Civil Liberties News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on civil liberties
The Department of Justice proudly announced the first FBI terror arrest of the Trump administration on Tuesday: an elaborate sting operation that snared a 25-year-old Missouri man who had no terrorism contacts besides the two undercover FBI agents who paid him to buy hardware supplies they said was for a bomb - and who at one point pulled a knife on him and threatened his family. Robert Lorenzo Hester of Columbia, Missouri, didn’t have the $20 he needed to buy the 9-volt batteries, duct tape, and roofing nails his new FBI friends wanted him to get, so they gave him the money. The agents noted in a criminal complaint that Hester, who at one point brought his two small children to a meeting because he didn’t have child care, continued smoking marijuana despite professing to be a devout Muslim. But according to the DOJ press release, Hester had plans to conduct an “ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack” on President’s Day that would have resulted in mass casualties had it succeeded. News reports breathlessly echoed the government’s depiction of Hester as a foiled would-be terrorist. But the only contact Hester had with ISIS was with the two undercover agents. There appears to be little to suggest that [Hester] had the wherewithal or capacity to carry out a terrorist attack. His case is similar to many others in which individuals in financial, legal, or psychological distress have been befriended by undercover FBI agents or government informants and coaxed into developing a terrorist plot.
Note: The FBI has been stepping up its use of stings in ISIS cases. Read how an FBI mole posing as a potential lover recently convinced a man to become a terrorist. If terrorism is such a grave threat in the US, why does the FBI have to manufacture "terrorist" plots and then exaggerate its anti-terrorism success?
Using loopholes it has kept secret for years, the FBI can in certain circumstances bypass its own rules in order to send undercover agents or informants into political and religious organizations, as well as schools, clubs, and businesses. If the FBI had its way, the infiltration loopholes would still be secret. They are detailed in a mammoth document obtained by The Intercept, an uncensored version of ... the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, or DIOG. If an undercover agent wants to pose as a university student and take classes, or if an FBI handler wants to tell an informant to attend religious services - two examples straight out of the rulebook - he or she must obtain a supervisor’s approval and attest both to the operation’s importance and to its compliance with constitutional safeguards. But all those rules go out the window if an agent decides the group is “illegitimate” or an informant spies on the group of his or her own accord. Civil rights groups ... worry that the FBI has made use of precisely these kinds of loopholes, silently undermining cherished freedoms enshrined after a dark chapter of FBI history: the COINTELPRO program in the 1950s and ’60s, when the FBI spied on, harassed, and tried to discredit leftists, civil rights leaders, and anti-war protestors. The exposure of COINTELPRO led to a famous Senate investigation and to institutional reform. The DIOG, despite being hundreds of pages of dense bureaucracy, actually documents a loosening of the standards enacted to rein in the FBI after COINTELPRO and other scandals ... after the 9/11 attacks.
Note: Read a detailed essay on the FBI's COINTELPRO program from the well-researched online book Lifting the Veil. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The problem of racial bias among police [has] been a concern of the FBI for at least a decade. 10 years ago ... the FBI warned of the potential consequences - including bias - of white supremacist groups infiltrating local and state law enforcement, indicating it was a significant threat to national security. In the 2006 bulletin, the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other supremacists. The bulletin was released during a period of scandal for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in Illinois, Ohio and Texas. Much of the bulletin has been redacted, but in it, the FBI ... warned of “ghost skins,” hate group members who don’t overtly display their beliefs. “At least one white supremacist group has reportedly encouraged ghost skins to seek positions in law enforcement for the capability of alerting skinhead crews of pending investigative action against them,” the report read. Neither the FBI nor state and local law enforcement agencies have established systems for vetting personnel for potential supremacist links. That task is left primarily to everyday citizens and nonprofit organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of few that tracks the growing number of hate groups in America.
Two documentary film-makers are facing decades in prison for recording US oil pipeline protests, with serious felony charges that first amendment advocates say are part of a growing number of attacks on freedom of the press. The controversial prosecutions of Deia Schlosberg and Lindsey Grayzel are moving forward after a judge in North Dakota rejected “riot” charges filed against Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman for her high-profile reporting at the Dakota Access pipeline protests. But authorities in other parts of North Dakota and in Washington state have continued to target other film-makers over their recent reporting on similar demonstrations. Schlosberg, a New York-based film-maker, is facing three felony conspiracy charges for filming protesters on 11 October at a TransCanada Keystone Pipeline site in Pembina County in North Dakota. The 36-year-old ... could face 45 years in prison. In Goodman’s case, a judge forced prosecutors to drop a serious “riot” charge. But prosecutors and sheriff’s officials said they may continue to pursue other charges against the critically acclaimed journalist. In Schlosberg’s charges, North Dakota prosecutors have alleged that she was part of a conspiracy, claiming she traveled with protesters “with the objective of diverting the flow of oil”. “I was surprised at the conspiracy charges. I never thought that would ever happen,” her attorney Robert Woods told the Guardian. “All she was doing was her job of being a journalist and covering the story.”
I do my best to resist the thought that prison is a reflection of our society, but the comparisons are unavoidable. From the moment I crossed the threshold from freedom to incarceration because I was charged with, and a jury convicted me of, leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter, I needed no reminder that I was no longer an individual. Prison, with its “one size fits all” structure, is not set up to recognize a person’s worth; the emphasis is removal and categorization. Inmates are not people; we are our offenses. Considering the charges and conviction that brought me here, I’m not exactly sure to which category I belong. No matter. There is an overriding category to which I do belong, and it is this prison reality that I sadly “compare unto the world”: I’m not just an inmate, I’m a black inmate. Here, I am my skin color. Whenever, in my stubborn idealism, I refuse to acknowledge being racially categorized and question the submission to it, the other prisoners invariably respond, “Man, this is prison.” What I see in prison is sad, but what I’m seeing from prison is worse. During my time in the CIA it became clear, in the organization’s words and actions toward me, that they saw me not as an American who wanted to serve his country but as “a big black guy.” There is a black America, there is a white America, there are many Americas. The greatness and promise of this country lies in equality reinforced by our differences. When I am free, I don’t want to feel that I’m merely going from one prison to another.
Note: The above was written by Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent targeted for prosecution as part of the Obama Administration's "crack down on the press and whistle-blowers." Author James Risen tried to help Sterling expose CIA racism, and later wrote an unrelated book exposing some questionable government practices. Sterling was then sent to prison for what Risen wrote. Risen's latest book exposes major government corruption related to the war on terror.
In the days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when Congress voted to authorize military force against the people who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the hijackings, few Americans could have imagined the resulting manhunt would span from West Africa all the way to the Philippines. Today ... it looks like the war on terror is still in its opening act. The Islamic State, which was largely created by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, controls vast swaths of territory in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. The death toll in the countries the U.S. attacked remains untallied, but conservative estimates range from the hundreds of thousands to well over a million. The financial cost of the war on terror is incalculable. After 15 years, the only winners in the war on terror have been the contractors. At home, the war on terror has become a constitutional nightmare. The U.S. has adopted a practice of indefinitely detaining terror suspects. Police departments across the country secretly import military-grade spy equipment. Courts have ruled that families cannot sue to get their children off government kill lists. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. has become the largest surveillance state in history. Bombing multiple countries in the Middle East has become business as usual, and often goes unreported. As ... media engagement with the wars diminishes, and it is all too easy to forget about our permanent state of war. But the victims of U.S. violence are unlikely to forget, creating a potentially endless supply of new enemies.
A bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to enormous declines in new inmates from big cities, cutting America’s prison population for the first time since the 1970s. But large parts of rural and suburban America ... have gone the opposite direction. Prison admissions in counties with fewer than 100,000 people have risen even as crime has fallen. Just a decade ago, people in rural, suburban and urban areas were all about equally likely to go to prison. But now people in small counties are about 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in populous counties. The stark disparities in how counties punish crime show the limits of recent state and federal changes to reduce the number of inmates. Far from Washington and state capitals, county prosecutors and judges continue to wield great power over who goes to prison and for how long. And many of them have no interest in reducing the prison population. The divide does not appear to be driven by changes in crime, which fell in rural and urban areas at roughly equal rates. Cities have adopted a more lenient approach to drug offenses in particular, diverting many low-level drug offenders to probation or treatment rather than to jail. Those choices have started to reverse - if only modestly - longstanding racial disparities in American prisons, where blacks and Hispanics are incarcerated at drastically higher rates than whites. But rural, mostly white and politically conservative counties have continued to send more drug offenders to prison.
Note: The war on drugs has been called a "trillion-dollar failure," and spending on jails outpaced spending on schools by three times over the last 30 years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Police officers arrest more than 1.2 million people a year in the United States on charges of illegal drug possession. Field tests ... help them move quickly from suspicion to conviction. But the kits - which cost about $2 each and have changed little since 1973 - are far from reliable. Some tests ... use a single tube of a chemical called cobalt thiocyanate, which turns blue when it is exposed to cocaine. But cobalt thiocyanate also turns blue when it is exposed to more than 80 other compounds, including methadone, certain acne medications and several common household cleaners. Other tests use three tubes, which the officer can break in a specific order to rule out everything but the drug in question - but if the officer breaks the tubes in the wrong order, that, too, can invalidate the results. There are no established error rates for the field tests, in part because their accuracy varies so widely depending on who is using them and how. In Las Vegas, authorities re-examined a sampling of cocaine field tests conducted between 2010 and 2013 and found that 33 percent of them were false positives. By 1978, the Department of Justice had determined that field tests “should not be used for evidential purposes,” and the field tests in use today remain inadmissible at trial in nearly every jurisdiction. But this has proved to be a meaningless prohibition. Most drug cases in the United States are decided well before they reach trial, by the far more informal process of plea bargaining.
Note: Drug test field kits sometimes produce wildly inaccurate results. And recently the FBI was found to have faked an entire branch of forensic science. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing judicial corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Anyone venturing into a 3.3-square-mile “event zone” surrounding next month’s Republican National Convention will be prohibited from carrying tennis balls, tape, rope, bike locks, sleeping bags, or any object they could stand on to rise above the crowd and speak. But if they have a license, they’ll be permitted to openly carry real guns, including assault weapons. The restrictions imposed on the large event zone drawn around Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena ... have earned the city a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Ohio and widespread criticism. “It’s the first time I’ve gone to a protest where there’s been so much talk of guns and the fact that people can carry them legally,” said [activist] John Penley. “They throw pro- and anti-Trump protesters together, and throw in the fact that maybe people will be carrying weapons. It seems like what they want to do is increase the chances for conflict.” Cleveland received a $50 million federal grant to gear up for the RNC. The city has obtained ... 10,000 sets of flex cuffs; “nonlethal munitions” like bean bag pellets; pepper spray; 2,000 sets of riot gear; 2,000 retractable steel batons; 3.7 miles’ worth of steel barriers; as well as ... video surveillance equipment, laptops, night vision devices, and 16 Pointer Illuminator Aiming Lasers, which a technology retailer describes as being used for “night direct-fire aiming and illumination.” The convention center itself is under the control of the Secret Service, which has imposed a separate set of restrictions, including a ban on weapons.
Note: New York City in 2014 agreed to pay $18 million to settle lawsuits brought by hundreds of people illegally arrested at the 2004 RNC. Non-lethal weapons including a noise gun originally developed for military use may be used at this year's RNC in Cleveland.
From 2013 to 2015, the NSA and CIA doubled the number of warrantless searches they conducted for Americans’ data in a massive NSA database ostensibly collected for foreign intelligence purposes, according to a new intelligence community transparency report. The estimated number of search terms “concerning a known U.S. person” to get contents of communications within what is known as the 702 database was 4,672 - more than double the 2013 figure. And that doesn’t even include the number of FBI searches on that database. A recently released ... court ruling confirmed that the FBI is allowed to run any number of searches it wants on that database, not only for national security probes but also to hunt for evidence of traditional crimes. No estimates have ever been released of how often that happens. The missing data from the FBI is of great concern to privacy advocates. The USA Freedom Act, passed in June 2015, “conspicuously exempts the FBI” from disclosing how often it searches the 702 database, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) wrote in a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in October 2015. “There is every reason to believe the number of FBI queries far exceeds those of the CIA and NSA,” POGO wrote. “It is essential that you work with the attorney general to release statistics on the FBI’s use of U.S. person queries.” The new report also leaves unanswered how many Americans’ communications are collected in the first place.
There are no good national numbers on police conduct. Even the government's most basic statistic - the number of people killed by police - [is] way off. The White House says it wants to change that with the Police Data Initiative ... whose final report called for greater data transparency as a means to build trust between police and communities. The Police Data Initiative encourages departments to anticipate the kind of numbers their communities want to see, and provide them, preferably in database format. As an example, the White House cites the online data portal on police shootings set up by the Dallas Police Department. But there's a caveat, here: This is all voluntary. The White House says 53 jurisdictions so far have pledged to share this kind of data. But an additional 17,000 or so law enforcement agencies have not yet signed on, and they account for about 85 percent of the country's population. Openness to providing data seems to be most prevalent in police departments that are already in cooperative relationships with the federal government. Many of them receive federal grants, observes David L. Carter, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. "In many cases, progressive police executives feel it's 'the right thing to do,' and will volunteer," says Carter in an email. But he thinks others may take a pass. The result? There may be good stats on places like LA and Dallas, while thousands of smaller communities ... will continue to be white spaces on the statistical map.
There were 149 people exonerated in the United States last year after being wrongly convicted of crimes. More than a third of the people exonerated were convicted of murder, says a report released Wednesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Northwestern University School of Law. All of the people exonerated last year ... had served an average of more than 14 years in prison. Five of the people who were exonerated had been sentenced to death. All told, the National Registry says it has logged 1,733 exonerations in the country since 1989. “Not long ago, any exoneration we heard about was major news,” the report stated. “Now it’s a familiar story. We average nearly three exonerations a week, and most get little attention.” There are also more exonerations in cases involving false confessions or guilty pleas than there used to be. In four of 10 exonerations last year, the people had pleaded guilty, largely in cases involving charges of drug possession. About a third of all exonerations last year involved these drug possession cases. A remarkable number of these cases occurred in just one place: Harris County, Tex., home to Houston. The registry’s report described how the Harris County District Attorney’s office had investigated cases after noticing a number of people who pleaded guilty to possessing illegal drugs, only for a crime lab - sometimes months or years later - to reveal that the materials these people had were not drugs after all.
Note: Most false convictions never see the light of the day. A detailed report by forensics expert John Kelly and former FBI chief scientist Dr. Frederick Whitehurst reveals "a drug testing regime of fraudulent forensics used by police, prosecutors, and judges." And recently the FBI was found to have faked an entire branch of forensic science. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The Flint water crisis continues to generate headlines, but the negligence and mismanagement of public resources in largely minority communities reaches far beyond the borders of that central Michigan city. Across the country, blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to live dangerously close to environmental hazards. Connecticut is among the states with the worst disparities, with a higher proportion of poor minorities living near facilities that use, store, process or emit harmful chemicals, according to the Center for Effective Government report released this month. Nationwide, proximity to such sites increases the risk of death, disease and other poor health outcomes. Flint’s water problems are more complex than simple proximity to an industrial facility. In a bid to save the financially ailing city money on its water supply infrastructure in 2014, Flint officials stopped sourcing water from a Detroit supplier that took proper anti-contamination measures. Instead, it drew from the contaminated Flint River through pipes without proper chemicals, resulting in dangerous levels of lead, E. coli and other contaminants in darkly colored and odiferous water for the city’s 100,000 residents. For months, residents complained to state and local officials in Michigan about the contaminated water. But instead of a swift response to clean it up, officials scrambled to minimize liability and convince residents that they were safe to shower, drink and cook with the water.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
More than 3,000 indigenous children and youth died in residential schools - many of them buried in unmarked graves - and those who had the power to prevent these deaths did little to stop it. The heartbreaking details of those deaths are contained in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released Tuesday, which details the dark history and unsettling legacy of Canadian residential schools that saw 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children come through their doors. “Many students who went to residential school never returned,” says the final report. “They died at rates that were far higher than those experienced by the general school-aged population. Their parents were often uninformed. No one took care to count how many died or to record where they were buried.” says the final report, [which] includes a volume titled “Missing Children and Unmarked Burials” detailing the circumstances, when known, of the 3,201 students deaths between 1867 and 2000 it was able to record. “Both the regulatory regime in which the schools operated and the level of compliance with that regime were inadequate to the task of protecting the health and safety of the students. "Government, church, and school officials were well aware of these failures and their impact on student health. If the question is, ‘Who knew what when?’ the clear answer is, ‘Everyone in authority at any point in the system’s history was well aware of the health and safety conditions in the schools,’ ” the report concludes.
Note: A recent BBC report goes deeper into the role of these schools in Canada's "cultural genocide" of First Nation peoples. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
The devastating civil war in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 19,000 children since the conflict began in 2011, according to new estimates tabulated by the Syrian Human Rights Network. The report found that 18,858 Syrian children were killed by government forces, mostly through missile shelling and the use of barrel bombs in active conflict zones, from March 2011 through October 2015. 582 children were shot by snipers and 159 were tortured to death in government prisons, the group wrote. Rebel forces killed an additional 603 children in that time frame, and another 229 died at the hands of the Islamic State militant group. Since September, Russian airstrikes have resulted in the deaths of at least 86 children, while airstrikes by U.S.-backed coalition forces have killed 75, the report said. The influx of Syrian refugees into Europe has stoked a continent-wide crisis in recent years. But a newer debate around how many refugees to accept, and how to screen them, has cropped up in Europe and the United States in recent days amid fears that terrorists could try to infiltrate refugee groups. Various human rights groups put the total civilian death toll from the Syrian conflict at around 200,000, making child deaths around 10 percent of the carnage. But death counts have been overwhelmingly difficult to calculate; the United Nations announced last year it would stop updating its estimates.
Note: The New York Times recently reported that a Syrian passport found at a Paris bombing site was planted as part of a false evidence trail "to turn public opinion against Syrian refugees." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing war news articles from reliable major media sources.
It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low ... after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129. Mr. Brennan complained about ... the sustained national outrage following the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, that the agency was using provisions of the Patriot Act to secretly collect information on millions of Americans’ phone records. It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011 ... he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, it’s not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking. Most of the men who carried out the Paris attacks were already on the radar of intelligence officials in France and Belgium, where several of the attackers lived. The problem in this case was not a lack of data. In fact, indiscriminate bulk data sweeps have not been useful.
Note: The above is an excellent article by the New York Times editorial board. Yet the role of the largely subservient media, which strongly supported Bush's campaign to go to war in Iraq is ignored. Read this analysis to go even deeper. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
While deadly police shootings in the United States have gained international attention this year, [Calvon] Reid is one of 47 lesser-known people who lost their lives after law enforcement officers deployed a Taser, according to The Counted, an ongoing Guardian investigation documenting fatalities that follow police encounters. Reid died following shocks administered seemingly in violation of national guidelines. These rules ... acknowledge the lethal potential of electronic control weapons (ECW) deployed for more than three standard shock cycles of five seconds each. Many police departments are still not regulating the use of Tasers in accordance with these nationally accepted standards. Taser International, which sells ECWs to 17,800 of the United States’ roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies and commands an overwhelming monopoly on the market, has ... sued medical examiners in the past, in one case leading to the examiners’ representative body to state that Taser International’s actions were “dangerously close to intimidation”. The weapons are likely responsible for many more deaths than coroners can easily record. An epidemiological study on the in-custody death rates of 50 California police departments ... found a startling 600% increase in sudden-death incidents in the year after Taser introduction, and then a 40% increase over pre-Taser rates for the next four years.
Note: Taser International operates a virtual monopoly in the US by trading luxury vacations and cushy retirement jobs to police chiefs in exchange for lucrative no-bid contracts. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about "non-lethal weapons", or read about how sophisticated and deadly some of these weapons technologies can be.
Confidential files containing evidence of violations committed during El Salvador’s civil war have been stolen from a Washington-based human rights group days after it launched legal proceedings against the CIA over classified files on a former US-backed military commander implicated in massacres, death squads and forced disappearances. A computer and hard drive containing testimonies from survivors were stolen from the office of the director of the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) last week. The director’s office was the only one raided, there were no signs of forced entry, and items of monetary value were left behind. The stolen files contained details of investigations related to the 1980-1992 civil war, which left at least 75,000 people dead, 8,000 missing and a million displaced. The vast majority of crimes were committed by US-backed military dictatorships against civilians ... suspected of supporting the leftist guerrillas, according to the UN. Perpetrators were granted immunity from prosecution by a 1993 amnesty law, which remains intact despite being ruled illegal by the Inter American Court of Human Rights. The UWCHR has uncovered previously unseen information held by federal agencies such as the CIA and DEA, which it has shared with relatives of victims. The group filed a freedom of information suit against the CIA on 2 October. The sensitive files were stolen two weeks later. Several rights groups in El Salvador investigating war crimes have suffered similarly suspicious robberies.
American Indians are more likely than any other racial group to be killed by the police, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which studied police killings from 1999 to 2011. But apart from media outlets like Indian Country Today, almost no attention is paid to this pattern of violence against already devastated peoples. When it comes to American Indians, mainstream America suffers from willful blindness. Economic and health statistics, as well as police-violence statistics, shed light on the pressures on American Indian communities and individuals: Indian youths have the highest suicide rate of any United States ethnic group. Adolescent women have suicide rates four times the rate of white women in the same age group. Indians suffer from an infant mortality rate 60 percent higher than that of Caucasians. At the root of much of this is economic inequality: Indians are the poorest people in the United States. Today’s avoidable tragedies of oppressed Indian lives and troubled deaths remain far too often in the shadows. At this moment, when black Americans are speaking up against systemic police violence, and their message is finally being carried by virtually every major news source, it’s time we also pay attention to a less visible but similarly targeted minority: the people who lived here for many thousands of years before this country was founded, and who also have an unalienable right to respect and justice.
Saudi Arabia is having a bad year on the human rights front. In the past few months, the U.S. ally has drawn widespread condemnation for sentencing a blogger to 1,000 lashes with a cane for writing about free speech (only 50 lashes have been delivered so far), and for its plans to execute a young political dissident by beheading him and publicly crucifying his body afterward. The same week ... a watchdog group drew attention to the fact that Saudi Arabia had been selected to oversee an influential U.N. panel on human rights. That panel "selects top officials who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide," said UN Watch, the watchdog group based in Geneva. Saudi Arabia had earlier this year sought the leadership slot of the entire Human Rights Council of the U.N.. The kingdom routinely comes in at the bottom of Freedom House's rankings of world freedom. UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said in a statement, "This UN appointment is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief, and underscores the credibility deficit of a human rights council that already counts Russia, Cuba, China, Qatar and Venezuela among its elected members." Some observers have questioned why Saudi Arabia has a seat at the 47-member Human Rights Council at all.
Note: Watch an incredibly eye-opening video report by Abby Martin showing how the choice of Saudi Arabia as head of the UN rights panel s reveals just how much money trumps ethics. This brutal regime, run by a king and an all-powerful monarchy without any democracy, is one of four countries to still allow public executions, often by beheading. Women must ask permission of their husbands to work and do almost anything in public. Workers from foreign countries are treated like slaves. The list goes on. Yet the UN chose this country to head up a panel on human rights.
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