Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: constitution, cruel and unusual, extreme isolation, human rights, pam johnson, pennsylvania, pennsylvania prisons, prisons, roger hollander, sensory deprivation, solitary confinement, torture, torture chambers
ROGER’S NOTE: WHEN I READ ABOUT AMERICA’S TORTURE CHAMBERS (AND I DO NOT PUT THAT PHRASE IN QUOTATION MARKS) AND THE NEARLY 100,000 MOSTLY BLACK, LATINO AND FIRST NATIONS PEOPLES BEING TORTURED DAILY, I THINK OF THE AMERICAN MEDIA AND POLITICAL CULTURE AND ITS SELF-RIGHTEOUS, ARROGANT AND HYPOCRITICAL SERMONIZING ABOUT THE SOVIET GULAG OR THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS. I WANT YOU TO IMAGINE THAT THE AVERAGE TIME FOR AN AMERICA PRISONER IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IS SEVEN AND A HALF YEARS WHEN THE UNITED NATIONS ETHICAL STANDARD IS FIFTEEN DAYS MAXIMUM.
He has not had human contact or a good night’s sleep in nearly three decades. Every single day, he wakes to the sound of metal doors clanging open and a pair of disembodied hands pushing a tray of food through a slot into his 64-square-foot cell.
L to R: Kimberly Richardson (of the Peoples Institute for Survival), Robert King (who spent 31 years in isolation), and Theresa Shoatz, whose father Russell Maroon Shoatz is also in long-term solitary confinement. (Credit: Ann Harkness/cc by 2.0)
For the next 23 hours, he will stare at the same four walls. If he is lucky, he’ll be escorted, shackled at his ankles and wrists, into a “yard” – an enclosure only slightly larger than his cell – for an hour of solitary exercise.
This is how Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, a prisoner in the restricted housing unit at the State Correctional Institute (SCI) Frackville in northern Pennsylvania, has spent the past 22 consecutive years.
On Thursday, Shoatz’s lawyers submitted a communication to Juan E. Mendez, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, urging him to inquire into why a “father, grandfather and great grandfather” is being held in extreme isolation despite having a near-perfect disciplinary record for over 20 years.
The appeal comes on the heels of a surge in public debate on the practice of solitary confinement in the United States, where on any given day an estimated 81,000 men, women and children are held in some form of “restricted housing” unit, according to Federal Bureau of Justice statistics.
Authorities in each state have a myriad of euphemisms for the practice: administrative segregation, secure housing units (SHUs), “supermax” facilities, protective custody. Whatever the language, critics say the basic conditions remain the same: extreme isolation and sensory deprivation for years at a time.
According to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the restrictions imposed in “maximum security” facilities often “exceed the fathomable. In Pennsylvania’s most restrictive units, for example, prisoners have all the usual supermax deprivations plus some that seem gratuitously cruel: they are not permitted to have photographs of family members or newspapers and magazines.”
Mendez has already affirmed that holding a human being in isolation for a period exceeding 15 days constitutes a violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT).
Back in 2011, his office called for a complete global ban on the use of solitary confinement “except in the most extreme circumstances and for as short a time as possible”, citing numerous studies – some dating back decades, others as recent as Amnesty International’s 2012 report ‘The Edge of Endurance’ – that have documented the long-lasting psychological impacts resulting from even a few days of social separation.
This past August, a hunger strike involving over 30,000 prisoners protesting conditions in restricted housing units at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California prompted the rapporteur to make an urgent appeal to the U.S. government to “eliminate the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement under all circumstances”, stressing that the average U.S. prisoners banished to the hole typically stays there roughly 7.5 years – “far beyond what is acceptable under international human rights law.”
Harold Engel, an attorney with over 43 years of experience and a retired partner of the global corporate law firm Reed Smith, said he co-signed the appeal Thursday in the hopes that an investigation undertaken by the office of the special rapporteur, housed at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, will bring an end to indefinite isolation.
“I first became involved in this case because my daughter told me about Shoatz’s situation and I found it abhorrent,” Engel told IPS.
“As I learned more I realised there wasn’t any clear law on the question of whether keeping someone in solitary confinement under conditions that Shoatz has been kept in violates the eighth amendment of the U.S. constitution [prohibiting the government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment] – which, in my opinion, it does.”
Speaking to IPS under condition of anonymity, an inmate who spent several years in solitary confinement in a Pennsylvania prison before being released back into the general population said his life was measured out in a series of arbitrary numbers: he was permitted one hour of exercise on five days out of the week; he was allowed three meals a day but zero contact visits with his family. His cell contained a single cot and one steel sink. Showers were taken thrice weekly, overseen by guards.
“Getting through each day felt like hewing a single stone from a mountain of despair,” he said.
Bret Grote, an activist who has worked for over six years with the Human Rights Coalition (HRC) – an advocacy group comprised predominantly of prisoners’ families, ex-prisoners and their supporters – says he and others have documented “hundreds upon hundreds of instances of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment inside the solitary confinement units of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC).”
“The approximately 2,500 prisoners warehoused in solitary by the PA DOC are held in units where physical abuse, psychological deterioration, retaliation for exercising constitutionally-protected rights, food deprivation, extreme social isolation, severely reduced environmental stimulation, theft and destruction of property, obstruction of access to the courts, and racist abuse are normative features,” Grote told IPS.
As Shoatz’s lawyers await an official response from the U.N. rapporteur, they are holding out hope that a full investigation into his case could also bring some respite for the tens of thousands of others enduring such conditions.
Copyright © 2013 IPS-Inter Press Service.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, War on Terror.
Tags: big lie, bin Laden, bin laden kill, civil liberties, constitution, fema camps, habeas corpus, minority report, obama lie, president obama, prolonged detention, roger hollander, scott baker, seymour hersch, sherwood ross, tom cruise
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 Sherwood Ross (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.)
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.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Media, Surveillance, War.
Tags: candidate obama, chemical weapons, constitution, glenn greenwald, illegal surveillance, journalism, laura poitras, Media, nsa, president obama, press freedom, roger hollander, surveillance state, Syria, war
Roger’s note: Watch the video at the bottom of this article, it is precious. Do you still love Obama?
Anti-journalism journalists, US/UK attacks on press freedom, and candidate Obama on non-authorized military attacks
- Glenn Greenwald
- theguardian.com, Wednesday 28 August 2013 01.19 BST
For the past seven-plus years, I’ve written more or less every day. That pattern has obviously changed over the last three months, during which time my posting has been more infrequent. That’s because I’ve been prioritizing my work on these NSA documents and articles, which take a fair amount of time to process, report and then write. I’m currently working on several NSA/GCHQ stories at once right now that I expect to be published shortly, so daily writing will likely not resume for a couple more weeks or so.
I’ll try to post something new here at least once every 3 days, if for no other reason than to ensure that the comment section remains open. In the meantime, here are several items worth considering:
(1) The New York Times’ David Carr has an excellent column on what drives the very odd phenomenon that the leading advocates for attacking and even criminalizing journalism come not from the government but from . . . certain journalists.
(2) In Der Spiegel, Laura Poitras has a column on the “blatant attacks on press freedoms” coming from the UK and their superiors in the US national security state.
(3) NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has a great essay on the lessons about journalism revealed by the NSA stories, concluding: “Journalism almost has to be brought closer to activism to stand a chance of prevailing in its current struggle with the state.”
(4) In 2008, President Obama, when he was a candidate for President, had this question-and-answer exchange with the Boston Globe:
“Q. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)
“OBAMA: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
“As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.”
Given that not even the most ardent interventionists for Syria contend that the bombing is necessary for US national security, how can a military attack on Syria without Congressional approval possibly be reconciled with that position? When the same issue arose with Obama’s war in Libya in the absence of Congressional approval (indeed, after Congress expressly rejected its authorization), State Department adviser Harold Koh was forced to repudiate Obama’s own words and say he was wrong back then. Who will play that role this time? As is so often the case, there is a much starker debate between candidate Obama and President Obama than there is between the leadership of both political parties in Washington:
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Democracy, Whistle-blowing, Wikileaks.
Tags: assange, civil liberties, constitution, economy, eric holder, fbi entrappment, habeas corpus, humanity, impeachment, james r. clapper, Nancy Pelosi, neoconservative, nsa surveillance, paul craig roberts, police state, roger hollander, rule of law, snowden, surveillance state, survelleince, terrorism
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.
By Paul Craig Roberts (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.
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.
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Democracy, Whistle-blowing.
Tags: constitution, edward snowden, first amendment, gag law, glenn greenwald, ladar levison, lavabit, national security, national security letters, nsa, patriot act, prism, roger hollander, silent circle, snowden email, surveillance state, whistel-blower
Roger’s note: Sorry to repeat this story so soon, but this article expands on the issure in an important way.
Edward Snowden: ‘Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren’t fighting for our interests the same way’
A Texas-based encrypted email service recently revealed to be used by Edward Snowden – Lavabit – announced yesterday it was shutting itself down in order to avoid complying with what it perceives as unjust secret US court orders to provide government access to its users’ content. “After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations,” the company’s founder, Ladar Levinson, wrote in a statement to users posted on the front page of its website. He said the US directive forced on his company “a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” He chose the latter.
CNET’s Declan McCullagh smartly speculates that Lavabit was served “with [a] federal court order to intercept users’ (Snowden?) passwords” to allow ongoing monitoring of emails; specifically: “the order can also be to install FedGov-created malware.” After challenging the order in district court and losing – all in a secret court proceeding, naturally – Lavabit shut itself down to avoid compliance while it appeals to the Fourth Circuit.
This morning, Silent Circle, a US-based secure online communication service, followed suit by shutting its own encrypted email service. Although it said it had not yet been served with any court order, the company, in a statement by its founder, internet security guru Phil Zimmerman, said: “We see the writing on the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now.”
What is particularly creepy about the Lavabit self-shutdown is that the company is gagged by law even from discussing the legal challenges it has mounted and the court proceeding it has engaged. In other words, the American owner of the company believes his Constitutional rights and those of his customers are being violated by the US Government, but he is not allowed to talk about it. Just as is true for people who receive National Security Letters under the Patriot Act, Lavabit has been told that they would face serious criminal sanctions if they publicly discuss what is being done to their company. Thus we get hostage-message-sounding missives like this:
I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on – 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. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.”
Does that sound like a message coming from a citizen of a healthy and free country? Secret courts issuing secret rulings invariably in favor of the US government that those most affected are barred by law from discussing? Is there anyone incapable at this point of seeing what the United States has become? Here’s the very sound advice issued by Lavabit’s founder:
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.“
As security expert Bruce Schneier wrote in a great Bloomberg column last week, this is one of the key aspects of the NSA disclosures: the vast public-private surveillance partnership. That’s what makes Lavabit’s stance so heroic: as our reporting has demonstrated, most US-based tech and telecom companies (though not all) meekly submit to the US government’s dictates and cooperate extensively and enthusiastically with the NSA to ensure access to your communications.
Snowden, who told me today that he found Lavabit’s stand “inspiring”, added:
“Ladar Levison and his team suspended the operations of their 10 year old business rather than violate the Constitutional rights of their roughly 400,000 users. The President, Congress, and the Courts have forgotten that the costs of bad policy are always borne by ordinary citizens, and it is our job to remind them that there are limits to what we will pay.
“America cannot succeed as a country where individuals like Mr. Levison have to relocate their businesses abroad to be successful. Employees and leaders at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren’t fighting for our interests the same way small businesses are. The defense they have offered to this point is that they were compelled by laws they do not agree with, but one day of downtime for the coalition of their services could achieve what a hundred Lavabits could not.
“When Congress returns to session in September, let us take note of whether the internet industry’s statements and lobbyists – which were invisible in the lead-up to the Conyers-Amash vote – emerge on the side of the Free Internet or the NSA and its Intelligence Committees in Congress.”
The growing (and accurate) perception that most US-based companies are not to be trusted with the privacy of electronic communications poses a real threat to those companies’ financial interests. A report issued this week by the Technology and Innovation Foundation estimated that the US cloud computing industry, by itself, could lose between $21 billion to $35 billion due to reporting about the industry’s ties to the NSA. It also notes that other nations’ officials have been issuing the same kind of warnings to their citizens about US-based companies as the one issued by Lavabit yesterday:
And after the recent PRISM leaks, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich declared publicly, ‘whoever fears their communication is being intercepted in any way should use services that don’t go through American servers.’ Similarly, Jörg-Uwe Hahn, a German Justice Minister, called for a boycott of US companies.”
The US-based internet industry knows that the recent transparency brought to the NSA is a threat to their business interests. This week, several leading Silicon Valley and telecom executives met with President Obama to discuss their “surveillance partnership”. But the meeting was – naturally – held in total secrecy. Why shouldn’t the agreements and collaborations between these companies and the NSA for access to customer communications not be open and public?
Obviously, the Obama administration, telecom giants, and the internet industry are not going to be moved by appeals to transparency, privacy and basic accountability. But perhaps they’ll consider the damage being done to the industry’s global reputation and business interests by constructing a ubiquitous spying system with the NSA and doing it all in secret.
It’s well past time to think about what all this reflects about the US. As the New York Times Editorial Page put it today, referencing a front-page report from Charlie Savage enabled by NSA documents we published: “Apparently no espionage tool that Congress gives the National Security Agency is big enough or intrusive enough to satisfy the agency’s inexhaustible appetite for delving into the communications of Americans.” The NYT added:
Time and again, the NSA has pushed past the limits that lawmakers thought they had imposed to prevent it from invading basic privacy, as guaranteed by the Constitution.”
I know it’s much more fun and self-satisfying to talk about Vladimir Putin and depict him as this omnipotent cartoon villain. Talking about the flaws of others is always an effective tactic for avoiding our own, and as a bonus in this case, we get to and re-live Cold War glory by doing it. The best part of all is that we get to punish another country for the Supreme Sin: defying the dictates of the US leader.
[Note how a country’s human rights problems becomes of interest to the US political and media class only when that country defies the US: hence, all the now-forgotten focus on Ecuador’s press freedom record when it granted asylum to Julian Assange and considered doing so for Edward Snowden, while the truly repressive and deeply US-supported Saudi regime barely rates a mention. Americans love to feign sudden concern over a country’s human rights abuses as a tool for punishing that country for disobedience to imperial dictates and for being distracted from their own government’s abuses: Russia grants asylum to Snowden –> Russia is terrible to gays! But maybe it’s more constructive for US media figures and Americans generally to think about what’s happening to their own country and the abuses of the own government, the one for which they bear responsibility and over which they can exercise actual influence.]
Lavabit has taken an impressive and bold stand against the US government, sacrificing its self-interest for the privacy rights of its users. Those inclined to do so can return that support by helping it with lawyers’ fees to fight the US government’s orders, via this paypal link provided in the company’s statement.
One of the most remarkable, and I think enduring, aspects of the NSA stories is how much open defiance there has been of the US government. Numerous countries around the world have waved away threats, from Hong Kong and Russia to multiple Latin American nations. Populations around the world are expressing serious indignation at the NSA and at their own government to the extent they have collaborated. And now Lavabit has shut itself down rather than participate in what it calls “crimes against the American people”, and in doing so, has gone to the legal limits in order to tell us all what has happened. There will undoubtedly be more acts inspired by Snowden’s initial choice to unravel his own life to make the world aware of what the US government has been doing in the dark.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice.
Tags: constitution, drone policy, drone strikes, due process, extrajudicial, fbi, george monbiot, habeas corpus, ibragim todashev, judicial process, kill list, obama doctrine, Obama presidency, roger hollander
Did the FBI execute Ibragim Todashev? He appears to have been shot seven times while being interviewed at home in Orlando, Florida, about his connection to one of the Boston bombing suspects. Among the shots was the assassin’s hallmark: a bullet to the back of the head. What kind of an interview was it?
‘Under the Obama doctrine, innocent until proved guilty has mutated to innocent until proved dead.’ (Illustration by Daniel Pudles)
An irregular one. There was no lawyer present. It was not recorded. By the time Todashev was shot, he had apparently been interrogated by three agents for five hours. And then? Who knows? First, we were told, he lunged at them with a knife. How he acquired it, five hours into a police interview, was not explained. How he posed such a threat while recovering from a knee operation also remains perplexing.
At first he drew the knife while being interviewed. Then he acquired it during a break from the interview. Then it ceased to be a knife and became a sword, then a pipe, then a metal pole, then a broomstick, then a table, then a chair. In one account all the agents were in the room at the time of the attack; in another, all but one had mysteriously departed, leaving the remaining officer to face his assailant alone.
If – and it remains a big if – this was an extrajudicial execution, it was one of hundreds commissioned by US agencies since Barack Obama first took office. The difference in this case is that it took place on American soil. Elsewhere, suspects are bumped off without even the right to the lawyerless interview Ibragim Todashev was given.
In his speech two days after Todashev was killed, President Obama maintained that “our commitment to constitutional principles has weathered every war“. But he failed to explain which constitutional principles permit him to authorise the killing of people in nations with which the US is not at war. When his attorney general, Eric Holder, tried to do so last year, he got himself into a terrible mess, ending with the extraordinary claim that “‘due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same … the constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process”. So what is due process if it doesn’t involve the courts? Whatever the president says it is?
Er, yes. In the same speech Obama admitted for the first time that four American citizens have been killed by US drone strikes in other countries. In the next sentence, he said: “I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any US citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process.” This suggests he believes that the legal rights of those four people had been respected before they were killed.
Given that they might not even have known that they were accused of the alleged crimes for which they were executed, that they had no opportunities to contest the charges, let alone be granted judge or jury, this suggests that the former law professor’s interpretation of constitutional rights is somewhat elastic. If Obama and his nameless advisers say someone is a terrorist, he stands convicted and can be put to death.
Left hanging in his speech is the implication that non-US citizens may be killed without even the pretence of due process. The many hundreds killed by drone strikes (who, civilian or combatant, retrospectively become terrorists by virtue of having been killed in a US anti-terrorism operation) are afforded no rights even in principle.
As the process of decision-making remains secret, as the US government refuses even to acknowledge – let alone to document or investigate – the killing by its drones of people who patently had nothing to do with terrorism or any other known crime, miscarriages of justice are not just a risk emerging from the deployment of the president’s kill list. They are an inevitable outcome. Under the Obama doctrine, innocent until proved guilty has mutated to innocent until proved dead.
The president made his rejection of habeas corpus and his assumption of a godlike capacity for judgment explicit later in the speech, while discussing another matter. How, he wondered, should the US deal with detainees in Guantánamo Bay “who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks, but who cannot be prosecuted – for example because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law”? If the evidence has been compromised or is inadmissible, how can he know that they have participated? He can suspect, he can allege, but he cannot know until his suspicion has been tested in a court of law.
Global powers have an antisocial habit of bringing their work back home. The British government imported some of the methods it used against its colonial subjects to suppress domestic protests and strikes. Once an administrative class becomes accustomed to treating foreigners as if they have no rights, and once the domestic population broadly accepts their justifications, it is almost inevitable that the habit migrates from one arena into another. If hundreds of people living abroad can be executed by American agents on no more than suspicion, should we be surprised if residents of the United States began to be treated the same way?
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice.
Tags: bradley manning, commander-in-chief, constitution, Criminal Justice, denise lind, jacob chambderlain, kevin gosztola, military trial, roger hollander, rule of law, speedy trial, torture, wikileaks
Roger’s note: 1000 days in prison without trial is not considered by military judge Colonel Denise Lind, to be a violation of the accused’s right to a speedy trial. The standard is 120 days. But wait a second, Bradley Manning is a soldier and his commander in chief, the president of the United States has already convicted him, stating not that he is accused of breaking the law but that in fact he did break the law (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53601.html). Talk about justice.
Here is a comment from DarwinsBeagle in response to the judge’s decision:
80,000 American citizens are now held in solitary confinement for years, decades and lifetimes. The depravity of this society is unparalleled in human history. Manning is a prime example of how this vicious and sick society deals with people. This could be any one of us. All the while, they rubberstamp their criminality with court rulings like this one. Truly disgraceful. From www salem-news dot com:
His cell is approximately six feet wide and twelve feet in length. The cell has a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet. The guards at the confinement facility are professional. At no time have they tried to bully, harass, or embarrass PFC Manning. Given the nature of their job, however, they do not engage in conversation with PFC Manning.
At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up. Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.
He cannot see otherinmates from his cell. He can occasionally hear other inmates talk. Currently, there are no other inmates near his cell.
He is allowed to receive letters from those on his approved list and from his legal counsel. If he receives a letter from someone not on his approved list, he must sign a rejection form. The letter is then either returned to the sender or destroyed.
Due to being held on Prevention of Injury (POI) watch: PFC Manning is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day.
The guards are
required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner.
At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.
He receives each of his meals in his cell.
He is not allowed to have a pillow or sheets.
He is not allowed to have any personal items in his cell.
He is only allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read in his cell.
The book or magazine is taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep.
He is prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push- ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.
He does receive one hour of “exercise” outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk. PFC Manning normally just walks figure eights in theroom for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no longer feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell.
When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.
In March 2011, they began stripping Manning naked, depriving him of his glasses as well.
BY ANY STANDARD THIS IS TORTURE; VENGEFUL PUNISHMENT AUTHORIZED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA HIMSELF.
WE USED TO SAY JOKINGLY THAT “MILITARY JUSTICE” IS AN OXYMORON; TODAY WE CAN SAY WITH REASON THAT “AMERICAN JUSTICE” IS AN OXYMORON.
Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 by Common Dreams
Manning’s Right to a Speedy Trial Not Violated After 1,000 Days, Judge Rules
Pre-trial hearings move to a full court martial trial in June
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Bradley Manning has not had his rights violated while waiting in a cell for almost three years before being granted a trial, judge Colonel Denise Lind ruled in a pre-trial hearing Tuesday.
Bradley Manning. (Reuters / Jose Luis Magaua)
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, had argued that the prosecution was guilty of “extreme foot-dragging” and “shameful” lack of diligence, which violated Manning’s right to a speedy trial—in a final bid that could have had the charges against Manning dismissed.
A soldier in the military has had his or her speedy trial rights violated when it takes over 120 days before an arraignment, Kevin Gosztola reports at FireDogLake, which is the case for Manning. However, Lind ruled in favor of the prosecution who said some of those days didn’t actually count in the speedy trial rule, due to “excludable delays” initiated by the prosecution.
The pre-trial hearings will now be certain to move to a full court martial trial in June.
Saturday marked the 1,000th day Manning has been in military custody without trial, and protesters gathered in 70 locations around the world in solidarity with Manning.
The Guardian adds more detail:
The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, spent two hours reading out her judgment to a pre-trial hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland. She went through the procedures in preparing for trial in minute detail, concluding that the exceptional length of the case was almost entirely justified as a result of its uniquely complex and sensitive nature. […]
Under the Rules of Court Martial 707, any member of the military who is prosecuted must be brought to trial – as measured by the date of his or her arraignment – within a “speedy trial clock” of 120 days of being detained. But there are grounds for excusable delays that set back the clock that include the need for counsel to prepare for trial in a complex case, an inquiry into the mental condition of the accused, and the time taken to obtain security clearance for classified information.
In Manning’s case, the defense and prosecution agreed that there had been 84 days of diligent work between the soldier’s arrest and his arraignment on 23 February 2012. But the two sides were in dispute over 330 days.
Kevin Gosztola is live blogging from the courtroom here.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, War.
Tags: bruce a. dixon, constitution, democracy, drones, george h.w. bush, George W. Bush, history, kill list, nixon, presidents, reagan, roger hollander, rule of law, terror tuesday, war president
Wed, 02/13/2013 – 07:26 — Bruce A. Dixon
When Republican presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush waged secret wars based on mountains of lies and deceit, they were nearly impeached, but in each case Democrats in control of Congress could not pull the trigger. As a result, the Obama White House basks in a presidential culture of murderous arrogance and lawless impunity.
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon
Back in the early seventies, when Richard Nixon secretly bombed Laos and Cambodia, two countries the US was not at war with, and concealed it from Congress and the public, the crime was serious enough to be the fourth article of impeachment drawn up against him. A dozen years later, when Ronald Reagan defied Congress to wage a bloody contra war in Central America funded by running drugs into the US from Central America and selling arms to Iran, Reagan only avoided impeachment by pretending he just couldn’t remember much of it any more and letting his henchmen take the fall. George W. Bush too was widely reviled as a murderous fraud for his lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and more, with millions of Americans and millions more around the world protesting his invasion of Iraq before it even began.
But in the end, none of these Republican warmongers were impeached while in office or indicted afterward because Democrats, in control of Congress every time, could never bring themselves to pull the trigger. So Tricky Dick Nixon stepped down. Reagan doddered off to the ranch, and Dubya’s at home right now watching American Idol. Barack Hussein Obama may be a different color and from a different party but he inherits their arrogance, their immunity, their impunity.
This White House openly brags about its “Terror Tuesday” meetings in which US special forces and drones have been dispatched to and from dozens of undisclosed countries to kidnap, torture or murder thousands of people, in the case of drone strikes mostly innocents, to the cheers and jokes of cruise missile liberals like Ed Schulz and Bill Maher, who calls Obama the “black ninja president.” The potent symbol of a black face in that high place has normalized the conduct of lawless aggressive war and secretive state murder among parts of the population which had no trouble calling a crime a crime when committed by a white Republican. In that sense, the First Black President is a little bit unlike, but mostly very much like his nefarious predecessors.
It’s worth noting that in the debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, kill-at-will drone wars, the militarization of Africa, Wall Street’s immunity from prosecution, and the push to privatize and charterize public education were points upon which both candidates were in complete agreement. But if Mitt Romney were president today wouldn’t many more of us be in the street about these things? Black apologists, as Davey D notes, try to shut criticism of this president down in the misguided name of black unity, and some white activists stay home because they don’t want to be seen as racist whites hating on the black president.
A Facebook friend in Atlanta remarked last week that whenever George Bush was rumored coming to town, his inbox would be full of emergency mobilization notices. But with the current War President about to visit, he said, it looked like his only correspondent might be the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It’s going to be a long, long four more years.
For Black Agenda Radio, I‘m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site’s contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, Gun Control/Violence, History, Race, Racism.
Tags: 2nd amendment, bill of rights, bruce dixon, constitution, edmund morgan, founding fathers, genocide, gun control, gun culture, history, indian killing, racism, right to bear arms, roger hollander, second amendment, slavery
Tue, 12/18/2012 – 19:19 — Bruce A. Dixon
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
The “well-regulated militia” that the US Constitution’s second amendment refers to were slave patrols, land stealers and Indian killers, all quite necessary as the amendment’s language states “to the security of a free state” built with stolen labor upon stolen land. Unless and until we acknowledge that history, we cannot have an honest discussion about gun control.
The Real and Racist Origins of the Second Amendment
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
This commentary was originally published in Black Agenda Report April 19, 2008.
Why does the US Constitution guarantee a right “to keep and bear arms”? Why not the right to vote, the right to a quality education, health care, a clean environment or a job? What was so important in early America about the right of citizens to have guns? And is it even possible to have an honest discussion about gun control without acknowledging the racist origins of the Second Amendment?
The dominant trend among legal scholars, and on the current Supreme Court is that we are bound by the original intent of the Constitution’s authors. Here’s what the second amendment to the Constitution says:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Clearly its authors aimed to guarantee the right to a gun for every free white man in their new country. What’s no longer evident 230 years later, is why. The answer, advanced by historian Edmund Morgan in his classic work, American Slavery, American Freedom, the Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, sheds useful light on the historic and current politics and self-image of our nation.
Colonial America and the early US was a very unequal place. All the good, cleared, level agricultural land with easy access to transport was owned by a very few, very wealthy white men. Many poor whites were brought over as indentured servants, but having completed their periods of forced labor, allowing them to hang around the towns and cities landless and unemployed was dangerous to the social order. So they were given guns and credit, and sent inland to make their own fortunes, encroaching upon the orchards, farms and hunting grounds of Native Americans, who had little or no access to firearms. The law, of course did not penalize white men who robbed, raped or killed Indians. At regular intervals, colonial governors and local US officials would muster the free armed white men as militia, and dispatch them in murderous punitive raids to make the frontier safer for settlers and land speculators.
Slavery remained legal in New England, New York and the mid-Atlantic region till well into the 1800s, and the movements of free blacks and Indians were severely restricted for decades afterward. So colonial and early American militia also prowled the roads and highways demanding the passes of all non-whites, to ensure the enslaved were not escaping or aiding those who were, and that free blacks were not plotting rebellion or traveling for unapproved reasons.
Historically then, the principal activities of the Founding Fathers’ “well regulated militia” were Indian killing, land stealing, slave patrolling and the enforcement of domestic apartheid, all of these, as the Constitutional language declares “being necessary to the security of a free state.” A free state whose fundamental building blocks were the genocide of Native Americans, and the enslavement of Africans.
The Constitutional sanction of universally armed white men against blacks and Indians is at the origin of what has come to be known as America’s “gun culture,” and it neatly explains why that culture remains most deeply rooted in white, rural and small-town America long after the end of slavery and the close of the frontier. With the genocide of Native Americans accomplished and slavery gone, America’s gun culture wrapped itself in new clothing, in self-justifying mythology that construes the Second Amendment as arming the citizenry as final bulwark of freedom against tyranny, invasion or crime. Embracing this fake history of the Second Amendments warps legal scholarship and public debate in clouds of willful ignorance, encouraging us to believe this is a nation founded on just and egalitarian principles rather than one built with stolen labor on stolen land.
Maybe this is how we can tell that we are finally so over all that nasty genocide and racism stuff. We’ve chosen to simply write it out of our history.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site’s contact page or at firstname.lastname@example.org.