JENIN – A teenage Palestinian boy from the northern West Bank says he was violently assaulted by Israeli soldiers at al-Jalama crossing north of Jenin while he was trying to cross into Israel.
Muhammad Asri Fayyad, 17, told Ma’an Saturday that on Thursday morning he arrived at the crossing along with a busload of young men and teenagers who had organized a trip to Israel and obtained the needed permits from Israeli authorities.
He says he entered the crossing and complied with the instructions Israeli officers were giving through loudspeakers. The instructions included “that we shove our mobile phones in one place and we cross from a different place which we did.”
“Everybody received back their mobile phones except me. The soldiers asked me to pass through a path under a bridge on top of which stood a number of soldiers pointing their guns at me.
“They then asked me to enter a room which has several doors and I obeyed the orders. All the doors were immediately locked before the officers started to shout through loudspeakers demanding that I take off my clothes and my shoes.”
He added that he took off his shoes first but the soldiers continued to shout “violently” repeating that he must take off all his clothes.
“When I took off my clothes, they turned on a huge ceiling fan which caused frigid coldness. I told them to turn off the fan because I was freezing, but they didn’t, and so I knocked on the fan in an attempt to cause it to stop. At that point the soldiers broke into the room and started to beat be with rifle butts until I fell to the ground.
“They then tied my hand to a steel bar behind my back and tied my foot to another bar. I remained in that position from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. After that a number of soldiers arrived and a female soldier untied me after she took a silver necklace I was wearing. She ordered me to put on my clothes, then she handcuffed and blindfolded my eyes and escorted me outside the crossing and told me that I was denied entry to Israel. She gave me a small sack in which I found the remnants of my mobile phone which had been smashed.”
Muhammad says he has been suffering severe shoulder and foot pain ever since.
The United Nations revealed Wednesday it has “credible and reliable” evidence that people recently detained at U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan have faced torture and abuse.
The UN’s Assistance Mission and High Commissioner for Human Rights exposed the findings in a report based on interviews with 790 “conflict-related detainees” between February 2013 and December 2014.
According to the investigation, two detainees “provided sufficiently credible and reliable accounts of torture in a U.S. facility in Maydan Wardak in September 2013 and a U.S. Special Forces facility at Baghlan in April 2013.”
The report states that the allegations of torture were investigated by “relevant authorities” but provided no information about the outcome of the alleged probes or the nature of the mistreatment.
This is not the first public disclosure of evidence of torture during the U.S. war in Afghanistan, now into its 14th year. The U.S. military’s Bagram Prison, which was shuttered late last year, was notorious for torture, including beatings, sexual assault, and sleep deprivation, and further atrocities were confirmed in the Senate report (pdf) on CIA torture, released late last year in a partially-redacted form. Afghan residents have repeatedly spoken out against torture and abuse by U.S., international, and Afghan forces.
The Senate report on CIA torture, released late last year in a partially-redacted form, exposes U.S. torture at black sites in Afghanistan and around the world.
Moreover, residents of Afghanistan have testified to—and protested—torture by U.S., international, and Afghan forces.
Beyond U.S.-run facilities, the UN report finds that torture and abuse have slightly declined over recent years but remain “persistent” throughout detention centers run by the U.S.-backed Afghan government, including police, military, and intelligence officials. Of people detained for conflict-related reasons, 35 percent of them faced torture and abuse at the hands of their Afghan government captors, the report states.
A regime bereft of legitimacy, save for its promise to guarantee national security, turns citizens into active players in a new culture of surveillance and reporting.
During his recent visit to Cairo in November 2014, Alain Gresh, former editor- in-chief of Le Monde Diplomatique, met with a couple of Egyptian acquaintances (a journalist and a student) in a downtown Cairo café. During their chat, which unsurprisingly involved Egyptian politics, a middle-class Egyptian woman at the next table became highly alarmed by the exchange. Her anxiety did not stop at shouting at the journalists, accusing them of conspiring to destroy Egypt, but extended to actually calling upon the security personnel guarding the nearby British Embassy to investigate the said conspiracy. The sad saga, which lasted for a few hours, ended with embarrassment for the Egyptian authorities and an apology to the French journalist.
Despite the Kafkaesque tone of the event, the ‘concerned citizen’ had actually behaved in the only logical way expected of her after a relentless, year-long campaign by the regime and dominant pro-regime media to create a state of mass hysteria regarding Egypt’s security. Since the military takeover of 2013, a public discourse has evolved churning out incessant accounts in which enemies of the Egyptian state and its people, external and internal, known and unknown, human and otherwise, are constantly conspiring to plot against the country and target its security as well as the health of its national economy. Against a rich tapestry of intrigue and terrorist discourse, the security apparatus has emerged, in this narrative, as the only national saviour capable of protecting the country from complete chaos. In fact, the legitimacy of the Sisi regime continues to derive largely from his promise to rid the country of terrorists and to restore security and order. In this regard, he makes grateful use of actual violent attacks against military and other targets especially in Sinai.
However, restoring a sense of trust in the police after the 2011 uprising remains unimaginable for the time being. After all, the 25 January uprising was in many ways a revolt against police brutality and the role of security institutions in reproducing Mubarak’s authoritarian neoliberal order and protecting its elite.
Contrary to mainstream accounts of the 25 January uprising as a peaceful episode led by middle-class, technology-savvy youth, the 18 days uprising saw heavy violence by protesters directed mainly against police targets. During the first days of the uprising, almost 100 police stations were set on fire, many detention cells opened to release detainees and police cars torched. To revamp the image of the police and its tarnished standing for the majority of citizens, an atmosphere of panic in which the police is presented as the only guarantor against total chaos is employed as a strategy. All the same, succeeding in this strategy has been no small feat especially against the backdrop of a shocking series of acquittals of all police officers of any charges of killing thousands of protesters since the January uprising. The regime’s objective of elevating the police image to that of national protector has required the spinning of a web of laws, of deepening layers of surveillance into areas of the everyday lives of citizens and, more importantly, enlisting citizens as participants in an omnipresent police regime.
Criminalising the everyday
During 2014, and in the absence of a functioning Parliament, two consecutive presidents, Adly Mansour and Sisi, decreed 140 new laws between them. The laws either criminalised new areas or made the penalties for already defined criminal activities more severe. This legal arsenal has resulted in criminalising many everyday activities and turning the mundane into the subversive in the public’s mind. The 140 new laws cover areas as varied as civil society organisations receiving foreign funding, practising politics inside university campuses and insulting the national flag. The last instance, embodied in the presidential law 41 of 2014, criminalised any form of insult to the national flag or national anthem which is punishable by a prison sentence of no more than one year and a 30,000 EGP fine. In a bid to comply with the law, the Ministry of Education decided that the same punishment will apply to school pupils whose behaviour in morning assembly could be perceived as ‘insulting’ the Egyptian flag. This could simply be the act of moving or passing in front of the flag while it is being saluted in morning assembly. The responsibility for surveillance and reporting of miscreant pupils is left to fellow-pupils, teachers and school management.
Turning citizens against each other and fuelling existing tensions between competing groups in order to create a ‘culture of informing against fellow citizens’ reached high levels in 2014. One example stands out. After repeated failures to clear Cairo’s city centre of street vendors, despite the use of violence, increased fines and prison sentences, especially since 2012, the Cairo governorate issued a shrewd decree. The decree went beyond pursuing street vendors to targeting fellow citizens who could now be punished for not reporting the offending vendors. The decree punishes, by closure and licence confiscation, any shop owner who allows street vendors to set up their stalls in the immediate vicinity of their shop. Sure enough, the new decree led to a wave of clashes between street vendors and shop owners who had long resented their presence and regarded them as unwanted competition. Many shop owners were only too happy to report the vendors, especially when egged on by the fear of losing their licences.
In a similar spirit of this informing against other, the Ministry of Transport has recently launched the campaign ‘Long live Egypt-Security is our collective responsibility’, encouraging conscientious citizens to report any suspicious behaviour of fellow commuters through a number of hotlines. The reward for reporting is an annual free transport subscription.
Layers of policing
Implementing the myriad new laws and providing surveillance for new areas of criminality has inevitably required an increase in the police force, its budget and its mandate. Already under Mubarak, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) employed 1.7 million individuals in 2009, including 850,000 police personnel and administrative staff, 450,000 Central Security Forces (CFS) personnel, and 400,000 individuals as part of the State Security Investigation Services (SSIS). In addition to formal forces and in order to support the needs of an ever-expanding regime of terror, the MOI started to ‘outsource’ its most ‘dirty’ business to baltagya (thugs). Baltagya are criminals, known to the police, usually with a record of violence, who are paid to carry out duties of ‘disciplining’ members of the public in return for the police turning a blind eye to their criminal activities.
The baltagya’s job description expanded to include voter intimidation, beating up, raping and sexually abusing criminal suspects and political activists, breaking up demonstrations and workers’ strikes, forcibly removing farmers from their land and much more. With the increasing dispossession and impoverishment of more groups in society due to intensive marketisation, Mubarak’s regime became heavily reliant on the police. Since the 1990s, therefore, the MOI budget has consistently increased its share of general expenditure, exceeding those of education and health combined. Since the 25 January uprising, the trend has continued and the budget of the MOI has increased further.
To meet the growing demand for personnel, Egypt’s Police Academy admitted 1850 students for the new academic year in July 2014. The successful candidates, accepted on the basis of lower academic achievements compared to previous years, constituted the largest class intake in the history of the academy. In a press conference held by MOI to mark the occasion, Ahmad Gad, assistant to the minister, quoted the inspiring role of the police force during the June 30th ‘revolution’ to a new generation of youth as the main factor for the rush of young people to join the academy. On the same occasion, it was also announced that new screening procedures had been put in place to exclude from admission any students who belonged to the banned Muslim Brothers (MB) organisation. Around the same time, 75 existing students were being investigated, and facing the prospect of expulsion, in an effort to purge the academy and the police force of any MB elements.
A larger, more tightly-vetted group of police graduates will come in handy to serve the proliferation of new police units. In July 2014, the MOI also reintroduced the traditional system of darak, which was abolished in 1952 in favour of more modern forms of policing. The traditional darak consisted of a single, low-ranking police officer who would patrol the streets to provide surveillance. The reinstated system will now consist of mobile units of three security officers working together. These include one officer armed with a pistol and two conscripts armed with batons. The role of the darak is one of surveillance and reporting. The unit will patrol the streets and report any suspicious behaviour to the closest police station, thus creating a better network of informing and surveillance. The plan is for this new system to be introduced in the two middle-class areas of Zamalek and Qasr El Nil (downtown Cairo) as a first step in a wider national plan.
The MOI has also been recruiting beyond graduates of the academy. In October 2014, the legislative section of the state council approved a draft law establishing community police, a new branch envisaged to involve a larger section of citizens in policing society. This new branch will hire both men and women in the age group between 18 and 22 who hold the minimum qualification of a middle school degree. They will be granted the power of arrest. The new community police units will work on ‘aiding the police in facing crime, enhancing a sense of security among citizens and [more importantly]… creating a culture of security’.
An inflated police force is not unique to Egypt. With the rise of neoliberal capitalism and its strategies of ‘accumulation by dispossession’, many regimes, including those in the ‘democratic’ west, have increased investment in policing and surveillance, especially targeting particular localities and populations; namely the poor, the unemployed, migrants and blacks Different policies such as the infamous ‘stop and search’, the ‘Injunctions for the Prevention of Nuisance and Annoyance’ in the UK and the ‘Prohibited Behaviour Order’ in the State of Western Australia have created a ‘culture of reporting’ and often given increasing discretionary powers to the police.
However, what is peculiar to Egypt is the total sense of impunity that the police has long enjoyed. This impunity, along with the increasing resources and extended mandate discussed above, is set to continue into the foreseeable future as the police serves the current regime in one crucial way. A regime bereft of any source of legitimacy, save for its promise of guaranteeing security to the nation, stops at nothing to inflate a discourse of national security around which to rally an otherwise disgruntled citizenry. Central to cementing this security discourse is the enlisting of large sectors of the population into becoming active players in the surveillance and reporting of society. Perhaps the recent call by the Chairman of the Journalists Syndicate on journalists to report any colleagues ‘proven to have incited against the army and police’ is a taste of what is yet to come.
Egyptian prosecutors referred 271 people to a military court on charges of belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group and attacking court buildings in central Egypt two years ago.
The defendants were charged with ransacking and torching a court building, as well as a prosecution office in the city of Malawi in the Minya province, in August of 2013.
The attack on Malawi’s official buildings happened following the dispersal of two major protest camps staged by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Mursi in Cairo and Giza, during which police and security forces killed more than 1,400 people.
Egyptian prosecutors are legally permitted to refer cases to the military prosecution in cases involving charges of vandalizing government property.
In October of last year, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a law that allows the referral of violations against state institutions to military courts.
The move was widely criticized by local and international rights organizations, which voiced fear that defendants would not receive fair trials before military courts.
In recent days, prosecutors referred 570 people to military trials on similar charges.
After Sisi’s rise to power, more than 15,000 Mursi supporters were imprisoned, while scores have been sentenced to death after speedy trials which the United Nations has denounced as “unprecedented in recent history.”
Mursi and many top leaders of his now-banned Muslim Brotherhood are themselves in jail and on trial in cases in which they face the death penalty if convicted.
Besides Islamists, many of the leading secular activists behind the 2011 uprising have also found themselves on the wrong side of the new political leadership, getting locked up for taking part in peaceful demonstrations following a ban on unlicensed protests.
Four Russian journalists were detained in Ukraine and ordered to return back to Moscow. Three of them were stopped when filming a Right Sector rally. The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed outrage at the incident, calling it a “provocation.”
Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) detained Channel One journalists Elena Makarova and Sergey Korenev, and NTV’s Andrey Grigoryev, who were in Kiev at the time. The SBU indicated that they will all be deported back to Russia and banned from entering Ukraine for the next five years.
Grigoryev is already back in Moscow, NTV reported. “I got detained right in Kiev’s downtown area while filming the rally, which included ultra-nationalist Right Sector members, football fans, and others who disagree with the direction the current government is taking,” Grigoryev said. “A few of the rally participants approached me and asked for my ID. I told them I would show my identification only to police, which is where they escorted me to.”
“Nothing was recorded at the police station… It looked like the decision [to deport] was made ahead of time,” he said.
A video has emerged showing the moment the journalist was apprehended.
Makarova said that 10 people with Right Sector stickers approached her and the cameraman. The individuals showed her SBU identification. When she asked to see their badges again, she was told: “If we show you the IDs again, you will be liquidated.” When Makarova inquired as to what they meant by that, the group replied: “It is best you don’t know.” She was then separated from her cameraman Korenev.
During the interrogations, she was asked what channel she was with and then told that her station “posed a threat to [Ukraine]” and that she would be deported.
Also on Wednesday, another NTV reporter, Inna Osipova, was refused entry into Ukraine after arriving at Kiev’s airport. She was asked a lot of questions about the purpose of her trip during customs control and was eventually told “the reason for her trip could not be proven.” Her passport was confiscated and she is currently stuck inside the airport.
’Ukraine’s actions are a provocation’
The Russian Foreign Ministry described the detention as “a provocation towards Russian journalists, and a violation of Ukraine’s obligations to guarantee the safety of journalist.”
“We demand that our journalists be immediately released and the hunt for representatives of the Russian media be halted,” the ministry added. “We expect corresponding reaction from specialized international organizations, primarily OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic, to new unlawful acts by the Ukrainian authorities.”
The incident comes after the SBU issued recommendations to strip more than 100 Russian media outlets of accreditation on February 21. Earlier in the month, 239 Ukrainian lawmakers voted in favor of suspending Russian journalists’ accreditation until the conflict in eastern Ukraine ends.
The list includes TASS, Rossiya Segodnya, and all Russian TV channels except Dozhd, according to government spokesperson Yelena Gitlyanskaya.
‘Silencing opposing voices’
Ukraine is justifying its actions by citing new legislation, professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island Nicolai Petro told RT. “It’s an attempt to achieve total information control – the ability to exclude all dissident voices, partly in Ukraine, from getting through to Ukrainian citizens.”
Ukraine is taking censorship to a whole new level, Petro explained. “In the West, the wartime precedent is that censorship can only occur in situations which directly involve military operations. The Ukrainian government is going far beyond that – to essentially silence opposition voices which are being silenced at home and use the Russian media to get back inside the country.”
The response in the West is likely to be “very muted,” the professor noted, “because this is an issue they would prefer not to deal with.”
But such attempts are usually not very successful. “The politicians tend to underestimate the ability of people to go around the restrictions to get information from a wide variety of sources. These attempts are ultimately bound to fail,” Petro said.
In addition to limiting freedom of expression inside Ukraine, Kiev announced this week that it is joining the information war by creating an ‘online army,’ according to the Information Policy Ministry.
Amherst, MA– University of Massachusetts Amherst student, Thomas Donovan, who is majoring in legal studies and had planned to become a Massachusetts State Trooper, has filed a lawsuit alleging his civil rights were violated after he was pepper sprayed, assaulted, and arrested for filming police brutality.
The officer also repeatedly stomped on his cellphone in an attempt to destroy the evidence and cover up the crime- but the video survived.
The incident took place last March during his neighborhood’s Blarney Blowout parties, an annual tradition attended by thousands and held the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day where Amherst and neighboring towns are full of informal St. Patrick’s Day drinking and festivities.
Last year saw 58 people arrested, 21 of which were UMass students after police in riot gear violently moved in.
During the commotion, Donovan noticed an officer using excessive force while making an arrest, so the student pulled out his cell phone to exercise his First Amendment right to film the incident. Donovan was on the other side of a fence, a safe distance away, and was not interfering with the brutality at all. At this point. An officer wearing full riot gear and carrying a pepper-ball gun— believed to be Officer Andrew Hulse—approached Mr. Donovan to prevent him from filming, the lawsuit states.
Despite the police intimidation, Donovan did not stop filming. He was then pepper-sprayed at close range by another officer. Donovan requested the officer’s name and badge number, but the officer would not identify himself.
Moments later, Officer Jesus Arocho knocked the phone out of his hand and threw him to the ground face first. The phone landed flat on the ground with the camera pointed up and continuing to film.
“Arocho, assisted by Defendant Andrew Hulse, placed Mr. Donovan under arrest. Meanwhile, Mr. Donovan’s phone, which had landed on the ground with the camera facingup, continued to film. It captured the actions of another police officer, Defendant John Doe 3, who walked over to the phone, stood over it, then stomped on it with his boot, several times, in an unsuccessful effort to destroy it.” the lawsuit continued.
Thankfully, Donovan’s phone was inside a shock-resistant protective case and the phone was unharmed. The video, and evidence of this blatant misconduct, was preserved.
Arocho then arrested Donovan on bogus charges of “disorderly conduct” and for “riot, failure to disperse.” These charges were ultimately dropped.
Arocho lied in his police report, stating Donovan was pepper sprayed “as he began to close the distance between himself and the officers.” The complaint points out that this claim is blatantly false as the incident was captured on video.
Donovan ended up spending 5 to 6 hours in a cell, falsely imprisoned, and was denied any assistance removing the pepper spray from his eyes.
Due to the officer’s insane actions, Donovan was suspended from the university, until he contested and won after he was found not to have committed any wrong-doing.
“Defendants knew that it was wrong to stop a civilian from filming police officers in public when the civilian did not interfere with police activity.
Defendants knew that it was wrong to use force against a civilian for filming police officers in public when the civilian did not interfere with police activity.
Defendants knew that it was wrong to arrest a civilian for filming police officers in public when the civilian did not interfere with police activity.
Defendants knew that it was wrong to try to destroy a civilian’s phone merely because it contained video of police officers performing their duties in public.” the complaint asserts.
This year’s Blarney Blowout parties are expected to begin on March 7, but students will be prohibited from hosting guests who are not UMass Amherst students. The University will also be offering “school sanctioned” events this year to monitor the amount of fun being had.
Perhaps a more reasonable course of action would have been to have the militarized police stand down and not bring violence and chaos to celebrations.
Israeli forces demolished four Bedouin homes in the Negev desert in southern Occupied Palestine on Tuesday, Ma’an news agency reported, leaving dozens homeless.
Israeli forces, escorted by bulldozers, raided the Tel Shebaa area of Beersheba early Tuesday and demolished the properties on the pretext that they lacked building permits. Locals said the homes belonged to the al-Nabbari family.
One of the family members, Sufian al-Nabbari, 20, was arrested after attempting to prevent the demolition.
“We will not let go of our lands. More than 60 police officers arrived in the area and demolished our homes and livestock barns,” Mohammed al-Nabbari said. “They even chopped down our olive trees.”
The head of the regional council for Bedouin villages unrecognized by Israeli authorities, Attiya al-Asam, said that the “brutality” of demolitions has increased recently in Bedouin towns in Occupied Palestine.
On Sunday, Israeli authorities demolished four homes belonging to Palestinian Bedouins near the town of Hurah in the Negev desert.
In 2013, authorities said that the homes of the 1,500 residents of the village were to be demolished because the area had been converted into a closed military zone.
Palestinians with Israeli citizenship complain of routine discrimination, particularly in housing, land access and employment.
There are about 260,000 Bedouin in historical Palestine, mostly living in and around the Negev in the arid south.
The Israeli government classifies approximately 40 villages in the Negev desert as “unrecognized,” arguing that the roughly 53,000 Palestinian Bedouins living there cannot prove their ownership of the land and are hence living there “illegally.”
Claiming that most of the land in the Negev desert is Israeli “state property,” Israel has repeatedly demolished Bedouin homes in the area.
In November, the IOF razed the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev Desert for the 78th time in four years.
The village was demolished for the first time in July 2010, before being rebuilt with metal and wood.
Dozens of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship living in Araqib say that they have owned the land since before Israel came into being in 1948.
Israel has demolished 77 Palestinian homes and agricultural structures since the beginning of 2015, leaving 110 people homeless, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Meanwhile, Bedouins are regularly attacked by the IOF, who killed 22-year-old Sami al-Jaar in the southern Negev region on January 14. During Jaar’s funeral, a 45-year-old Bedouin man, Sami Ibrahim Zayadna, suffocated to death due to tear gas sprayed by Israeli forces. … Full article
The truth is that the risk of an American being killed by terrorism is close to zero, having been calculated at 1:20,000,000
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | February 25, 2015
In the years since 9/11, American police alone have killed at least twice as many Americans as died in that single large event, the annual toll of police killings being somewhere between 500 and 1,000, the variation owing to many such events going inaccurately reported by police.
Each year, somewhere between 30 and 40 thousand Americans are killed in automobiles, the level having declined in recent years. Each year about 15,000 Americans are murdered, down from about 25,000 not too many years ago. Each year about 100,000 Americans are killed by medical malpractice. About 40,000 Americans commit suicide annually. These are just a few causes of death in America, not the largest ones but some of the more interesting.
Let’s get a rough total estimate of what has happened to Americans from these causes in the time since 9/11. Just using the low number in each case for fourteen years, 7,000 Americans were killed by their own police, 420,000 were killed by something parked in their garage, 210,000 were murdered by fellow citizens, 1,400,000 were killed by friendly family doctors, and there were 560,000 who just decided to pack it in for one reason or another. The total of these various causes of death rounds to 2, 600,000 deaths, nearly 867 times the number of Americans killed on 9/11, 867 collapsed sets of twin towers, nearly 62 collapsed sets of towers per year.
So why are we spending countless billions of dollars fighting terror, an almost insignificant threat to our well-being? We spend a total by various estimates of between 1 and 5 trillion dollars (yes, that’s trillion with a “t”), although such totals can never accurately be given owing to secrecy, false accounting, and the immense waste that is an inherent part of all military and intelligence operations. Even in the crudest military terms of “bang for the buck,” ignoring all the death and destruction and ethical issues, just as the military routinely does in its grim work, the War on Terror has to be the greatest misdirection of resources in all of human history.
Or is it?
Perhaps there are other reasons for the War on Terror, reasons never discussed in newspapers or on news broadcasts, reasons which make the expenditure of such colossal amounts against such an insignificant risk acceptable to those doing the spending? Unless American leaders are all lunatics, I think there must be.
Most people are aware that the War on Drugs has been a stupendous flop, with a great deal of resources having bought nothing except a general diminishment of personal freedoms, construction of new prisons, and make-work employment for many unnecessary police and prison guards. But each year the War on Terror spends many, many times the amount spent on the War on Drugs, and what has it bought us? A far greater debasement of freedoms, almost wiping clean parts of the Bill of Rights, raising to a high status in our society such dark and anti-democratic forces as security agents of every kind and the military, increasing exponentially the secrecy of government and thus giving voters no hope for an informed ballot, making countless future enemies in the world, and causing Americans willy-nilly to support filthy acts identical to the hateful work of military juntas who made tens of thousands of civilians disappear.
I think there are only a couple of explanations for this waste of resources which otherwise employed could have made the world an immeasurably better place. They are assisted greatly by what I’ll call the “crime in the news” effect, although I might just as well call it the “advertising effect,” because advertising works on people’s minds through its seeming omnipresence and repetition planting suggestions, suggestions not entirely different to those planted by the stage-performer hypnotist in the minds of his volunteers from the audience.
It has been demonstrated many times that daily reports of violent crime, even when the crimes occur outside a listening community, cause people to become apprehensive about many ordinary activities such as letting kids walk to school or go to the park to play. And no advertising campaign in history could begin to compare to the complete audience saturation of “terror this or that” in our newspapers, magazines, and on-air. Surely, no totalitarian government ever more completely blanketed its people with fearful suggestions than does America’s “free press” today. You literally cannot hear a news broadcast or read a newspaper with the word terror missing, a fact which keeps most people in an unquestioning frame of mind about what properly should be regarded as sinfully immense expenditures to no useful purpose, at the same time conditioning them to surrender precious freedoms. For most people, the fact is that fear overcomes both logic and courage.
Americans, along with people in other lands heavily under American influence, have voluntarily given up claims to what we believed were well-established rights. Yes, there is some controversy over the high-tech equivalent of Big Brother’s telescreens, over the construction of immense new or expanded agencies such as the TSA and NSA, and even some over a seemingly-endless set or wars, but much less than you might have expected. There has been relatively little controversy over America’s smashing its adherence to everything from the Geneva Conventions to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the complete disregard for established basic principles of common law in America’s international behavior goes largely unremarked, at least in America.
In a very real sense, America’s establishment, its government within the government consisting of leaders in security and the military and of its great corporations, has been given license to create a kind of Frankenstein monster which now stands ready with terrible powers to do its bidding. It certainly isn’t just terrorists who need fear, it is every person with the impulse in his or her breast for justice, fairness, and human decency, and it is every country which has an impulse for independence from America’s imperious declarations of how they should carry on their affairs. I don’t like the expression New World Order, but it does in fact communicate something of what has been pursued relentlessly by America’s establishment since 9/11 with an unbounded sense of its entitlement and privilege. The awesome creature it has brought to life – which already runs secret prisons, tortures, conducts non-judicial killings, and supports horrible governments in many places – is no respecter of principles or human rights or even basic decency. We all know from history and common experience that over time any well-funded, established, and privileged institution grows, altering the terms of its charter and spreading its influence always farther, just as today American intelligence, bound by charter not to spy on Americans, spies on them all the time through various technical arrangements effectively going around its charter.
This monster serves ambitions abroad – crush democracy anywhere it proves inconvenient or a barrier to the interests of America’s establishment, as in Ukraine and in Egypt and as attempted in Venezuela, but also crush old arrangements which have produced advancing societies in other lands, even though they are not yet democratic, as in Syria, Iraq, or Libya.
In a relatively short time the monster has made a chaotic wasteland of such previously prosperous lands as Iraq and Libya, and it is now hard at work doing the same to the lovely, ancient land of Syria where it is allied in its efforts with some of the ugliest violent fanatics you could hope to find anywhere. Its acts have resulted in many hundreds of thousands of deaths in these places, countless refugees and injuries, the destruction of much precious infrastructure, and left people to wallow in chaos for years to come.
It created a coup, and thereby a civil war, in Ukraine, reducing that impoverished land still further, and it allied itself for the effort with the kind of stormfront militia trash that even the pathetic FBI surely would infiltrate and investigate were they active in the United States. It did all this just to gain temporary psychological advantages over Russia, a country whose leadership today far better represents principles of international peace and good order – not without some distant echo of irony for those of us raised on a steady diet of Cold War propaganda – than those in Washington who never stop mouthing slogans about rights and democracy which they routinely ignore. We all have an immense investment in America’s reckless game of “playing chicken” with Russia, the only country on the planet capable of obliterating most of Western civilization. I’ve never liked frat-boy pranks and humor, but in this case the overgrown frat-boys at the CIA are guffawing over stupidities which risk most of what we hold precious.
But the monster serves also to intimidate America’s own population. Don’t hold big or noisy demonstrations against injustice, don’t complain too much about authorities and truly abusive police, don’t communicate with others who may be viewed as undesirables for whatever reasons by the government, and don’t describe any group which has been arbitrarily-declared terrorist as being merely freedom fighters – any of these acts or many others risks arbitrary powers that never formally existed before.
Homeland Security has stocked huge amounts of crowd-control equipment and weapons, and it was a military general who quietly announced a few years back that the Pentagon was prepared should martial law became necessary in America. America’s local police forces, long ago having earned an international reputation for violent, militaristic behavior, have been given surplus military-grade crowd-control equipment. The FBI seeks new authorities and capabilities regularly, the same FBI with such a sorry record, going back to its origins, of abusing authority.
In my mind, and I think in the minds of many, America’s posture towards the world resembles a pug-ugly bully confronting you on the street, someone who just will not let you pass until you give him what he demands. The bully is the country’s immensely wealthy and influential privileged establishment, having the country’s general population now completely in tow, fearful and intimidated, quite apart from being in large part underemployed or unemployed. The bully naturally pays no attention to international organizations and agreements, believing himself above the rules and constraints to which others hold. The organizations are either simply ignored or, as in the case of the UN, coerced into behaving along acceptable lines, America having spent some years recently refusing to pay its legally-required dues just to prove a point as well as having been involved in more than one cabal to unseat a disliked Secretary General.
And I fear this gives us just a hint of what is likely to come because, as we should never stop reminding ourselves, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The world’s hope for relief from a form of international tyranny comes from the growth of countries like Russia, China, India, and Brazil. I wish I could add the EU to the list, but it seems almost as supine and voiceless as America’s own general population or Canada’s present government. Only forces capable of saying “no” to America’s establishment and building interest blocs to oppose its excesses offer redress and relief in future, and it is only through political contention that new international organizations are likely to emerge, ones with some power and effect. Americans all give lip service to competition in economics, but the concept applies no less to the spheres of politics and world affairs. And Americans all give lip service to democracy, not realizing that its governing elites represent the tiniest fraction of the world’s population and resemble in their acts abroad about as aristocratic a government as ever existed.
From Torture to Drone Assassination, How Washington Gave Itself a Global Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card
“The sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” said conservative thinker Carl Schmitt in 1922, meaning that a nation’s leader can defy the law to serve the greater good. Though Schmitt’s service as Nazi Germany’s chief jurist and his unwavering support for Hitler from the night of the long knives to Kristallnacht and beyond damaged his reputation for decades, today his ideas have achieved unimagined influence. They have, in fact, shaped the neo-conservative view of presidential power that has become broadly bipartisan since 9/11. Indeed, Schmitt has influenced American politics directly through his intellectual protégé Leo Strauss who, as an émigré professor at the University of Chicago, trained Bush administration architects of the Iraq war Paul Wolfowitz and Abram Shulsky.
All that should be impressive enough for a discredited, long dead authoritarian thinker. But Schmitt’s dictum also became a philosophical foundation for the exercise of American global power in the quarter century that followed the end of the Cold War. Washington, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. A sovereign ruler should, said Schmitt, discard laws in times of national emergency. So the United States, as the planet’s last superpower or, in Schmitt’s terms, its global sovereign, has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power.
Just as Schmitt’s sovereign preferred to rule in a state of endless exception without a constitution for his Reich, so Washington is now well into the second decade of an endless War on Terror that seems the sum of its exceptions to international law: endless incarceration, extrajudicial killing, pervasive surveillance, drone strikes in defiance of national boundaries, torture on demand, and immunity for all of the above on the grounds of state secrecy. Yet these many American exceptions are just surface manifestations of the ever-expanding clandestine dimension of the American state. Created at the cost of more than a trillion dollars since 9/11, the purpose of this vast apparatus is to control a covert domain that is fast becoming the main arena for geopolitical contestation in the twenty-first century.
This should be (but seldom is considered) a jarring, disconcerting path for a country that, more than any other, nurtured the idea of, and wrote the rules for, an international community of nations governed by the rule of law. At the First Hague Peace Conference in 1899, the U.S. delegate, Andrew Dickson White, the founder of Cornell University, pushed for the creation of a Permanent Court of Arbitration and persuaded Andrew Carnegie to build the monumental Peace Palace at The Hague as its home. At the Second Hague Conference in 1907, Secretary of State Elihu Root urged that future international conflicts be resolved by a court of professional jurists, an idea realized when the Permanent Court of International Justice was established in 1920.
After World War II, the U.S. used its triumph to help create the United Nations, push for the adoption of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and ratify the Geneva Conventions for humanitarian treatment in war. If you throw in other American-backed initiatives like the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank, you pretty much have the entire infrastructure of what we now casually call “the international community.”
Breaking the Rules
Not only did the U.S. play a crucial role in writing the new rules for that community, but it almost immediately began breaking them. After all, despite the rise of the other superpower, the Soviet Union, Washington was by then the world sovereign and so could decide which should be the exceptions to its own rules, particularly to the foundational principle for all this global governance: sovereignty. As it struggled to dominate the hundred new nations that started appearing right after the war, each one invested with an inviolable sovereignty, Washington needed a new means of projecting power beyond conventional diplomacy or military force. As a result, CIA covert operations became its way of intervening within a new world order where you couldn’t or at least shouldn’t intervene openly.
All of the exceptions that really matter spring from America’s decision to join what former spy John Le Carré called that “squalid procession of vain fools, traitors… sadists, and drunkards,” and embrace espionage in a big way after World War II. Until the creation of the CIA in 1947, the United States had been an innocent abroad in the world of intelligence. When General John J. Pershing led two million American troops to Europe during World War I, the U.S. had the only army on either side of the battle lines without an intelligence service. Even though Washington built a substantial security apparatus during that war, it was quickly scaled back by Republican conservatives during the 1920s. For decades, the impulse to cut or constrain such secret agencies remained robustly bipartisan, as when President Harry Truman abolished the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), right after World War II or when President Jimmy Carter fired 800 CIA covert operatives after the Vietnam War.
Yet by fits and starts, the covert domain inside the U.S. government has grown stealthily from the early twentieth century to this moment. It began with the formation of the FBI in 1908 and Military Intelligence in 1917. The Central Intelligence Agency followed after World War II along with most of the alphabet agencies that make up the present U.S. Intelligence Community, including the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and last but hardly least, in 2004, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Make no mistake: there is a clear correlation between state secrecy and the rule of law — as one grows, the other surely shrinks.
America’s irrevocable entry into this covert netherworld came when President Truman deployed his new CIA to contain Soviet subversion in Europe. This was a continent then thick with spies of every stripe: failed fascists, aspirant communists, and everything in between. Introduced to spycraft by its British “cousins,” the CIA soon mastered it in part by establishing sub rosa ties to networks of ex-Nazi spies, Italian fascist operatives, and dozens of continental secret services.
As the world’s new sovereign, Washington used the CIA to enforce its chosen exceptions to the international rule of law, particularly to the core principle of sovereignty. During his two terms, President Dwight Eisenhower authorized 104 covert operations on four continents, focused largely on controlling the many new nations then emerging from centuries of colonialism. Eisenhower’s exceptions included blatant transgressions of national sovereignty such as turning northern Burma into an unwilling springboard for abortive invasions of China, arming regional revolts to partition Indonesia, and overthrowing elected governments in Guatemala and Iran. By the time Eisenhower left office in 1961, covert ops had acquired such a powerful mystique in Washington that President John F. Kennedy would authorize 163 of them in the three years that preceded his assassination.
As a senior CIA official posted to the Near East in the early 1950s put it, the Agency then saw every Muslim leader who was not pro-American as “a target legally authorized by statute for CIA political action.” Applied on a global scale and not just to Muslims, this policy helped produce a distinct “reverse wave” in the global trend towards democracy from 1958 to 1975, as coups — most of them U.S.-sanctioned — allowed military men to seize power in more than three-dozen nations, representing a quarter of the world’s sovereign states.
The White House’s “exceptions” also produced a deeply contradictory U.S. attitude toward torture from the early years of the Cold War onward. Publicly, Washington’s opposition to torture was manifest in its advocacy of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Geneva Conventions in 1949. Simultaneously and secretly, however, the CIA began developing ingenious new torture techniques in contravention of those same international conventions. After a decade of mind-control research, the CIA actually codified its new method of psychological torture in a secret instructional handbook, the “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation” manual, which it then disseminated within the U.S. Intelligence Community and to allied security services worldwide.
Much of the torture that became synonymous with the era of authoritarian rule in Asia and Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s seems to have originated in U.S. training programs that provided sophisticated techniques, up-to-date equipment, and moral legitimacy for the practice. From 1962 to 1974, the CIA worked through the Office of Public Safety (OPS), a division of the U.S. Agency for International Development that sent American police advisers to developing nations. Established by President Kennedy in 1962, in just six years OPS grew into a global anti-communist operation with over 400 U.S. police advisers. By 1971, it had trained more than a million policemen in 47 nations, including 85,000 in South Vietnam and 100,000 in Brazil.
Concealed within this larger OPS effort, CIA interrogation training became synonymous with serious human rights abuses, particularly in Iran, the Philippines, South Vietnam, Brazil, and Uruguay. Amnesty International documented widespread torture, usually by local police, in 24 of the 49 nations that had hosted OPS police-training teams. In tracking torturers across the globe, Amnesty seemed to be following the trail of CIA training programs. Significantly, torture began to recede when America again turned resolutely against the practice at the end of the Cold War.
The War on Terror
Although the CIA’s authority for assassination, covert intervention, surveillance, and torture was curtailed at the close of the Cold War, the terror attacks of September 2001 sparked an unprecedented expansion in the scale of the intelligence community and a corresponding resurgence in executive exceptions. The War on Terror’s voracious appetite for information produced, in its first decade, what the Washington Post branded a veritable “fourth branch” of the U.S. federal government with 854,000 vetted security officials, 263 security organizations, over 3,000 private and public intelligence agencies, and 33 new security complexes — all pumping out a total of 50,000 classified intelligence reports annually by 2010.
By that time, one of the newest members of the Intelligence Community, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, already had 16,000 employees, a $5 billion budget, and a massive nearly $2 billion headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Maryland — all aimed at coordinating the flood of surveillance data pouring in from drones, U-2 spy planes, Google Earth, and orbiting satellites.
According to documents whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked to the Washington Post, the U.S. spent $500 billion on its intelligence agencies in the dozen years after the 9/11 attacks, including annual appropriations in 2012 of $11 billion for the National Security Agency (NSA) and $15 billion for the CIA. If we add the $790 billion expended on the Department of Homeland Security to that $500 billion for overseas intelligence, then Washington had spent nearly $1.3 trillion to build a secret state-within-the-state of absolutely unprecedented size and power.
As this secret state swelled, the world’s sovereign decided that some extraordinary exceptions to civil liberties at home and sovereignty abroad were in order. The most glaring came with the CIA’s now-notorious renewed use of torture on suspected terrorists and its setting up of its own global network of private prisons, or “black sites,” beyond the reach of any court or legal authority. Along with piracy and slavery, the abolition of torture had long been a signature issue when it came to the international rule of law. So strong was this principle that the U.N. General Assembly voted unanimously in 1984 to adopt the Convention Against Torture. When it came to ratifying it, however, Washington dithered on the subject until the end of the Cold War when it finally resumed its advocacy of international justice, participating in the World Conference on Human Rights at Vienna in 1993 and, a year later, ratifying the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
Even then, the sovereign decided to reserve some exceptions for his country alone. Only a year after President Bill Clinton signed the U.N. Convention, CIA agents started snatching terror suspects in the Balkans, some of them Egyptian nationals, and sending them to Cairo, where a torture-friendly autocracy could do whatever it wanted to them in its prisons. Former CIA director George Tenet later testified that, in the years before 9/11, the CIA shipped some 70 individuals to foreign countries without formal extradition — a process dubbed “extraordinary rendition” that had been explicitly banned under Article 3 of the U.N. Convention.
Right after his public address to a shaken nation on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush gave his staff wide-ranging secret orders to use torture, adding (in a vernacular version of Schmitt’s dictum),“I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” In this spirit, the White House authorized the CIA to develop that global matrix of secret prisons, as well as an armada of planes for spiriting kidnapped terror suspects to them, and a network of allies who could help seize those suspects from sovereign states and levitate them into a supranational gulag of eight agency black sites from Thailand to Poland or into the crown jewel of the system, Guantánamo, thus eluding laws and treaties that remained grounded in territorially based concepts of sovereignty.
Once the CIA closed the black sites in 2008-2009, its collaborators in this global gulag began to feel the force of law for their crimes against humanity. Under pressure from the Council of Europe, Poland started an ongoing criminal investigation in 2008 into its security officers who had facilitated the CIA’s secret prison in the country’s northeast. In September 2012, Italy’s supreme court confirmed the convictions of 22 CIA agents for the illegal rendition of Egyptian exile Abu Omar from Milan to Cairo, and ordered a trial for Italy’s military intelligence chief on charges that sentenced him to 10 years in prison. In 2012, Scotland Yard opened a criminal investigation into MI6 agents who rendered Libyan dissidents to Colonel Gaddafi’s prisons for torture, and two years later the Court of Appeal allowed some of those Libyans to file a civil suit against MI6 for kidnapping and torture.
But not the CIA. Even after the Senate’s 2014 Torture Report documented the Agency’s abusive tortures in painstaking detail, there was no move for either criminal or civil sanctions against those who had ordered torture or those who had carried it out. In a strong editorial on December 21, 2014, the New York Times asked “whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity.” The answer, of course, was yes. Immunity for hirelings is one of the sovereign’s most important exceptions.
As President Bush finished his second term in 2008, an inquiry by the International Commission of Jurists found that the CIA’s mobilization of allied security agencies worldwide had done serious damage to the international rule of law. “The executive… should under no circumstance invoke a situation of crisis to deprive victims of human rights violations… of their… access to justice,” the Commission recommended after documenting the degradation of civil liberties in some 40 countries. “State secrecy and similar restrictions must not impede the right to an effective remedy for human rights violations.”
The Bush years also brought Washington’s most blatant repudiation of the rule of law. Once the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC) convened at The Hague in 2002, the Bush White House “un-signed” or “de-signed” the U.N. agreement creating the court and then mounted a sustained diplomatic effort to immunize U.S. military operations from its writ. This was an extraordinary abdication for the nation that had breathed the concept of an international tribunal into being.
The Sovereign’s Unbounded Domains
While Presidents Eisenhower and Bush decided on exceptions that violated national boundaries and international treaties, President Obama is exercising his exceptional prerogatives in the unbounded domains of aerospace and cyberspace.
Both are new, unregulated realms of military conflict beyond the rubric of international law and Washington believes it can use them as Archimedean levers for global dominion. Just as Britain once ruled from the seas and postwar America exercised its global reach via airpower, so Washington now sees aerospace and cyberspace as special realms for domination in the twenty-first century.
Under Obama, drones have grown from a tactical Band-Aid in Afghanistan into a strategic weapon for the exercise of global power. From 2009 to 2015, the CIA and the U.S. Air Force deployed a drone armada of over 200 Predators and Reapers, launching 413 strikes in Pakistan alone, killing as many as 3,800 people. Every Tuesday inside the White House Situation Room, as the New York Times reported in 2012, President Obama reviews a CIA drone “kill list” and stares at the faces of those who are targeted for possible assassination from the air. He then decides, without any legal procedure, who will live and who will die, even in the case of American citizens. Unlike other world leaders, this sovereign applies the ultimate exception across the Greater Middle East, parts of Africa, and elsewhere if he chooses.
This lethal success is the cutting edge of a top-secret Pentagon project that will, by 2020, deploy a triple-canopy space “shield” from stratosphere to exosphere, patrolled by Global Hawk and X-37B drones armed with agile missiles.
As Washington seeks to police a restless globe from sky and space, the world might well ask: How high is any nation’s sovereignty? After the successive failures of the Paris flight conference of 1910, the Hague Rules of Aerial Warfare of 1923, and Geneva’s Protocol I of 1977 to establish the extent of sovereign airspace or restrain aerial warfare, some puckish Pentagon lawyer might reply: only as high as you can enforce it.
President Obama has also adopted the NSA’s vast surveillance system as a permanent weapon for the exercise of global power. At the broadest level, such surveillance complements Obama’s overall defense strategy, announced in 2012, of cutting conventional forces while preserving U.S. global power through a capacity for “a combined arms campaign across all domains: land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace.” In addition, it should be no surprise that, having pioneered the war-making possibilities of cyberspace, the president did not hesitate to launch the first cyberwar in history against Iran.
By the end of Obama’s first term, the NSA could sweep up billions of messages worldwide through its agile surveillance architecture. This included hundreds of access points for penetration of the Worldwide Web’s fiber optic cables; ancillary intercepts through special protocols and “backdoor” software flaws; supercomputers to crack the encryption of this digital torrent; and a massive data farm in Bluffdale, Utah, built at a cost of $2 billion to store yottabytes of purloined data.
Even after angry Silicon Valley executives protested that the NSA’s “backdoor” software surveillance threatened their multi-trillion-dollar industry, Obama called the combination of Internet information and supercomputers “a powerful tool.” He insisted that, as “the world’s only superpower,” the United States “cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies.” In other words, the sovereign cannot sanction any exceptions to his panoply of exceptions.
Revelations from Edward Snowden’s cache of leaked documents in late 2013 indicate that the NSA has conducted surveillance of leaders in some 122 nations worldwide, 35 of them closely, including Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. After her forceful protest, Obama agreed to exempt Merkel’s phone from future NSA surveillance, but reserved the right, as he put it, to continue to “gather information about the intentions of governments… around the world.” The sovereign declined to say which world leaders might be exempted from his omniscient gaze.
Can there be any question that, in the decades to come, Washington will continue to violate national sovereignty through old-style covert as well as open interventions, even as it insists on rejecting any international conventions that restrain its use of aerospace or cyberspace for unchecked force projection, anywhere, anytime? Extant laws or conventions that in any way check this power will be violated when the sovereign so decides. These are now the unwritten rules of the road for our planet. They represent the real American exceptionalism.
Alfred W. McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is the author of Torture & Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation, among other works.
Copyright 2015 Alfred W. McCoy
Chicago, Ill. – In a startling report from the Guardian, details have been revealed about Chicago police detaining American citizens at “black sites.” These sites are similar to those used by the CIA around the world to interrogate/torture alleged terrorists.
The stunning revelation of the Chicago Police Department operating what amounts to an off-the-books interrogation facility is threatening, to say the least. The facility apparently operates outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, and its discovery exposes the very real and present danger of the threat posed by the police state to American freedom and liberty.
Housed in a warehouse on Chicago’s west side, Homan Square has long been the home to secretive police work. Attorneys as well as protesters, tell a tale of being systematically being denied their constitutional rights.
According to the Guardian,
Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:
• Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
• Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
• Shackling for prolonged periods.
• Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
• Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
In addition, no one is booked into Homan Square. Thus, there is no way of allowing anyone to account for their whereabouts as would typically happen at a precinct. When attorneys attempt to gain access due to a client being inside, they are summarily turned away from the “secure facility.”
“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.
According to Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor the practices entrenched in the operation of Homan Square violate both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”
According to Eliza Solowiej of Chicago’s First Defense Legal Aid, one man had his booking information changed in the central booking database. He was then taken to Homan Square with no record of the transfer. After his stint at Homan Square, he was taken to the hospital with a head injury, and she was finally able to find him.
“He said that the officers caused his head injuries in an interrogation room at Homan Square. I had been looking for him for six to eight hours, and every department member I talked to said they had never heard of him,” Solowiej said. “He sent me a phone pic of his head injuries because I had seen him in a police station right before he was transferred to Homan Square without any.”
Then, in a case that highlights the extremely ominous nature of Homan Square, 44-year-old John Hubbard was pronounced dead on February 2, 2013 after being found “unresponsive inside an interview room.”
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office “could not locate any record for the Guardian indicating a cause of Hubbard’s death. It remains unclear why Hubbard was ever in police custody,” the Guardian reports.
We are clearly teetering on the brink of total despotism and violations of the Constitution. This egregious practice must be investigated and prosecuted by the Department of Justice if they hope to keep the social fabric from unraveling.
James Trainum, a retired Washington DC homicide detective, who now studies national policing issues for the Innocence Project and the Constitution Project said,
“I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours. That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist.”
The egregious nature of this clear and present danger to American liberty cannot be overstated. According to Tracy Siska, a criminologist and civil-rights activist with the Chicago Justice Project,
“The real danger in allowing practices like Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,” Siska said.
“They creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago.”
Revelations like this case show how easy it is for constitutional protections to be completely disregarded and how quickly the slide into tyranny can occur.
Let’s get the word out and wake people up, by sharing this article wide and far. The time has come to unite and demand the systemic changes necessary to create a more just society and sustaining liberty.
Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), discusses the causes and consequences of the fact that only about 5% of pledged donations have reached Gaza.
Ken Klippenstein: What has been the impact of the failure of donor aid funds to reach Gaza?
Chris Gunness: Let me illustrate that with one simple vignette. I was in Gaza yesterday, and I met a grandfather living in the northern area, which is near the fence with Israel. The man is 62. Two of his grandchildren froze to death (i.e., died of hypothermia) during the storm known as Huda, which was in January.
They are living, 15 of them, in a shack, which I assumed when I saw it from the road was for animals. When I went there, it was a tiny, three-roomed wooden structure covered in leaky plastic. It was raining, so water was flowing in. And that is the very place where baby Salima died on the 21st of January at the age of just 40 days old.
The floor is sand, and on top of that they’ve put threadbare carpets. When you sit on them, they’re so wet and cold [that] it’s no protection whatsoever. Baby Salima basically got rained on all night. There was nowhere for them to go. Her body was blue and trembling. They took her to the hospital, and after one night the doctor phoned up and said that Salima was dead. Another grandchild, a boy, was 50 days old. He was in a UN shelter; it was freezing cold, and he died very suddenly of hypothermia.
There are about 110,000 homes which are either completely uninhabitable or very badly damaged. Assuming each home has between six and eight people, that’s 600,000-800,000 people, approximately. So in terms of both the depth of the suffering and the breadth of the humanitarian impact, it’s immense.
KK: Why haven’t the donor funds gone through? We heard so many different countries, from the Gulf states to the West, pledged aid – $5.4 billion, in fact.
CG: Your question is a very good one. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. It’s not from lack of appeals from us; it’s not from want of me telling stories like this; it’s not from lack of donors being given the figures, analysis, what the cost will be in human terms. All of this stuff they know, so there’s absolutely no shortage of information.
KK: What obligation does the West – particularly the United States, but also Europe – have to reconstruct Gaza, given that they are the ones who armed Israel? The West armed Israel with precisely the same weapons that were used to destroy Gaza in this last operation.
CG: And also, it’s those same donors who all met in Cairo [and agreed to rebuild Gaza] – without any security guarantees that it’s not going to be completely leveled again in another couple of years’ time, as has happened for the last six years. There have been three wars since 2009.
You should also ask what are the responsibilities of the belligerent parties, because in a conflict, the belligerent parties are responsible for the protection of civilians.
I think if you look at the Palestinian refugees in Gaza … we have a situation where Gaza is under blockade and the political pressures that need to come to bear to lift the blockade are not being effectively brought to bear. So the blockade continues.
Not only do huge swaths of Gaza look like an earthquake just hit, but it’s proven very difficult to reconstruct, because the funds simply are not there.
What is the point of reconstructing Gaza if the place is not allowed to have a functioning economy? Do you want gleaming white, new houses and totally impoverished people because the population can’t export?
What you need in an economy like Gaza is to be able to import raw materials to make things [like] garments and export them. If you can’t export them, then you can’t have a functioning economy. The people of Gaza are incredibly entrepreneurial. They’re very proud. They don’t want to suffer the indignities of aid dependency.
What are the obligations of the international community? One of their obligations is to put pressures to bear on the right place so that the blockade is lifted by Israel and the people of Gaza are allowed to trade. If you trade, you can have a disposable income; if you have a disposable income, you can buy things.
We don’t want to be going to the donor community with our begging bowl in hand and asking for money. It’s much better if people in Gaza can have their own economy. Of course they’ll need assistance reconstructing the place, but thereafter, they need to have a functioning economy. Otherwise they’re going to be condemned for decades more to this life-support system known as international aid.
KK: Israel has necessitated this aid by its blockade since Gaza doesn’t have a viable economy?
CG: Yeah. In the year 2000, there were 80,000 people in UNRWA’s food distribution. Fifteen years later, it’s 10 times that – 800,000. A lot of that aid dependency is due to the fact that there’s a blockade and Gaza cannot trade.
Unemployment is 44%. Food insecurity is rising. 90% of the water in Gaza is undrinkable. That’s the impact of the blockade. It’s devastating.
KK: As a UN official, could you comment on what obligations Israel has [under international law] as the occupying force in the Palestinian territories?
CG: In the UN, Israel is an occupying power, and has obligations to provide services, housing, water, electricity; all the things which protected populations need to have in situations of occupation. It’s all very clearly stipulated in the 4th Geneva Convention.
KK: What has been the effect of the destruction of the supply tunnels running from Egypt to Gaza?
CG: Make no mistake, the destruction of the tunnels has devastated a lifeline to the people of Gaza. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that. But the majority of the crossings into Gaza are through Israel.
The Rafah crossing – I’ve been through it – is a single road in one direction. A very narrow road, actually. And a very narrow single road in the other direction. It is not a crossing through which you would want to mount a major import-export or aid operation to 1.8 million people.
KK: How does the failure of the aid to reach Gaza now compare with previous instances?
CG: This is as bad as it’s ever been, I think. After the Cairo conference where the donor community pledged $5.4 billion, we created a plan for $720 million [in aid]. That was for essentially two things: rental properties for people whose houses had been destroyed, and for repair and reconstruction. That $720 million plan has a deficit of $585 million.
I’ve never known it to be this bad and I’ve been here for 9 years.
KK: I imagine failing to reconstruct Gaza represents a security risk.
CG: Having 1.8 million desperate, isolated, destitute people at any country’s doorstep – especially given the history, and given that there’s a fence around it and a blockade – how can that ever be considered to be in anybody’s interest – not just Israel, but all of us?
The Palestinian cause is a source of anger and frustration in many places, including across the Middle East. So it’s in nobody’s interest anywhere in the world to have Gaza in the state that it’s in.
[This transcript has been lightly edited.]
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a new law on terrorism, announced in the official Gazette on Tuesday morning.
The law’s 10 articles focus on defining terrorist entities, listing such groups and bodies, and stipulating legal processes for appealing these lists.
The law has been widely criticized since it was first drafted, with some claiming it restricts civil liberties.
Article one of the law defines terrorist entities as: “any association, organization, group or gang that attempts to, aims to, or calls for destabilizing public order; endangers the wellbeing or safety of society; harms individuals or terrorizes them, or endangers their lives or freedoms or rights or safety; endangers social unity; harms the environment or natural resources or monuments or communications or transportation or funds or buildings or public or private property, or occupies them; obstructs the work of public authorities or the judiciary or government entities or local municipalities or houses of worship or hospitals or scientific institutions or diplomatic missions or international organizations; blocks public or private transportation, or roads; harms national unity or threatens national peace; obstructs the implementation of the constitution or laws or bylaws; uses violence or power or threats or acts of terrorism to achieve any of its goals.”
The second article gives the prosecution the right to draw up lists of identified terrorist entities, including groups that are officially ruled as terrorist organizations. The prosecution will also be tasked with generating lists of “terrorists” found guilty of organizing identified terrorist groups.
The law stipulates that organizations designated as terrorist entities must remain on such lists for three weeks, and if no judicial order is issued to confirm the nature of these organizations, the prosecution retains the right to extend the period for further investigation.
Penalties against designated terrorist entities can include dissolving the organization, suspending its activities, shutting down its headquarters, banning meetings held by its members, halting funding to the organization directly or indirectly, freezing assets owned by the organization or its leaders, banning membership to, or promotion of, the group, and temporarily banning the group from political participation.
Mohamed Zaree, Egypt program manager at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) told Mada Masr previously that the law broadens the definition of a terrorist act to such an extent that it could encompass “crimes and even legal activities that do not relate to terrorism, including terms which are difficult to define legally, such as ‘severely undermining public order,’ ‘subjecting the safety, interest, or security of society to danger,’ ‘disrupting the authorities from carrying out some of their activities,’ ‘subjecting the lives, rights, or freedoms of citizens to danger,’ ‘preventing educational institutions from carrying out their work,’ and ‘[carrying out] acts which seek to hinder the implementation of the constitution or the law’.”
Given this broad definition, political groups, activists and civil society organizations could potentially be targeted under the law, he warned.
“It is clear that the principle aim of this bill in its current form is not to counter terrorism, but rather to restrict such groups, movements, and organizations from existing. This provision could easily be interpreted to punish individuals or organizations which call for constitutional or legal reforms, even if done peacefully,” Zaree claimed.