Israel’s new chief military censor has demanded that popular bloggers writing on security-related issues submit their posts to her before publication. Failure to do so will be considered a crime. Critics say the move is Orwellian.
The expansion of the IDF’s censorship scope was first revealed by one of the bloggers targeted, Yossi Gurvitz. He runs a Facebook page called “George’s Friends” – a title alluding to writer George Orwell – which has over 10,000 subscribers.
This week he tweeted that the IDF’s former spokesperson, who was appointed chief censor less than a year ago, has ordered that he submit his posts for prepublication review.
The message was sent from her private Facebook account, which has no status updates of its own, and Gutvitz initially thought it was a prank, he told the Calcalist business daily. He said he had no intention to obey the order and is reviewing his legal options.
Some 30 Israeli bloggers received similar notifications from the IDF, according to the Times of Israel. Many people online and some Israeli politicians have criticized the expansion of censorship.
“Under the cover of darkness, there is no limit to the expansion of Big Brother,” Ilan Gilon, a member of the Israeli parliament from the left-wing Meretz party, told Calcalist. “It recalls [the dystopian novel] ‘1984.’ I’ve asked for a debate to understand what the boundaries of censorship are and how far they can go. Am I also subject to censorship when I talk to you? This is totally unacceptable.”
The military censor is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence. It has the authority to prevent any information being published by the media and can even shut down outlets without any explanation – and has a record of doing so. This power can only be used during a state of emergency, but the Jewish state has been living under one since its establishment in 1948.
Previously censorship was applied only to established media outlets, book publishers and organizations such as emergency services and front-line community councils. Some blogger posts were subjected to military censorship in the past, but only after publication.
The move may be blowback from the greater recognition of blogging in Israel as a form of media. Since 2012, Israel’s Government Press Office has been issuing bloggers with press cards that give them the same kind of status as journalists employed by recognized media outlets.
“Now, after they managed to make one government office recognize them as journalists, they can only blame themselves when other officials accept them as such too. Journalists don’t only have rights, but also duties, and in Israel one of these duties is working with the censors,” a lawyer who specializes in media regulations told the Haaretz newspaper.
Many Israeli activists, however, see it as a sign of creeping assaults on civil liberties under the conservative cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last month, a censorship scandal shook the country after the Education Ministry banned high schools from teaching an award-winning novel about a love affair between a Jewish woman and a Palestinian man.
The ministry explained that depiction of “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threaten the separate identity of each sector.” Education Minister Naftali Bennett defended the move, saying that exposing high school students to a book that “depicts IDF soldiers as sadistic war criminals” was not a national priority.
A video showing mixed Jewish-Arab couples kissing, which was posted online in a protest against the ban, mysteriously disappeared from Facebook after going viral.
NLRB Finds Employer Rule Prohibiting Audio and Image Recording at Work Violates Employees’ Labor Rights
The National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) recently held that employees can take photos and record conversations in the workplace to safeguard their labor rights, setting an important precedent in the workplace in an era of smartphones and social media.
The case took issue with Whole Foods’ rule prohibiting employees from taking photos or recording conversations in a store without a managers’ prior permission or unless all parties involved give consent. The Board found the rule unlawful because of its potential chilling effect on employees’ Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Section 7 rights include the right to take action together with other workers for the purpose of collective bargaining or protecting each other’s work place rights.
The Board made it clear workers have the right to use smartphones or other recording devices in their workplace to:
- document unsafe working conditions or hazards,
- record uneven application of workplace rules,
- capture evidence to use in employment-relations actions (such as conversations revealing discrimination), and
- record discussions about terms and conditions of employment.
The Board specifically reiterated the concept that photography and audio or video recording is protected in the workplace when done in the context of protected concerted activity or Union activity. Where employees are acting together and for the mutual aid and protection of their coworkers, and no overriding employer interest is present, such conduct is protected by law. Accordingly, the Board ordered Whole Foods to rescind or revise its handbook rules related to recording, and notify employees of this change.
The Board’s ruling is significant given the potential impact of smartphones in the workplace. First, managers’ knowledge of workers’ ability to take photos and record conversations should act as a deterrent to unlawful conduct by management and encourage compliance with the law. Second, when labor laws are broken, workers’ ability to prove and vindicate their rights increases. Third, the ruling signals another potentially powerful organizing tool. For example, workers in an organizing drive can record “captive audience” meetings to reveal a company’s aggressive anti-union tactics and expose the meetings’ true purpose. Lastly, any company with a policy similar to Whole Foods’ policy can now be more easily challenged as to that policy.
State laws on recording may still apply in certain scenarios. For example, California requires that parties to an audio recording or phone conversation must consent to its recording (for more detail, see Cal. Penal Code § 632). Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington have similar consent laws related to recording.
For more information regarding the use of smartphones or other devices in the workplace, contact your labor law counsel.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Since the 1st of November 2015 the Tel Rumeida area and Shuhada Street in occupied Al-Khalil (Hebron) has been declared a ‘closed military zone’. The first declaration of the closure was for one month, but since then the order has been extended several times.
The newest order from the 1st of February declares the area as closed till the 1st of March with the chance of extension.
Shuhada Checkpoint (Checkpoint 56)
The closure effects the residents of the area every single day. Every family living in the area has been given a number and was forced to register with the Israeli forces. When entering the area, through checkpoints, the residents have to show ID, give their number and often also answer questions and get bag and body searched. Friends and family of the residents are unable to visit them inside the area; even doctors or craftsmen are completely barred from entering the area.
Furthermore, the closed military zone has led to the eviction of two human rights organisations based in Tel Rumeida. These are now banned from living in their houses and working from their offices and since they are banned from the whole area are not able to observe and document the rampant Israeli human rights violations. The ‘closed military zone’ clearly intends to evict Palestinian residents in order to allow for an expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements, and by evicting human rights defenders to silence the truth on the Israeli forces harassment, attacks and human rights violations.
If you really want a lesson in how the Western popular press works, this is it.
Without question, Germany is the leading power in Europe. ZDF is its state broadcaster and most popular channel.
Together with sister network ARD; German’s are obliged to pay €17.98 per month to fund it.
This week, during a radio event in Berlin, the retired head of ZDF Bonn, Dr Wolfgang Herles, dropped a bombshell. He admitted the network, and others, takes orders from the government on what, and what not, to report.
Now, you’d expect this kind of story to be splashed across the world’s press, wouldn’t you? A former senior management figure acknowledging that his ex-employers work in tandem with the authorities to control the news agenda in such an important country? If such a revelation was made in a ‘developing’ nation, NATO media would be all over it.
The BBC, a carbon copy of ZDF and ARD in Britain, is busy promoting a documentary about a fake Russian invasion of Latvia. Meanwhile, in Germany itself, RT Deutsch and Munich’s Focus appear to be the only two significant outlets tackling the revelations. This in a country where the Dresden region was once known as the “valley of the stupid” because Western TV signals couldn’t reach much of it during the Cold War.
Many people across Europe suspect that most domestic state TV is under fairly direct control of politicians. The BBC, despite its mendacious cultivation of an image of fairness, is a pretty obvious example. It is governed by a Trust, wholly appointed by the Queen on the advice of government ministers of the day. Russia’s most popular station, the First Channel, although partially privately owned, is also administered by state appointees.
What makes Herles’ outburst so significant is his seniority. Before retiring last year, he was a prominent culture editor and presenter. In the 90’s, he hosted his own chat show, ‘Live’, and prior to these ventures, he’d been head of ZDF Bonn. At that time, Bonn was the West German capital. It’s important to understand that ZDF, while available across Germany, is technically owned by the Bundesländer (states).
Thus, Bonn-based Herles would have had far greater understanding of how German politics worked than most in ZDF’s Mainz headquarters, never mind far flung regions.
Turning a blind eye
Since the Cologne sex attacks on New Year’s Eve, there have been strong allegations that German media downplayed, or even ignored, the story. With migrants, predominately Arabic in origin, pouring into the country since last year, highlighting assaults where the alleged perpetrators were of Arab appearance could help turn public opinion against Angela Merkel’s “open-borders” policy. On the other hand, ignoring infractions by newcomers serves to keep Germans ignorant about how Berlin’s scheme could jeopardize their own safety. A lot of people are, understandably, angry about that.
Wolfgang Herles. © Wikipedia
Herles’ admission was prompted by the assertion that ordinary people have lost faith in Germany’s tightly-controlled media. “We have the problem that – now I’m mainly talking about the public [state] media – we have closeness to the government,” he revealed. “Not only because commentary is mainly in line with the grand coalition (CSU, CDU, and SPD), with the spectrum of opinion, but also because we are completely taken in by the agenda laid down by the political class.”
The retired ZDF chief went on to concede that the station took orders on what to broadcast. “The topics about which are reported are laid down by the government,” he confessed. Ironically, the Guardian, with no actual evidence, has prominently published numerous allegations of the Kremlin engaging in this practice. However, it ignores a similar assertion about Germany, which is actually backed up by a credible figure.
Of course, it’s not just the publicly-owned media; their private counterparts are also far from balanced. Bild Zeitung, Germany’s bestselling newspaper, is bound by the charter of its holding company, Axel Springer SE, “to further the unification of Europe.” Moreover, it must “support the Transatlantic Alliance, and solidarity with the United States of America in the common values of free nations.” Even the fairest editor in the world wouldn’t have much leeway under those conditions.
Pan European myopia
As it happens Germany is not alone. Last year, the Times Ireland exposed how Dublin’s state-controlled RTE routinely furnishes questions to government ministers before they appear on air. Incredibly, RTE News, currently helmed by controversial British executive Kevin Bakhurst, responded by attempting to smear The Times.
Meanwhile, in Sweden, the fervently liberal Expressen newspaper this week labeled The Daily Mail ‘racist.’ The British newspaper’s crime? Daring to report facts on the country’s migrant crisis that are precluded in Sweden. Because the domestic media refuse to cover negative stories involving migrants, many Swedes are now forced to access British and Russian media to read news about their country.
Right now, the pro-EU press is struggling to control the narrative. Dismissing rival viewpoints as “propaganda” can only work for so long. Furthermore, turning a blind eye to stories that question EU policy is a tougher proposition in the age of social media.
Last year, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine closed online comment threads on all articles about migration. Last week, The Guardian followed suit, blocking all posts related to immigration, Islam and race.
These moves aren’t a huge surprise. In recent years, journalists and commentators who refuse to fall-in-line with the liberal European consensus have been increasingly barred from the mainstream media. This stands in marked contrast to previous decades in which debate was actively encouraged and opposing views cherished. Maybe Mikhail Gorbachev wasn’t far off when he warned:”The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.”
Bryan MacDonald is a journalist. He worked in Dublin for many years, for Ireland on Sunday and the Evening Herald.
According to a “sensational” article by the Telegraph, the US director of National Intelligence was recently instructed by Congress to “conduct a major review into Russian clandestine funding of European parties over the last decade.” This disclosure – a classic “controlled leak” – is intended to warn disobedient yet popular political entities across Europe to scale back their ambitions to rebalance the roles and weight of their nation states within the European Union. Hungary’s Jobbik, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Italy’s Lega Nord, and France’s Front National are explicitly included in the US “warning list,” while other unnamed “parties” in Austria, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands are being advised that they are “under a US security probe.” Even the new British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is suspected of flirting with the Russians. So, according to the sponsor of the Telegraph’s story, any European politician who dares to question NATO’s eastward expansion, the policy of anti-Russian sanctions, or the current European stance on the Ukrainian conflict is essentially a witting or unwitting tool of “Russia’s hybrid warfare.”
Well, that would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. In fact, any impartial observer would pose some simple questions: Why the hell do US intelligence agencies care about challenges to Europe’s internal security? Aren’t they the same agents who finance, recruit, and control countless political organizations, individuals, and media outlets on the European continent? Why are they so brazenly revealing their dominion over Europe?
A politically correct challenger would argue that the United States saved Europe from the “Communist threat” after the end of WWII, facilitated its speedy economic recovery, and is still safeguarding the continent under its nuclear umbrella. Perhaps. But a review of the historical background should not begin with the Marshall Plan. First of all, that was launched in April 1948. Since the Nazis capitulated in May 1945, a misinformed reader might deduce that the United States had been drafting a massive investment program for Europe for as long as three years, and … he would be wrong. At the Second “Octagon” Quebec Conference in September 1944, President Roosevelt and US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. submitted to the British PM Winston Churchill their Post-Surrender Program for Germany. That strictly confidential document envisaged the partition and complete deindustrialization of the German state. According to the plan, Germany was to be divided into two independent states. Its epicenters of mining and industry, including the Saar Protectorate, the Ruhr Valley, and Upper Silesia were to be internationalized or annexed by France and Poland. Following are a few excerpts:
- The [US] military forces upon entry into [German] industrial areas shall destroy all plants and equipment which cannot be removed immediately.
- No longer than 6 months after the cessation of hostilities, all industrial plants and equipment not destroyed by military action shall either be completely dismantled and removed from the area or completely destroyed.
- All people within the area should be made to understand that this area will not again be allowed to become an industrial area. Accordingly, all people and their families within the area having special skills or technical training should be encouraged to migrate permanently from the area and should be as widely dispersed as possible.
- All German radio stations and newspapers, magazines, weeklies, etc. shall be discontinued until adequate controls are established and an appropriate program formulated.
That was the original postwar recovery program for Germany, known as the Morgenthau Plan. The notorious Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067 (JCS 1067) addressed to the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Occupation Forces in Germany, which was officially issued in April 1945, was fully in line with that document.
Partition of Germany according to Morgenthau Plan, 1944
The Morgenthau Plan very quickly proved to be a strategic mistake. The United States underestimated the ideological and cultural impact the Soviets would have on European societies. Left to their own judgment, American strategists failed to understand the attraction that a socialist system held for the majority of the population of the liberated nations. A vast spectrum of pro-socialist and pro-communist politicians began winning democratic elections and gaining political influence not only in Eastern Europe, but also in Greece, Italy, France, and other European states (Palmiro Togliatti and Maurice Thorez are just a few who could be named here). Thus Washington came to understand that its forced de-industrialization of Europe could result in Soviet-style reindustrialization and eventual Russian dominance of the continent… Therefore the US had to promptly replace the Morgenthau Plan with one named after Secretary of State George Marshall… Over the course of four years it provided Europe with $12 billion USD in credits, donations, leases, etc., for the purpose of buying … American machinery and other goods. Although the plan undoubtedly revived the economies of Europe, its biggest positive effect was on … the US economy itself! Simultaneously a wave of political repression was launched throughout Europe, most notably in Germany.
The media has largely forgotten about a Soviet initiative, proposed in 1950, to withdraw from the GDR and to reunify a neutral, non-aligned, demilitarized Germany within one year of the conclusion of a peace treaty. As a matter of fact, the resolution adopted at the Prague meeting of the foreign ministers of the Soviet Bloc on Oct. 21, 1950 proposed the establishment of an all-German Constituent Council, with equal representation from East and West Germany to prepare for the formation of an “all-German, sovereign, democratic, and peace-loving provisional government.” Needless to say, the US government and West German administration in Bohn strongly opposed the initiative. While a plebiscite on the issue “Are you against the remilitarization of Germany and in favor of the conclusion of a Peace Treaty in 1951?” was announced in both halves of the divided state, that referendum was held and officially acknowledged only in East Germany (with 96% voting “yes”). The authorities in US-controlled West Germany failed to respond in a truly democratic manner. They refused to recognize the preliminary results of the referendum that had been held since February 1951 (of the 6.2 million federal citizens who had taken part by June 1951, 94.4% also voted “yes”) and introduced the draconian cautious Criminal Law Amendment Act (the 1951 Blitzgesetz) on July 11. According to that legislation, anyone guilty of importing prohibited literature, criticizing the government, or having unreported contacts with representatives of the GDR, etc. was to be prosecuted for “state treason,” which was punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison. Consequently, between 1951 and 1968, 200,000 charges were brought against 500,000 members of the Communist Party and other left-wing groups in Germany under this law. Ten thousand people were sent to prison, and most of those who were “cleared” of charges never resumed their political activities. Additional legal amendments in 1953 actually abolished the right to freely hold gatherings and demonstrations, and in 1956 the Communist Party of Germany was banned. [More details can be found in Daniel Burkholz’s 2012 documentary Verboten – Verfolgt – Vergessen (Forbidden-Followed-Forgotten. Half a Million Public Enemies), which is surprisingly unavailable on YouTube].
The political repression that occurred in Germany from the 1950s to the 1980s, compared to similar events in other European countries during the same period, is a very taboo topic. Operation Gladio in Italy, the crimes of the regime of the Black Colonels in Greece, and the controversial assassinations of realistic European politicians who openly advocated for historical compromise with the Soviet bloc – such as Italian PM Aldo Moro (1978) and Swedish PM Olof Palme (1986) – all received far more media attention. The revelations made by a former correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Udo Ulfkotte, in his book Gekaufte Journalisten (“Purchased Journalists”) about the mechanism of media control in Germany (remember the Morgenthau Plan?) represent only the tip of the iceberg. The almost complete lack of reaction seen in Berlin after Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the blanket electronic espionage routinely conducted against German leaders by the NSA means that in reality, Germany has acknowledged its loss of sovereignty over its own country and thus has nothing to lose.
So, after taking all these facts into account and rereading the article in the Telegraph, are you still so sure that the United States is truly the guardian of Europe’s sovereignty? Is it not more likely that by using the alleged “Russian threat” to control and harass the political establishment and civil society in Europe, Washington is making headway toward a simple and primitive goal – that of merely keeping its sheep within the fold?
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has seen its publisher leave in the latest shakeup for the paper since Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson purchased it in December of 2015. For the past two months, staffers at the Nevada paper have been waiting for the next domino to fall as the paper works on transitioning its editorial and news reporting over to Adelson’s control.
The Review-Journal was sold to an Adelson family shell company, News + Media Capital Group LLC, by GateHouse Media, a subsidiary of New Media Investment Group. GateHouse had purchased the paper only nine months before, in March 2015.
A source inside the paper reached by phone told The American Herald Tribune that Adelson overpaid for the paper, substantially.
“We all know he offered way above what GateHouse paid for it,” the source said, “Which is why they sold. The sale agreement said that GateHouse would maintain operational control and keep the publisher.”
Within two weeks of Adelson’s purchase of the Review-Journal, the paper’s editor, Michael Hengel, had his contract bought out and left. Hengel had spearheaded the paper’s internal investigation into the identity of the buyer before resigning.
The investigation, undertaken by the paper’s staff, into who was behind News + Media Capital Group had uncovered Adelson’s identity by connecting the dots to a paper in Connecticut. That paper, The New Britain Herald, ran a story in September attacking one of Adelson’s adversaries, Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.
Gonzalez memorably shut down Adelson in court in 2015, telling the casino mogul “Sir, you don’t get to argue with me” in open court.
It struck Review-Journal staff as odd that a paper from the other end of the country would report on a judge involved in adjudicating a dispute in Las Vegas, so they investigated further. What they found was a direct connection between their new ownership and the ownership of The New Britain Herald. News + Media Capital Group own both papers.
From there it was easy to connect the dots, although getting the story out was difficult. On December 16, the editorial board persevered and Adelson was outed as the buyer of the Review-Journal in the paper’s pages.
On December 19, the paper published an editorial entitled “Review-Journal will fight to keep your trust every day.” The content was provocative, and indicated the editorial board was spoiling for a fight. They got one. Hengel resigned three days later.
In the wake of Hengel’s departure, The American Herald Tribune’s source said, things largely calmed down at the paper. Most changes at the paper, according to our source, have been “subtle.” They have mainly revolved around bureaucratic issues relating to pay, insurance, and benefits.
As the company control transitions over to News + Media, the source said, “it’s been an HR nightmare. There have been signatures needed for documentation of new benefit packages, transitions. It’s been difficult.”
This bureaucratic transition provided News + Media the pretext to replace publisher Jason Taylor. Taylor, a GateHouse employee, was retained by News + Media in the sale agreement to manage the newsroom. His retention also served to give the impression that Adelson would not interfere with the Review-Journal’s work.
His departure was sudden, and a shock.
“The only reason [Taylor] would have left was because of Adelson,” the source told The American Herald Tribune, “The day before we were in an emergency meeting with [Taylor] and he told the staff ‘If I’m leaving, you should worry.’ He was here that Wednesday, and gone on Thursday. Overnight.”
Adelson’s increasing involvement in Review-Journal operations was not unexpected at the paper. Most employees were prepared for impending influence of the billionaire. But Taylor’s ejection was sudden, brash, and blatant.
“All the changes we’ve seen have been subtle,” our source told us, “Taylor protected us from what was going on.”
Taylor, it should be noted, was the most significant roadblock to the article disclosing the new ownership that preceded Hengel’s resignation. Still, his departure opened the publisher’s position for an Adelson partisan.
The new publisher, Craig Moon, is a veteran of USA Today, which he ran from 2003-2009. Moon’s appointment was announced the same day Taylor was fired, unmistakably signaling that the publisher’s replacement had been planned for some time.
Moon told the press after the announcement that he didn’t expect much interference from the Adelson family, but it remains to be seen if that will hold true.
Adelson’s propensity for buying newspapers is not new- he publishes the free daily Israel Hayom in Israel, a paper known for promoting a hard-right slant to coverage of Israeli politics. The paper is known locally as “Bibiton,” or Bibi’s (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s) newspaper.
Adelson’s record in promoting his political point of view through the press overseas, then, has led to a lot of concern over his plans for the future of the Review-Journal.
“We’ve been looking at the stories coming out of the news department,” said our source. “We’ve been the stories that come out now because ultimately the publisher has the final say in what gets printed.”
The paper recently published an editorial strongly endorsing an Adelson project, a proposed $1 billion stadium at the University of Las Vegas.
The stadium is an Adelson vanity project, one that he has been pushing for quite some time. By purchasing the Review-Journal, Adelson has acquired a productive shaper of opinion in Las Vegas. It’s one that will allow him to move forward with his plans for the stadium.
Our source believes that in the short term, Adelson’s purchase of the Review-Journal was based on his desire for the stadium.
“The Adelson family said they wanted to own the paper as a family legacy, but they’re trying to build a $1 billion stadium,” our source explained. The source added that they were sure that more changes were coming in the near future.
“It’ll be a slow process. Adelson’s smart, he’s not going to risk getting called out. It could be a while.” There was a pause on the phone. “Then again, he did just kick out the publisher.”
The Globe and Mail’s recent coverage of Rwanda has been schizophrenic. While South African-based correspondent Geoffrey York has done important work detailing how Paul Kagame’s government has assassinated its opponents and contributed to violence in Eastern Congo, columnist Gerald Caplan has justified its repression and echoed Kigali’s position on regional conflicts.
At the start of January York reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of President Kagame’s regime. “Village informers”, wrote York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda – a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”
A year and a half ago York wrote an explosive investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents”, which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. Since the initial investigation York has also reported on Rwandan dissidents who’ve had to flee Belgium for their safety and revealed that Ottawa failed to act after UN and Spanish court investigations concluded Canadian priests Guy Pinard and Claude Simard were killed by soldiers loyal to Kagame in the mid-1990s.
At the end of 2012 York reported on Rwanda reasserting control over the mineral rich Eastern Congo. In one of a number of insightful articles York described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence.” The rebel group added “a [new] layer of administrators, informers, police and other operatives” in and around the city of Goma in part to “bolster” its “grip on the trade in ‘blood minerals’.” (In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead.)
While York has done what investigative journalists are supposed to do — comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable — unfortunately the Globe also publishes regular columns by an author who seems to strive for the exact opposite in the case of Rwanda.
Gerald Caplan recently wrote about political conflict in Burundi, invoking Kagame’s rhetoric of “genocide” all the while ignoring Rwanda’s role in organizing armed opposition to the Burundian government. In support of Kigali’s aggressive regional posture, Caplan continues to repeat Kagame’s rationale for unleashing mayhem in the Congo two decades after the mass killing of Rwandan Tutsi (and Hutu) in 1994. In a 2014 column he wrote: “In the Congo former génocidaires lead a violent anti-Kagame militia dedicated to ‘finishing the work’ of the hundred days.”
In another column Caplan justified the arrest of presidential opponent Victoire Ingabire and criticized the Law Society of Upper Canada after it called for the release of her American lawyer, who was also imprisoned.
And strangely, for a former NDP strategist, Caplan has sought to muzzle media that disagree with the current government’s version of Rwandan history. In 2014 he signed an open letter condemning the BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story and a year earlier wrote a piece about lobbying the University of Toronto to remove the Taylor Report, a program on campus radio, from air because it hosted critics of the Rwandan government.
Caplan has failed to inform readers about his ties to the regime in Kigali. He started an organization with Rwanda’s current Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and said he stays at her family’s hotel when visiting the country. Caplan has also spoken at a number of events in Kigali and New York organized by the Rwandan government.
So, who to believe? York or Caplan? Is Kagame a saint or dictator?
My money is on the investigative journalist.
The governor’s office in Isparta, southwestern Turkey, has reportedly sent a request to all state institutions in the province instructing staff to report cases of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other top officials straight to the police.
Insulting the president is considered a crime in Turkey and the punishment can be up to four years in jail.
“According to Articles 299 and 125 of the Turkish Penal Code [TCK], an action must be taken for the posts [on social media] including insults against our president and other senior government officials, which have increased lately in direct proportion to the increase in terror activities in our country,” the notification, signed by Isparta Deputy Governor Fevzi Güneş on behalf of Isparta Governor Vahdettin Özkan, stated, Today’s Zaman reported.
The government began its crackdown on Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed by Ankara, last July. Turkey’s authorities maintain those killed during the security operation in the southeast were all PKK members. According to Turkish human rights groups, however, more than 160 civilians were killed during the government offensive.
President Erdogan has publicly vowed to continue the operation until the area is cleansed of Kurdish militants. Kurds have long been campaigning for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy in Turkey, where they are the largest ethnic minority.
In mid-Januray, Turkey arrested over a dozen academics for signing a declaration denouncing Ankara’s military operations against Kurdish militants. The move came after over 1,200 scholars were under investigation for criticizing the Turkish State. They were accused of allegedly participating in “terrorist propaganda” after signing a declaration condemning military operations against Kurdish rebels in the southeast. Erdogan described the group of academics as “poor excuses for intellectuals.” He insisted human rights violations in the southeast of the country were being carried out by referring to the Kurdish rebels, not by the state.
The day after Erdogan urged prosecutors to investigate academics, who signed the declaration criticizing military action in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP), called the Turkish president “a dictator.”
In January, a local Turkish court dismissed Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s appeal against Kilicdaroglu. The Turkish president was seeking damages after the opposition party leader called him a “thief.” Erdogan’s lawyers demanded 200,000 Turkish lire ($66,000) in damages, saying this was an “attack on his personal rights.”
On Monday, an Ankara court sentenced another Turkish politician Hüseyin Aygün, a former deputy from the CHP party, to 14 months in prison for “publicly insulting” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. Aygün rejected all accusations, Haber Turk reported.
The Republican People’s Party has repeatedly accused the government of using counter-terror laws to persecute journalists, saying 156 were arrested in 2015, with 484 legal actions launched against journalists and 774 fired during the year.
Aygün was sentenced to nine months in jail for “inciting people to enmity or hatred or denigration,” Müslim Sarı, another former CHP deputy, wrote on his Twitter.
“This ruling is clear evidence that there [is] no freedom of thought and expression in Turkey and judicial independence has ended too,” Sarı said in another tweet.
Late last month, a Turkish court sentenced a female teacher to almost a year in prison for making a rude gesture at Erdogan (when he was prime minister) at a political rally in 2014.
“The situation for freedom of expression is at an all-time low,” Andrew Gardner, Amnesty’s Turkey researcher, told the Times. “Countless unfair criminal cases have been brought, including under defamation and anti-terrorism laws — even children have been remanded in pre-trial detention,” he said.
There are now 18 Palestinian journalists in Israeli prisons
GAZA – The media and press teams that try to cover the Israeli violence in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip are facing escalating violations at the hands of the Israeli army and Palestinian security forces.
The Palestinian Radio and Television Stations Union documented in its report for January, 2016, more than 45 violations against journalists and media correspondents.
This includes arrests, extension of detention, direct assaults in the field, and prevention from media coverage, in continuous attempts to distort the truth about the Israeli terror against Palestinians.
According to the Union, the arrests, detentions, extension of detentions, summoning to investigations, and breaking into houses during January reached 10 cases.
The Israeli forces arrested the journalist Mujahid al-Sa’adi, correspondent of Palestine Today TV channel, and extended his detention three times so far in January.
In addition, Israeli soldiers arrested the sports journalist at al-Khalil radio channel, Mahmoud al-Qawasmi.
These violations also reached the journalists Mohammed Matar, Musab Shawer, and Abd al-Karim al-Ouiui. In January, the Israeli forces brutality against journalists in the field increased, as the media crews attempted to cover the Palestinian weekly protests.
Nine Israeli assaults, that resulted in injuring two Palestinian journalists, were documented. Seven other press photographers choked on teargas.
Moreover, three cases of harassment and prevention from coverage were documented. Israeli forces also thwarted a press conference in Jerusalem, and a cultural meeting.
The house of Muhanned Halami was also blown up without media coverage. In respect to the incitement campaigns, 11 violations were documented.
The Israeli Shin Bet accused the Palestinian Authority’s media of inciting and encouraging the Palestinian individual operations against Israelis.
A European institute also accused ten journalists and bloggers of being agitators for supporting the Palestinian resistance in their writings.
Regarding the prosecution of journalists on cyberspace, two cases were documented.
Two Facebook pages were closed and a number of pro-Palestinian cartoons were deleted. The Palestinian journalist prisoner, Mohammed al-Qeiq, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 70 days, has suffered ten violations.
These include torture, forced-feeding, handcuffing to hospital bed, and intense presence of security in the hospital where he is staying to prevent his lawyers from talking to him, and continuing his administrative detention in the Israeli jails.
The report stated that there are now 18 Palestinian journalists in the Israeli prisons.
According to the same report, a journalist, Ayman Al-Aloul, and an activist, Ramzy Herzallah, were summoned for interrogation by Gaza security forces who later released them after a brief detention.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority forces arrested Momen Abu Duheir and Nablus TV director Salim Swidsan.
PA forces also summoned for interrogation Abdullah Oda, threatened Riham Al-Omary, and assaulted Sami Saa’y.
The Israeli government has vowed to launch an “electronic war” against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, including monitoring, tracking and thwarting their activities in cyber space, as well as attacking it with “special sophisticated tools”.
Israel Hayom newspaper reported: “Israel is facing a campaign to de-legitimise it. It penetrates into a certain extent; up to the secretary-general of the United Nations,” noting that it is a new battle in its “own stadium: the cyber space”.
It quoted the Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, as saying that the statements of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during which he called for ending the occupation of the Palestinian territory, contributes to “distorting Israeli image globally”.
During the Cyber Tech Conference 2016, held in Tel Aviv, Erdan added: “BDS should be forced to defend themselves and not to attack Israel,” noting that his government has allocated more than 100 million shekels ($25 million) for its “electronic war”.
The head of the Institute for National Security Studies, General Amos Yadlin, said: “The most dangerous country in the Middle East is the state of Facebook.”
“Those who will lead the United States in 20 years’ time are learning today in universities where anti-Israel propaganda exists.”
The war on encryption waged by the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies is unnecessary, because the data trails we voluntarily leak allow “Internet of Things” devices and social media networks to track us in ways the government can access.
That’s the short version of what’s in “Don’t Panic: Making Progress on the ‘Going Dark’ Debate,” a study published today by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.
The title references the government’s argument that “encrypted communications are creating a ‘going dark’ crisis that will keep them from tracking terrorists and kidnappers,” as David E. Sanger explains in his coverage at the New York Times.
From the Berkman study intro:
In the last year, conversations around surveillance have centered on the use of encryption in communications technologies. The decisions of Apple, Google, and other major providers of communications services and products to enable end-to-end encryption in certain applications, on smartphone operating systems, as well as default encryption of mobile devices, at the same time that terrorist groups seek to use encryption to conceal their communication from surveillance, has fueled this debate.
The U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities view this trend with varying degrees of alarm, alleging that their interception capabilities are “going dark.” As they describe it, companies are increasingly adopting technological architectures that inhibit the government’s ability to obtain access to communications, even in circumstances that satisfy the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirements. Encryption is the hallmark of these architectures. Government officials are concerned because, without access to communications, they fear they may not be able to prevent terrorist attacks and investigate and prosecute criminal activity. Their solution is to force companies to maintain access to user communications and data, and provide that access to law enforcement on demand, pursuant to the applicable legal process. However, the private sector has resisted. Critics fear that architectures geared to guarantee such access would compromise the security and privacy of users around the world, while also hurting the economic viability of U.S. companies. They also dispute the degree to which the proposed solutions would truly prevent terrorists and criminals from communicating in mediums resistant to surveillance.
Leading much of the debate on behalf of the U.S. government is the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose leaders have commented on the matter in numerous public statements, speeches, and Congressional testimony throughout 2014 and 2015. After nearly a year of discourse, which included numerous statements critical of the government’s position from former U.S. intelligence officials and security technologists, the White House declared in October 2015 it would not pursue a legislative fix in the near future.
However, this decision has not brought closure. The FBI has since focused its energy on encouraging companies to voluntarily find solutions that address the investigative concerns. Most recently, terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, and elsewhere around the world, along with rising concern about the terrorist group ISIS, have focused increased attention on the issues of surveillance and encryption. These developments have led to renewed calls, including among U.S. Presidential candidates, for the government and private sector to work together on the going dark issue and for the Obama administration to reconsider its position.
You can read the whole report here, it’s offered in PDF.
The “findings” section is chilling. Basically, they’re saying the government won’t have any problem tracking us and surveilling our communications, because we’re freely sharing a lot of very revealing personal data and metadata to third parties, all day, every day, security be damned. “Internet of Things” connected devices, social media, and everywhere else you’re leaking data without encryption? All of those are accessible sources of data for intelligence agencies or law enforcement.
In short, our findings are:• End-to-end encryption and other technological architectures for obscuring user data are unlikely to be adopted ubiquitously by companies, because the majority of businesses that provide communications services rely on access to user data for revenue streams and product functionality, including user data recovery should a password be forgotten.
• Software ecosystems tend to be fragmented. In order for encryption to become both widespread and comprehensive, far more coordination and standardization than currently exists would be required.
• Networked sensors and the Internet of Things are projected to grow substantially, and this has the potential to drastically change surveillance. The still images, video, and audio captured by these devices may enable real-time intercept and recording with after-thefact access. Thus an inability to monitor an encrypted channel could be mitigated by the ability to monitor from afar a person through a different channel.
• Metadata is not encrypted, and the vast majority is likely to remain so. This is data that needs to stay unencrypted in order for the systems to operate: location data from cell phones and other devices, telephone calling records, header information in e-mail, and so on. This information provides an enormous amount of surveillance data that was unavailable before these systems became widespread.
• These trends raise novel questions about how we will protect individual privacy and security in the future. Today’s debate is important, but for all its efforts to take account of technological trends, it is largely taking place without reference to the full picture.
The structure of the study was pretty novel. From the New York Times :
The Harvard study, funded by the Hewlett Foundation, was unusual because it involved technical experts, civil libertarians and officials who are, or have been, on the forefront of counterterrorism. Larry Kramer, the former dean of Stanford Law School, who heads the foundation, noted Friday that until now “the policy debate has been impeded by gaps in trust — chasms, really — between academia, civil society, the private sector and the intelligence community” that have impeded the evolution of a “safe, open and resilient Internet.”
Among the chief authors of the report is Matthew G. Olsen, who was a director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Mr. Obama and a general counsel of the National Security Agency.
Two current senior officials of the N.S.A. — John DeLong, the head of the agency’s Commercial Solutions Center, and Anne Neuberger, the agency’s chief risk officer — are described in the report as “core members” of the group, but did not sign the report because they could not act on behalf of the agency or the United States government in endorsing its conclusions, government officials said.
Granting the ACLU and the public access to staffing, budgetary, and statistical information about the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and FBI would mean “the public would know where the FBI was putting its resources,” warned an Assistant US Attorney in oral argument in a Boston federal court last week. The government apparently doesn’t want the public to know anything about how the FBI and JTTF spend public money, staff its offices, or conduct investigations.
Heaven forbid the public “know where the FBI [puts] its resources.”
In December 2013 the ACLU of Massachusetts sent a FOIA request to the FBI, which sought basic information about the structure and operations of the Boston JTTF and the Boston FBI field office. Amid the information the FBI redacted from its responsive disclosures were all budget figures, the number of FBI and state and local officials tasked to work on the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), and the number of assessments, preliminary investigations, and full investigations the Boston FBI conducted over two years ago. (It’s odd that the government is putting up a fight, resisting disclosure of these records, given that in 2011, it gave Charlie Savage of the New York Times similar information.)
According to the government, this information is exempt from public disclosure under FOIA law pursuant to Exemption 7e, the part of the federal statute that says agencies do not have to disclose records that would reveal law enforcement “techniques” or “procedures.” But as ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney Jessie Rossman argues, staffing, budgetary, and statistical information about caseloads do not reveal techniques or procedures.
The stakes for the public are high. If the court agrees with the government’s reasoning and denies the public access to this information, it would put the federal judiciary’s stamp of approval on what attorney Rossman rightfully argues the FBI is seeking in this case: “a categorical [FOIA] exemption for all law enforcement information.”
As Rossman said last week during oral argument, that’s not what congress intended when it wrote the Freedom of Information Act. If lawmakers intended to bar the public from accessing all law enforcement records, they would have written that into the FOIA statute—which they didn’t.
At issue in the ongoing litigation over FBI redactions is whether the public can hold law enforcement agencies accountable for how they spend our money and act in our names. If we don’t know anything about how law enforcement agencies operate, we can’t hold them accountable. Unaccountable law enforcement is not only bad for freedom; it also harms public safety. As history demonstrates, when the FBI is allowed to conduct its business in the dark, precious government resources are inevitably dedicated to spying on people who threaten the status quo, but who do not threaten their fellow Americans.
While antidemocratic in the extreme, it’s easy to understand why the FBI wants to keep budget, staffing, and investigations statistics secret from the public.
When the public learned about the FBI’s illegal and antidemocratic COINTELPRO operations in the 1970s, the attorney general imposed rules forbidding the FBI from spying on people unless agents could show the targets were likely violating the law. After 9/11, those rules were scrapped. The new guidelines allow FBI agents to open investigations (called “assessments”) against people absent any suspicion of wrongdoing. Since the 9/11 attacks the Bureau has been free to spy on people it doesn’t suspect of criminal activity, supposedly because suspicionless investigations are required during the permanent “war on terror.”
The ACLU is litigating for this information because we want to know what results from the FBI’s suspicionless investigations, known as assessments. If it’s true, as we suspect, that there are thousands of FBI assessments but comparatively few preliminary or full investigations—let alone arrests or successful prosecutions—it confirms what we and other civil libertarians have been saying for over a decade. Namely, allowing the FBI to spy on people absent criminal predicates isn’t just bad for civil liberties; it’s bad law enforcement. If agents are routinely chasing down leads that go nowhere, those agents are wasting their time spying on ordinary people on the public’s dime.
The FBI refuses to give us this information, which is part of the reason we sued. In essence, the government argues the information must remain secret because if disclosed, it will tip off terrorists to… the fact that the government wants to investigate crimes.
But hiding from the public records revealing how many assessments, preliminary investigations, and full investigations the Boston FBI office has conducted doesn’t protect public safety. Instead, it obstructs precisely the kind of public accountability that would make the FBI better at protecting the public from people who mean us harm. […]
Only when law enforcement agencies are subject to rigorous transparency can the public hold them accountable for their actions, thereby making them more effective at protecting public safety.
The FBI has a long and dirty history of spying on dissidents and activists, instead of investigating and building cases against people who do real harm to Americans, like the bankers who collapsed the US and world economy in 2008. So it’s easy to see why the government doesn’t want the public to learn any meaningful information about the inner workings of the Bureau. But government agencies can’t keep information secret from the public because it would reveal something embarrassing or unconstitutional. And the records at issue don’t reveal “techniques” or “procedures.”
Here’s to hoping the federal court agrees, and compels the FBI to release this basic information about how it spends our money and acts in our names. Only then will we have any meaningful access to judge how the Bureau is conducting itself, and so the opportunity to exert some democratic accountability over its operations.