More than 20 children including one baby have been taken into care over fears they could be subject to extremist views and radical Islam at home.
Children from at least 11 families have been subjected to court orders, which remove children into state care.
The youngest child is a one-year-old from Rochdale whose family were caught attempting to flee to Syria via Turkey earlier in the year.
The figures come after one of the most senior judges in the UK released new guidelines on the increasing number of extremist cases which are taken to family courts.
In many cases judges use court orders to protect children who are considered vulnerable to extremist behavior. The orders can include making the children wards of court, place them in foster care or prevent them leaving the UK.
President of the Family Division of the High Court Sir James Munby said on Thursday that the number of cases involving children had risen since the beginning of the year.
“Recent months have seen increasing numbers of children cases coming before … the family court,” he said.
“There are allegations that children, with their parents or on their own, are planning or being groomed to travel to parts of Syria controlled by the so-called Islamic State; that children are at risk of being radicalized; or that children are at risk of being involved in terrorist activities either in this country or abroad.”
Munby said police should be proactive in seeking court orders, and not rely on local councils. He added that the safety of vulnerable children was “paramount.”
His announcement came days after Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted the “danger” Islamic extremism poses in the UK, saying the “passive tolerance” of radical ideas was allowing the spread of dangerous rhetoric.
Hannah Stuart, counter-radicalization expert at the Henry Jackson Society, said terror groups are continuing to target young people.
“Both among those who support people joining the conflict in Syria or who want to see terror acts committed here, we see a recurring obsession with the radicalization of children.
“We are seeing a generation who are getting older and having children, and those children are growing up in an environment where there is a risk of them being taken to Syria – or being told that it is right to hate non-Muslims and desire martyrdom.”
Most good spy stories involve political blackmail. In the first season of the popular television show HOMELAND, about the CIA’s post-9/11 terror wars, the bearded old CIA veteran Saul meets with a federal judge to get a court order to conduct surveillance on someone in the United States without probable cause. The judge appears to balk for a moment, until Saul cryptically reminds him about that thing. With a look that says, “You got me, you bastard,” the judge relents and signs the order. The CIA, we are meant to understand, knows something about this judge that the judge does not want the rest of the world to know.
Knowledge actually is power.
We know that the NSA and FBI have for over a decade been collecting the phone records of every person in United States, which includes every member of congress. An NSA whistleblower alleges that the NSA deliberately spied on Supreme Court justices. For decades, the FBI under Hoover ran a counterintelligence program (codename: COINTELPRO) that brandished political blackmail as a central weapon for control and manipulation. In a piece of political theater that may never have come to light had it not been for the courage of a few dissidents, the FBI wrote an anonymous letter to Martin Luther King, Jr., urging him to commit suicide. We know you are a pervert, the letter said. You should just end it now, and save yourself the embarrassment when we expose you to the press.
Today, even local law enforcement agencies and private corporations possess incredibly sensitive information about all of us—elected and appointed political and judicial figures included. Although I don’t have data to support this claim, my experience growing up in the United States leads me to strongly assume that most Americans would like to believe that this is a country in which secretive law enforcement and spy agencies do not routinely manipulate sensitive information for political purposes. Blackmail is a thing that happens in the mob or in corrupt foreign countries, I assume many people think—not in the US government.
But I assume the opposite. The cliché that absolute power corrupts is a cliché for a reason—and it’s why basic democratic norms like checks and balances on government power are so important. When civil libertarians and rights advocates repeat the words ‘transparency, accountability, and oversight’ over and over again in innumerable contexts, it’s not because we like how they sound rolling around our mouths. These three practices are foundational in any society that seeks to be democratic (as opposed to just using democratic rhetoric) and fight the human tendency to abuse power.
Corruption is only natural. That’s why we build systems to check greed, selfishness, and abuse of power. Or, rather, it’s why we should.
Take the case of Congressman Jason Chaffetz. The GOP Congressman was highly critical of the Secret Service during a time when it seemed like the press was every week reporting on another in a series of embarrassing agency mistakes. It turns out that the Secret Service did not appreciate Chaffetz’ public criticisms. Instead of investing energy in fixing the problems with the agency that the Congressman wanted to discuss publicly, the assistant director of the agency used his access to confidential government databases to leak embarrassing information about Chaffetz to the press, which subsequently published it. “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair,” the assistant director wrote in an email to colleagues before the leak.
I don’t have lots of money, but if there was a way of discovering the whole truth about these secretive and powerful members of our society, I would bet one thousand dollars that law enforcement and security agencies from police departments all the way up to the NSA, and everywhere in between, routinely deploy confidential information for political purposes. I’ve seen far too many scandals come to light to assume anything other than rampant corruption at agencies like the FBI, CIA, and NSA—not to mention state and local police departments. Do you really think the CIA would torture and murder people, and then destroy the evidence and try to interfere with an investigation into its activity, but not engage in a little political blackmail on the side? Torture and murder are all good, but the use of sensitive personal information to acquire political power is going too far?
Maybe you disagree with my assumption that agencies with access to loads of sensitive information about people likely routinely use it to secure and expand their power, but it doesn’t matter if my assumptions are totally wrong. Even if you believe that security agencies are generally good, and only bad apples misuse their access to sensitive information, we have enough examples of such abuse to support the obvious conclusion that transparency, accountability, and oversight over security agencies are basic requirements in a free society. The only way to ensure people don’t abuse their access to information is to limit that access, and then institute and uphold rigorous transparency and oversight mechanisms to ensure they aren’t improperly using information they legitimately hold.
Ultimately, the ACLU’s call for a 21st century warrant requirement for the tracking and monitoring of our electronic communications and devices is a conservative call for basic reform. Nonetheless, it’s an uphill battle in many states to fold information age technology into foundational Fourth Amendment law.
But lawmakers considering bills like those currently before the Massachusetts state legislature, on license plate, drone, social media, and electronic privacy, should remember that corruption happens everywhere. In a state that suffered the terror reign of Whitey Bulger and his FBI cronies, you’d think that lawmakers would be clear on the need for basic accountability in law enforcement. As of today, however, Massachusetts falls far behind other states in the category of passing basic electronic privacy law.
Let’s hope we don’t wait until someone in Massachusetts state government gets Jason Chaffetzed before we take essential steps towards protecting personal information in the digital age. It’s a simple matter of common sense, and for legislators, might someday mean the difference between having a lovely morning and waking up to an embarrassing headline screaming their name.
Jordan: Human Rights Activist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison After Unfair Trial Before State Security Court
On 29 July 2015, human rights activist Amer Jubran was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the State Security Court following an unfair trial during which confessions extracted under torture were admitted as evidence. In view of this decision, Amer appealed to the Cassation Court, which has not considered his case yet. Following this, Amer’s friends and family sent a communication to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) in September calling upon the Jordanian authorities to release him immediately, as well as launched a campaign on his behalf.
Amer is a long-time activist for the Palestinian cause and an anti-war advocate who frequently expresses his political opinion on social media. After publishing articles criticising Israel’s policies against Palestine, on 5 May 2014 Amer was arrested by members of the General Intelligence Directorate of Jordan, an intelligence agency notoriously known for its sweeping powers to monitor public life in Jordan and its frequent use of torture and ill-treatment. He was kept in secret detention for almost two months, during which he was subjected to numerous acts of torture in order to obtain confessions, which would later be used as evidence during his trial. The acts of torture inflicted on Amer include 72-hour long interrogations, sleep deprivation, threatening his family, and severe beatings all over his body.
It is only two months after his arrest, on 27 June 2014 that his family was allowed to visit him for the first time for 10 minutes. In August 2014, Amer was charged with a series of terrorism-related offences, which included conducting “acts that threaten to harm relations with a foreign government.” On 29 July 2015, Amer was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labour, following an unfair trial before the State Security Court, a military court known for its lack of independence, as it is directly linked to the executive branch and its members are appointed by the Prime Minister. In prison, Amer currently fears that the Jordanian authorities will take retaliatory measures against him for speaking out about his case.
In view of these facts, Alkarama will raise Amer’s case before the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) in view of Jordan’s third review during the Committee’s 56th session, which will take place from 9 November to 9 December 2015. “Although Jordan is a party to the Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and has taken some encouraging legislative measures to put an end to torture – such as removing the term ‘illegal torture’ in Article 208 of the Criminal Code in January 2014 – violations of the right to physical integrity persist,” says Inès Osman, Legal Officer for the Mashreq at Alkarama. “The Jordanian special courts continue to rely heavily on confessions extracted under torture, which, added to their lack of independence, often leads to the arbitrary sentencing of people like Amer,” she continues.
Concerned over the systematic crackdown on dissent under the pretext of the fight against terrorism in Jordan, Alkarama calls upon the Jordanian authorities to:
- Adjust the legal framework, including by amending the Antiterrorism Law to create an environment where the freedoms of expression, association and assembly are respected;
- Abolish the State Security Court; and
- Implement the obligations arising from the Convention against Torture (UNCAT).
Al-Manar TV cameraman, Salah al-Zayyat, was shot by the Zionist soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint on Tuesday in the West Bank while he was shooting the occupation attacks against the Palestinian people.
According to Al-Manar TV correspondent, Zayyat was wounded by a bullet in the abdomen during the Zionist attacks, and he has undergone a surgery in Ramallah hospital to extract the metal pieces that infiltrated into his body.
“Three others were wounded by the Israeli attacks, and dozens of people suffered from asphyxia due to the use of toxic gases by the Israeli enemy were treated in the scene,” the reporter added.
Reprieve – October 6, 2015
The Saudi Arabian Government has warned that people could face execution for tweeting “rumours,” according to the state-backed Makkah Newspaper.
In an article published online on October 3rd, the paper said that a “judicial source” at the country’s Ministry of Justice had “confirmed to Makkah Online that the death penalty is the harshest of the penalties that can be enacted upon those who spread rumours which create civil discord, via social media platforms like Twitter.”
Although the report does not use a named source, the nature of state-censorship in the Kingdom makes it unlikely that such claims would be made without the consent of the authorities. In addition, the Makkah Newspaper appears to enjoy government support – according to local news reports, it was launched last year by the Governor of Mecca, in the presence of the Minister for Culture and Information.
The report, translated by human rights charity Reprieve, appears to be the first time that the Saudi authorities have specifically threatened to use the death penalty for ‘offences’ committed on social media such as Twitter.
It comes in the wake of the news that Saudi Arabia plans to execute two people arrested as children: Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was arrested aged 17 for alleged involvement in anti-Government protests and faces beheading and ‘crucifixion’; and Dawoud al-Marhoon, who was arrested aged 17, also following protests, and faces beheading. Both have had their final appeals rejected and could face execution at any time.
The UK Government has faced criticism over a bid to provide services to the Saudi prison system – which will be responsible for Ali’s and Dawoud’s executions. Despite calls from Members of Parliament and NGOs to drop the bid, it has continued to pursue it.
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights charity Reprieve said: “Two weeks ago we heard of the Saudi government’s plans to ‘crucify’ Ali al Nimr for attending a protest when he was 17; now it appears they’re threatening social media users with the death penalty. The Kingdom is executing people at double the rate of last year, with many of those facing the swordsman’s blade sentenced to death for drug offences, attending protests or exercising their right to free speech. It is unthinkable that people could face a death sentence for a simple tweet, yet so far, neither the UK nor the US – both key allies of Saudi Arabia – have taken a strong line against this appalling behaviour. Instead, the British Government is bidding to supply services to Saudi prison authorities – those who will be responsible for carrying out the execution of Ali and scores of others like him.”
The UK government has said it intends to change legislation in order to prevent local councils divesting from the arms trade and Israeli human rights abuses.
Announcing the plans, a Conservative spokesperson said that “Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, alongside Labour-affiliated trade unions, are urging councils to use their procurement and pension policies to punish both Israel and the UK defence industry.”
The spokesperson continued: “Hard-left campaigns against British defence companies threaten to harm Britain’s £10 billion export trade, destroying British jobs, and hinder joint working with Israel to protect Britain from foreign cyber-attacks and terrorism.”
The proposed amendment to legislation will be aimed at stopping councils from incorporating the concerns of human rights campaigners into their pension and procurement policies.
According to Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark, such a step would be a challenge to “the politics of division.”
The language used by the Conservatives, including the claim that divesting from companies complicit in Israeli atrocities “poison[s] community relations”, mirrors the rhetoric of pro-Israel lobby groups.
Clark added that “divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax.” Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock said: “We will…prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”
Members of the Amer Jubran Defense Campaign have recently received trial documents revealing severe human rights violations at every stage in the arrest, trial, and sentencing of Amer Jubran and his co-defendants. Most importantly, the documents show that the defendants were forced to sign prefabricated confessions under torture from agents of the General Intelligence Directorate. According to testimony the defendants submitted at trial, they were not even allowed to read these statements before being forced to sign them.
Methods of torture enumerated in a brief filed by defense attorneys include sleep deprivation, routine and constant humiliation, threats of violence against members of the defendants’ families, physical beatings, and prolonged stress positions. One defendant with a life-threatening illness was denied medication unless he agreed to sign.
The defendants contested these fabricated confessions at trial. In its decision, the State Security Court nevertheless stated that it was not required to consider the defendants’ testimony or any of the defense’s evidence, and used the forced confessions as the primary basis for its ruling.
The confessions that formed the basis for the court ruling defy all credibility. In Amer’s case, we are to believe that a full confession to all the facts in the trial was made voluntarily on May 6, 2014–less than 24 hours after his arrest. (He nevertheless continued to be held for close to two months in incommunicado detention.) According to the GID officer who provided the document, the confession was made without any interrogation, as a simple answer to the question: “Tell us what occurred with you.” A similar procedure was supposedly followed with the other defendants, all of whom confessed to the same facts in statements that frequently used identical language to describe the same events, referring in some cases to events that allegedly took place ten years earlier.
That such confessions should be submitted to the court and accepted by it without question suggests that the use of confessions obtained through torture has become so routine in Jordan–and takes place within such an atmosphere of impunity–that no serious attempt has been made to conceal the fact.
Amer’s case is now in appeal before Jordan’s Court of Cassation (i.e., its Supreme Court). A decision is likely to be issued within the next 1-2 weeks. International pressure at this moment is key, since it is the last opportunity under ordinary procedures in which the unjust decision in this case can be reversed.
Amer has also made us aware that he is concerned about the possibility of retaliatory measures being taken against him in prison–including transfer to a facility with prisoners who have been charged with membership in organizations such as Al-Qaeda, who would have a hostile relationship to a prisoner charged with affiliation with Hizballah. This is further reason to make the Jordanian government aware that people around the world are watching.
Action Call: E-mail Campaign on Monday, October 5:
We are asking Amer’s supporters and all who care about fundamental human rights, to direct e-mails calling for urgent intervention in Amer’s case on Monday, October 5, to:
Minister of Justice, Bassam Talhouni: Feedback@moj.gov.jo .
Please cc’ the following:
Or you can send an e-mail automatically by through the website of the Samidoun Network of Support for Political Prisoners: http://samidoun.net/2015/10/take-action-update-on-amer-jubran-case-torture-and-denial-of-justice/
A sample letter, an open letter from the Amer Jubran Defense Campaign, and more details regarding the human rights violations in Amer’s case are included below.
In addition to torture, some of the other violations of elementary rights to due process and to fair trial included the following:
1) No warrant was presented at the time of his arrest.
2) Amer and other defendants were denied access to lawyers after their arrest. They were specifically threatened with torture if they requested the presence of lawyers when they were ultimately brought before the Public Prosecutor.
3) Defense attorneys at trial were not allowed to summon for questioning GID officers involved in the arrests, in the seizure of evidence, in interrogation, and in drawing up the arrest records. They were thus deprived of their ability to demonstrate that the confessions were false and to contest material evidence used in the trial.
4) Defense attorneys were not allowed to call expert witnesses concerning key issues at stake in the use of material evidence (such as computer forensics) or to request intelligence central to the charges in the trial.
Dear Minister of Justice Bassam Talhouni,
I am writing to call your attention to the severe miscarriage of justice against Amer Jubran, a Jordanian citizen who currently has a case before Jordan’s Court of Cassation.
⦁ Mr. Jubran was arrested on May 5, 2014 by agents of the General Intelligence Directorate and held in incommunicado detention for close to two months. No warrant was presented at the time of his arrest. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention sent an urgent appeal on his behalf to your government at that time: See https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/28th/public_-_UA_Jordan_07.07.14_%281.2014%29_Pro.pdf
⦁ During his period in GID detention, Mr. Jubran and six other defendants in the same case were subjected to prolonged periods of torture, including sleep deprivation, beatings, stress positions, and threats of violence against their families. Under these conditions they were forced to sign false confessions to planning a series of “terrorist” actions–confessions they were not even allowed to read before signing them.
⦁ On July 29, 2015, Mr. Jubran was sentenced by Jordan’s State Security Court to 10 years in prison with hard labor. The Court refused to consider the defense evidence in the case, and used the fabricated confessions as the basis for its decision.
Global human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Al Karama Foundation have condemned the prevalence of torture in Jordan by the General Intelligence Directorate. The lack of independence of State Security Court from the GID and its failure to condemn torture and other fundamental human rights violations by GID agents have been specifically cited as a reason for the persistence of torture in security cases in Jordan. The United Nations Committee Against Torture, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have repeatedly called for the abolition of the State Security Court.
I am writing now to urge that you take all necessary action in the case of Amer Jubran to see that his appeal before the Court of Cassation receives full and independent review. The severe violations of human rights in his case must be condemned and the unjust sentence reversed.
Letter from the Amer Jubran Defense Campaign:
Dear Minister of Justice,
We urgently call your attention to the case of Amer Jubran and his horrendous treatment at the hands of the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate. Mr. Jubran currently has a case before the Court of Cassation for severe violations of legal process in his arrest, interrogation and trial.
Mr. Jubran was violently arrested in May of 2014 and no crimes were specified at that time. He spent 50 days in a secret detention facility where he was unable to see his lawyer or family. According to the defendants’ testimony at trial, he and six other defendants were repeatedly tortured in this facility. They were forced by torture to sign identical statements that had been prepared in advance by the interrogators–statements they were not even allowed to read before signing them. The torture, led by Colonel Habes Rizk, involved 72 hour periods of sleep deprivation, being forced under cold water, being forcibly revived after fainting, threats, beatings, face-slapping, insults, and humiliation. The intelligence officers threatened to bring Mr. Jubran’s parents, wife, and children into the interrogation. They threatened to assault Mr. Jubran’s wife in front of him in order to force co-operation. Pressure was applied to his shoulder and neck and to his legs for prolonged periods to cause pain. Critical medication and transfer to a hospital was withheld from one defendant suffering from hepatitis and liver disease until such time as he signed his statement. Lawyers were not allowed to see their clients during the entire period of interrogation.
It’s only after this lengthy period of incommunicado detention and torture that charges of “terrorism” were ultimately brought against him.
At the end of Mr. Jubran’s trial in August 2015 the judges of the State Security Court completely ignored a thorough defense by his lawyers, declaring all evidence brought by the defense irrelevant. The Court then sentenced Mr. Jubran to ten years in prison with hard labor.
International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Committee Against Torture, and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have been clear in condemning the atmosphere of impunity in Jordan, especially in cases before the State Security Court involving torture by agents of the General Intelligence Directorate.
The actions of the GID, the State Prosecutor and the State Security Court in Mr. Jubran’s arrest, detention and trial violate the most basic standards of international human rights, including protection from torture and the right to a fair trial before an impartial court. It is clear from his case that these agencies are confident that their activities will not be called into question, that they can get away with any and all violations of the rights of Jordanian citizens.
We ask you to demonstrate that this is not so, and to intervene on Mr. Jubran’s behalf. The current appeal is perhaps the only opportunity left for responsible officials in Jordan to reverse this gross violation of Mr. Jubran’s legal and human rights. Amer Jubran has friends and supporters from all over the world who will be watching for your response.
The Amer Jubran Defense Campaign
A nonprofit legal advocacy organization has documented and responded to nearly 300 incidents of censorship, punishment, and other actions intended to “burden” advocacy for Palestinian human rights. The incidents point to a pervasive problem on American campuses, which is chilling the rights of individuals to engage in free speech.
The incidents are largely a result of pressure from defenders of Israel to the increased success of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli military occupation.
Palestine Legal, which was founded in 2012 to support the rights of Americans to speak out for Palestinian freedom, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) put together a “first of its kind” report focusing on the suppression of speech, expression, and activism over the past two years.
According to the report, the organization “responded to 140 incidents and 33 requests for assistance in anticipation of potential suppression” in the first six months of 2015. In 2014, the organization “responded to 152 incidents” and “68 additional requests for legal assistance in anticipation of such actions.”
“The overwhelming majority of these incidents—89 percent in 2014 and 80 percent in the first half of 2015—targeted students and scholars, a reaction to the increasingly central role universities play in the movement for Palestinian rights,” noted Palestine Legal.
Of incidents from the first six months of 2015, Palestine Legal found more than half involved “false accusations of anti-Semitism” based “solely on speech critical of Israeli policy.” About half of the incidents responded to in 2014 involved accusations of anti-Semitism based solely on criticism of Israeli policy.
Nearly a third of incidents in the first six months of 2015 stemmed from “false accusations of support for terrorism.” This was an increase, as only 13 percent of incidents in 2014 suggested Palestinian advocates supported terrorism.
“The claim that Palestine activists support terrorism frequently relies on anti-Muslim and xenophobic stereotypes about the inherent violence and hateful worldviews of Arab, Muslim, and international students,” the report states.
Most importantly, the accusations are “baseless,” because “no links between terrorism and student activism for Palestinian rights have been substantiated.”
Dima Khalidi, the director for Palestine Legal, noted the organization had interviewed hundreds of students, professors, administrators, and others. Eighty-five percent of the incidents took place on 65 college and university campuses and in 24 different states.
“We’re not just talking about a handful of isolated incidents,” Khalidi declared. “This is really a widespread problem that affects hundreds of people across the country.”
A “primary tool” for pro-Israel groups is vilification
Israel advocacy groups, university administrators, and government officials accuse Palestinian human rights activists of anti-Semitism or “supporting Hamas” to frighten them into abandoning their organizing. Several students informed Palestine Legal false accusations “would hinder their ability to find a job or travel.”
As the report acknowledges, “The speech activities of Palestinian-American, Arab-American, and Muslim students routinely subject them to heightened harassment, intimidation, and discriminatory treatment in the midst of a post-9/11 climate in which their communities already face infringements of their civil liberties.”
Vilification is a “primary tool” for pro-Israel groups. One student falsely accused of associating with terrorists suggested, “The underlying message [is] that if you speak out too loudly or work too hard … anti-Palestinian activist[s] will smear you just like [they] tried to smear me.”
These accusations of anti-Semitism and support for terrorism coerce campus administrators into restricting and punishing students or scholars for their speech.
Fodder for character assassination against Palestinian human rights activists sometimes comes from surveillance of social media. Organizations “identify out-of-context quotations, Facebook posts, and other material.”
In January 2015, as the report highlights, “The Reut Institute reportedly held a ‘hackathon,’ in which Israeli officials and a number of other Israeli advocacy groups participated, aimed at exploring ways to gather intelligence on and target individuals involved in Palestine solidarity work. In its June 2015 strategy document, the Reut Institute highlighted the need to ‘out-name-shame the delegitimizers’ as a strategy to fight BDS, recommending the use of ‘all available firepower—financial, social, legal, etc.’”
A shady outfit called Canary Mission put out a “list of organizations and activists it accused of supporting terrorism, including campus chapters of the Muslim Student Association, which it refers to as a ‘virtual terror factory.”
The list was published for the express McCarthyist purpose of “exposing” individuals and student groups to make it harder for them to obtain positions in school and earn jobs after graduation.
Students have reported being spied upon by Israeli consulate officials. For example, in 2014, students reported members of the Israeli consul general’s entourage “photographed pro-divestment student campaigners as they spoke with other students and leafleted.”
The surveillance was part of acts to disrupt a divestment vote on campus. Students with family and friends in occupied Palestine expressed concern “such surveillance could have serious consequences” as it might allow Israel to block them from entering Israel and the West Bank to visit family.
Additionally, the comprehensive report examines various other tactics used against activists, including: official denunciation, bureaucratic barriers, cancellations and alterations of academic and cultural events, administrative sanctions, threats to academic freedom, lawsuits and legal threats, legislation, and criminal investigations and prosecutions.
“All of these tactics—individually and in the aggregate—threaten the First Amendment rights of people who seek to raise awareness about Palestinian human rights and challenge the dominant perspective in this country, which discounts Israel’s discriminatory and violent government policies,” the report asserts.
Multiple examples of tactics used against activists
The report details several examples of instances when these tactics were wielded to disrupt and stifle actions.
In February 2015, DePaul University’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter sought to hold a fundraising event for Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian American organizer who was tortured by Israeli forces into confessing that she played a role in a 1967 bombing. The United States government prosecuted her for lying about her past history in immigration documents.
DePaul administrators imposed security fees on the SJP because of a “planned counter-protest,” which led administrators to determine they might need the protection. Four security guards were detailed, and SJP was billed $480. After being forced to subsidize risk from threatened opposition, SJP could not afford to pay the bill and lost the privilege to reserve space for events on campus.
On October 8, 2014, John Jay College instructed the SJP chapter not to “use sheet covered in red paint (representing blood),” as they did during their “Die In/Vigil from Ferguson to Gaza” action. The instruction was a response to pro-Israeli students, who claimed they “felt uncomfortable with the message.”
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign violated Professor Steven Salaita’s academic freedom when they terminated him in 2014 over tweets he sent reacting to Israel’s assault on Gaza.
At Montclair State University, the student government initially sanctioned the university’s SJP for handing out “offensive” pamphlets. The literature led SGA to “fine the group five percent of its fall semester budget” and an order to cease distribution of all “political propaganda.” The brochure focused on Israeli settlements and the loss of Palestinian land from 1946 to 2000.
In April 2013, Northeastern University placed SJP members on “probation” after they walked out of a campus event featuring a soldier from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Offficials warned the students before the event not to hold signs or engage in “vocal disruption.”
“Students decided to tape the names of Palestinian children killed by the IDF to their shirts and planned a walkout,” the report notes. “During a pause in the presentation, one SJP student stood up and stated, ‘The IDF are war criminals and they are not welcome on our campus,” then proceeded to walk out with other students, who spontaneously chanted ‘Free Palestine’ as they left the room.”
Students were investigated by university administrators, and the university canceled a lecture the SJP had planned with Dr. Abu Sitta. The students were later charged with violations of school codes, and after a hearing, SJP was found to have violated “demonstration policy.” They were on probation until December 2013 and forced to write a “civility statement.”
In November 2010, Rutgers University administrators refused to allow students, who raised money for the Gaza Flotilla, to disburse those funds after Hillel alleged the fundraising constituted “material support for terrorism.”
Rather stunningly, University of California President Mark Yudof issued a rare public statement in February 2012 after activists disrupted an event, which compared Palestinian rights activism to incidents of racism. He likened the “hecklers” to the “hanging of nooses” on black students’ dorm doors or putting “swastikas on Jewish students’ property. He pledged to get the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance involved to “improve campus climate for all students.”
In the spring semester of 2015, the University of Toledo student government caved to Israeli advocacy groups and blocked the public from attending a divestment hearing, a violation of the Open Meetings Act in Ohio. Attendance by SJP members was restricted, as they were forced to sit in a “separate room” away from Hillel students. Student senators were blocked from voting on the resolution. But outcry eventually led to the resolution coming up for a vote and it passed “overwhelmingly.”
One of the more stunning examples involves eleven University of California-Irvine students, who were criminally prosecuted in 2010 for walking out of a speech by then-Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. They were charged with misdemeanors for disrupting a public meeting, and the jury found ten of the students guilty.
The numbers do not necessarily tell the full story of how organizing is being suppressed. These are only incidents, which were reported to Palestine Legal so the organization could provide assistance.
“They’re really only the tip of the iceberg with a lot more incidents that go unreported,” Khalidi added.
However, the report clearly demonstrates how heavy-handed tactics are being used to intimidate Palestinian human rights activists and chill their criticism of Israeli policies against Palestinians.
The United States makes an improper division between surveillance conducted on residents of the United States and the surveillance that is conducted with almost no restraint upon the rest of the world. This double standard has proved poisonous to the rights of Americans and non-Americans alike. In theory, Americans enjoy better protections. In practice there are no magical sets of servers and Internet connections that carry only American conversations. To violate the privacy of everyone else in the world, the U.S. inevitably scoops up its own citizens’ data. Establishing nationality as a basis for discrimination also encourages intelligence agencies to make the obvious end-run: spying on each other’s citizens, and then sharing that data. Treating two sets of innocent targets differently is already a violation of international human rights law. In reality, it reduces everyone to the same, lower standard.
Now France’s government is about the make the same error as the U.S. practice with its new “Surveillance des communications électroniques internationales” bill, currently being rushed through the French Parliament. As an open letter led by France’s La Quadrature du Net and signed today by over thirty civil society groups including EFF, states, France’s legislators’ must reject this bill to protect the rights of individuals everywhere, including those in France.
By legalizing France’s own plans to spy on the rest of the world, France would take a step to establishing the NSA model as an acceptable global norm. Passing the law would undermine France’s already weak surveillance protections for its own citizens, including lawyers, journalists and judges. And it would make challenging the NSA’s practices far more difficult for France and other states.
The new bill comes as a result of France’s Constitutional Council review of the country’s last mass surveillance bill, which passed with little parliamentary opposition in July. The Council passed most of that bill on the basis of its minor concessions to oversight and proportionality, but rejected the sections on international surveillance, which contained no limits to what France might do.
France already spies on the world. In July, the French newsmagazine L’Obs revealed a secret decree dating from at least 2008, which funded a French intelligence service project to intercept and analyze international data traffic passing through through submarine cable intercepts. The decree authorized the interception of cable traffic from 40 countries including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria, Sub-Saharan Africa, Russia, China, India and the United States. The report states that France’s intelligence agency, the General Directorate for External Security (DGCE), spent $775 million on the project.
Given that the Constitutional Council implied that such practices are almost certainly unlawful as is, the French government has now scrambled to create a framework that could excuse it.
Under the new proposed law, France’s intelligence agencies still have an incredibly broad remit. The law concentrates the power to grant wide-ranging surveillance permission in the office of the Prime Minister, who can sign off on mass surveillance of communications sent or received from overseas. Such surveillance can be conducted when in the “essential interests of foreign policy” or “[the] essential economic and scientific interests of France”, giving the executive the widest possible scope to conduct surveillance.
The original surveillance law included limits on data retention when spying on French nationals (30 days for the content of communications, four years for metadata, six years for encrypted data). The new international limits are much longer—one year, six years, and eight years respectively. The law’s authors do not justify this longer period, nor do they explain how the intelligence agencies will be able to separate data from each class of target without collecting, analyzing and filtering them all.
The collapsing divide between the lawful, warranted surveillance of ordinary citizens, and the wide-ranging capabilities of the intelligence services to collect signals intelligence on foreign powers and agents, has ended up corroding both domestic and global privacy rights. The U.S. has taken advantage of the lesser protections for non-U.S. persons to introduce the dragnet surveillance of everyone who uses the Internet outside the U.S. Because unprotected foreigners’ data is mixed up with somewhat more protected communications of Americans, the U.S. government believes that it can “incidentally” scoop up its own citizens’ data, and sort it out later under nobody’s oversight but its own.
If the French Parliament passes this bill, it will mean that France has decided to embody and excuse the same practices as the NSA in its own law. It is a short-sighted attempt to cover France’s existing secret practices, but the consequences are far-reaching. The limited protections that were included in the original surveillance bill—including assurances that French journalists, judges and lawyers would be protected from dragnet surveillance—will be undermined by their inevitable inclusion in the vacuuming up of all international traffic.
Any attempt by the EU countries to rein back the NSA’s surveillance plan by calls for the United States to respect international human rights standards, and data protection principles, will provoke the response that the U.S. is simply exercising the powers that an EU member has already granted itself.
By creating and excusing a double standard France’s government dooms everyone to a single, lower standard. It cannot simply shrug off its responsibilities to human rights, its partners in Europe, and the privacy rights of foreigners. If it does so, it will end up undermining the French people’s privacy and security as much as it undermines that of the rest of the world.
A government watchdog report released on Wednesday contains information suggesting that an assistant director of the Secret Service wanted “embarrassing” information leaked about a congressman who was critical of the agency.
“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Assistant Director Edward Lowery wrote in an email to another director regarding Representative Jason Chaffetz. “Just to be fair.”
The email was sent on March 31, and two days later media outlets reported that Chaffetz had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003, and was rejected.
The Agency’s anger followed a House hearing on March 24 during which Chaffetz scolded Lowery as well as the Agency for their record of security lapses and misconduct.
Following the hearing, 45 Secret Service agents looked into Chaffetz’ file that was contained in a restricted database. Some of them shared the information amongst themselves.
Chaffetz’ personnel file was restricted and required to be kept private by law.
Lowery maintained during an inspector general’s probe that he was simply venting in the email and did not tell anyone to leak the private information.
Immediately following the revelation, Chaffetz released a statement condemning the agency’s actions.
“Certain lines should never be crossed,” he wrote. “The unauthorized access and distribution of my personal information crossed that line. It was a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me and frankly, it is intimidating. It’s scary to think about all the possible dangers in having your personal information exposed. The work of the committee, however, will continue. I remain undeterred in conducting proper and rigorous oversight.”
A Turkish court has issued a secrecy order for the proceedings of the trial of former officials accused of intercepting arms which were being transferred in 2014 from the country to the militants fighting the Syrian government.
Suleyman Bagriyanik, the former chief public prosecutor for the Adana region in southern Turkey, prosecutors Ozcan Sisman, Aziz Takci, and Ahmet Karaca, as well as Adana’s previous provincial gendarmerie commander Ozkan Cokay, were allegedly involved in searching Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT) trucks engaged in transporting the weapons to the foreign-backed militants. Local security forces found the trucks were taking not only a consignment of arms but also MIT personnel.
The five went on trial in the capital, Ankara, on Thursday, but the court was swift to subject the session to the gag order.
The former senior law enforcement authorities were accused last year of “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government by using force and violence or attempts to destroy the government’s function totally or partly,” and “getting intelligence over the politics and security of the state.”
Turkish opposition daily Cumhuriyet posted a video on its website on May 29, purportedly showing trucks belonging to the Turkish intelligence agency carrying weapons to the Takfiri terrorists operating in Syria.
Back in July, the office of the chief public prosecutor in Turkey’s southern province of Tarsus sought life imprisonment terms for the former officials.
The center-left paper integrated videos in a June report, implicating the MIT in ensuring safe passage into Syria for the terrorists of the notorious Takfiri group of Daesh, which is fighting both the Syrian government and the violence-ravaged country’s people.
The footage showed drivers admitting that they were “doing their duty to the state” by helping the militants bypass the territory near the heavily-defended Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria.
Syria has been struggling with an implacable militancy since March 2011. The US and its regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – have been widely accused of supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
Freelance journalist and data artist Josh Begley has been methodically recording U.S. military drone activity for years. Every week or so — whenever the strikes occur — Begley will post a news story from the @dronestream Twitter account, identifying when and where drone strikes have occurred before feeding the results into an app called Metadata+.
But on Sunday, Dronestream tweeted that Metadata+, which sends out push notifications every time there is a U.S. drone strike, had been removed from the App Store after seven months of being openly available.
Apple still aspires to be a hub for serious news. It’s building tools like Apple News to help journalists and publishers reach new audiences. But Apple’s opaque filtering process shows that it may not be ready to decide for the public what kind of content we should or shouldn’t be exposed to.
Earlier this month, Apple censored a journalistic app that took you to the scene of the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of Michael Brown. The tech giant has also taken down educational apps that depicted the Confederate Flag in its historical context. All while allowing for apps that include violence and graphic depictions of war, like Hitman: Sniper and Zynga’s Empires and Allies.
Then again, those apps all include in-app purchases from which Apple collects revenue. And none of them is offensive to the United States government.
Jack Smith IV is a writer and reporter covering the intersection between the Internet, culture, politics, the economy and the future. Send tips, comments and feedback to email@example.com.