Norwegian doctor Mads Frederick Gilbert (C) treats a Palestinian child wounded in an Israeli airstrike at al-Shifa hospital on July 17, 2014
Partisans of Israel are not content merely to murder and maim Palestinian civilians. They also launch “weaponized words” against anyone who speaks out against their crimes . . . including the world’s most prestigious medical journals.
The Zionists’ latest verbal salvo has targeted The Lancet, the world’s best-known medical journal. Medical apologists for Israel’s July 2014 assault on Gaza have posted a letter claiming The Lancet’s July 22 2014 article on Israeli war crimes constitutes “stereotypical extremist hate propaganda.” It seems the Israel lobby’s medical division has declared war on The Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton, and its publisher, Reed Elsevier.
The Zionists, who have bought up the Western mainstream media and are currently targeting Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians in the biggest wave of hate propaganda in history, are hardly qualified to issue such accusations.
The Zionist doctors’ letter accuses The Lancet of a long list of vague and portentously-worded alleged misdeeds. But it offers virtually no specifics whatsoever to back up its hyper-general accusations. The vacuous list of charges against The Lancet includes “ethical and scientific lapses” (such as?), “failure to apply the normal rigorous standards of honesty and transparency” (with no examples given), failure to “publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed” (without offering a single concrete example of anything the Lancet published that required any such correction).
The Zionist letter attacks The Lancet’s July 22 2014 article “An open letter for the people in Gaza.” The angry authors bombastically assert: “ ‘An open letter for the people in Gaza’ by Manduca et al contains false assertions, unverifiable dishonest ‘facts’, many of them libellous, and glaring omissions.”
But the Zionists cannot name a single false assertion. They are just blowing smoke, hoping that nobody is paying close attention.
The Lancet Ombudsman had already investigated “An open letter for the people in Gaza” and found no false statements. According to HandsOffTheLancet.com, the Ombudsman did cite a “’regrettable statement’ that, because only 5% of Israeli academics had supported an appeal to” Israel to end the “military operation in Gaza (Gur-Arieh 2014), the authors had been ‘tempted to conclude that … the rest of the Israeli academics [had been] complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza.’”
But what is regrettable about such a statement? Can there be any doubt that the vast majority of Israeli academics, indeed a virtual unanimity of Zionists in Occupied Palestine, were actively or passively complicit in the massacre, and the larger genocide? While it may be regrettable that the Zionists in Occupied Palestine are complicit in Tel Aviv’s war crimes, and its larger ongoing program of genocide, it is not the slightest bit regrettable that The Lancet writers have pointed out such a disturbing but indisputable fact. (Polls show that virtually all Zionists in Occupied Palestine support the Gaza massacres, including the so-called Cast Lead in 2008-2009 and Protective Edge last summer.)
The roughly 500 Zionist doctors who are fulminating against The Lancet ought to have their licenses to practice medicine revoked. Then they ought to be put on trial for complicity in genocide propaganda. They are a disgrace to the medical profession, like the Nazi doctors who were indirectly responsible for brutalizing helpless people in World War II Germany because they averted their gazes from the crimes of their countrymen.
Unlike the Nazi Doctors (and their mirror images, the Zionist Doctors), the authors of “An open letter for the people in Gaza” could not avert their gaze:
“The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes…”
The Zionist Doctors have not demonstrated a single factual error in the above words, nor in any other passage from “An open letter for the people in Gaza.”
The current assault on The Lancet is not the first Zionist war on a leading medical journal. In 2004, British Medical Journal (BMJ) published “Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes.” According to the article:
“Two thirds of the 621 children (two thirds under 15 years) killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest – the sniper’s wound… Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorized to shoot to kill children in situations of minimal or no threat.”
The BMJ article was unprecedented. For first time in history, one of the world’s leading medical journals had documented the murder by sniper fire of more than 600 helpless Palestinian children – many of them “hunted for sport” as described by one horrified eyewitness, the journalist Chris Hedges, in his famous article “Gaza Diary.”
The Zionist reaction was swift. BMJ was castigated with the usual blustering Zionist rhetoric. But not a single factual mistake was found. As usual, the Zionists used vicious ad hominem attacks to obscure the hollowness of their arguments.
On December 9th, 1946, an American military tribunal charged twenty-three leading German physicians with crimes against humanity. Sixteen were convicted, and seven were executed.
Will the Zionist Doctors, whose complicity in genocide propaganda has been demonstrated by their attack on The Lancet, one day meet a similar fate?
BETHLEHEM – The South African minister of higher education said late Thursday that he had been denied entry to Palestine by Israeli authorities in revenge for political stances against Israeli policies.
“This is not only an act against him, but also an act against him as a member of the Cabinet, so by extension it’s an anti-government protest by Israel,” spokesperson KhayeNkwanyana told South African news website News24.
Minister Blade Nzimande was due to travel to the West Bank for a six-day working visit to discuss collaborations between the University of Johannesburg and Palestinian universities, a follow up to an agreement signed when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited South Africa last year.
The Ministry said, however, that the Israeli consulate refused to grant him a visa as a result of his political views in what is being labeled an “attack” on the South African government itself in the local press.
Nkwanyana said that the visa rejection was creating a “serious diplomatic problem,” noting that it effectively barred all South African officials from visiting both Palestine as well as Israel.
All travel in and out of the West Bank is controlled by Israel, meaning that Israeli military authorities hold ultimate control over any individual trying to reach the Palestinian territories.
“We must just boycott Israel,” the minister said in a statement to the press, adding that Israel was trying to “minimize the number of people who can actually see what is happening on the ground.”
He also said that he would urge South African institutions of higher education to cut their ties to Israeli institutions.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki condemned the move in a statement released on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
“Israel’s policies would not succeed in isolating the Palestinians,” he said.
“It will only embolden them into more struggle for ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”
South Africa is a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and numerous government officials have repeatedly compared the Israeli occupation and the systematic discrimination practiced against Palestinians to the racial apartheid policies practiced by the South African government against its black citizens until 1994.
Israeli authorities have repeatedly denied entry to officials from other countries and even from international bodies such as the United Nations that it feel have taken antagonistic political stances.
In January, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes, and consequences, Rashida Manjoo said she had been denied entry by Israel.
She said she had tried for months to get permission to enter in order to undertake a fact-finding mission, but had been refused entry.
In November, Israeli authorities banned the Colombian foreign minister from visiting the West Bank after discovering that she did not plan to meet with Israeli officials as well.
Academia is far from the bastion of free thinking and free speech it would like to claim for itself, as a newly confected “row” involving the leading medical journal The Lancet confirms.
Recently Southampton University in the UK caved in on hosting an important conference examining Israel and international law, following an intensive campaign of intimidation from Israeli apologists.
Now some 400 medical professors are blackmailing Reed Elsevier, publishers of The Lancet, by threatening to boycott its publications unless the company sacks editor Richard Horton – or as they duplicitously phrase it, “enforce appropriate ethical standards of editorship”.
By refusing to publish papers or peer review them, the professors, including five Nobel winners, hope Reed Elsevier will capitulate from fear that such a boycott might bring it to its knees.
Why target Horton? Because he has committed the cardinal sin of transforming what was once a sleepy academic publication into a journal dealing seriously with global health issues, including – and here’s the rub – reporting on the medical implications for Palestinians of Israel’s occupation, especially its attack on Gaza last summer.
According to the eminent professors, this is “stereotypical extremist hate propaganda” and “dishonest and malicious material that incites hatred and violence”.
What the professors would like is for The Lancet to follow the medical establishment’s traditional Three Wise Monkeys approach: they see, hear and speak no evil when it comes to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, including its documented torture, even of children, in its prisons, overseen by Israeli doctors.
Much is at stake here. Very gradually, the space to have an honest and critical debate about Israel is opening up in places where once it was almost impossible, including in the media, in academia and even among the conservative medical community. Those committed to protecting Israel at all costs are desperate to shut down those spaces. It is important that we don’t let them succeed.
There are signs that the apologists’ hand is weakening. Note that Southampton University was so incapable of justifying its decision to shut down the conference on academic or ethical grounds, it was forced to lie and claim that, despite police assurances that they could cope with any protests, the conference could not go ahead because of “safety concerns”.
Therefore, we should support Horton and The Lancet and make sure Reed Elsevier understands that there is also a price to pay if it capitulates to the authoritarian professors. It is good to see that a rival set of medical academics has already written to Reed Elsevier in support of Horton and The Lancet here.
Yet another report has surfaced describing how tools created by the malware-industrial complex are being deployed by U.S. security services. While the coverage surrounding this story focuses primarily on federal agencies it’s important to step back for a moment and view the big picture. In particular, looking at who builds, operates, and profits from mass surveillance technology offers insight into the nature of the global panopticon.
A report published by Privacy International as well as an article posted by Vice Motherboard clearly show that both the DEA and the United States Army have long-standing relationships with Hacking Team, an Italian company that’s notorious for selling malware to any number of unsavory characters.
Federal records indicate that the DEA and Army purchased Hacking Team’s Remote Control System (RCS) package. RCS is a rootkit, a software backdoor with lots of bells and whistles. It’s a product that facilitates a covert foothold on infected machines so intruders can quietly make off with sensitive data. The aforementioned sensitive data includes encryption keys. In fact, Hacking Team has an RCS brochure that tells potential customers:
“What you need is a way to bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain”
[Note: Readers interested in nitty-gritty details about RCS can check out the Manuals online.]
It’s public knowledge that other federal agencies like the FBI and the CIA have become adept at foiling encryption. Yet this kind of subversion doesn’t necessarily bother high tech luminaries like Bruce Schneier, who believe that spying is “perfectly reasonable” as long as it’s targeted. Ditto that for Ed Snowden. Schneier and Snowden maintain that covert ops, shrouded by layers of official secrecy, are somehow compatible with democracy just so long as they’re narrow in scope.
But here’s the catch: RCS is designed and marketed as a means for mass collection. It violates the targeted surveillance condition. Specifically, a Hacking Team RCS brochure proudly states:
“’Remote Control System’ can monitor from a few and up to hundreds of thousands of targets. The whole system can be managed by a single easy to use interface that simplifies day by day investigation activities.”
Does this sound like a product built for targeted collection?
So there you have it. Subverting encryption en masse compliments of Hacking Team. The fact that there’s an entire industry of companies just like this should give one pause as there are unsettling ramifications regarding the specter of totalitarian control.
Corporate America is Mass Surveillance
“I really don’t think there’s any more important battle today than combating the surveillance state [my emphasis]. Ultimately, the thing that matters most is that the rights that we know we have as human beings are rights that we exercise.”
There’s a tendency to frame mass surveillance in terms of the state. As purely a result of government agencies like the CIA and NSA. The narrative preferred by the far right is one which focuses entirely on the government (the so-called “surveillance state”) as the sole culprit, completely ignoring the corporate factions that fundamentally shape political decision making.
American philosopher John Dewey once observed that “power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” even under the pretense of democratic structures.
Dewey’s observation provides a conceptual basis for understanding how business interests drive the global surveillance apparatus. Mass surveillance is a corporate endeavor because the people who inevitably drive decisions are the same ones who control the resources. For example, the backbone of the internet itself consists of infrastructure run by Tier 1 providers like Verizon and Level 3 Communications. These companies are in a perfect position to track users and that’s exactly what they do.
Furthermore when spying is conducted it’s usually executed, in one form or another, by business interests. Approximately 70 percent of the national intelligence budget end up being channeled to defense contractors. Never mind that the private sector’s surveillance machinery dwarfs the NSA’s as spying on users is an integral part of high tech’s business model. Internet companies like Google operate their services by selling user information to the data brokers. The data broker industry, for example, generates almost $200 billion a year in revenue. That’s well over twice the entire 2014 U.S. intelligence budget.
From a historical vantage point it’s imperative to realize that high tech companies are essentially the offspring of the defense industry. This holds true even today as companies like Google are heavily linked with the Pentagon. For decades (going back to the days of Crypto AG) the private sector has collaborated heavily with the NSA’s in its campaign of mass subversion: the drive to insert hidden back doors and weaken encryption protocols across the board. Companies have instituted “design changes” that make computers and network devices “exploitable.” It’s also been revealed that companies like Microsoft have secret agreements with U.S. security services to provide information on unpublished vulnerabilities in exchange for special benefits like access to classified intelligence.
In a nutshell: contrary to talking points that depict hi-tech companies as our saviors, they’re more often accomplices if not outright perpetrators of mass surveillance. And you can bet that CEOs will devote significant resources towards public relations campaigns aimed at obscuring this truth.
A parting observation: the current emphasis on Constitutional freedom neglects the other pillar of the Constitution: equality. Concentrating intently on liberty while eschewing the complementary notion of equality leads to the sort of ugly practices that preceded the Civil War. In fact there are those who would argue that society is currently progressing towards something worse, a reality by the way that the financial elite are well aware of. When the public’s collective misery reaches a tipping point, and people begin to mobilize, the digital panopticon of the ruling class will be leveraged to preserve social control. They’ll do what they’ve always done, tirelessly work to maintain power and impose hierarchy.
Bill Blunden is a journalist whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including “The Rootkit Arsenal” and “Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex.” Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.
 The Later Works of John Dewey, 1925-1953, Volume 9: 1933-1934, Essays, Reviews, Miscellany, and A Common Faith, Southern Illinois University Press, 2008, page 76.
The National Security Agency summoned the editor-in-chief of the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm and four of the newspaper’s journalists for investigations on Tuesday, following the publication of a controversial report documenting police violations.
Published last Sunday, “Police martyrs and sins: Holes in the uniform of the police” is a seven-page spread documenting recent police violations and individual cases against policemen. The report also highlights policemen who were killed in action, acknowledging their sacrifices.
The NSA summoned editor-in-chief Mahmoud Mosallam and journalists Yosry al-Badry, Mostafa Makhlouf, Hassan Ahmed Hussein and Ibrahim Qaraa for questioning pertaining to the report.
The investigation was postponed to April 26 at the request of Journalists Syndicate head Yehia Qallash to allow more time for the journalists in question to be notified and for syndicate members to attend the questioning, since the summons was only issued late on Monday, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported.
Ahmed Ragab, chief editor of Al-Masry Al-Youm’s news site, declined to comment on the case.
The Interior Ministry issued a statement on Sunday calling the report in question “unprofessional,” and asserting that it would take legal action against the newspaper. The ministry said that the paper wrote the report in retaliation against the referral of its journalist, Yosry al-Badry, and former editor-in-chief to prosecution last December.
Badry was referred to the prosecution at the behest of the National Security Agency over a story he published on a suicide bombing that targeted the Ministry of Interior in Daqahlia.
In a statement published on Monday, the Journalists Syndicate denounced what it called the Interior Ministry’s “attempts to intimidate colleagues,” decrying the ministry’s response to the report as a “restriction on the freedom of the press.”
The increase in complaints filed against journalists “opens the door for restricting freedoms, instead of closing it,” the syndicate said.
The statement added that the ministry should have investigated the violations in the report and provided answers to the public, instead of taking legal action against the journalists.
The syndicate will issue a memo to the general prosecutor, reiterating the legal guarantees pertaining to publishing cases, the statement concluded.
Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told Mada Masr that there isn’t enough information on the dynamics behind the recent conflicts between state institutions and media outlets, many of which were aligned with the state until recently. He speculates that two factors could be at play.
“The brutality of the Interior Ministry has really increased, meaning ignoring police violations is worse than under Mubarak,” he said. “It became an issue newspapers couldn’t ignore.” Another explanation is that state institutions are pitting newspapers against each other, Eid said.
“We know that the military, intelligence services, national security and all these institutions have their own men in certain newspapers, and each of them is more loyal to a certain publication. It’s possible that one institution agreed to attack another,” he claimed.
Last week, a journalist at the privately owned Al-Dostour newspaper was arrested on allegations that he had waged a campaign against the Ministry of Interior. The privately owned Al-Watan newspaper was forced to remove a report on tax evasion by state institutions from publication last month, and in October, Al-Masry Al-Youm was impelled to rescind an interview with a security agent.
Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) chief investgator advises “Ukrainophobes” to keep quiet for their own safety
The Head of the investigation department of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), Vasily Vovk, advises “Ukrainophobes” to stop their rhetoric for their own safety following the recent murders of government critics in Ukraine. He said this on the ICTV television program Freedom of Speech on the evening of April 20.
“As the head of the Investigation Department, I believe that at present time, when there’s practically a war out there, the Ukrainophobes should either shut up or tone down their rhetoric to zero. No one should be taking a stand against Ukraine and Ukrainian-ness,”
Responding to a question about whether he has a scientific or legal definition of ‘Ukrainophobia’, Vovk said, “There’s none. But we do know what we’re talking about.”
As reported by Korrespondent.net, Oleg Kalashnikov, former member of the Party of Regions and member of the Verkhovna Rada, fifth convocation, was shot dead in Kiev on April 15. The journalist and writer, Oles Buzina, was gunned down in the capital near the entrance of his house on the afternoon of April 16.
President Petro Poroshenko has urged a prompt investigation of the murders of Kalashnikov and Buzina.
Translation to English by New Cold War.org.
By Ben Schreiner | Global Research | April 21, 2015
Using the recent spree of high profile police murders as the latest catalyst, calls to outfit all cops with some sort of body camera are once again reverberating nationally. But given the staggering amounts of personal data on the American people police agencies are already collecting, the proposals to lend the police one more surveillance device raises significant privacy concerns.
Speaking on the repercussions of the police murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a former opponent of body cams, recently remarked, “I think it is a game-changer. What you’ll see is a movement now by many more police departments to go to cameras.”
Indeed, the city of North Charleston has already announced plans to equip its entire police force with body cameras. This comes on the heels of President Obama announcement last December that the federal government would purchase 50,000 body cams for state and local police agencies in response to the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
For their proponents, body cameras promise to provide much needed accountability to the nation’s police agencies and their officers, who continue to gun down Americans at an alarming rate, while still mostly managing to allude prosecution. And as advocates note, limited study of such police cameras have already yielded seemingly promising results. In Rialto, California, for instance, a controlled study found a 60% decline in use of force by officers equipped with body cameras. Cops, to no surprise of anyone who has ever sought to film an on-duty officer, are all too cognizant of the power of recorded video (especially, we might add, when such video is in the hands of citizens).
But the anecdotal evidence championed by body camera backers aside, such police cams offer at best a flawed check on police abuse and brutality, and at worst portend a further bolstering of the already dystopian surveillance capabilities of law enforcement agencies.
The Limits of Police Body Cams
To begin with, as should be readily evident, police body cameras only work when officers turn them on. So in the case of the slaying of Walter Scott in South Carolina, even if Officer Michael Slager had been equipped with a body cam, there is no guarantee it would have captured his shooting of Scott; Slager could have simply turned it off. Indeed, a trial use of body cameras by Denver, Colorado police from June to December of 2014 saw less than half of all encounters involving the use of force actually recorded by camera equipped officers.
(And yet even when police brutality is captured on video and viewed publicly, accountability for officers is hardly guaranteed. The death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City cops was, after all, captured on film, but no officers were charged in his death.)
For those police body cams that actually are recording, however, all data collected is often held and stored by the police themselves; that is, the very people the cameras are meant to hold to account. As the Washington Post reported, “Officials in more than a dozen states—as well as the District [of Columbia]—have proposed restricting access or completely withholding the [body cam] footage from the public.” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, as the Post explains, has sought to keep the public from viewing police body cam videos by exempting all such videos from the Freedom of Information Act.
Simply put then, police not only control what body cameras record, but also increasingly what is done with the captured video.
It is also worth considering the fact that devices touted as a way to hold police accountable for their actions are configured not to watch and record the police, but rather to watch us from the perspective of the police. And as anyone who has come face-to-face with armored clad riot cops during a political protest will no doubt attest, the routine use of cameras trained on protesters by police brings no measure of accountability to the cops. Police cameras do nothing to stop warrior cops from unleashing their truncheons on peaceful protesters, nor do they do anything to hold them to account afterwards. In fact, the police deploy such cameras at rallies largely to aid the future prosecution of those they will arrest for the great criminal offense that is political dissent.
The far more troubling issue with championing police body cameras as some sort of progressive police reform, though, is that their deployment is part of a larger proliferation of mass surveillance capabilities now allowing domestic law enforcement agencies to sweep up a breathtaking amount of data on American citizens.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, the 560 body cameras currently employed by officers of the Oakland, California police department “results in about five to six terabytes of data every month—equivalent to about 1,250 to 1,500 high-definition movie downloads.” The data, the Journal continues, “is stored on a department server for two years at a minimum.”
Using the FBI’s Lockheed Martin designed Next Generation Identification system, cops everywhere equipped with body cameras will soon be able to tap into an FBI database containing over 50 million photos in order to utilize facial recognition technology when making routine traffic stops. It’s difficult to see how the use of body cameras to conduct such fishing expeditions would serve in any way to further police accountability.
The threat to personal privacy posed by police body cams is heightened further when considering the intimate places cops routinely go (e.g. inside one’s apartment or home) and the often compromised state of those visited by police. As the Los Angeles Times notes, “Video from dashboard cameras in police cars, a more widely used technology, has long been exploited for entertainment purposes. Internet users have posted dash-cam videos of arrests of naked women to YouTube, and TMZ sometimes obtains police videos of athletes and celebrities during minor or embarrassing traffic stops, turning officers into unwitting paparazzi.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to picture huckster entrepreneurs of the near future using any and all police body cam video released to the public (which will undoubtedly be skewed toward those videos portraying officers in a positive light) to piggyback on the already booming online mug shot industry currently dabbling in the lucrative trade of public humiliation and shame.
Body cameras or not, though, police agencies the nation over are already fixing to amass vast swaths of data on no less than our daily movements via the widespread deployment of things like automatic license plate readers (ALPRs), which snap pictures of car license plates in conjunction with date, time, and location.
According to a separate Journal report, the Justice Department is currently using ALPRs strategically placed on major highways, in combination with those routinely used by state and local law enforcement agencies, to maintain a national database to “track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S.” Many of the devices used to feed the database, the paper notes, “also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities.”
Consider, also, the ability local police agencies already possess to scoop up our electronic communications via devices like “dirtboxes” and “stingrays” (which mimic cellular towers in order to trick all adjacent cell phones into sending their identifying information back to the devices for collection). This is to say nothing of the “haystack” of personal data the National Security Agency is actively compiling in its search for needles.
Such a rush by law enforcement to deploy all the latest surveillance technologies on the American people quite predictably leaves the collecting agencies awash in more data than could ever possibly be of use. In fact, such mass surveillance is quite lousy at its purported purpose of predicting and preventing crime or “terrorism.” As Julia Angwin writes in her book Dragnet Nation, “the flood of data can be overwhelming and confounding to those who are charged with sorting through it to find terrorists.” “But,” Angwin goes on to add, “ubiquitous, covert surveillance does appear to be very good at repression.”
Police Surveillance as Repression
What the “war on drugs” was for mass incarceration, the “war on terror” has clearly been to domestic surveillance. So not only are militarized police now sent parading through the streets in their repurposed military vehicles and equipment, they are also increasingly turning to military-styled mass surveillance methods to achieve the very same ends sought by occupying American forces abroad; that is, collective pacification.
As Darwin Bond-Graham and Ali Winston write in a 2014 LA Weekly article on the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of data-intensive “predictive policing”: the “LAPD’s mild-sounding ‘predictive policing’ technique, introduced by former Chief William Bratton [now chief of the NYPD] to anticipate where future crime would hit, is actually a sophisticated system developed not by cops but by the U.S. military, based on ‘insurgent’ activity in Iraq and civilian casualty patterns in Afghanistan.”
Bond-Graham and Winston add: “Records obtained by L.A. Weekly from the U.S. Army Research Office show that UCLA professors Jeff Brantingham and Andrea Bertozzi (anthropology and applied mathematics, respectively) in 2009 told the Army that their predictive techniques ‘will provide the Army with a plethora of new data-intensive predictive algorithms for dealing with insurgents and terrorists abroad.’ In a later update to the Army, after they had begun working with LAPD, they wrote, ‘Terrorist and insurgent activities have a distinct parallel to urban crime.'”
The world, lest we ever forget, is now a battlefield. But if the American dragnet abroad is, as Alfred McCoy writes, a means of cheaply “projecting power and keeping subordinate allies in line,” the domestic dragnet imposed by militarized cops is likewise as much about keeping domestic threats (activists, dissidents, the working class, and poor) in line as imperial rot takes hold within the “homeland” in the form of widening economic inequality and deepening social crisis.
And utilizing mass surveillance as a tool of repression indeed appears the intent of snooping police departments.
Pouring over documents released on the city of Boston’s now suspended ALPR program, ACLU attorney Catherine Crump found that “The Boston Police Department was targeting mostly low income, working class, and Black neighborhoods with their license plate reader program.” In one case, Crump discovered that “one motorcycle that was recorded stolen in the police department’s system had driven past one fixed plate reader 60 times.”
“This signals to me that our greatest fear is true,” Crump adds. “While police say, ‘We need this technology because it helps us find stolen cars and criminals,’ we have found they’re also using these tools to collect data about people who they have no reason to believe were involved in any criminal activity. In Boston, we found that police aren’t using these cameras to respond to hits, they’re sucking up all this data to use potentially down the road for intelligence.”
Are we to believe, then, that the mountains of data to be captured by police body cameras and stored for possibly years by police departments is to be used to hold cops to account? Or is such footage more likely to be kept in secret to further police control over potentially rebellious poor, minority, and working class citizens?
Who gains by entrusting killer cops with policing our privacy?
A day before he was murdered on April 15th Oleg Kalashnikov had organized the protest at the US Embassy in Kiev on April 14th.
Oleg Tsarov, his collegue from the former Party of Regions and a fellow dissident Ukraine politician wrote on his Facebook:
I BLAME THE US FOR THE DEATH OF MY FRIEND
Another one of my friends, Oleg Kalashnikov, was killed. I’m very sorry. We were friends. I knew his family. Repeatedly I tried to convince him to leave Kiev. In response, he told me that if everyone leaves, then who will fight.
I constantly tell my friends, remaining in Ukraine, that the organization of protests is futile. This power does not argue with its opponents, it eliminates them. Many of my friends were arrested, some disappeared, others were killed.
Oleg was one of the organizers of the last protest at the U.S. Embassy: people gathered and stood in silence outside the Embassy. Oleg didn’t leave, did not give up. He died. He was killed.
The latest (April 14th) demonstration at the US Kiev Embassy:
BETHLEHEM – An Israeli military court has brought 12 charges against Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jerrar in connection to her membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an international rights group said.
Having been detained and interrogated since Apr. 2, Jerrar was charged by the Israeli military prosecution on Wednesday, according to a report released Friday by Amnesty International.
Charges included membership of an illegal organization, participation in protests, and incitement to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
A review of the charges against her will take place on Apr. 29, the report said.
Jerrar’s defense team argued there was no basis to the incitement charge and that it was vindictive, according to Amnesty’s report.
The majority of Palestinian political organizations are considered illegal by Israel, including those that make up the PLO, and association with such parties is often used as grounds for imprisonment, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
Jerrar was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 as a member of PFLP.
Jerrar was detained on Apr. 2 from her home in the Ramallah neighborhood of al-Bireh, and was afterwards held and interrogated at the Ofer detention center. She was later taken to Hasharon prison inside Israel.
An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an that Jerrar had been detained for being the leader of a “terrorist organization,” and had encouraged “terror activities” in the previous few weeks.
The arrest also came after Jerrar refused a deportation order from Israeli authorities in August, demanding that she leave the Ramallah district for Jericho.
‘A symbol of resistance’
Jerrar has been targeted by Israeli authorities throughout her life, although Wednesday was the first time the lawmaker had been officially charged by Israeli military courts.
Palestinian factions have decried the arrest, with one PLO committee saying it was “an outrageous violation of her parliamentary immunity.”
Legislative Council lawmaker Jamil al-Majdalawi said: “Israel does not lose a chance to attempt to break the resistance’s will, the people’s resistance and their leadership symbols, and Khalida Jarrar is one of those symbols of resistance.”
In February, Jerrar joined the Palestinian committee in charge of conducting an International Criminal Court investigation into Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.
She is also vice-chair of prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
Until the charges against her on Wednesday, Jerrar had been held in Israeli prisons under administrative detention.
Palestinians held in administrative detention are often held without charge or trial for months and without access to the evidence that led to their detention, even though international law stipulates this tactic only be used in exceptional circumstances.
Israeli prisons currently hold 14 members of the PLC, eight of them in administrative detention
Professor Graham Watt MD FRCGP FRSE FMedSci, Professor of General Practice, University of Glasgow, UK
Sir Iain Chalmers DSc FFPH FRCP Edin FRCP FMedSci, Coordinator, James Lind Initiative, Oxford, UK
Professor Rita Giacaman, PharmD, MPhil, Professor of Public Health, Birzeit University, occupied Palestinian territory
Professor Mads Gilbert MD PhD, Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway
Professor John S Yudkin MD FRCP, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University College London, UK
On 31 March 2015, 396 professors and doctors, led by Professor Sir Mark Pepys, submitted a complaint to the Senior Management and Board of Reed Elsevier concerning “egregious editorial misconduct at The Lancet that is unacceptable in general and also gravely violates your own published Editorial Policies”.
The signatories include 5 Nobel laureates, 4 knights and a Lord. 193 (49%) of the signatories are from the US, 95 (24%) from Israel, 33 (8%) from the UK, 26 from France, 19 from Canada, 12 from Australia with smaller numbers from Belgium (3), Brazil (3), Italy (2), Denmark (2), Mexico (1), Panama (1), South Africa (1), Sweden (1) and Switzerland (1).
The complaint makes brief mention of The Lancet’s publication of the paper by Wakefield, linking MMR vaccine to autism, which was shown subsequently to be fraudulent, but is chiefly concerned with The Lancet Editor-in-Chief, Richard Horton, and his alleged “persistent and inappropriate misuse of The Lancet to mount a sustained political vendetta concerning the Israel-Palestinian conflict, to promote his own well known personal political agenda”.
The centre of the complaint concerns “An open letter for the people of Gaza” by Manduca and 23 others, which was published online by The Lancet on 22nd July and in hard copy on 2nd August 2014, 14 days into “Operation Protective Edge”, Israel’s 50 day attack on Gaza.
The complainants consider that this letter, and The Lancet’s handling of the controversy it aroused, breached both the Journal’s own policies and the Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors issues by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).
The complaint ends by requiring “Reed Elsevier to behave ethically by retracting the Manduca letter, apologizing for its publication and ensuring that any further editorial malpractice at The Lancet is prevented”.
Chronology of events
8 July 2014
Israel began a major military assault on the Gaza Strip, the fourth in eight years. It lasted 50 days and was more devastating than previous offensives. 2,220 Gaza residents were killed, of whom at least 70% were civilians, including over 500 children. More than 17,000 residents were wounded and over 100,000 made homeless (UN OCHAopt, 2014). According to Israeli official accounts, 73 Israelis were killed: 67 soldiers and 6 civilians, including one child and one migrant worker. 469 Israeli soldiers and 255 civilians were wounded (Bachmann et al. 2014).
15-22 July 2014
A report cited by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper records that 125 children were killed during the week 15-22 July 2014, including 59 on 20th July.
22 July 2014
On the 14th day of Israel’s 50-day assault ‘An open letter for the people in Gaza’, co-authored by 24 signatories from Italy, the UK and Norway, was published by the medical journal The Lancet, initially online and subsequently in print (Manduca et al. 2014a). One of the signatories provided eyewitness accounts of the medical consequences for the civilian population, while working clinically at the largest trauma centre in Gaza during the first weeks of the assault. The letter was endorsed online by more than 20,000 signatories.
9 and 16 August 2014
The Lancet published 20 letters in hard copy editions, divided equally between authors criticising and supporting the Open Letter. Some correspondents declared that medicine “should not take sides” and that those who speak out against the consequences of war for civilians incited hate or introduced politics “where there is no place for it” (see, for example, Konikoff et al. 2014). Others described the letter as “anti-Jewish bigotry, pure and simple” (Marmor et al. 2014), although at least one of the authors of the ‘Open Letter’ was Jewish, and the word “Jewish” did not appear in the letter. Similar charges were made in the lay press, both within Israel and elsewhere (see Simons 2014, for example).
One of the letters published in response to the ‘Open Letter’ was co-authored by seven Jewish health professionals in South Africa (London et al. 2014). They suggested that “remaining neutral in the face of injustice is the hallmark of a lack of ethical engagement typical of docile populations under fascism”. They had witnessed and exposed some of the worst excesses of state brutality under apartheid, and had been harassed, victimised or detained for being anti-apartheid activists. They pointed out that they did not have the opportunity to air their views in their national medical journal, which suppressed public statements made by concerned health professionals and labelled such appeals for justice and human rights as ‘political’.
They expressed support for The Lancet’s decision to permit a discussion of the professional, ethical, and human rights implications of the conflict in Gaza, emphasizing that it is appropriate for health professionals to speak out on matters that are core to their professional values.
30 August 2014
After 20 responses to the ‘Open Letter’ had been published, its authors accepted The Lancet’s invitation to reply (Manduca et al. 2014b). They denied any financial conflicts of interests, as had been alleged, and listed the variety of experiences and affiliations that had led to their support for Palestinian society.
They noted that the allegations by the Ministry of Health in Gaza that gas had been used by the Israeli military would need to be tested by an independent Commission of Inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council. They ended by recalling the context in which they had written their letter: during the preceding two days one Palestinian child was being killed, on average, every two hours, and the UN had made clear how serious the situation had become:
“The huge loss of civilian life, alongside credible reports about civilians or civilian objects (including homes) which have been directly hit by Israeli shelling, in circumstances where there was no rocket fire or armed group activity in the close vicinity, raise concerns about the principles of distinction and proportionality under international law.” (OCHA oPt 2014)
22 September 2014
Some were dissatisfied with The Lancet’s handling of the Open Letter. Two medical academics at University College London registered complaints with The Lancet Ombudsman (Simons 2014). One of them, Professor Sir Mark Pepys, was quoted in The Telegraph as having written that “The failure of the Manduca et al. authors to disclose their extraordinary conflicts of interest… are the most serious, unprofessional and unethical errors…The transparent effort to conceal this vicious and substantially mendacious partisan political diatribe as an innocent humanitarian appeal has no place in any serious publication, let alone a professional medical journal, and would disgrace even the lowest of the gutter press.”
Pepys suggested that the behaviour of Dr Horton, editor of The Lancet, was “consistent with his longstanding and wholly inappropriate use of The Lancet as a vehicle for his own extreme political views, which had greatly detracted from the former high standing of the journal.” (quoted in Simons 2014).
The article in The Telegraph also alleged that two of the authors of the Open letter – one of them Chinese – have sympathies with the views of “an American white supremacist” (Simons, 2014), following the mistaken forwarding of emails, for which both individuals subsequently apologised.
When one of the authors of the ‘Open Letter’, the Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who has worked clinically in Gaza during every Israeli assault on the Strip since 2006, was voted “Norwegian Name of the Year” in a national poll in December 2014, Pepys and eight other doctors wrote to the largest Norwegian newspaper, VG, to complain about his silence on the ‘loathsome hatred and racism’ of his co-authors. They asked for his national award to be reconsidered (Cohn et al. 2015).
17 October 2014
The Lancet Ombudsman published her report online on 17 October (Wedzicha, 2014). She said that she had received many emails and letters, some supporting and others opposing the position expressed in the ‘Open Letter’, and that some of them had been inappropriate in tone and of a personal nature. She stated that it was “entirely proper that medical journals and other media should seek to guide and reflect debate on matters relevant to health, including conflicts”.
She was not persuaded by calls for retraction of the ‘Open Letter’, “I do not believe that sufficient grounds for retraction have been established, and this would make other letters referring to the publication in question difficult to interpret”.
The Ombudsman went on to address allegations of bias among the authors of the ‘Open Letter’. “Given the shocking images and statistics reported from Gaza at the time, the use by Manduca and colleagues of emotive language, in description of the ‘massacre in Gaza’ for example, can be understood. Where the letter is less successful is in its portrayal of the armed element of the conflict on the Palestinian side. Given the authors’ close association with the region they will have been aware that several thousand potentially lethal rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza into Israel during the conflict, leading to loss of life.”
The authors were criticised for not having disclosed at the time of submission “any financial or other relationships that could be perceived to affect their work”, and she indicated that she would be asking the journal’s editors to put a policy in place as soon as possible to rectify this. The Ombudsman criticised the authors for not referencing in their original letter the source for their statement about the possible use of gas in Gaza.
The Ombudsman’s most serious criticism of the letter was the “regrettable statement” that, because only 5% of Israeli academics had supported an appeal to the Israeli government to stop the military operation in Gaza (Gur-Arieh 2014), the authors had been “tempted to conclude that…the rest of the Israeli academics [had been] complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza”.
“In summary”, the Ombudsman concluded, “the letter by Manduca and co-authors was published at a time of great tension, violence and loss of life. Given these circumstances the letter’s shortcomings can be understood, as a measure of balance has been achieved by the publication of further letters from both sides of the debate.”
3 November 2014
The Ombudsman’s decision to reject calls for the letter to be withdrawn from the public record was supported by Dr Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, former chair of COPE and author of COPE’s Code of Conduct for Editors (Smith 2014): The Lancet letter was “passionate, overstated in parts, inflammatory to some, and one sided; and the authors failed to declare competing interests and two of them had acted in an objectionable but not illegal way. But none of these are grounds for retraction.”
He ended his commentary on an historical note:
“The Lancet was made the great journal it is by Thomas Wakley, the founder and first editor, publishing articles that were so inflammatory that his critics burnt his house down. That radical tradition has not always shone brightly in the nearly 200 years since, but Horton has restored it strongly, establishing the Lancet as a world leader in global health, speaking truth to power and giving a voice to those who are not heard (like the children of Gaza). It’s against that radical tradition and leadership that the Gaza open letter must be viewed. It should and has been disputed, but it shouldn’t be retracted.”
Contrasting views of journal editors
Editors have disagreed on whether political issues should be addressed in scientific journals.
For example, the American Diabetes Association issued a statement, signed by several editors of leading diabetes and endocrine journals, indicating that they “will refrain from publishing articles addressing political issues that are outside of either research funding or health care delivery” (American Diabetes Association 2014).
In response, a commentary signed by the current and two previous editors-in-chief of the European Journal of Public Health, one of whom has longstanding and very extensive collaborations with Israeli colleagues (McKee et al. 2015), voiced strong support for The Lancet, arguing that medical journals cannot ignore the political determinants of health, including those arising from conflicts. They noted, “It seems strange that it was the diabetes community that feels it necessary to take this decision,” noting how the global epidemic of diabetes, fuelled by forcing markets open to energy-dense food, reflects a policy identified primarily with Republicans rather than Democrats in the United States.
Following the Ombudsman’s Report
Soon after Israel’s 2014 assault, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) assembled a medical fact-finding mission (FFM) of 8 international medical experts, unaffiliated with Israeli or Palestinian parties. Four had expertise in the fields of forensic medicine and pathology; four others were experts in emergency medicine, public health, paediatrics and paediatric intensive care, and health and human rights. The FFM made three visits to Gaza between 18 August and November, 2014.
The principal conclusion in the report of the FFM (Bachmann et al. 2014) is as follows: The attacks were characterised by heavy and unpredictable bombardments of civilian neighbourhoods in a manner that failed to discriminate between legitimate targets and protected populations and caused widespread destruction of homes and civilian property. Such indiscriminate attacks, by aircraft, drones, artillery, tanks and gunships, were unlikely to have been the result of decisions made by individual soldiers or commanders; they must have entailed approval from top-level decision-makers in the Israeli military and/or government.
The FFM (pp 98-99) listed many examples “suggestive of several serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”, including disproportionality, attacks on medical teams and facilities, and denial of means of escape. They also reported (pp 53-55) evidence which suggested the use of anti-personnel weapons and gas during the conflict.
These accusations have also been made in reports by Amnesty International (Amnesty, 2014), Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch, 2014), B’Tselem (B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 2015) and the United Nations (OCHA, 2014, 2015).
The FFM called on the UN, the EU, the US and other international actors to take steps to ensure that the governments of Israel and Egypt permit and facilitate the entry of investigative teams into Gaza, including experts in international human rights law and arms experts, and noted (in January 2015) that this had still not been done, months after the offensive. Specifically, the UN Commission of Inquiry has been denied entry to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (See: United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict).
The FFM recommended further urgent and rigorous investigation into the impact of this war, as well as the previous armed conflicts, on public health, mental health and the broader social determinants of health in Gaza, adding that, in its assessment, the implacable effects of the on-going occupation itself would have to be taken into account.
There have been subsequent accusations by Amnesty International of war crimes committed by both sides of the conflict (BBC 2014; Linfield 2015).
Further calls for retraction of the Open Letter
Dissatisfied with the Ombudsman’s report, critics of the Open letter continued to call for it to be withdrawn and for The Lancet editor to apologise for publishing it. In a new development, the authors of the Open letter, and the journal, are being accused of being anti-Semitic. The current complaint to Reed Elsevier now refers to the Open Letter as “stereotypical extremist hate propaganda, under the selective and hypocritical disguise of medical concern”. On 24 February 2015, its lead author Professor Sir Mark Pepys wrote to 58 Israeli academics (Pepys, 2015):
The Lancet under the editorship of Richard Horton has published, for more than the past 10 years, many disgracefully dishonest and unacceptable articles about Israel. Horton has made no secret of the fact that these pieces express his own very strongly held personal views which he has published elsewhere in detail.
Last July, at the height of the Gaza war, The Lancet published a piece by Manduca and others which was at an unprecedentedly low level. It combines outright lies and slanted propaganda viciously attacking Israel with blood libels echoing those used for a thousand years to create anti-Semitic pogroms. It completely omitted the Hamas war crimes which initiated and sustained the conflict. There was no historical or political background. Crucially there was no mention of any conflict of interest among the authors despite the fact that Manduca and all the co-authors have long participated enthusiastically in not just anti-Israel but frankly Jew hating activities. All these individuals are close colleagues and collaborators of Horton.
Many of us have been trying as hard as we can since the Manduca publication to get it retracted, to get an apology for it and to convince Elsevier, the owners of The Lancet to both sanction Horton and to prevent any repetition of such shameful and unacceptable behaviour. So far there has been no satisfactory response. Indeed Horton continues to stand by the Manduca piece and refuses to accept that it is not factual and correct.
The goal of the attached protest to Elsevier document is to get the [‘Open letter’] retracted. I hope that all of you will sign it. Meanwhile colleagues at the Rambam Hospital have, as you know, invited Horton to Israel and shown him the reality of Israeli medicine, as opposed to the vicious anti-Semitic fantasy he has promoted. They have engaged in long discussions with him. Despite his refusal to either retract or apologise for his publications some colleagues are apparently convinced that Horton has reformed. Others, including Professor Peretz Lavie, the President of the Technion, who met with him for one and a half hours, were unconvinced by Horton’s presumed change of heart.
My view is that the Manduca piece was written by dedicated Jew haters, though some choose to mask this by being overtly passionate only about hating Israel. But they all agree that a Zionist/Jewish lobby or power group controls the world and its destiny and must be brought down. The Manduca piece would have made Goebbels proud and Streicher would have published it in Der Stürmer as happily as Horton published it in The Lancet…… anybody who was not a committed anti-Semite would firstly not have published (the Open letter), and secondly would have retracted instantly when the first author’s long track record of blatant anti-Semitism were exposed. In Horton’s case he already knew and liked her and her co-authors well, fully aware of all their vicious anti-Israel and frank, overtly anti-Semitic backgrounds.
Pepys’ text was distributed widely beyond the Israelis to whom the initial text had been sent, including, on 30 March, to over 150 academics with the subject line amended to:
‘DO NOT CITE The Lancet in your work – Their content includes fraudulent data’ (Lewis 2015).
As a result of this correspondence, 396 people have co-signed the complaint, including the statement “The collaboration of the academic community with Reed Elsevier and its journals is based on trust in their maintaining high ethical and scientific standards. None of us is under any obligation to submit and review material for publication in their journals or to serve on their editorial or advisory boards”.
The long history of pro-Israel suppression of medical freedom of expression
The heavy-handed escalation of the dispute and the use of ad personam charges of anti-Semitism to suppress freedom of expression in medical journals are not new.
In 1981, a short article in World Medicine informed medical readers who were considering attending the ‘medical olympics’ in Israel that the event was going to be held on the site of a massacre ordered by the then prime minister of Israel (Sabbagh 1981). The pro-Israel protest led eventually to the demise of the journal (O’Donnell 2009).
In 2001, pro-Israel objections to the historical background in an article on ‘The origins of Palestinians and their genetic relatedness with other Mediterranean populations’ published in Human Immunology (Arnaiz-Villena et al. 2001) led Elsevier to remove it from the public record.
In 2004, an article entitled ‘Poverty, stress and unmet needs: life with diabetes in the Gaza Strip’ (Tsapogas 2004) published in Diabetes Voice was expunged from the public record and the editor resigned, again because of charges of political bias.
In 2004, there was an outcry from pro-Israel doctors when the British Medical Journal published a personal view entitled ‘Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes’ (Summerfield 2004). The editor received nearly a thousand emails, many of them personally abusive and alleging anti-Semitism (Sabbagh 2009).
In 2009, commenting on several British Medical Journal papers exposing and discussing these issues, a senior British Medical Journal editor concluded that authors, editors, publishers, advertisers, and shareholders should ignore orchestrated email campaigns (Delamothe 2009). Citing another editor he suggested that the best way to blunt the effectiveness of this type of bullying is to expose it to public scrutiny.
The “Open letter to the People of Gaza” was written in deep concern and outrage during a military assault on the Gaza Strip, killing large numbers of civilians, including women and children, on a daily basis. The world was shocked and appalled. The content and tone of the letter were controversial, as shown by subsequent correspondence in The Lancet, for and against.
The Lancet Ombudsman criticised aspects of the letter but neither she nor a former Chair of COPE considered that it should be withdrawn.
The involvement of 396 senior researchers in a mass effort to force Reed Elsevier to withdraw the letter is the latest in a series of heavy-handed interventions to stifle media coverage of the Israel-Palestine issue and should be resisted.
Richard Horton should be supported as an exceptional editor of The Lancet, in the best traditions of the Journal.
The “unfinished business” of Operation Protective Edge is not whether the “Open Letter to the People of Gaza” should be retracted, but in the light of reports by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and others, to determine whether and by whom, from either side of the conflict, violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed.
Will the 396 signatories of the complaint to Reed Elsevier give their support to that objective?
References and Supporting Signatories available at source.
If you wish to communicate with the Writing Group please email HandsOffTheLancet@Gmail.Com
If you wish to add your name to this list of supporting signatories please use the form here
Personal details of murdered journalist & ex-MP found posted on Ukrainian ‘enemies of state’ database
Flowers at Ukraine’s Embassy in Moscow after the murder of journalist Oles Buzina in Kiev. (RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov)
The journalist and ex-MP who were gunned down in Kiev this week were on an ‘enemies of the state’ database – a social media website supported by the aide to Ukraine’s interior minister. The bloggers also have a Twitter account to share ‘successes.’
The volunteer-made website calling itself ‘Mirotvorec’ (Peacekeeper), posts very thorough and comprehensive information on anyone who happens to make the list – journalists, activists, MPs opposing the current Kiev authorities’ policies and rebels fighting against the government in the east. The posts include their addresses, social media account links, a substantial biography and any mentions in the Ukrainian press. There is also labeling involved e.g. “terrorist; supporter of federalization” and other tags.
The website indicates that politician Oleg Kalashnikov’s and journalist Oles Buzina’s details were published on the site no more than 48 hours before both were found dead.
The website has its own social media account, which frequently tweets cryptic messages of “successful missions.”
The website enjoys the support of at least one high-profile Ukrainian official: Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister and a member of the Ukrainian parliament. In one of his Facebook posts, he advised people to post updates to the website.
Praising the work of the website for helping him shoulder the heavy load of information on “terrorists” and “separatists,” Gerashchenko attacks the view that sharing extensive personal information is a breach of privacy.
“Not at all!” he says, citing Article 17 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which states, according to him, that “the defense of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, ensuring its economic and information security is one of the external functions of the state, and is the business of all the people of Ukraine… Everyone who reports a name to the website, or another [resource] is doing the right thing,” Gerashchenko writes.
Below is a video ofUkrainian Interior Minister ArsenAvakov physically assaulting Kalashnikov during a TV show.
The radical Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) organization claimed responsibility for Kalashnikov’s and Buzina’s murder. The statement was made in a letter to Ukrainian political analyst Vladimir Fesenko, who says he received it. The letter is presently being investigated by the Ukrainian police.
This week alone has seen at least four killings of opposition figures in Ukraine. It all started on April 13 with the slaying of journalist Sergey Sukhobok – followed by Kalashnikov two days later and Buzina, the day after that – on the 16th.
The latest murder happened last night when another journalist Olga Moroz – the editor-in-chief of the Neteshinskiy Vestnik, a Ukrainian paper. Moroz was found dead in her home, RBK Ukraine reported.
Her body showed signs of a violent death. Some possessions were missing from the apartment, according to police. Although her work is listed among the causes investigated, the police say there are no allegations relating to any complaints of pressure or threats of violence reported by the journalist.
Buzina’s murder has led to strong condemnation from the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic.
“This appalling act is yet another reminder about the dangers associated with journalism as a profession. This killing must be immediately and fully investigated by the competent authorities… My sincere condolences go out to Buzina’s family and colleagues.”
“I reiterate my call on the authorities to allocate all necessary resources to investigate all attacks on journalists,” she said. “There must be no impunity for the perpetrators and the masterminds behind any violence against members of the media.”
The official also commented on the murder of Sukhobok, who was co-founder of a number of online news portals and contributor to several more Ukrainian media outlets. An investigation is underway.
Mijatovic’s comments are the latest in a long string of international condemnation of the alarming rise of media murders.
In February, the European Union called for stricter observance of freedom of speech in the media by all sides in the Ukrainian conflict.
“We continue to condemn and call for an end to attacks on journalists notably in eastern Ukraine, including killings and abductions,” the statement read.
Following months of protest, Congress has finally put forth bicameral Fast Track legislation today to rush trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) through Congress. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, and Rep. Paul Ryan, respectively, introduced the bill titled the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. With Fast Track, lawmakers will be shirking their constitutional authority over trade policy, letting the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative pass Internet rules in back room meetings with corporate industry groups. If this passes, lawmakers would only have a small window of time to conduct hearings over trade provisions and give a yea-or-nay vote on ratification of the agreement without any ability to amend it before they bind the United States to its terms.
The Fast Track bill contains some minor procedural improvements from the version of the bill introduced last year. However, these fixes will do little to nothing to address the threats of restrictive digital regulations on users rights in the TPP or TTIP. The biggest of these changes is language that would create a new position of Chief Transparency Officer that would supposedly have the authority to “consult with Congress on transparency policy, coordinate transparency in trade negotiations, engage and assist the public, and advise the United States Trade Representative on transparency policy.”
However, given the strict rules of confidentiality of existing, almost completed trade deals and those outlined in the Fast Track bill itself, we have no reason to believe that this officer would have much power to do anything meaningful to improve trade transparency, such as releasing the text of the agreement to the public prior to the completion of negotiations. As it stands, the text only has to be released to the public 60 days before it is signed, at which time the text is already locked down from any further amendments.
There is also a new “consultation and compliance” procedure, about which Public Citizen writes [pdf]:
The bill’s only new feature in this respect is a new “consultation and compliance” procedure that would only be usable after an agreement was already signed and entered into, at which point changes to the pact could be made only if all other negotiating parties agreed to reopen negotiations and then agreed to the changes (likely after extracting further concessions from the United States). That process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority “no” vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement.
Thus, essentially the Fast Track bill does the same as it ever did—tying the hands of Congress so that it is unable to give meaningful input into the agreement during its drafting, or to thoroughly review the agreement once it is completed.
A main feature of the bill is its negotiation objectives, which set the parameters within which the President is authorized to negotiate the agreement. If Congress considers that the text ultimately deviates from these objectives, it can vote the agreement down. Some of these negotiation objectives have been added or changed since the previous Fast Track bill, but none of these provide any comfort to us on the troubling issues from the Intellectual Property, E-Commerce, and Investment chapters of the TPP. Indeed, some of the new text raise concerns. For example:
- Governments are to “refrain from implementing trade-related measures that impede digital trade in goods and services, restrict cross-border data flows, or require local storage or processing of data”. Data flows and the location of the processing of data aren’t solely or even primarily trade issues; they are human rights issues that can affect privacy, free expression and more. The discussion about whether laws that require local storage and processing of certain kinds of sensitive personal data are protective of user rights, for instance, cannot take place in the secret enclaves of a trade negotiation. The bill does allow for exceptions as required to further “legitimate policy objectives”, but only where these “are the least restrictive on trade” and “promote an open market environment”.
- Trade secrets collected by governments are to be protected against disclosure except in “exceptional circumstances to protect the public, or where such information is effectively protected against unfair competition”. But there are other cases in which there may be an important public interest in the disclosure of such trade secrets, such as where they reveal past misdeeds, or throw transparency onto the activities of corporations executing public functions.
But more troubling than what has been included in the negotiating objectives, is what has been excluded. There is literally nothing to require balance in copyright, such as the fair use right. On the contrary; if a country’s adoption of a fair use style right causes loss to a foreign investor, it could even be challenged as a breach of the agreement, under the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. Further, the “Intellectual Property” section of today’s bill is virtually identical to the version introduced in 2002, and what minor changes there are do not change the previous text’s evident antipathy for fair use. So while the new bill has added, as an objective, “to ensure that trade agreements foster innovation and promote access to medicines,” an unchanged objective is “providing strong enforcement of intellectual property rights.” What happens if those two objectives are in conflict? For example, in many industries, thin copyright and patent restrictions have proven to be more conducive to innovation than the thick, “strong” measures the bill requires. Some of our most innovative industries have been built on fair use and other exceptions to copyright—and that’s even more obvious now than it was in 2002. The unchanged language suggests the underlying assumption of the drafters is that more IP restrictions mean more innovation and access, and that’s an assumption that’s plainly false.
All in all, we do not see anything in this bill that would truly remedy the secretive, undemocratic process of trade agreements. Therefore, EFF stands alongside the huge coalition public interest groups, professors, lawmakers, and individuals who are opposed to Fast Track legislation that would legitimize the White House’s corporate-captured, backroom trade negotiations. The Fast Track bill will likely come to a vote by next week—and stopping it is one sure-fire way to block the passage of these secret, anti-user deals.
If you’re on Twitter, help us call on influential members of Congress to come out against this bill.
Read the text of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 here.
Read about all of our concerns with the TPP agreement:
- Anti-Circumvention of Digital Rights Management (DRM)
- Criminalization of Investigative Journalism, Security Research, and Whistleblowing
- ISP Liability: Internet Intermediaries as Copyright Cops
- Criminal Copyright Enforcement
- Expansion of Copyright Terms
- “Investor-State” Provisions Could Undermine User Protections in Copyright
- Restrictions on Fair Use