Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Imperialism.
Tags: Congo genocide, danny haiphong, drone wars, education privatized, hillary clinton, imprialism, libya blowback, libya war, NAFTA, obama administration, president obama, roger hollander, syria war, U.S. imperialism, ukraine crisis, welfare abolitshed
Roger’s note: “While the Obama Administration was busy militarizing Africa, propping up the prison state, privatizing education, slashing entitlements, waging NATO-led wars all over Eurasia, dropping drones, eroding civil liberties, and bailing out Wall Street, white liberals and Black misleaders spent much of their time defending Obama’s actions and seeking Democratic Party approval.”
No Republican president could get away with what Obama has wreaked without massive left/liberal opposition in the streets. That is what the lesser of evils gets you.
by Danny Haiphong
“Obama’s exit will conclude a period of history where the even harsher tasting ‘Satan Sandwich’ of austerity, imperialist adventure, and state repression was swallowed with little resistance by the most progressive forces residing in the American empire.”
The corporate media has been preparing the Obama Administration’s curtain call for the 2016 election cycle. Obama’s diligent service for corporate empire stabilized the political rule of imperialism at a high cost for oppressed people everywhere. Now, with the Obama Administration’s popularity at an all time low from the US to South Africa to the Asia Pacific, corporate media syndicates have set their sights on Hilary Clinton’s possible 2016 candidacy. During her tenure as Obama’s first Secretary of State (2009-2013), Hillary performed the role of top lapdog for the Obama Administration’s imperialist ventures. It is important for the radical left to begin preparing for what’s to come while continuing to struggle against prevailing conditions, as the Obama Administration is far from finished with its task of managing the affairs of corporate empire at the people’s expense.
The few of us who have spent nearly six years fighting Obama-mania are glad to see him go. The Obama Administration consolidated the rule of corporate imperialism far more effectively than the Bush Jr. Administration. This is why Black Agenda Report has called Barack Obama “the more effective evil” from the minute he began making policy decisions. Obama’s mere presence in the White House built a dangerous white liberal and Black American consensus that terribly confused the actions and positions of the US left. While the Obama Administration was busy militarizing Africa, propping up the prison state, privatizing education, slashing entitlements, waging NATO-led wars all over Eurasia, dropping drones, eroding civil liberties, and bailing out Wall Street, white liberals and Black misleaders spent much of their time defending Obama’s actions and seeking Democratic Party approval. This balance of forces stifled radical political resistance, as best evidenced by the deterioration of the US anti-imperialist movement and the rapid dissolution of Occupy Wall Street.
“The left will need to carry out an offensive against materialized fascism or decide, as it has for the last six years, to continue attaching itself to the interests of the corporate ruling class.”
The end of the Obama era and the prospect of Hillary present an interesting challenge to grassroots left forces in the years to come. The Obama presidency’s affect on the consciousness of exploited and oppressed people allowed the ruling circle to institutionalize police-state laws like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and imperialist projects such as “humanitarian intervention” with little organized resistance. Race to the Top and the Affordable Care Act institutionalized privatization at the national level. Thus, state repression, capitalist austerity, and imperialist intervention will find strong consensus within both parties of the US establishment come 2016. Starting from this point, the left will need to carry out an offensive against materialized fascism or decide, as it has for the last six years, to continue attaching itself to the interests of the corporate ruling class. Hillary Clinton appears ready to carry on what Obama has wrought. Her prospects for success are bright if the US left decides to deem her the “lesser-evil” like it did with Obama.
Hillary Clinton is a rabid Democratic Party imperialist whose record as Secretary of State makes her a welcome addition to the Oval Office of capitalist-imperialist treachery. In 2011, following the extrajudicial murder of Muammar Gaddafi by US-NATO bandits, Clinton reported to the media “We came, we saw, he died.” This demonstration of Western imperial arrogance capped off the successful US-NATO overthrow of independent Libya by way of “humanitarian intervention.” During this same period, Clinton staunchly advocated for the escalation of US-NATO involvement in Syria and continued pressuring Iran to open its economy to Western capitalist ruin with starvation sanctions and military threats. These moves made Obama’s first Secretary of State a darling to US imperialism despite the loss of political points suffered from the embarrassing “blowback” experienced in Benghazi on Sept. 11th 2012.
“Hilary’s imperialist policy positions represent a further move to the right for the Democratic Party in its attempt to escape accountability for the disasters of Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine.”
Since being relieved of her duties as Secretary of State, Hillary has been setting her still unofficial campaign trail ablaze with foreign policy positions that veer to the right of Obama. Last March, the Wall Street Journal covered Hilary’s speech at the American Jewish Congress in New York. In it, she stated bluntly that a military option was “on the table” for Iran if the nation didn’t capitulate to US demands of halting uranium development. Earlier in the same month, Hillary spoke to a crowd in California comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler for his responses to the US engineered illegal coup in Ukraine that put US-NATO supported fascists in power. As the Wall Street Journal article reports, Hilary’s imperialist policy positions represent a further move to the right for the Democratic Party in its attempt to escape accountability for the disasters of Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine. For these positions, Hillary is guaranteed plenty of support from the Zionist Israeli settler state and imperialists all over if and when she announces Presidential candidacy. However, imperialism according to Hillary Clinton brings the world closer to a World War III scenario and further exposes the collaboration between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to economic and foreign policy endeavors.
Many people in the US were shocked when the Obama Administration abandoned each and every progressive campaign promise made in 2008. In denial, the white liberal and Black misleadership opportunists cried out Republican “obstructionism” and “lesser evil” dogmas to avoid the fact that the Obama Administration was a natural outgrowth of US imperialism. It should not be forgotten that the last Democratic Party President and Hilary’s husband, Bill Clinton, worked hard to collaborate with the much-vaunted right-wing of imperialism. Clinton eliminated welfare, passed the “three strikes” Omnibus Crime Bill that greatly expanded the prison-state, bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant, instituted NAFTA’s job killing proposals, and provided financial and logistical support for the Rwanda and Congolese genocides. Obama’s exit will conclude a period of history where the even harsher tasting “Satan Sandwich” of austerity, imperialist adventure, and state repression was swallowed with little resistance by the most progressive forces residing in the American empire. It remains to be seen whether working class Black America will break with neo-colonialism or whether working class leadership will break with their masters in Washington. Our task, no matter who takes the reigns from the “More Effective Evil,” is do everything we can to facilitate both.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: army field manual, bagram, detainees, Guantanamo, human rights, jeffrey kaye, obama administration, roger hollander, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, torture
Roger’s note: we live in two different worlds, the world of illusionary rhetoric (from presidents and other political prostitutes, the mass media, etc.) and the world of reality. Most of us who are middle class and/or live in a first world industrial nation live in the former fantasy world. The vast majority of the rest of the world (third world non elites, victims of American military activities including drone missiles and corporate tyranny, etc.) live in reality. Obama says torture is no more and the vast majority of Americans believe this lie; the thousands who continue to suffer under the continued regime of torture know better, they know the reality. We live with the illusion that the United States is a civilized nation living according to Christian principles. The reality is that that kindly articulate former community organizer, with his elegant wife and pleasant well-dressed children, oversees a nation whose barbarity more and more knows no limits.
Published on Sunday, January 26, 2014 by The Guardian
The Obama administration has replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture
The United States Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation (pdf) has been sold to the American public and the world as a replacement for the brutal torture tactics used by the CIA and the Department of Defense during the Bush/Cheney administration.
(Photo: Futureatlas.com/ cc via Flickr)
On 22 January 2009, President Obama released an executive orderstating that any individual held by any US government agency “shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3.”
But a close reading of Department of Defense documents and investigations by numerous human rights agencies have shown that the current Army Field Manual itself uses techniques that are abusive and can even amount to torture.
Disturbingly, the latest version of the AFM mimicked the Bush administration in separating out “war on terror” prisoners as not subject to the same protections and rights as regular prisoners of war. Military authorities then added an appendix to the AFM that included techniques that could only be used on such “detainees”, ie, prisoners without POW status.
Labeled Appendix M, and propounding an additional, special “technique” called “Separation”,human rights and legal group have recognized that Appendix M includes numerous abusive techniques, including use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.
According to Appendix M, sleep can be limited to four hours per day for up to 30 days, and even more with approval. The same is true for use of isolation. Theoretically, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement could be extended indefinitely.
According to a 2003 US Southern Command instruction (pdf) to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, sleep deprivation was defined “as keeping a detainee awake for more than 16 hours”. Only three years later, when a new version of the AFM was introduced, detainees were expected to stay awake for 20 hours. Meanwhile, language in the previous AFM forbidding both sleep deprivation and use of stress positions was quietly removed from the current manual.
The use of isolation as a torture technique has a long history. According to a classic psychiatric paper (pdf) on the psychological effects of isolation (aka solitary confinement), such treatment on prisoners can “cause severe psychiatric harm”, producing “an agitated confusional state which, in more severe cases, had the characteristics of a florid delirium, characterized by severe confusional, paranoid, and hallucinatory features, and also by intense agitation and random, impulsive, often self-directed violence.”
The application of the Appendix M techniques – which are considered risky enough to require the presence of a physician – are supposed to be combined with other “approaches” culled from the main text of the field manual, including techniques such as “Fear Up” and “Emotional Ego Down”. In fact, at the end of Appendix M, a combined use of its techniques with other approaches, specifically “Futility”, “Incentive”, and “Fear Up”, is suggested.
While “Fear Up” and “Incentive” approaches act somewhat like what they sound – using fear and promises to gain the “cooperation” of a prisoner under interrogation – “Futility” has a vague goal of imparting to a prisoner, according to the AFM, the notion that “resistance to questioning is futile”.
According to the manual:
This engenders a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness on the part of the source.
A review of documents released under FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act) shows that use of the “Futility” approach in the AFM was the rationale behind the use of loud music, strobe lights, and sexualized assaults and embarrassment on prisoners. The “Futility” technique pre-dates the introduction of the current Army Field Manual, which is numbered 2-22.3 and introduced in September 2006. In fact, the earlier AFM, labeled 35-52 (pdf), was the basis of numerous accusations of documented abuse.
In the executive summary of the 2005 Department of Defense’s Schimdt-Furlow investigation into alleged abuse of Guantanamo prisoners, the use of loud music and strobe lights on prisoners was labeled “music futility”, and considered an “allowed technique”. Defense Department investigators looked at accusation of misuse of such techniques, but never banned them.
Military investigators wrote,
Placement of a detainee in the interrogation booth and subjecting him to loud music and strobe lights should be limited and conducted within clearly prescribed limits.
Those limits were not specified.
Additionally, the Schmidt-Furlow investigators looked at instances where female interrogators had fondled prisoners, or pretended to splash menstrual blood upon them. According to military authorities, these were a form of “gender coercion”, and identified as a “futility technique”.
President Obama’s January 2009 executive order would seem to have halted the use of what the Defense Department called “gender coercion”, but not “music futility”. But we don’t know because of pervasive secrecy exactly what military or other interrogators do or don’t do when they employ the “Futility” technique.
Numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and Open Society Foundations have called for the elimination of Appendix M and/or the rewriting of the entire Army Field Manual itself.
What has been lacking is a widespread public discourse that recognizes that swapping waterboarding and the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” torture with the Army Field Manual as an instrument of humane interrogation only replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture.
© 2014 The Guardian
Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist in private practice in San Francisco. He has worked professionally with torture victims and asylum applicants. Active in the anti-torture movement since 2006, he has his own blog, Invictus, and writes regularly for Firedoglake’s The Dissenter. He has published previously at Truthout, Alternet, and The Public Record.
Posted by rogerhollander in Haiti, Imperialism, Labor.
Tags: garment workers, haiti, Haitian workers, hanes, levi strauss, minimum wage, obama administration, rod bastanfmehr, roger hollander, wikileaks
Roger’s note: I just watched the playing of the national anthem in Seattle at the NFC championship game. The usual orgy of patriotism, with a flag on the field the size a battleship. After I cleaned up the vomit, I sat down to post this article. The story of using government bullying to screw Haitian workers is what the red white and blue really stands for around the globe. The misery caused by American imperial economic, diplomatic and military might worldwide is incalculable. Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, due largely to U..S. interventions over the years, is only one small example of the American government wielding its power in the service of corporate interests at the cost of the welfare of millions of third world victims.
January 16, 2014 | Alternet, Rod Bastanmehr
American corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss prefer to pay Haitians slave wages to sew their clothes.
Strike another one for Wikileaks. The ever-controversial leaker of the world’s best-kept secrets has published a wire on The Nation that reveals the Obama Administration fought to keep the Haitian minimum wage to 31 cents an hour.
According to the published wire (which came to light thanks in large part to the Haiti Liberte, a newspaper based in Port-au-Prince and New York City), Haiti passed a law in 2012 raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. America corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss vociferously objected, claiming such an increase would irreparably harm their business and profitability. According to the leaked U.S. Embassy cable, keeping these garment workers at “slave wages,” was better for the two companies The corporations in question allegedly stated that they would only fork over a seven-cent-an-hour increase, eventually going so far as to involve the U.S. State Department.
Soon, the U.S. Ambassador put pressure on Michel Martelly, the president of Haiti, to find a middle ground, resulting in a $3-a-day minimum wage for all textile companies. To put it in perspective, the United States’s minimum wage—already considered extremely low—works out to roughly to $58 a day.
Haiti has about 25,000 garment workers, who are somehow getting by on these abysmal wages. According to Business Insider, if each garment worker was paid just $2 more a day, it would cost their given corporate employers $50,000 per working day, or $12.5 million a year. Hanes, the garment company best known for their t-shirts, had roughly 3,200 Haitians working in their factory. An increase of $2 a day would cost the company a mere $1.6 million a year—for a company that had $4.3 billion in sales last year alone.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Economic Crisis.
Tags: bank of america, banksters, derivitives, Economic Crisis, eric holder, glen ford, godman sachs, housing bubble, J.P. Morgan, jamie dimon, jp morgan fine, jp morgan settlement, Morgan Stanley, obama administration, roger hollander, too big to fail, Wall Street, Wells Fargo
Roger’s note: Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford is one of the most incisive journalists on the Internet. Unlike the legions of mind/ethics challenged Obamabots, who for reasons of race or party loyalty are willfully blind to the Obama Administrations Wall Street/Military-Industrial Complex agenda, Black Agenda Report does not hesitate to speak the truth about the first Afro-American Emperor’s mythical new clothes.
Going on five years into the Obama regime, it is clear that Wall Street is immune from prosecution, no matter the savagery of the economic crime. Attorney General Eric Holder “has ruthlessly maneuvered every case against the oligarchs into his own jurisdictional arena, in order to protect the banksters from aggressive prosecution.” JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon is a far bigger bandit than Lucky Luciano.
Obama and Holder Let Gangsters Pay Fine, Continue Business As Usual
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“The Obama administration has assessed a total of $28 billion in penalties against the Dimon mob, with no discernible effect.”
Imagine if Charles “Lucky” Luciano and his “Commission” representing the five reigning New York Mafia families plus the Chicago mob had been immune from law enforcement meddling in their activities, from the establishment of the “Syndicate” in 1931 to the present day. By now, Luciano’s gangster heirs would be the unchallenged rulers of economic and political life in the United States and, by imperial extension, the entire capitalist world.
JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon is the man Lucky Luciano dreamed of becoming. A friend and golfing partner of President Obama, Dimon sits at the top of the ruling financial pyramid whose “commissioners” include the heads of Bank of America, CitiGroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Their syndicate owns the cops, prosecutors, judges and major political parties and is, therefore, immune from criminal prosecution: the true “Untouchables,” too big to jail. So big, it will require a revolution to dislodge them from hegemonic power.
The latest Obama administration “settlement” of JP Morgan’s ongoing criminal enterprise amounts to a $13 billion fine, a mere speed bump in the unbroken spree of lawlessness that “helped create a financial storm that devastated millions of Americans,” in the words of Associate Attorney General Tony West. Although it is “the largest penalty in history,” Dimon and his fellow banksters are also the richest criminals in history – the most powerful cartel of all time – who can easily afford the levy. The bursting of their housing securities bubble may have wrecked much of the global economy in 2008, but Dimon and his boys made out like pure bandits in the aftermath, consolidating their positions at the center of a dying system. JP Morgan emerged as the biggest U.S. bank in terms of assets, a gleaming tower standing amid the ruins it created. Such is the logic of late stage finance capitalism: catastrophe becomes “creative destruction,” which begets greater economic monopoly, resulting in unchallengeable political supremacy, which makes Dimon too big to jail, whether he’s actually a friend of Obama, or not.
“Dimon and his fellow banksters can easily afford the levy.”
There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the $13 billion fine will have any measurable impact on JP Morgan’s business plan. So far, the Obama administration has assessed a total of $28 billion in penalties against the Dimon mob, with no discernible effect. This time around, however, Obama’s prosecutors have imposed the equivalent of mandatory community service on the corporate malefactor, as an alternative to actual justice. Part of the $4 billion set aside to help struggling homeowners will go towards knocking down abandoned or foreclosed homes in the urban neighborhoods laid waste by JP Morgan and its cohorts in the racially-targeted subprime mortgage frenzy. That’s like compelling the Mafia to do upkeep on the cemeteries where its victims are buried, in lieu of prison terms or execution.
Yet, Justice Department mouthpiece Tony West claims the eyesore clearance penalty will “rectify” some of the harm done to “areas hardest hit by the financial crisis.” But, of course, it doesn’t even come close. Whole communities have been wounded beyond repair. Black wealth took its deepest dive in history, with reverberations that will impact future generations. Many thousands of people have died from the social trauma inflicted by Jamie Dimon and his syndicate – and that’s just in the United States. Globally, millions have perished due to the actions for which the settlement is supposed to atone.
Back in the Spring, the Huffington Post noted that Attorney General Eric Holder was attempting to retract his famous admission that banks like JP Morgan are too big to jail. Holder’s original statement, in March, was:
“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”
Two months later, in May, Holder amended his remarks, to say:
“Let me make something real clear right away. I made a statement I guess in a Senate hearing that I think has been misconstrued. I said it was difficult at times to bring cases against large financial institutions because [of] the potential consequences that they would have on the financial system. But let me make it very clear that there is no bank, there’s no institution, there’s no individual who cannot be investigated and prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice…. Let me be very, very, very clear. Banks are not too big to jail. If we find a bank or a financial institution that has done something wrong, if we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, those cases will be brought.”
Clearly, Holder was lying, second time around. If there were ever a serial financial gangster, it’s Dimon. There are no better candidates for racketeering prosecution on the face of the Earth than the Big Six banks and their executives: the pinnacle of the ruling class.
“Globally, millions have perished due to the actions for which the settlement is supposed to atone.”
However, it is wrong to deride Holder and Obama as merely timid in the face of Wall Street’s awesomely destructive power. Rather, they are instruments of finance capital’s hegemony. Holder has ruthlessly maneuvered every case against the oligarchs into his own jurisdictional arena, in order to protect the banksters from aggressive prosecution by wayward state officials. Holder’s “settlements” are designed to insulate the banks from the rule of law, since, at this stage of systemic decay, the Lords of Capital can no longer function within existing legal constraints. The public sphere must be privatized; the urban centers, like Detroit, must be disenfranchised; the financial cartel must be allowed to absorb an ever greater proportion of the real economy into its derivatives casino; wealth must flow from the bottom to the top, without pause; and a planetary corporate code must be established through “free trade” treaties that supersede the sovereign laws of nations. All of the Obama administration’s marching orders flow from these imperatives.
Obama and Holder are guardians of the emerging new order, which does not yet have a legal code – and may well prefer to forgo such niceties, entirely. In the meantime, corporate Democrats and Republicans will give lip service to the law while the Mafia of Money runs the show.
And, you can take that to the bank.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement, Whistle-blowing.
Tags: #occupy movement, anarchism, anonymous, barret brown, black bloc, chelsea manning, chris hedges, corporate state, edward snowden, espionage act, first amendment, glenn greenwald, jacob applebaum, jeremy hammond, julian assange, laura poitras, ndaa, obama administration, political prisoner, press freedom, revolution, roger hollander, sarah harrison, surveillance state, whistle blower, whistleblowers, wikileaks
Roger’s note: as with many of the articles I read on the Internet, readers’ comments are often a valuable source of opinion and ideas. For the comments on this article, you can go to the source at:http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/11/11-0.
NEW YORK—Jeremy Hammond sat in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center last week in a small room reserved for visits from attorneys. He was wearing an oversized prison jumpsuit. The brown hair of the lanky 6-footer fell over his ears, and he had a wispy beard. He spoke with the intensity and clarity one would expect from one of the nation’s most important political prisoners.
Jeremy Hammond is shown in this March 5, 2012 booking photo from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in Chicago. (Photo: AP Photo/Cook County Sheriff’s Department))
On Friday the 28-year-old activist will appear for sentencing in the Southern District Court of New York in Manhattan. After having made a plea agreement, he faces the possibility of a 10-year sentence for hacking into the Texas-based private security firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor, which does work for the Homeland Security Department, the Marine Corps, the Defense Intelligence Agency and numerous corporations including Dow Chemical and Raytheon.
Four others involved in the hacking have been convicted in Britain, and they were sentenced to less time combined—the longest sentence was 32 months—than the potential 120-month sentence that lies before Hammond.
Hammond turned the pilfered information over to the website WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone and other publications. The 3 million email exchanges, once made public, exposed the private security firm’s infiltration, monitoring and surveillance of protesters and dissidents, especially in the Occupy movement, on behalf of corporations and the national security state. And, perhaps most important, the information provided chilling evidence that anti-terrorism laws are being routinely used by the federal government to criminalize nonviolent, democratic dissent and falsely link dissidents to international terrorist organizations. Hammond sought no financial gain. He got none.
The email exchanges Hammond made public were entered as evidence in my lawsuit against President Barack Obama over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Section 1021 permits the military to seize citizens who are deemed by the state to be terrorists, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. Alexa O’Brien, a content strategist and journalist who co-founded US Day of Rage, an organization created to reform the election process, was one of my co-plaintiffs. Stratfor officials attempted, we know because of the Hammond leaks, to falsely link her and her organization to Islamic radicals and websites as well as to jihadist ideology, putting her at risk of detention under the new law. Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled, in part because of the leak, that we plaintiffs had a credible fear, and she nullified the law, a decision that an appellate court overturned when the Obama administration appealed it.
Freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies have been obliterated by the corporate state. The resulting self-exile of investigative journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras, along with the indictment of Barret Brown, illustrate this. All acts of resistance—including nonviolent protest—have been conflated by the corporate state with terrorism. The mainstream, commercial press has been emasculated through the Obama administration’s repeated use of the Espionage Act to charge and sentence traditional whistle-blowers. Governmental officials with a conscience are too frightened to reach out to mainstream reporters, knowing that the authorities’ wholesale capturing and storing of electronic forms of communication make them easily identifiable. Elected officials and the courts no longer impose restraint or practice oversight. The last line of defense lies with those such as Hammond, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning who are capable of burrowing into the records of the security and surveillance state and have the courage to pass them on to the public. But the price of resistance is high.
“In these times of secrecy and abuse of power there is only one solution—transparency,” wrote Sarah Harrison, the British journalist who accompanied Snowden to Russia and who also has gone into exile, in Berlin. “If our governments are so compromised that they will not tell us the truth, then we must step forward to grasp it. Provided with the unequivocal proof of primary source documents people can fight back. If our governments will not give this information to us, then we must take it for ourselves.”
“When whistleblowers come forward we need to fight for them, so others will be encouraged,” she went on. “When they are gagged, we must be their voice. When they are hunted, we must be their shield. When they are locked away, we must free them. Giving us the truth is not a crime. This is our data, our information, our history. We must fight to own it. Courage is contagious.”
Hammond knows this contagion. He was living at home in Chicago in 2010 under a 7-a.m.-to-7-p.m. curfew for a variety of acts of civil disobedience when Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning was arrested for giving WikiLeaks secret information about military war crimes and government lies. Hammond at the time was running social aid programs to feed the hungry and send books to prisoners. He had, like Manning, displayed a remarkable aptitude for science, math and computer languages at a young age. He hacked into the computers at a local Apple store at 16. He hacked into the computer science department’s website at the University of Illinois-Chicago as a freshman, a prank that saw the university refuse to allow him to return for his sophomore year. He was an early backer of “cyber-liberation” and in 2004 started an “electronic-disobedience journal” he named Hack This Zine. He called on hackers in a speech at the 2004 DefCon convention in Las Vegas to use their skills to disrupt that year’s Republican National Convention. He was, by the time of his 2012 arrest, one of the shadowy stars of the hacktivist underground, dominated by groups such as Anonymous and WikiLeaks in which anonymity, stringent security and frequent changes of aliases alone ensured success and survival. Manning’s courage prompted Hammond to his own act of cyber civil disobedience, although he knew his chances of being caught were high.
“I saw what Chelsea Manning did,” Hammond said when we spoke last Wednesday, seated at a metal table. “Through her hacking she became a contender, a world changer. She took tremendous risks to show the ugly truth about war. I asked myself, if she could make that risk shouldn’t I make that risk? Wasn’t it wrong to sit comfortably by, working on the websites of Food Not Bombs, while I had the skills to do something similar? I too could make a difference. It was her courage that prompted me to act.”
Hammond—who has black-inked tattoos on each forearm, one the open-source movement’s symbol known as the “glider” and the other the shi hexagram from the I Ching—is steeped in radical thought. As a teenager, he swiftly migrated politically from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to the militancy of the Black Bloc anarchists. He was an avid reader in high school of material put out by CrimethInc, an anarchist collective that publishes anarchist literature and manifestos. He has molded himself after old radicals such as Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman and black revolutionaries such as George Jackson, Elaine Brown and Assata Shakur, as well as members of the Weather Underground. He said that while he was in Chicago he made numerous trips to Waldheim Cemetery to visit the Haymarket Martyrs Monument, which honors four anarchists who were hanged in 1887 and others who took part in the labor wars. On the 16-foot-high granite monument are the final words of one of the condemned men, August Spies. It reads: “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voice you are throttling today.” Emma Goldman is buried nearby.
Hammond became well known to the government for a variety of acts of civil disobedience over the last decade. These ranged from painting anti-war graffiti on Chicago walls to protesting at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York to hacking into the right-wing website Protest Warrior, for which he was sentenced to two years in the Federal Correctional Institute at Greenville, Ill.
Hammond spent months within the Occupy movement in Chicago. He embraced its “leaderless, non-hierarchical structures such as general assemblies and consensus, and occupying public spaces.” But he was highly critical of what he said were the “vague politics” in Occupy that allowed it to include followers of the libertarian Ron Paul, some in the tea party, as well as “reformist liberals and Democrats.” Hammond said he was not interested in any movement that “only wanted a ‘nicer’ form of capitalism and favored legal reforms, not revolution.” He remains rooted in the ethos of the Black Bloc.
“Being incarcerated has really opened my eyes to the reality of the criminal justice system,” he said, “that it is not a criminal justice system about public safety or rehabilitation, but reaping profits through mass incarceration. There are two kinds of justice—one for the rich and the powerful who get away with the big crimes, then for everyone else, especially people of color and the impoverished. There is no such thing as a fair trial. In over 80 percent of the cases people are pressured to plea out instead of exercising their right to trial, under the threat of lengthier sentences. I believe no satisfactory reforms are possible. We need to close all prisons and release everybody unconditionally.”
He said he hoped his act of resistance would encourage others, just as Manning’s courage had inspired him. He said activists should “know and accept the worst possible repercussion” before carrying out an action and should be “aware of mass counterintelligence/surveillance operations targeting our movements.” An informant posing as a comrade, Hector Xavier Monsegur, known online as “Sabu,” turned Hammond and his co-defendants in to the FBI. Monsegur stored data retrieved by Hammond on an external server in New York. This tenuous New York connection allowed the government to try Hammond in New York for hacking from his home in Chicago into a private security firm based in Texas. New York is the center of the government’s probes into cyber-warfare; it is where federal authorities apparently wanted Hammond to be investigated and charged.
Hammond said he will continue to resist from within prison. A series of minor infractions, as well as testing positive with other prisoners on his tier for marijuana that had been smuggled into the facility, has resulted in his losing social visits for the next two years and spending “time in the box [solitary confinement].” He is allowed to see journalists, but my request to interview him took two months to be approved. He said prison involves “a lot of boredom.” He plays chess, teaches guitar and helps other prisoners study for their GED. When I saw him, he was working on the statement, a personal manifesto, that he will read in court this week.
He insisted he did not see himself as different from prisoners, especially poor prisoners of color, who are in for common crimes, especially drug-related crimes. He said most inmates are political prisoners, caged unjustly by a system of totalitarian capitalism that has snuffed out basic opportunities for democratic dissent and economic survival.
“The majority of people in prison did what they had to do to survive,” he said. “Most were poor. They got caught up in the war on drugs, which is how you make money if you are poor. The real reason they get locked in prison for so long is so corporations can continue to make big profits. It is not about justice. I do not draw distinctions between us.”
“Jail is essentially enduring harassment and dehumanizing conditions with frequent lockdowns and shakedowns,” he said. “You have to constantly fight for respect from the guards, sometimes getting yourself thrown in the box. However, I will not change the way I live because I am locked up. I will continue to be defiant, agitating and organizing whenever possible.”
He said resistance must be a way of life. He intends to return to community organizing when he is released, although he said he will work to stay out of prison. “The truth,” he said, “will always come out.” He cautioned activists to be hyper-vigilant and aware that “one mistake can be permanent.” But he added, “Don’t let paranoia or fear deter you from activism. Do the down thing!”
© 2013 TruthDig.com
Posted by rogerhollander in History, Media.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, bin laden killing, edward snowden, investigative journalism, journalism, lisa o'carroll, Media, my lai, new york times, obama administration, roger hollander, Seymour Hersh
Roger’s note; Seymour Hersh is the exception that proves the rule of corporate dominated media. He is a dying breed, especially in the realm of print and broadcast media. It has for the most part been the Internet that has kept open the door to independent investigative journalism. It was a foreign print media entity, the UK’s “Guardian” that printed the Snowden revelations, but its reporter was Glenn Greenwald, only recently hired by the Guardian after years of scorching independent reporting on salon.com. God bless Seymour Hersh, who is indeed a hero of our times, but his proposed solution is a pipe dream, which doesn’t speak to the heart of the problem, which has to do with the relationship between huge concentrations of capital and the industry that provides information to the public.
Seymour Hersh exposed the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. (Photograph: Wally McNamee/Corbis)
Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.
It doesn’t take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist”.
He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.
Don’t even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends “so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would” – or the death of Osama bin Laden. “Nothing’s been done about that story, it’s one big lie, not one word of it is true,” he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.
Hersh is writing a book about national security and has devoted a chapter to the bin Laden killing. He says a recent report put out by an “independent” Pakistani commission about life in the Abottabad compound in which Bin Laden was holed up would not stand up to scrutiny. “The Pakistanis put out a report, don’t get me going on it. Let’s put it this way, it was done with considerable American input. It’s a bullshit report,” he says hinting of revelations to come in his book.
The Obama administration lies systematically, he claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.
“It’s pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy [Obama],” he declares in an interview with the Guardian.
“It used to be when you were in a situation when something very dramatic happened, the president and the minions around the president had control of the narrative, you would pretty much know they would do the best they could to tell the story straight. Now that doesn’t happen any more. Now they take advantage of something like that and they work out how to re-elect the president.
He isn’t even sure if the recent revelations about the depth and breadth of surveillance by the National Security Agency will have a lasting effect.
Snowden changed the debate on surveillance
He is certain that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “changed the whole nature of the debate” about surveillance. Hersh says he and other journalists had written about surveillance, but Snowden was significant because he provided documentary evidence – although he is sceptical about whether the revelations will change the US government’s policy.
“Duncan Campbell [the British investigative journalist who broke the Zircon cover-up story], James Bamford [US journalist] and Julian Assange and me and the New Yorker, we’ve all written the notion there’s constant surveillance, but he [Snowden] produced a document and that changed the whole nature of the debate, it’s real now,” Hersh says.
“Editors love documents. Chicken-shit editors who wouldn’t touch stories like that, they love documents, so he changed the whole ball game,” he adds, before qualifying his remarks.
“But I don’t know if it’s going to mean anything in the long [run] because the polls I see in America – the president can still say to voters ‘al-Qaida, al-Qaida’ and the public will vote two to one for this kind of surveillance, which is so idiotic,” he says.
Holding court to a packed audience at City University in London’s summer school on investigative journalism, 76-year-old Hersh is on full throttle, a whirlwind of amazing stories of how journalism used to be; how he exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, how he got the Abu Ghraib pictures of American soldiers brutalising Iraqi prisoners, and what he thinks of Edward Snowden.
Hope of redemption
Despite his concern about the timidity of journalism he believes the trade still offers hope of redemption.
“I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever … Not that journalism is always wonderful, it’s not, but at least we offer some way out, some integrity.”
His story of how he uncovered the My Lai atrocity is one of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism and doggedness. Back in 1969, he got a tip about a 26-year-old platoon leader, William Calley, who had been charged by the army with alleged mass murder.
Instead of picking up the phone to a press officer, he got into his car and started looking for him in the army camp of Fort Benning in Georgia, where he heard he had been detained. From door to door he searched the vast compound, sometimes blagging his way, marching up to the reception, slamming his fist on the table and shouting: “Sergeant, I want Calley out now.”
Eventually his efforts paid off with his first story appearing in the St Louis Post-Despatch, which was then syndicated across America and eventually earned him the Pulitzer Prize. “I did five stories. I charged $100 for the first, by the end the [New York] Times were paying $5,000.”
He was hired by the New York Times to follow up the Watergate scandal and ended up hounding Nixon over Cambodia. Almost 30 years later, Hersh made global headlines all over again with his exposure of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
Put in the hours
For students of journalism his message is put the miles and the hours in. He knew about Abu Ghraib five months before he could write about it, having been tipped off by a senior Iraqi army officer who risked his own life by coming out of Baghdad to Damascus to tell him how prisoners had been writing to their families asking them to come and kill them because they had been “despoiled”.
“I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there’s nothing there, it doesn’t go anywhere.”
Hersh returns to US president Barack Obama. He has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush.
“Do you think Obama’s been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What’s going on [with journalists]?” he asks.
He says investigative journalism in the US is being killed by the crisis of confidence, lack of resources and a misguided notion of what the job entails.
“Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It’s journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize,” he adds. “It’s a packaged journalism, so you pick a target like – I don’t mean to diminish because anyone who does it works hard – but are railway crossings safe and stuff like that, that’s a serious issue but there are other issues too.
“Like killing people, how does [Obama] get away with the drone programme, why aren’t we doing more? How does he justify it? What’s the intelligence? Why don’t we find out how good or bad this policy is? Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings. Why don’t we do our own work?
“Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here’s a debate’ our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it’s like you don’t dare be an outsider any more.”
He says in some ways President George Bush‘s administration was easier to write about. “The Bush era, I felt it was much easier to be critical than it is [of] Obama. Much more difficult in the Obama era,” he said.
Asked what the solution is Hersh warms to his theme that most editors are pusillanimous and should be fired.
“I’ll tell you the solution, get rid of 90% of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can’t control,” he says. I saw it in the New York Times, I see people who get promoted are the ones on the desk who are more amenable to the publisher and what the senior editors want and the trouble makers don’t get promoted. Start promoting better people who look you in the eye and say ‘I don’t care what you say’.
Nor does he understand why the Washington Post held back on the Snowden files until it learned the Guardian was about to publish.
If Hersh was in charge of US Media Inc, his scorched earth policy wouldn’t stop with newspapers.
“I would close down the news bureaus of the networks and let’s start all over, tabula rasa. The majors, NBCs, ABCs, they won’t like this – just do something different, do something that gets people mad at you, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” he says.
Hersh is currently on a break from reporting, working on a book which undoubtedly will make for uncomfortable reading for both Bush and Obama.
“The republic’s in trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple.” And he implores journalists to do something about it.
© 2013 Guardian News and Media
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Women.
Tags: birth control, contraception, edward r. korman, emergency contraception, judge korman, morning after pill, obama administration, reproductive rights, roger hollander, women, women's rights
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Edward R. Korman heard arguments regarding the Obama administration’s Motion to Stay his Order from April 5, 2013, requiring that emergency contraception be made available without age and point-of-sale restrictions. Over a two-hour period, Judge Korman made it clear that the government’s position was unjustifiable. Calling the government’s conduct a “charade” the Judge condemned the “political influence” that has caused a “total and complete corruption of the administrative process.”
“As Judge Korman made clear today, the administration’s tactics affect all women but have the greatest negative impact on poor women, young women and African American women, as well as immigrant women. This is politics at its worst and the administration should be ashamed of its duplicitous conduct,” stated Andrea Costello, Senior Staff Attorney at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and counsel for the plaintiffs in the litigation.
“President Obama sought to sacrifice the reproductive rights of women of all ages at the altar of his political strategy,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “He wants to placate the political right wing at the expense of the health needs and reproductive rights of women. It is as plain as day that the Obama administration has used deception and distraction as a tactic to avoid complying with the Court Order to make the Morning After Pill available without age restriction or identification barriers.”
The Court indicated that it would issue a ruling on the government’s motion by the end of the week.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) represents the plaintiffs, grassroots feminists activists with National Women’s Liberation (NWL) and 15-year-old Anaya Kelly in Tummino v. Hamburg. The lawsuit was filed along with the Center for Reproductive Rights and Southern Legal Counsel against the Food and Drug administration and Health and Human Services.
On April 5, the Court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor that there was no scientific basis for the Obama administration to continue to restrict access to emergency contraception. Judge Korman ordered that it be made available to women and girls “without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within thirty days.” The Court found that the FDA had improperly restricted this safe and effective contraceptive after “political interference” from the White House, and had done so against the medical and scientific evidence recommending the drug be made readily available.
Instead of complying with the Court’s Order, the government announced last Tuesday that it would force all women and girls to present government-issued ID to store clerks in order to obtain emergency contraceptives, and that it would continue to deprive over-the-counter access to young teenagers. The next day, Wednesday, the government announced it was appealing the decision and that it was seeking a stay of the order pending appeal.
Originally published by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: abby zimet, forced feedings, george galloway, gitmo, Guantanamo, hunger strike, obama administration, roger hollander, torture
03.26.13 – 4:12 PM
In frustrated response to inaction by the Obama administration and a harsh February shakedown of cells, the hunger strike at Guantanamo is spreading, with as many as 100 of 166 prisoners refusing food for the last month. Red Cross workers arrived this week ahead of schedule to check on strikers, force feedings are on the rise, fainting spells are common – though dismissed as fake by prison officials – and many say an inmate death is inevitable. In solidarity, activists this week launched a week-long fast, and plan rallies and vigils. Meanwhile, the mainstream media remains largely, appallingly, inexplicably silent.
“Nobody else is talking about this subject… If people disappeared into an illegal black hole in Russia and were facing indefinite incarceration, without trial, without charge and without access of attorneys, we’d never hear the end of it. The Western media would be full of it… they’d be screaming from the rooftops.” – British MP George Galloway.
This is a bit like the Bobby Sands hunger stike, but Barry like Maggie Thatcher doesn’t get it. How many died due to Thatcher’s insane stubborness? Now it’s how many will die due to Barry’s?
What would happen to Gitmo if all the prisoners died? Would they close it then? I am thinking they’d find a reason to keep it open and manned.
“Meanwhile, the mainstream media remains largely, appallingly, inexplicably silent.”
This is correct; I have not seen this on Y@hoo since I’ve been seeing it here on CD. Thanks for deciding what is fit to print CFR and any other media think tanks in control of the main stream media.
Don’t blame the American public, brainwashed by the three owners of MSM. Forgive the public. They know not what they do nor why their strong opinions are what they are.
This excuse grows tiresome. In many cases, you are excusing willful ignorance, or more likely indifference, motivated by various combinations of fear and selfishness.
Have you tried talking to a few American college-educated liberals, for example, to find out whether or not they know about these things? And why on Earth would you suggest that citizens of a (supposed) democracy don’t have an ethical duty to keep themselves informed, and to oppose their government’s violation of domestic and international laws?
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Torture.
Tags: Bush torture, CIA torture, jacob chamberlain, john kiriakou, obama administration, Ralph Nader, ray mcgovern, roger hollander, torture, waterboarding, whistleblower
Roger’s note: the Obama administration knows no shame. Our articulate, intelligent, urbane and witty president, by protecting the Bush torture regime in violation of his oath to defend the constitution, makes himself complicit in the torture; and inconvenient truth for those Obama fans.
Published on Friday, January 25, 2013 by Common Dreams
Sentencing exemplifies the ‘second McCarthy era’ against US whistleblowers by the Obama administration
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on Friday for what critics of his prosecution are calling trumped-up charges by the Department of Justice for his exposure of the spy agency’s torture program established by the former Bush administration.
In a letter urging President Barack Obama to pardon the whistleblower, several high profile civil rights defenders including Ralph Nader and retired CIA officer Raymond McGovern stated:
[Kiriakou] is an anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath to the Constitution. He never tortured anyone, yet he is the only individual to be prosecuted in relation to the torture program of the past decade. [...]
The interrogators who tortured prisoners, the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos, and the CIA officers who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable.
Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison.
“He [was] prosecuted not by the Bush administration but by Obama’s,” added Robert Shetterly, an artist and activist who pointed to the fact that President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined, despite pledges during his first presidential campaign to protect whistleblowers.
“The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me…” – John Kiriakou
Such protections, then Senator Obama said, were vital “to maintain integrity in government.”
In October, Kiriakou was charged by the DoJ for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) for releasing the name of an officer implicated in a CIA torture program to the media. Federal prosecutors had originally charged Kiriakou for violations against the Espionage Act—which held a sentence of up to 35 years—but a plea agreement saw those charges lessened.
Kiriakou was the first employee of the CIA to publicly acknowledge and describe details of the torture program that thrived under the Bush administration.
“There is a legal definition of whistleblower and I meet that legal definition,” Kiriakou told Firedoglake in an interview Thursday.
I was the first person to acknowledge that the CIA was using waterboarding against al Qaeda prisoners. I said in 2007 that I regarded waterboarding as torture and I also said that it was not the result of rogue CIA officers but that it was official US government policy. So, that’s whistleblowing. That’s the definition of whistleblowing. [...]
The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me from December 2007…They found their opportunity and threw in a bunch of trumped up charges they knew they could bargain away and finally found something with which to prosecute me. [...]
I don’t think I am overstating this when I say I feel like we’re entering a second McCarthy era where the Justice Department uses the law as a fist or as a hammer not just to try and convict people but to ruin them personally and professionally because they don’t like where they stand on different issues… they can convict anybody of anything if they put their minds to it.
On the eve of the sentencing, Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Government Accountability Project unveiled a portrait of Kiriakou by Shetterly, the latest in the AWTT portrait series. Kiriakou was heralded for his opposition to “this country’s flagrant use of torture and its attempt to justify that use.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Human Rights, Labor, Nigeria.
Tags: alien torts, atca, Criminal Justice, eric holder, human rights, justice department, nigeria, obama administration, ogoni, puck lo, roger hollander, royal dutch, shell oil, supreme court, torture
Roger’s note: Vote Obama! “Plus ca change …” you can believe in.
The Obama administration is backing Shell Oil after abruptly changing sides in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that could make it even more difficult for survivors of human rights abuses overseas to sue multinational corporations in federal courts. The case will be heard on October 1.
Lawyers at EarthRights International, a Washington-based human rights law nonprofit, say they suspect that a new legal submission – which was signed only by the U.S. Justice Department – reflects tensions inside the government on how to deal with multinational corporations do business in the U.S. Significantly, neither the State nor the Commerce Department signed on to the brief, despite their key roles in the case.
“It was shocking,” Jonathan Kaufman EarthRights legal policy coordinator commented to Reuters. “The brief was largely unexpected, based on what they had filed previously, and pretty breathtaking.”
At issue is the Alien Torts Claim Act (ATCA) – an 18th century U.S. law originally designed to combat piracy on the high seas – that has been used during the last 30 years as a vehicle to bring international law violations cases to U.S. federal courts.
Lawyers began using ATCA as a tool in human rights litigation in 1979, when the family of 17-year-old Joel Filartiga, who was tortured and killed in Paraguay, sued the Paraguayan police chief responsible. Filartiga v. Peña-Irala set a precedent for U.S. federal courts to punish non-U.S. citizens for acts committed outside the U.S. that violate international law or treaties to which the U.S. is a party. ATCA has brought almost 100 cases of international (often state-sanctioned) torture, rape and murder to U.S. federal courts to date.
In recent years, a number of ATCA lawsuits have also been filed against multinationals which has angered the business lobby. “Expansion of this problem into the international arena via ATCA promises nothing but trouble for U.S. economic and foreign policy interests worldwide,” wrote John Howard, vice president of international policy and programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “U.S. national interests require that we not allow the continuing misapplication of this 18th century statute to 21st century problems by the latter day pirates of the plaintiffs’ bar.”
No plaintiff against a corporation has won on ATCA grounds, although some have settled or plea bargained. In 1996 Doe v. Unocal, a lawsuit filed by ethnic Karen farmers against Unocal (now owned by Chevron) set a new precedent when a U.S. federal court ruled that corporations and their executive officers could be held legally responsible for crimes against humanity. Unocal contracted with the Burmese military dictatorship to provide security for a natural gas pipeline project on the border of Thailand and Burma. The suit accused Unocal of complicity in murder, rape and forcing locals to work for Unocal for free. Shortly before the jury trial was set to begin in 2005, Unocal settled with the plaintiffs by paying an undisclosed sum, marking the first time a corporation settled in any way a case based on the ATCA.
Another such case was filed against Chiquita, the global banana producer, by surviving victims of brutal massacres waged by right-wing paramilitary squads in Colombia. The paramilitary, who killed thousands of civilians during Colombia’s dirty war of the 1980s and 1990s, were on Chiquita’s payroll in the 1990s. Now-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defended Chiquita in the case and won a plea bargain for them of $25 million and five years of probation.
Holder isn’t the only Justice Department staffer who defended a corporation in an ATCA case. Sri Srinivasan, recently nominated for the second highest position in the Justice Department, represented Exxon Mobil in a case brought against them by Indonesian villagers who survived alleged attacks, torture and murder by Indonesian military units hired by Exxon to provide security. Lower courts disagreed on Exxon’s liability under ATCA, and in 2011 an appeals court sent the case back to trial.
Which brings us to the case currently before the Supreme Court – Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Shell) – brought by relatives of nine Nigerian Ogoni activists who were executed in 1995 by a military dictatorship allegedly working in collaboration with Shell. For the last ten years, the widow of executed Dr. Barinem Kiobel and other Nigerian refugees have been trying to prove in court that the British-Dutch multinational oil company Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., or Shell Oil, conspired with the Nigerian military to illegally detain, torture and kill critics of Shell’s environmentally destructive practices in the Niger Delta.
In February the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case to determine whether or not corporations – as opposed to private parties – could be sued under the ATCA. At that time the Justice Department, submitted a “friend of the court” brief that said they could.
Lawyers say that if the Supreme Court accepts that the case can be heard in U.S. courts, it will mark a significant step forward for human rights activists. It will also send a powerful signal to business that any violations overseas can be prosecuted if they do business in the U.S.
Then in June, the Obama administration, suddenly changed its opinion. The new brief from the Justice Department “read like a roadmap for getting rid of cases Srinivasan and Holder had worked on previously” EarthRights attorney Kaufman told Reuters.
In its submission filed in response to a Supreme Court order to re-argue whether or not ATCA applied to territories outside the U.S., the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit against Shell. The brief’s authors stated that the ATCA was not appropriate for Kiobel or other lawsuits involving foreign corporations accused of collaborating in human rights abuses with a foreign government outside U.S. territory.
U.S. courts “should not create a cause of action that challenges the actions of a foreign sovereign in its own territory, where the [sued party] is a foreign corporation of a third country that allegedly aided and abetted the foreign sovereign’s conduct,” the Justice Department wrote.
However, the Justice Department stopped short of categorically barring all similar cases that occur outside the U.S. from ATCA eligibility, and it left ambiguous whether the current recommendation would prevent future ATCA lawsuits against U.S. citizens or corporations, or in cases where abuses take place on the high seas.
EarthRights International filed three Freedom of Information Act requests in July to look for evidence showing whether or not corporate interests and lobbying influenced the government’s decision to back Shell.
“If disclosed, this information will help reveal whether or not the business interests of Attorney General Eric Holder or Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan influenced the government’s position in Kiobel,” said Kaufman.
Puck Lo is a freelance writer, researcher and multimedia producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. www.pucklo.com
“U.S. courts “should not create a cause of action that challenges the actions of a foreign sovereign in its own territory, where the [sued party] is a foreign corporation of a third country that allegedly aided and abetted the foreign sovereign’s conduct,” the Justice Department wrote.”
Yet we can get involved in regime change in foreign sovereign countries like Libya and Syria?
Multinational corporations make law and justice with the
power of money and provide a safe haven to social predators while promoting the
rape of the planet for profit. The world
has no or few laws and little to no enforcement of justice to limit or abolish
multi National corporate abuse but in fact what laws exist or are enforced
promote abuse and injustice in the name of profit to shareholders. However the shareholders are for the most
part other corporations not people but a few greedy power hungry social predators. It’s time the world limits the criminal abuse
of multinational corporations and the few who control them for gain and or
Obama has been shiting on the Mother Earth and marginal populations for years on behalf of his corporate Masters. Just another day of the typical sell out.
Thank you for this info…. I have been trying to stay in touch with this type of issue…when I first heard about the Nigerian situation, read about the Ken WiWa(sp)…. case…and how the Nigerian Delta is the most polluted place in the world…. I have handed out articles about this to other people…
iowapinko•an hour ago
Three and a half years of unambiguous actions and decisions seem to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that it is unnecessary for corporations to
waste their time and money to “influence” the Obama admin. The Obama team was not only bought, but created by corporate interests such as Shell in order to dominate US govt.
If only the problem were as simple as Eric Holder, et al having a personal conflict of interest.
Thank you Puck Lo. Obama is not much more than Republican lite and this story is a part of the avalanche of proof that he could care less about the people of this country and the world.