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UN Condemns U.S. Police Brutality, Calls For ‘Stand Your Ground’ Review August 31, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Police, Race, Racism.
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Roger’s note: the United States was founded on the genocide of the First Nations peoples and much of its enormous wealth was derived from the forced labor of African slaves.  Racism is as American as apple pie.  This is not leftist ranting, it is historical fact.  Sadly, under the “leadership” of the country’s first African American president, the situation is only getting worse.  Obama’s immigration extradition policies, his orientation towards Wall Street and away from Main Street, the federal government’s militarization of urban police forces — all this contributes to the discrimination and impoverization mostly of peoples of color.  The Republican Party may be more overtly racist in its ideological bias, but it is a Democratic president that is implementing racist policies.  God help America.

 

Posted: 08/30/2014 8:31 am EDT Updated: 08/30/2014 9:59 am EDT
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* Panel issues recommendations after review of U.S. record

* Says killing of Michael Brown “not an isolated event”

* Decries racial bias of police, pervasive discrimination

* ACLU calls for addressing racial inequality in America

 

GENEVA, Aug 29 (Reuters) – The U.N. racism watchdog urged the United States on Friday to halt the excessive use of force by police after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman touched off riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

Minorities, particularly African Americans, are victims of disparities, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said after examining the U.S. record.

“Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care and housing,” Noureddine Amir, CERD committee vice chairman, told a news briefing.

Teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer on Aug. 9, triggering violent protests that rocked Ferguson – a St. Louis suburb – and shone a global spotlight on the state of race relations in America.

“The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against racial and ethnic minorities is an ongoing issue of concern and particularly in light of the shooting of Michael Brown,” said Amir, an expert from Algeria.

“This is not an isolated event and illustrates a bigger problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials.”

The panel of 18 independent experts grilled a senior U.S. delegation on Aug. 13 about what they said was persistent racial discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities, including within the criminal justice system.

U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper told the panel that his nation had made “great strides toward eliminating racial discrimination” but conceded that “we have much left to do”.

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown, has been put on paid leave and is in hiding. A St. Louis County grand jury has begun hearing evidence and the U.S. Justice Department has opened its own investigation.

Police have said Brown struggled with Wilson when shot. But some witnesses say Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

“STAND YOUR GROUND” LAWS

In its conclusions issued on Friday, the U.N. panel said “Stand Your Ground” Laws, a controversial self-defense statute in 22 U.S. states, should be reviewed to “remove far-reaching immunity and ensure strict adherence to principles of necessity and proportionality when deadly force is used for self-defense”.

Ron Davis, father of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old shot dead in a car in Jacksonville, Florida during an argument over loud rap music in November 2012, attended the Geneva session. Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen killed in Miami, Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer, testified.

The U.N. panel monitors compliance with a treaty ratified by 177 countries including the United States.

“The Committee remains concerned at the practice of racial profiling of racial or ethnic minorities by law enforcement officials, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Transportation Security Administration, border enforcement officials and local police,” it said, urging investigations.

The experts called for addressing obstacles faced by minorities and indigenous peoples to exercise their right to vote effectively. This was due to restrictive voter identification laws, district gerrymandering and state-level laws that disenfranchise people convicted of felonies, it said.

Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the U.N. recommendations highlighted “shortcomings on racial equality that we are seeing play out today on our streets, at our borders and in the voting booth.

“When it comes to human rights, the United States must practice at home what it preaches abroad,” he said.

The Chilling Reason Our Government Wants to Erase These Americans from History July 28, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Racism, Religion, War on Terror.
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Most of those held in Communications Management Units, which imprison people linked to terrorist activity, are Muslims.

July 24, 2014, Molly Crabapple, http://www.alternet.org

Andy Stepanianis one of the kindest humans I have ever met.

An activist publicist, Andy draws attention to Americans imprisoned for their beliefs. He is straitlaced and gentle, and the only time he ever declined to buy me dinner was when I offended his veganism by eating chicken fingers. But Andy is also a felon. As one of the SHAC7, he spent three years locked in a cage for urging people to employ militant protest techniques against the animal-testing corporation Huntingdon Life Sciences. He spent his last six months in prison in a Communications Management Unit (CMU).

CMUs exist to cut off prisoners from the outside world. The prisoners’ every word is recorded. They are strip-searched before and after each visit from loved ones (in case they write messages on their body). Letters are severely restricted; phone calls are limited to two 15-minute calls a week. CMU prisoners may spend decades without hugging their wives or children.

Like Guantanamo Bay, the CMU is a child of the war on terror. In 2006 and 2008, respectively, the Bureau of Prisons, under the directorship of Harley Lappin, created two secret units: one in Terre Haute, IN, and the other in Marion, IL. The bureau’s stated purpose was “Limited Communication for Terrorist Inmates.” But as at Guantanamo, Muslims were the real targets. Muslims make up roughly 70 percent of the prisoners in CMUs but only 6 percent of the federal prison population. The CMUs are part of a philosophy that makes Muslim synonymous with terrorist, that views “terrorists” as both contagious and superhuman—so dangerous that they must be subject to ultimate control.

Andy was the rare white CMU prisoner. Guards told him he was there as a “balancer.” CMUs are another reflection of the double standard to which the United States holds Muslims. Acts of speech, travel or association that would be A-OK for a Christian are enough to get a Muslim branded a terrorist.

Shifa Sadequee, 2014.
Photo Credit: 
Molly Crabapple
Click to enlarge.

CMU prisoner Shifa Sadequee was kidnapped by U.S. forces in Bangladesh at the age of 19, allegedly tortured and rendered to the United States. He spent three years in solitary awaiting his trial for terrorism. His crimes? He played paintball and took video footage of U.S. monuments. The former activity was labeled “paramilitary training”; the latter, “casing videos” for an attack. The judge sentenced him to 17 years.

Pharmacist Tarek Mehanna should be called a dissident—but that’s not a label America allows Muslims. A scathing critic of U.S. foreign policy, Mehanna believed Muslims under attack in their own countries had the right to armed self-defense. He translated and subtitled some jihadi materials and briefly traveled to Yemen. Nothing he did would have been looked at askance if he were a Tea Party member speaking about fellow gun enthusiasts. But as a Muslim Mehanna was convicted of material support for terrorism. His sentence? Seventeen years.

At his sentencing, Mehanna delivered a chilling, eloquent statement about resisting oppression: “In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, I’m the only one standing here in an orange jumpsuit and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the U.S. military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for ‘conspiring to kill and maim’ in those countries…

“The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with ‘killing Americans.’ But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.”

Tarek Mehanna, 2014.
Photo Credit: 
Molly Crabapple
Click to enlarge.

Mehanna is in a CMU for speech. Few American free speech defenders noticed.

While most Americans were rightly nauseated by the NSA programs revealed by Edward Snowden, they gave less thought to the brutal surveillance that Muslim communities have suffered since 9/11. Mosques, student associations and even restaurants were monitored throughout the country. Informants tried to rope the naive or the mentally ill into expressing support for jihad. If an agent was able to pressure an unstable young man into driving a car or buying some backpacks, he could arrest him for assisting terrorism. The agent would receive professional accolades for making the arrest; the young man, decades in jail. For the untold cash it poured into spying on Muslims, the FBI seldom discovered a plot that it did not concoct itself.

Shahawar Siraj, 2014.
Photo Credit: 
Molly Crabapple
Click to enlarge.

CMU prisoner Shahawar Matin Siraj had no explosives or concrete plan of attack, but that did not prevent a judge from sentencing him to 30 years for plotting to bomb New York’s Herald Square. The informant who befriended him, and then goaded him into the plan, was paid $100,000 by the NYPD.

Imprisonment is erasure. The state locks a person in a cage—without context, without community, without love. He becomes not human but a widget passing through a system of absolute control. The CMU enacts a double erasure: it represents the ultimate scission of the prisoner from his non-prison self. You are in a box. You are no one. You belong to us.

Andy is working on a documentary about CMUs. He asked me to draw pictures of some prisoners. Drawing is slow, deliberate. It is an antidote to forgetting men the state wants the world to forget.

One night I worked on a portrait of Ghassan Elashi. A former vice president of an internet company, Elashi was sentenced to 65 years in prison for running the Holy Land Foundation, which was the largest Muslim charity in the United States until the Bush administration shut it down in December 2001. Through charitable organizations in Gaza, Holy Land allegedly funneled money to Hamas, which the United States classifies as a terrorist organization.

Ghassan Elashi, 2014.
Photo Credit: 
Molly Crabapple
Click to enlarge.

Andy invited Elashi’s daughter, Noor, to my studio. She brought a photograph of her father. I was unable to draw him from life, as the USP Marion is not easy to visit. The three of us stayed up late into the night, me rendering Noor’s father’s eyes in careful watercolor, Andy filming us as she watched me draw.

Noor is a stylishly dressed young writer who sidelines as a baker of gluten-free cupcakes. But when she talks about her father, her voice grows cold with pain. She remembers how FBI agents threw him to the floor when they raided their home. She remembers prison guards screaming at her young brother, who has Down syndrome, when he tried to hug his dad (she and her brother were subsequently denied visits for months). She remembers how her father was barred from making phone calls for writing his name on a yoga mat.

She does not believe for a moment that her father deliberately funneled funds to Hamas.

Noor’s situation shows how CMUs rip apart not only prisoners’ lives but also the lives of their families and community. Noor is still fighting for her dad.

In “Counterpunch,” Noor wrote, “My father is my pillar, whose high spirits transcend all barbed-wire-topped fences, whose time in prison did not stifle his passion for human rights.”

Noor’s words point to one of the war on terror’s most insidious legacies. The war on terror flattened Muslims into bogeymen. They could no longer be troubled young men. Nor could they be political dissidents, heads of charities or defenders of human rights. Dissent was equated with terrorism.

In making a fetish of the word “freedom,” America revoked the freedom of so many within her borders. Civil liberties defenders must remember that Muslims are not a separate class of people. Attacks on Muslims’ rights are attacks on human rights.

Revealed: Gov’t Used Fusion Centers to Spy on Occupy May 23, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Roger’s note: The Patriot Act and the establishment of the Orwellian named Homeland Security have taken the United States one giant step forward towards a police state.  Criminalizing dissent is nothing new, goes back to WWI and further; but the scope of it today is truly frightening.

New report exposes US government’s treatment of social movements as ‘criminal or terrorist enterprises’

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

(Photo: David Shankbone / Wikimedia Creative Commons)

U.S. government Fusion Centers, which operate as ill-defined “counter-terrorism” intelligence gathering and sharing centers, conducted spy operations against Occupy protesters involving police, the Pentagon, the FBI, military employees, and business people.

So finds a report released Friday by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund based on 4,000 public documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The release was accompanied by an in-depth article by the New York Times.

“The U.S. Fusion Centers are using their vast counter-terrorism resources to target the domestic social justice movement as a criminal or terrorist enterprise,” PCJF Executive Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard stated. “This is an abuse of power and corruption of democracy.”

“Although the Fusion Centers’ existence is justified by the DHS as a necessary component in stopping terrorism and violent crime, the documents show that the Fusion Centers in the Fall of 2011 and Winter of 2012 were devoted to unconstrained targeting of a grassroots movement for social change that was acknowledged to be peaceful in character,” the report states.

Police chiefs of major metropolitan areas used the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center to produce regular reports on the occupy movement.

Furthermore, “The Boston regional intelligence center monitored and cataloged Occupy-associated activities from student organizing to political lectures,” according to the report. That center also produced twice-daily updates on Occupy activities.

The New York Times notes:

The Boston Regional Intelligence Center, one of the most active centers, issued scores of bulletins listing hundreds of events including a protest of “irresponsible lending practices,” a food drive and multiple “yoga, faith & spirituality” classes.

Nationwide surveillance has included extensive monitoring of social media, in addition to a variety of spying methods used across Fusion Centers.

“[T]he Fusion Centers are a threat to civil liberties, democratic dissent and the social and political fabric of this country,” said Carl Messineo, PCJF Legal Director. “The time has long passed for the centers to be defunded.”

_____________________

Obama Worse than Bush? October 17, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Obama worse than Bush?  On the face of it it seems a ludicrous idea.  But digging a little deeper …  Here are two articles that give much food for thought.  I especially encourage you to play the video at the very end of the second article and watch Rachel Maddow take apart Obama’s academy award winning performance for convolution.

http://www.opednews,com,  10/17/2013 at 09:10:31

Hersh Says bin Laden Kill Story “One Big Lie”

 

By (about the author)    

If Seymour Hersh says the tale of the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Navy SEALS is “one big lie” and “not one word of it is true,” President Obama will be hard pressed to keep his job when Hersh’s new book comes out. Over a lifetime, investigative reporter Hersh has become famous for his accuracy, honesty, reliability and integrity and if he says the bin Laden tale is a fake, you can take it to the bank.

 

Hersh told “The Guardian,” Britain’s investigative daily, “Nothing’s been done about that story.” A Pakistani report on the killing of bin Laden, Hersh says, was published with considerable U.S. input and is “a bullshit report.”  bin Laden allegedly was killed by a SEAL team in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 1, 2011.
Hersh is writing a book about national security, “The Guardian” says, and he’s hinted it will include a chapter on the Seals raid in Pakistan that allegedly bumped off bin Laden.
President Obama’s administration lies systematically, Hersh asserts, yet is never challenged by America’s supine media. “It’s pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy (Obama),” Hersh said.
Hersh claims President Obama is worse than Bush, “Guardian” writer Lisa O’Carroll, who interviewed Hersh, reports.”Do you think Obama’s been judged by any rational standards?” Hersh asks.”Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria?”How does Obama get away with the drone program?” How does he justify it? What’s the intelligence?”Why don’t we find out how good or bad this policy is?”
Hersh concludes, “The republic’s in trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple.”
In his bid for re-election in 2012, the Obama campaign milked the bin Laden slaying for all it was worth, making a video narrated by actor Tom Hanks about it. The “Huffington Post’s” Ben Feller at the time wrote an article headlined, “Obama Campaign Using Osama Bin Laden Killing As 2012 Campaign Tool.”
Obama earlier had trumpeted the killing as “the most significant achievement in our fight against Al Quida.”
And Hersh says today the “gotcha” story is all “One Big Lie.” Sounds like an investigation, perhaps even a prosecution, may be in order. #
(Sherwood Ross, who formerly reported for major dailies and wire services, is a public relations consultant for good causes.)
http://www.opednews.com,  8/24/2013 at 03:14:38

Obama Explains the FEMA Camps

 

 

By (about the author)

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/11846056@N06/8151482123/: Federal Emergency Management Agency relief trucks stage in New York, as seen as Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau; Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall and other National Guard senior leaders visit areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York and Guard members supporting recovery operations on Nov. 2, 2012. (Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill) (Released)
Federal Emergency Management Agency relief trucks stage in New York, as seen as Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau; Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall and other National Guard senior leaders visit areas impacted by by jim.greenhill
The Conspirosphere has been buzzing about FEMA camps – mass incarceration/relocation centers – for some years now.
There is no shortage of videos and more videos from conspiratists and mainstream sources alike.
Some purposes seem benign, even helpful, like using the camps to house natural disaster victims, instead of warehousing them in horrific conditions like what ensued after Hurricane Katrina, when up to 20,000 people were jammed into the Louisiana Superdome.

But the use of such camps can be expanded greatly, especially in the new Amerika, where everyone is a suspect, and Constitutional rights are a sometime option.

Rachel Maddow has compiled and dissected some recent speeches by Obama in which he explains the future use of FEMA camps directly, and his twisted but very real legal theory allowing, at least to him, indefinite pre-emptive detention for crimes that have not been committed yet, and Obama’s overreach, far beyond anything Bush and Cheney ever attempted, and completely outside even the constitution’s Article 1, Section 9, which allows for suspension of Habeas Corpus during times of “Rebellion (e.g. as in the Civil War) or Invasion.”  She compares Obama’s evolving policy to that of the Tom Cruise science fiction movie: Minority Report, in which Cruise works as a cop in the department of pre-crime, arresting people for things they haven’t done yet.

So, FEMA camps: helpful shelter systems for the next super-storm, or involuntary detention centers for the round-up by the next super storm-troopers…or both?  You can decide…for now.

Humanity Is Drowning In Washington’s Criminality August 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Democracy, Whistle-blowing, Wikileaks.
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Roger’s note: before reading this article, please not that the author is not Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader, but rather a former official in the Reagan administration and writer for the Wall Street Journal.  

 

1a-jpg_12495_20130813-522

 

By (about the author)

OpEdNews Op Eds 8/13/2013 at 16:06:54
Americans will soon be locked into an unaccountable police state unless US Representatives and Senators find the courage to ask questions and to sanction the executive branch officials who break the law, violate the Constitution, withhold information from Congress, and give false information about their crimes against law, the Constitution, the American people and those in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Guantanamo, and elsewhere.  Congress needs to use the impeachment power that the Constitution provides and cease being subservient to the lawless executive branch. The US faces no threat that justifies the lawlessness and abuse of police powers that characterize the executive branch in the 21st century.

Impeachment is the most important power of Congress. Impeachment is what protects the citizens, the Constitution, and the other branches of government from abuse by the executive branch. If the power to remove abusive executive branch officials is not used, the power ceases to exist. An unused power is like a dead letter law. Its authority disappears. By acquiescing to executive branch lawlessness, Congress has allowed the executive branch to place itself above law and to escape accountability for its violations of law and the Constitution.
National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper blatantly lied to Congress and remains in office. Keith B. Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency, has also misled Congress, and he remains in office.  Attorney General Holder avoids telling Congress the truth on just about every subject, and he also remains in office.  The same can be said for President Obama, one of the great deceivers of our time, who is so adverse to truth that truth seldom finds its way out of his mouth.
If an American citizen lies to a federal investigator, even if not under oath, the citizen can be arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison.  Yet, these same federal personnel can lie to Congress and to citizens with impunity. Whatever the American political system is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with accountable government. In Amerika no one is accountable but citizens, who are accountable not only to law but also to unaccountable charges for which no evidence is required.
Congress has the power to impeach any presidential appointee as well as the president.  In the 1970s Congress was going to impeach President Richard Nixon simply because he lied about when he learned of the Watergate burglary. To avoid impeachment, Nixon resigned. In the 1990s, the House impeached President Bill Clinton for lying about his sexual affair with a White House intern. The Senate failed to convict, no doubt as many had sexual affairs of their own and didn’t want to be held accountable themselves.
In the 1970s when I was on the Senate staff, corporate lobbyists would send attractive women to seduce Senators so that the interest groups could blackmail the Senators to do their bidding. Don’t be surprised if the NSA has adopted this corporate practice.
The improprieties of Nixon and Clinton were minor, indeed of little consequence, when compared to the crimes of George W. Bush and Obama, their vice presidents, and the bulk of their presidential appointees. Yet, impeachment is “off the table,” as Nancy Pelosi infamously declared. Why do Californian voters send a person to Congress who refuses to protect them from an  unaccountable executive branch? Who does Nancy Pelosi serve? Certainly not the people of California. Most certainly not the US Constitution. Pelosi is in total violation of her oath of office. Will Californians re-elect her yet again? Little wonder America is failing.
The question demanding to be asked is: What is the purpose of the domestic surveillance of all Americans? This is surveillance out of all proportion to the alleged terrorist threat. The US Constitution is being ignored and domestic law violated. Why?  Does the US government have an undeclared agenda for which the “terrorist threat” is a cover?
What is this agenda? Whose agenda is more important than the US Constitution and the accountability of government to law? No citizen is secure unless government is accountable to the Constitution and to law. It is an absurd idea that any American is more threatened by terrorism than by unaccountable government that can execute them, torture them, and throw them in prison for life without due process or any accountability whatsoever. Under Bush/Obama, the US has returned to the unaccountable power of caesars, czars, and autocrats.
In the famous play, “A Man For All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England, asks: So, you would have me to cut down the law in order to chase after devils? And what will we do, with the law cut down, when the devil turns on us?
This is the most important legal question ever asked, and it is seldom asked today,  not in our law schools, not by our bar associations, and most certainly not by the Justice (sic) Department or US Attorneys.
American conservatives regard civil liberties as mere excuses for liberal judges to coddle criminals and terrorists. Never expect a conservative Republican, or more than two or three of them, to defend your civil liberty. Republicans simply do not believe in civil liberty. Democrats cannot conceive that Obama — the first black president in office, a member of an oppressed minority — would not defend civil liberty. This combination of disinterest and denial is why the US has become a police state.
Civil liberty has few friends in government, the political parties, law schools, bar associations, or the federal judiciary. Consequently, no citizen is secure. Recently, a housewife researched online for pressure cookers looking for the best deal. Her husband was searching for a backpack. The result was that a fully armed SWAT team appeared at the door demanding to search the premises and to have questions answered.
I am always amazed when someone says: “I haven’t done anything wrong. I have nothing to fear.” If you have nothing to fear from the government, why did the Founding Fathers put the protections in the Constitution that Bush and Obama have stripped out?

Unlike the Founding Fathers who designed our government to protect the citizens, the American sheeple trust the government to their own demise.
Glenn Greenwald recently explained how the mass of data that is being accumulated on every American is being mined for any signs of non-terrorist-related criminal behavior. As such warrantless searches are illegal evidence in a criminal trial, the authorities disguise the illegal way in which the evidence is obtained in order to secure conviction based on illegally obtained evidence.
In other words, the use of the surveillance justified by the “war on terror” has already spread into prosecutions of ordinary criminals where it has corrupted legal safeguards and the integrity, if any, of the criminal court system, prosecutors and judges.
This is just one of the many ways in which you have much to fear, whether you think you are doing anything wrong or not. You can be framed for crimes based on inferences drawn from your Internet activity and jokes with friends on social media. Jurors made paranoid by the “terrorist threat” will convict you.
We should be very suspicious of the motive behind the universal spying on US citizens. The authorities are aware that the terrorist threat does not justify the unconstitutional and illegal spying. There have been hardly any real terrorist events in the US, which is why the FBI has to find clueless people around whom to organize an FBI orchestrated plot in order to keep the “terrorist threat” alive in the public’s mind. At last count, there have been 150 “sting operations” in which the FBI recruits people, who are out of touch with reality, to engage in a well-paid FBI designed plot. Once the dupes agree, they are arrested as terrorists and the plot revealed, always with the accompanying statement that the public was never in any danger as the FBI was in control.
When 99 percent of all terrorism is organized by the FBI, why do we need NSA spying on every communication of every American and on people in the rest of the world?
Terrorism seldom comes from outside. The source almost always is the government in power. The Czarist secret police set off bombs in order to blame and arrest labor agitators. The Nazis burned down the Reichstag in order to decimate the communists and assume unaccountable power in the name of “public safety.” An alleged terrorist threat is a way of using fear to block popular objection to the exercise of arbitrary government power.
In order to be “safe from terrorists,” the US population, with few objections, has accepted the demise of their civil liberties, such as habeas corpus, which reaches back centuries to Magna Carta as a constraint on government power.  How, then, are they safe from their government?  Americans today are in the same position as the English prior to the Great Charter of 1215. Americans are no longer protected by law and the Constitution from government tyranny.
The reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution was to make citizens safe from their government. If citizens allow the government to take away the Constitution, they might be safe from foreign terrorists, but they are no longer safe from their government.
Who do you think has more power over you, foreign terrorists or “your” government?
Washington defines all resistance to its imperialism and tyranny as “terrorism.” Thus, Americans who defend the environment, who defend wildlife, who defend civil liberties and human rights, who protest Washington’s wars and robbery of the people on behalf of special interests, all become “domestic extremists,” the term Homeland Security has substituted for “terrorist.” Those who are out of step with Washington and the powerful private interests that exploit us, other peoples, and the earth for their profits and power fall into the wrong side of Bush’s black and white division of the world: “you are for us or against us.”
In the United States independent thought is on the verge of being criminalized as are constitutionally guaranteed protests and the freedom of the press. The constitutional principle of freedom of speech is being redefined as treason, as aiding an undefined enemy, and as seeking to overthrow the government by casting aspersions on its motives and revealing its secret misdeeds. The power-mad inhabitants of Washington have brought the US so close to Gestapo Germany and Stalinist Russia that it is no longer funny. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to see the difference.
The neoconservatives have declared that Americans are the “exceptional” and “indispensable people.” Yet, the civil liberties of Americans have declined the more “exceptional” and “indispensable” that Americans become. We are now so exceptional and indispensable that we no longer have any rights.
And neither does the rest of the world. Neoconservatism has created a new dangerous American nationalism.  Neoconservatives have given Washington a monopoly on right and endowed its military aggressions with a morality that supersedes the Geneva Conventions and human rights. Washington, justified by its “exceptionalism,” has the right to attack populations in countries with which Washington is not at war, such as Pakistan and Yemen. Washington is using the cover of its “exceptionalism” to murder people in many countries. Hitler tried to market the exceptionalism of the German people, but he lacked Washington’s Madison Avenue skills.
Washington is always morally right, whatever it does, and those who report its crimes are traitors who, stripped of their coddling by civil liberties, are locked away and abused until they confess to their crimes against the state. Anyone who tells the truth, such as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden, are branded enemies of the state and are ruthlessly persecuted.
How does the “indispensable, exceptional nation” have a diplomatic policy? How can a neoconized State Department be based on anything except coercion?  It can’t. That is why Washington produces nothing but war and threats of war.
Wherever a person looks, whatever a person hears, it is Washington’s threat — “we are going to bomb you into the stone age” if you don’t do what we want and agree to what we require. We are going to impose “sanctions,” Washington’s euphemism for embargoes, and starve your women and children to death, permit no medical supplies, ban you from the international payments system unless you relent and consent to being Washington’s puppet, and ban you from posting your news broadcasts on the Internet.
This is the face that Washington presents to the world: the hard, mean face of a tyrant.
Washington’s power will survive a bit longer, because there are still politicians in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the NGOs in Russia, who are paid off by the almighty dollar. In exchange for Washington’s money, they endorse Washington’s immorality and murderous destruction of law and life.
But the dollar is being destroyed by Quantitative Easing, and the domestic US economy is being destroyed by jobs offshoring.
Rome was powerful until the Germans ceased to believe it. Then the rotten edifice collapsed. Washington faces sooner or later the same fate. An inhumane, illegal, unconstitutional regime based on violence alone, devoid of all morality and all human compassion, is not acceptable to China, Russia, India, Iran, and Brazil, or to readers of this column.
The evil that is Washington cannot last forever. The criminals might destroy the world in nuclear war, but the lawlessness and lack of humanity in Washington, which murders more people as I write, is no longer acceptable to the rest of the world, not even to its European puppet states, despite the leaders being on Washington’s payroll.
Gorbachev is correct. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a debacle for the entire world. It transformed the US from the “city upon the hill,” the “beacon for humanity,” into an aggressive militarist state. Consequently, Amerika has become despised by everyone who has a moral conscience and a sense of justice.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts

Lavabit, Email Service Reportedly Used by Snowden, Shuts Down August 9, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Whistle-blowing.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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by Abby Zimet

Offering the elusive explanation that he wanted to avoid “being complicit in crimes against the American people,” Lavabit founder Ladar Levison has suspended operations, evidently the first time a service provider has publicly closed down rather than cooperate with court-ordered government surveillance. In a statement on his site, Levison notes, “I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot….the First Amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise.” He also suggests he is preparing a legal fight, offers a link to a legal defense fund – “Defending the Constitution is expensive!” – and ends with a warning. More on the implications for other possible NSA targets here.

“This experience has taught me one very important lesson: Without Congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

 

 

  • galen066

    Hurrah for Mr. Levinson and his principled stand.

    Now the thousands of other Lavabit E-mail users know to blame the NSA for screwing them over.

  • yohocoma

    “…I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

    I strongly recommend against anyone having a physical tie to the United States, especially with their body.

  • drone1

    hat tip to mr. levison for doing the hard, but right, thing. one of the few examples of an ethical business decision in an unethical time. and most importantly, he’s right. there’s no safe info provider in the US or with ties to the US.

  • minitrue

    “I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot….the First Amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise.”

    What he is telling us (without telling us) is that he, or his company received a Nazional Security Letter which tells you to do something, turn over documents or records, allow surveillance, etc. The other thing these letters do is forbid you to tell anyone that the letter even exists let alone what it orders you to do. Huge fines and imprisonment for breaking this Fascistic dictum.

    Many people have gotten these things. The Nazional Surveillance Aparat hands them out like popcorn at a county fair. Likewise Homeland (In)Security and the FBI. When you get one of these damned things, you are to do whatever it tells you to, then are not supposed to ever admit you got it, or that it exists, anywhere.

    The Fourth Reich is certainly trying to sew things up before we get too restive.
    ;-})

  • readytotransform minitrue

    Is that the same as a ‘gag’ order?

  • Avatar
    RedRavenSounds minitrue

    That is patently vile and illegal – but then who needs laws when you have super dee dooper State secret courts, and letters which you do not have a say in which gags you………This is where we are ladies and gentlemen. Again, I ask everyone to please watch “Good Night and Good Luck” This is the precise tactic used against Milo Radulovich (who was this man? I ask you to find out. ) – See it Now (before its to late). Steve, I suspect you know who he was.

  • Avatar
    Tom Carberry

    Congratulations to Ladar Levinson for sticking to his principles. Things should work out for him. I expect most of the other email providers will shut down, unless of course the government forgets to ask them for our stuff.

    Don’t worry. Every thing will work out. Just because the 1% has almost everything, doesn’t mean they want more. They wouldn’t want absolute control of all electronic communications. Who really would want something like that? Full spectrum dominance can’t really mean that.

    Trust Barack Obama. Has he ever lied to you?

  • Avatar
    Aneesia

    You Sir are a hero. The rest of the media are cowards.They would sell out their mother to a rapist…the best analogy of what they are doing and the type of human feces that the media moguls are.

  • Avatar
    Daedalus Trust

    For anyone watching and following the obliteration of freedom of speech, the Constitution and freedom in general in the US, it shouldn’t be surprising that Levison issued an “elusive explanation” – Given the recent turn of events with WikiLeaks, Manning, Snowden and the other whistleblowers, anyone with a half an ounce of brain can understand why.

    Coincidentally, Tor will be next. Our gracious defenders at the FBI have devised a program to specifically attack Tor and have been relentlessly at it. Still, the USG has the Chutzpah to criticize China. I guess it’s the competition they hate and the threat to their hegemony as the world’s foremost hackers…next to ISreal that is.

    “Feds Are Suspects in New Malware That Attacks Tor Anonymity”

    http://www.wired.com/threatlev…

  • Avatar
    Cangle

    This sounds so sane, so very sane, thank you Mr. Levison.

  • Avatar
    0utof0rder

    And today on NPR, about a minute and a half was spent on the NSA spying revelations. It went something like this:

    Interviewer, “So are we to expect now that most or all Internet activity and emails are monitored by the NSA? Are they collecting and reading everyone’s email?”

    New York Times Reporter, “No that would be illegal. The government can not read Amercians email without a warrant. There is no proof of of that.”

    END OF INTERVIEW

    Then the next 30 something minutes were spent discussing the resurgence of Al Queda all across the middle east and how many plots we have foiled so far.

    It was incredible.

  • Avatar
    Ferdinand Artego

    I hope this is the beginning of the end to the US government spy operation.

  • Avatar
    Harley Burton

    The more effective evil at work, right before our very eyes.

    Can anyone honestly see the Democrats reacting so meekly to stuff like this if Romney were in charge?

  • Avatar
    Abigail00

    Levison’s principled action will have economic consequences for the U.S. economy. No individual or company wanting to use like services will ever use a US based provider, thus business moves elsewhere. Were congress ever to concern itself with the issue, it will be because of the risks to the economy, not the people’s rights.

  • Avatar
    revlimid

    The United States is getting more paranoid and dangerous everyday and once again we see that the patriot act does indeed supercede the constitution which Americans claim to love.

  • Avatar
    dogsface

    For what it is worth…here is what I would do. I call it information
    overload.

    Everyone has to be involved …..just send out emails using the trigger words, bomb, terrorist, plot, murder…. or whatever. Give them so much ‘crap’ the system becomes unmanageable.

    The system is unmanaged now and to make it worse the access to
    the system by the lower echelon minions makes for great nationwide rumor spreading. Stay tuned.

    Then we can always wish for gigantic some Sun spots……or we learn how to generate and aim our very own EMP’s. Electromagnetic pulses. Ta da!

  • Avatar
    NC_Tom

    This REALLY sucks. I was a Lavabit user for a few years now. I used that email address in dozens and dozens of places and now I have to find another somewhat secure email service, ( overseas), and change everything to point there.

    Although it will be a pain to do this, it appears it is necessary because, despite what Obomba says, the government really is reading all our emails.

  • Avatar
    bgrbill

    This guy is worthy of respect . Remember murdered, investigative journalist Danny Casolaro. He was looking into the ‘Octopus’ and set to meet a ‘source’ when found in the bathtub of his motel in Martinsburg , WV. The key words are ‘ Inslaw Affair’ and Promis software. This was the precursor of ‘Total Information Awareness’ and today’s N.S.A. revelations. Any search engine will provide the details. In the words of the great Satchell Paige…” Don’t look back…”. It is not paranoia when there are forces out to eliminate all opposition.

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    Justice for Lynne Stewart April 15, 2013

    Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Human Rights.
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    Roger’s note: to learn more about Lynne Stewart, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynne_Stewart

     

    Statement by Ed Asner in support of Lynne Stewart

    April 15th, 2013

    Statement by Ed Asner in support of Lynne Stewart:
    April 13, 2013

    “Given the enormous good that Lynne Stewart has done for humanity throughout her life as a courageous lawyer for the poor, the oppressed and the unjustly accused, I am shocked by the cynical perversity of a government that has pursued her savagely and vengefully.

    Lynne Stewart’s treatment by the government has been demonic. Prevented from scheduled surgery, her breast cancer spread to her lymph nodes, bones and lungs. Denied proper medical  treatment, she has been bound with 10 pounds of shackles and chains, even when in a hospital bed.

    In tormenting Lynne Stewart the government seeks to terrorize all lawyers who would defend those targeted by State repression. The treatment of Lynne Stewart is a threat to due process, an assault on fundamental rights that date to Magna Carta.

    Lynne Stewart must be free. The law requires her compassionate release and the medical care that can save her life. We must deny the State a death sentence aimed at the freedom of us all.

    The State power that torments Lynne Stewart invades countries at will, murders hundreds of thousands with impunity and creates a climate of fear and repression to prevent the people of this country from calling those in power to account.

    The fight to free Lynne Stewart is a front-line battle for basic rights secured through the American revolution and is a measure of our will to reclaim a land of the free in the home of the brave.”

    Posted in ARTICLES & NEWS | No Comments »

    Dick Gregory Supports Lynne Stewart

    April 4th, 2013

    DECLARATION BY DICK GREGORY — APRIL 4, 2013 (PDF Verison)

    I hereby declare on this day commemorating the life and sacrifice of my friend and brother in struggle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that in the spirit of his moral legacy, I demand the immediate release from prison of the legendary lawyer Lynne Stewart, who devoted her entire professional life to the poor, the oppressed and those targeted by the police and a vindictive State.

    I further declare that from this day forth, I shall refuse all solid food until Lynne Stewart is freed and receives medical treatment in the care of her family and with physicians of her choice without which she will die.

    There is no time to lose as cancer, which had been in remission, has metastasized since her imprisonment. It has spread to her lymph nodes, her shoulder and appears in her bones and in her lungs.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in ARTICLES & NEWS | 8 Comments »

    Over 6000 and Counting Sign the Petition for Lynne!

    April 2nd, 2013

    VIEW PETITION SIGNATURES (PDF)
    (as of March 31, 2013)

     

    VIEW COMMENTS FROM PEOPLE IN SUPPORT OF LYNNE! (PDF)

    Lynne Stewart sends her appreciation to petition signatories:
    I want you, individually, to know how gratifying and happy it makes me to have your support. It is uplifting, to say the least, and after a lifetime of organizing it proves once again that the People can rise.

    The acknowledgement of the life-political, and solutions brought about by group unity and support, is important to all of us. Equally, so is the courage to sign on to a demand for a person whom the Government has branded with the “T” word — Terrorist.  Understanding that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client’s desire for his or her case, I hope our effort can be a crack in the American bastion.  Thank you. Lynne

    03/20/13 Federal Medical Center, Carswell

    Posted in ARTICLES & NEWS, FROM LYNNE | 1 Comment »

    Letter from Lynne to Desmond Tutu

    April 1st, 2013

    Letter from Lynne responding to Desmond Tutu’s message of support:

    My dear honorable Desmond Tutu:

    I hardly know how to address you, for while we have never met face to face we are bonded as only those who fight for the rights and justice of humanity can be. As my husband and I are activists of many years and struggles, we can claim this lovely unity with you harking back to Nelson Mandela at Robbin Island, the original ANC and before. While I know you are still engaged in helping South Africa reach the highest level of the expectations of freedom, I am most pleased and amazed that you have taken the time to support my efforts against the US prison system.

    I have now been in jail as a political prisoner since 2009, but only recently been diagnosed with fatal cancer. The “mechanism” in the US law that allows “compassionate release” is so infrequently utilized that the New York Times did an editorial criticizing the system.  Anytime the key to the jailhouse is placed in the hands of uncaring bureaucrats, freedom is at stake.

    Having been informed that their “rule” is that one must have death in the room–a prognosis of a year or less, to be considered, once again forces me to don my armor and do battle—not just for me but for all the millions of prisoners who do not receive the consideration that they deserve.  It is a fight to demand that each person is treated with individual care and attention. It is with great joy that I see you joining me and this renews my hope and belief that the worldwide network of good caring people exists and can be made manifest.

    Thank you.
    Lynne Stewart

    Posted in FROM LYNNE | No Comments »

    Pete Seeger: “Lynn Stewart Should be outa jail!”

    March 29th, 2013

     


    Write Lynne

     

     

     

     

    Contact Information

    1lawyerleft at gmail.com

    Please donate.
    Click here for information on contributing to the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, as well as contributing to Lynne’s commissary.

    Open Letter to ACLU Director Anthony Romero February 23, 2013

    Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    OpEdNews Op Eds 2/22/2013 at 16:59:12

    Dear Mr Romero-

     

       I’m writing to ask you to direct ACLU activities where stakes are highest, and opposition will be fiercest.  Arguably, we’re in a civil liberties emergency in this country, and it may be hard to know where to allocate resources.  I wouldn’t want to downplay the importance of any of the Union’s work. But in my mind, the most effective, leveraged and important thing the Union can do is to defend journalists who have been fired, prosecuted, jailed without charge or murdered.  A few well-publicized jailings serve to chill an entire community of muckrakers, and the worst elements in our government remain un-exposed.
    Media consolidation has tamed the tiger that was once American journalism.  Print and broadcast giants cover the stories they’re supposed to and report the version of the facts that the Administration wants them to report.  Most important, they refrain from asking pointed questions.  But meanwhile, the internet has grown up as an alternative source of information, an anarchically-democratic mosaic of truth and nonsense.
    As the newspapers become at once sensationalist and insipid, readers are turning to the internet for their news.  The Bush Administration was a criminal syndicate from top to bottom, and they saw clearly what was at stake in internet freedom.  Surprisingly, horrifyingly, the Obama Administration has continued and intensified Bush’s war against truth.  They have murdered Al Jazeera reporters with drones.  They have simultaneously managed the news through leaking what they want the public to know, while prosecuting whistleblowers whose leaks embarrass their allies.  Gary Webb and Aaron Swartz are dead.  Julian Assange is a refugee in asylum, functionally a prisoner.  Bradley Manning is in his third year of torture.  I recently learned of the story of Barrett Brown, who is being held without bail after posting in an e-chat room a link to documents that others had leaked.  “Local” police have been recruited by Homeland Security to break the back of the Occupy movement with violence and intimidation, while the movement’s leadership has been thrown in disarray by infiltration and FBI agents-provocateurs.  All this from the administration of a former Constitutional Law professor, who campaigned in 2008 promising a new openness and transparency in the White House. This all appears to be part of an initiative to smash dissent that was proposed and now is being implemented by the President’s friend and program head, Cass Sunstein,
     If ACLU stands strong beside those who are courageously seeking to provide us with a window into government corruption and its corporate sponsors, then ACLU will have the allies in the press that it needs to win all its other battles.  But if we lose our free press, we lose our democracy, and all the channels through which ACLU has been fighting its good fight become blind alleys.
    - Josh Mitteldorf

    Human Rights Watch decries U.S. prison system January 31, 2013

    Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 10:25 AM EST

    The NGO’s World Report criticizes mass incarceration and U.S. record of torture and extrajudicial killing

    By

     

    Human Rights Watch decries U.S. prison system (Credit: Shutterstock)

    Human Rights Watch Thursday published its annual World Report, in which it lays out a pointed critique of the U.S. prison system. The enormous prison population  — the largest in the world at 1.6million — “partly reflects harsh sentencing practices contrary to international law,” notes the report.

    The 2013 World Report, a 665-page tome which assesses human rights progress in the past year in 90 countries, highlights particular issues undergirding the U.S.’s blighted carceral system. It notes that “practices contrary to human rights principles, such as the death penalty, juvenile life-without-parole sentences, and solitary confinement are common and often marked by racial disparities.” Via HRW:

    Research in 2012 found that the massive over-incarceration includes a growing number of elderly people whom prisons are ill-equipped to handle, and an estimated 93,000 youth under age 18 in adult jails and another 2,200 in adult prisons. Hundreds of children are subjected to solitary confinement. Racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately represented in the prison population.

    HRW cite statistics often used to show racial disparities in the U.S. prison system. For example, while whites, African Americans and Latinos have comparable rates of drug use, African Americans are arrested for drug offenses, including possession, at three times the rate of white men.

    “The United States has shown little interest in tackling abusive practices that have contributed to the country’s huge prison population,” said Maria McFarland, deputy U.S. program director at Human Rights Watch. “Unfortunately, it is society’s most vulnerable – racial and ethnic minorities, low-income people, immigrants, children, and the elderly – who are most likely to suffer from injustices in the criminal justice system.”

    Although noting some progress in 2012 (both D.C. and Connecticut joined the ranks of 16 states to have abolished the death penalty), HRW also stressed continuing injustices in U.S. immigration policies, labor issues and treatment of minorities, women, the disabled and HIV positive individuals. The report was particularly critical when reviewing the U.S.’s counterterrorism policies. The NGO noted in a statement:

    Both the Obama administration and Congress supported abusive counterterrorism laws and policies, including detention without charge at Guantanamo Bay, restrictions on the transfer of detainees held there, and prosecutions in a fundamentally flawed military commission system.  Attacks by US aerial drones were carried out in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere, with important legal questions about the attacks remaining unanswered.

    The administration has taken no steps toward accountability for torture and other abuses committed by US officials in the so-called “war on terror,” and a Justice Department criminal investigation into detainee abuse concluded without recommending any charges. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence completed a more than 6,000-page report detailing the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program, but has yet to seek the report’s declassification so it can be released to the public.

    The World Report explicitly mentions Obama’s signing of the NDAA in 2011 (an act he repeated this year), noting, “The act codified the existing executive practice of detaining terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge, and required that certain terrorism suspects be initially detained by the military if captured inside the U.S..”

    Next week, the lawsuit against Obama over the NDAA’s definite detention provision will be back in federal court as plaintiffs including Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky seek an injunction prohibiting indefinite detention of civilians without charge or trial.

    Comments from HRW’s McFarland point out what’s at stake for the president here: “The Obama administration has a chance in its second term to develop with Congress a real plan for closing Guantanamo and definitively ending abusive counterterrorism practices,” McFarland said. “A failure to do so puts Obama at risk of going down in history as the president who made indefinite detention without trial a permanent part of U.S. law.”

    Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com. More Natasha Lennard.

    GOP and Feinstein Join to Fulfill Obama’s Demand for Renewed Warrantless Eavesdropping December 29, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy.
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    Roger’s note: More Obama hypocrisy and lies.

     

    Published on Friday, December 28, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

    The California Democrat’s disgusting rhetoric recalls the worst of Dick Cheney while advancing Obama’s agenda

    Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Rogers

    Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein joined with GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss (right) to extend Obama’s warrantless eavesdropping powers. (Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP)

    by Glenn Greenwald

    To this day, many people identify mid-2008 as the time they realized what type of politician Barack Obama actually is. Six months before, when seeking the Democratic nomination, then-Sen. Obama unambiguously vowed that he would filibuster “any bill” that retroactively immunized the telecom industry for having participated in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program.

    But in July 2008, once he had secured the nomination, a bill came before the Senate that did exactly that – the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – and Obama not only failed to filibuster as promised, but far worse, he voted against the filibuster brought by other Senators, and then voted in favor of enacting the bill itself. That blatant, unblinking violation of his own clear promise – actively supporting a bill he had sworn months earlier he would block from a vote – caused a serious rift even in the middle of an election year between Obama and his own supporters.

    Critically, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 did much more than shield lawbreaking telecoms from all forms of legal accountability. Jointly written by Dick Cheney and then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller, it also legalized vast new, sweeping and almost certainly unconstitutional forms of warrantless government eavesdropping.

    In doing so, the new 2008 law gutted the 30-year-old FISA statute that had been enacted to prevent the decades of severe spying abuses discovered by the mid-1970s Church Committee: by simply barring the government from eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without first obtaining a warrant from a court. Worst of all, the 2008 law legalized most of what Democrats had spent years pretending was such a scandal: the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program secretly implemented by George Bush after the 9/11 attack. In other words, the warrantless eavesdropping “scandal” that led to a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times reporters who revealed it ended not with investigations or prosecutions for those who illegally spied on Americans, but with the Congressional GOP joining with key Democrats (including Obama) to legalize most of what Bush and Cheney had done. Ever since, the Obama DOJ has invoked secrecy and standing doctrines to prevent any courts from ruling on whether the warrantless eavesdropping powers granted by the 2008 law violate the Constitution.

    The 2008 FISA law provided that it would expire in four years unless renewed. Yesterday, the Senate debated its renewal. Several Senators – Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon along with Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul – each attempted to attach amendments to the law simply to provide some modest amounts of transparency and oversight to ensure that the government’s warrantless eavesdropping powers were constrained and checked from abuse.

    Just consider how modest these amendments were. Along with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, Sen. Wyden has spent two years warning Americans that the government’s eavesdropping powers are being interpreted (by secret court decisions and the Executive Branch) far more broadly than they would ever suspect, and that, as a result, these eavesdropping powers are being applied far more invasively and extensively than is commonly understood.

    As a result, Wyden yesterday had two amendments: one that would simply require the NSA to give a general estimate of how many Americans are having their communications intercepted under this law (information the NSA has steadfastly refused to provide), and another which would state that the NSA is barred from eavesdropping on Americans on US soil without a warrant. Merkley’s amendment would compel the public release of secret judicial rulings from the FISA court which purport to interpret the scope of the eavesdropping law on the ground that “secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance”; the Obama administration has refused to release a single such opinion even though the court, “on at least one occasion”, found that the government was violating the Fourth Amendment in how it was using the law to eavesdrop on Americans.

    But the Obama White House opposed all amendments, demanding a “clean” renewal of the law without any oversight or transparency reforms. Earlier this month, the GOP-led House complied by passing a reform-free version of the law’s renewal, and sent the bill Obama wanted to the Senate, where it was debated yesterday afternoon.

    The Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, took the lead in attacking Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul with the most foul Cheneyite accusations, and demanded renewal of the FISA law without any reforms. And then predictably, in virtually identical 37-54 votes, Feinstein and her conservative-Democratic comrades joined with virtually the entire GOP caucus (except for three Senators: Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller) to reject each one of the proposed amendments and thus give Obama exactly what he demanded: reform-free renewal of the law (while a few Democratic Senators have displayed genuine, sustained commitment to these issues, most Democrats who voted against FISA renewal yesterday did so symbolically and half-heartedly, knowing and not caring that they would lose as evidenced by the lack of an attempted filibuster).

    In other words, Obama successfully relied on Senate Republicans (the ones his supporters depict as the Root of All Evil) along with a dozen of the most militaristic Democrats to ensure that he can continue to eavesdrop on Americans without any warrants, transparency or real oversight. That’s the standard coalition that has spent the last four years extending Bush/Cheney theories, eroding core liberties and entrenching endless militarism: Obama + the GOP caucus + Feinstein-type Democrats. As Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s legislative counsel, put it to the Huffington Post: “I bet [Bush] is laughing his ass off.”

    But what’s most remarkable here is not so much what happened but how it happened. When Obama voted in 2008 to massively increase the government’s warrantless eavesdropping powers, I so vividly recall his supporters insisting that he was only doing this because he wanted to win the election, and then would get into power and fix these abuses by reversing them. Yes, there were actually large numbers of people who believed this. And they were encouraged to believe this by Obama himself, who, in explaining his 2008 vote, said things like this:

    “I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn’t have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush’s abuse of executive power. . . .

    I do so [vote for the FISA bill] with the firm intention – once I’m sworn in as president – to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.”

    Needless to say, none of that ever happened. Now, the warrantless eavesdropping bill that Obama insisted was plagued by numerous imperfections is one that he is demanding be renewed without a single change. Last week, Marcy Wheeler documented the huge gap between (a) what Obama vowed he would do when he voted for this law in 2008 versus (b) what he has actually done in power (they’re opposites).

    Indeed, when it came time last year to vote on renewal of the Patriot Act – remember how Democrats used to pretend during the Bush years to find the Patriot Act so alarming? – the Obama administration also demanded its renewal without a single reform. When a handful of Senators led by Rand Paul nonetheless proposed modest amendments to eliminate some of the documented abuses of the Patriot Act, Democratic majority leader Harry Reid did his best Dick Cheney impression by accusing these disobedient lawmakers of risking a Terrorist attack by delaying renewal:

    “When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we will be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot against our country undetected. The senator from Kentucky is threatening to take away the best tools we have for stopping them.

    “We all remember the tragic Fort Hood shootings less than two years ago. Radicalized American terrorists bought guns and used them to kill 13 civilians [by "civilians", Reid means: members of the US military]. It is hard to imagine why the senator would want to hold up the Patriot Act for a misguided amendment that would make American less safe.”

    In other words: if you even try to debate the Patriot Act or add any amendments to it, then you are helping the Terrorists: classic Dick Cheney. (Democratic Sen. Udall defended Paul from Reid’s disgusting attack: “This is not a Patriot Act. Patriots stand up for the Constitution. Patriots stand up for freedom and liberty that’s embodied in the Constitution. And I think true patriots, when they’re public servants, public servants stand up and do what’s right, even if it’s unpopular”).

    Yesterday, I watched as Dianne Feinstein went well beyond Harry Reid’s disgusting Cheneyite display. Feinstein is one of the Senate’s richest plutocrats, whose husband, Richard Blum, has coincidentally been quite enriched by military and other government contracts during her Senate career. During this time, Feinstein has acted as the most faithful servant in the Senate of the National Security State’s unchecked, authoritarian power.

    Yesterday, Feinstein stood up on the Senate floor and began by heaping praise on her GOP comrade, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, for leading his caucus to join her in renewing the FISA act without any reforms. She then unleashed a vile attack on her Democratic colleagues – Wyden, Merkley, and Udall, along with Paul – in which she repeatedly accused them of trying to make the nation vulnerable to a Terrorist attack.

    Feinstein insisted that one could support their amendments only if “you believe that no one is going to attack us”. She warned that their amendments would cause “another 9/11″. She rambled about Najibullah Zazi and his attempt to detonate a bomb on the New York City subway: as though a warrant requirement, let alone disclosure requirements for the eavesdropping program, would have prevented his detection. Having learned so well from Rudy Giuliani (and Harry Reid), she basically just screamed “Terrorist!” and “9/11″ over and over until her time ran out, and then proudly sat down as though she had mounted rational arguments against the transparency and oversight amendments advocated by Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul.

    Even more notably, Feinstein repeatedly argued that requiring even basic disclosure about the eavesdropping program – such as telling Americans how many of them are targeted by it – would, as she put it, “destroy the program”. But if “the program” is being conducted properly and lawfully, why would that kind of transparency kill the program? As the ACLU’s Richardson noted: “That Sen. Feinstein says public oversight will lead to the end of the program says a lot about the info that’s being hidden.” In response to her warnings that basic oversight and transparency would destroy the program, Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer similarly asked: “Why, if it’s all on the up and up?”

    All of this was accomplished with the core Bush/Cheney tactic used over and over: they purposely waited until days before the law is set to expire to vote on its renewal, then told anyone who wants reforms that there is no time to consider them, and that anyone who attempted debate would cause the law to expire and risk a Terrorist attack. Over and over yesterday, Feinstein stressed that only “four days remained” before the law expires and that any attempts even to debate the law, let alone amend it, would leave the nation vulnerable.

    It’s hard to put into words just how extreme was Feinstein’s day-long fear-mongering tirade. “I’ve never seen a Congressional member argue so strongly against Executive Branch oversight as Sen. Feinstein did today re the FISA law,” said Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. Referring to Feinstein’s alternating denials and justifications for warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer observed: “This FISA debate reminds of the torture debate circa 2004: We don’t torture! And anyway, we have to torture, we don’t have any choice.”

    Jaffer added that Feinstein’s strident denials that secret warrantless eavesdropping poses any dangers “almost makes you nostalgic for Ashcroft’s ‘phantoms of lost liberty’ speech” – referring to the infamous 2001 decree from Bush’s Attorney General:

    “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends.”

    That is exactly the foul message which Dianne Feinstein, doing the bidding of the Obama White House, spewed at her liberal Senate colleagues (and a tiny handful of Republicans) for the crime of wanting to bring some marginal transparency and oversight to the warrantless eavesdropping powers with which Obama vested himself when voting in 2008 for that FISA law. As it turns out, Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin had it exactly right in mid-2008 when explaining – in the face of lots of progressive confusion and even anger – why Obama decided to support a FISA bill that vested the executive with massive unchecked eavesdroppoing power: namely, Obama “plans to be the executive”, so “from Obama’s perspective, what’s not to like?”

    Just four or five years ago, objections to warrantless eavesdropping were a prime grievance of Democrats against Bush. The controversies that arose from it were protracted, intense, and often ugly. Progressives loved to depict themselves as stalwartly opposing right-wing radicalism in defense of Our Values and the Constitution.

    Fast forward to 2012 and all of that, literally, has changed. Now it’s a Democratic President demanding reform-free renewal of his warrantless eavesdropping powers. He joins with the Republican Party to codify them. A beloved Democratic Senator from a solidly blue state leads the fear-mongering campaign and Terrorist-enabling slurs against anyone who opposes it. And it now all happens with virtually no media attention or controversy because the two parties collaborate so harmoniously to make it happen. And thus does a core guarantee of the founding – the search warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment – blissfully disappear into nothingness.

    Here we find yet again a defining attribute of the Obama legacy: the transformation of what was until recently a symbol of right-wing radicalism – warrantless eavesdropping – into meekly accepted bipartisan consensus. But it’s not just the policies that are so transformed but the mentality and rhetoric that accompanies them: anyone who stands in the way of the US Government’s demands for unaccountable, secret power is helping the Terrorists. “The administration has decided the program should be classified”, decreed Feinstein, and that is that.

    In 2005, the Bush White House invoked the “very bad guy” defense to assure us that we need not worry about the administration’s secret warrantless eavesdropping program; as a Bush White House spokesman put it:

    “This is a limited program. This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings and churches.”

    In 1968, Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell similarly told the public in the face of rising concerns over government eavesdropping powers that “any citizen of this United States who is not involved in some illegal activity has nothing to fear whatsoever.” That is the noble tradition which the Obama White House, Dianne Feinstein and their GOP partners are continuing now.

    © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

    Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. His other books include: Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

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