And I am very concerned that the American people will be unprotected if this law expires.”

Lynch didn’t marshal any evidence to support her claims about the connection between dragnet spying and public safety. That’s because there isn’t one. Even the Department of Justice has acknowledged as much, writing in an Inspector General report that FBI agents interviewed couldn’t identify “any major case developments” tied to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision the FBI claims enables dragnet spying.

Surveillance boosters have never been able to point to a circumstance—even one example—that proves dragnet surveillance is vital in stopping terrorism. Some insiders in the security state have observed that the bigger the haystack, the more difficult it is to successfully use intelligence information to identify and track threatening people. More information is not better. Better information is better, they say.

Loretta Lynch says she fears that if the Patriot Act isn’t reauthorized, “we will lose important eyes on people who have made it clear that their mission is to harm American people here and abroad.” That’s total nonsense. Anyone who “makes it clear” that they want to kill Americans is someone a judge would authorize targeted surveillance against. The government should leave the rest of us out of it.

Just about every recent terrorist attack on US and European soil has been committed by someone known to law enforcement. That’s true for the Garland, Texas shooter and for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who blew up the Boston Marathon in April 2013. The government doesn’t need to spy on you and me in order to track people it already suspects of being up to no good.

You might be wondering: If dragnet spying doesn’t stop terrorism, and most terrorists are known to law enforcement, why do the FBI and the new Attorney General insist on renewing the Patriot Act’s worst provisions? It’s an important question, with a depressing answer.

The reason Lynch’s claims about dragnet spying don’t add up is because they are based on a perversion of the true purpose served by society wide surveillance. While the Patriot Act doesn’t stop terrorism, it’s quite good at enabling social and political control, and finding people who are vulnerable and may be easily coerced into becoming FBI informants.

If surveillance boosters were honest about why they want these powers, you might hear them talking less about terrorism and more about power. Add your voice: take action now to tell congress to reject dragnet surveillance.

May 23, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

The Clock is Still Running: Neither NSA Reform Nor Reauthorization Advances in Senate

By Lee Tien | EFF | May 22, 2015

Tonight, the US Senate failed to move ahead with the USA Freedom Act, an NSA reform bill that would address phone record surveillance and FISA Court transparency and fairness. It also was unable to muster votes for a temporary reauthorization of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the section of law used to justify the mass phone records surveillance program. That’s good news: if the Senate stalemate continues, the mass surveillance of everyone’s phone records will simply expire on June 1.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act has been wrongly interpreted in secret by the government for years. We commend every Senator who voted against reauthorizing the unconstitutional surveillance of millions of law-abiding Americans.

In the wake of tonight’s vote, Congress must stop stalling and address the surveillance and secrecy abuses of our government.

The battle isn’t over. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for another attempt to reauthorize Section 215 on Sunday May 31, only hours before the provision is set to expire.

EFF urges Congress to again reject Section 215 reauthorization, and then turn to addressing other surveillance abuses by the US government, including mass surveillance of the Internet, the secretive and one-sided FISA Court, and the problems of secrecy and over-classification that have created the environment that allowed such spying overreach to flourish.

May 23, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

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