Civil Liberties News StoriesExcerpts of Key Civil Liberties News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of civil liberties news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
The FBI has come under intense criticism after a 2017 leak exposed that its counterterrorism division had invented a new, unfounded domestic terrorism category it called “black identity extremism.” A number of civil rights groups have filed public records requests to try to better understand who exactly the FBI is investigating under that designation. The latest batch of FBI documents ... reveals that between 2015 and 2018, the FBI dedicated considerable time and resources to opening a series of “assessments” into the activities of individuals and groups it mostly labeled “black separatist extremists.” This designation was eventually folded into the category of “black identity extremism.” Assessments differ from full-blown investigations - or “predicated investigations,” in the bureau’s lingo - because they do not need to be predicated on a factual basis. As a new report by the civil liberties group Defending Rights & Dissent notes, when choosing targets for an assessment, agents are allowed to use ethnicity, religion, or speech protected by the First Amendment as a factor, “as long as it is not the only one.” As the report notes, “Even though the standards for opening an assessment are extraordinarily low, the FBI is allowed to use extremely intrusive investigative techniques in performing them, including physical surveillance, use of informants, and pretextual interviews.” The bureau has in recent years shifted its target from those espousing “separatist” views to the much larger group of those protesting police violence.
Note: Read more about the FBI's use of "Black Identity Extremism" as a label in its terrorism investigations. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
When women speak, they shouldn’t be shrill. Clothing must flatter, but short skirts are a no-no. After all, “sexuality scrambles the mind.” Women should look healthy and fit, with a “good haircut” and “manicured nails.” These were just a few pieces of advice that around 30 female executives at Ernst & Young received at a training held in the accounting giant’s gleaming new office in Hoboken, New Jersey, in June 2018. The 55-page presentation, used during the day-and-a-half seminar on leadership and empowerment, was given to HuffPost by an attendee who was appalled by its contents. Full of out-of-touch advice, the presentation focused on how women need to fix themselves to fit into a male-dominated workplace. The training, called Power-Presence-Purpose or PPP ... was billed to participants as advice on how to be successful at EY, according to Jane, a training attendee and former executive director at the firm. Attendees were even told that women’s brains are 6% to 11% smaller than men’s, Jane said. She wasn’t sure why they were told this, nor is it clear from the presentation. Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it’s hard for them to focus, the attendees were told. Men’s brains are more like waffles. They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square. The only reason to talk to women about their size of their brains is to make them feel inferior to men, said Bruce McEwen, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.
Principled insiders have been busy in recent years blowing the whistle on wrongdoing from Big Pharma to Wall Street to Washington. Without whistleblowers, we’d probably never have heard about the lead-laced water in Flint, Mich., Jeffrey Epstein’s under-the-table funding of MIT, fraud at Guantanamo, corner-cutting at Boeing and the FAA, or the dubious dealings by President Trump in Ukraine that the House has put at the center of an impeachment inquiry. But ... it has become harder than ever to speak truth to power. What has led us here? A rise in institutional corruption and normalized fraud. Healthy organizations tend to self-correct, fixing problems long before they explode in public. Where they don’t, healthy governments intervene via independent regulators. Whistleblowing only becomes necessary when organizations become more interested in silence and loyalty than in ethics or public welfare, or when government watchdogs have been muzzled or euthanized. Anti-whistleblower pressure intensified with the Obama administration’s implementation of Insider Threat programs throughout government. These programs, a response to the WikiLeaks disclosures, frequently portray lawful disclosures by public employees as criminal acts and lump legitimate whistleblowers together with spies and criminals. Despite these barriers, whistleblowers keep coming forward, because the voice of the individual conscience grows stronger as fraud becomes normalized.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Helen Yost, a 62-year-old environmental educator, has been a committed activist for nearly a decade. Yost may not fit the profile of a domestic terrorist, but in 2014 the FBI classified her as a potential threat to national security. According to hundreds of pages of FBI files obtained by the Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, and interviews with activists, Yost and more than a dozen other people campaigning against fossil fuel extraction in North America have been identified in domestic terrorism-related investigations. The investigations, which targeted individual activists and some environmental organizations, were opened in 2013-2014, at the height of opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline. In 2010, the DoJ’s inspector general criticized the FBI for using non-violent civil disobedience as grounds to open domestic terrorism investigations. US citizens swept up in such investigations can be placed on terrorism watchlists and subjected to surveillance and restrictions on international travel. In recent years, Donald Trump has approved construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and his administration has also advocated for stiffer penalties against activists who engage in non-violent direct action targeting fossil fuel infrastructure. Meanwhile, in the wake of the Standing Rock protests, seven states have passed legislation making it a crime to trespass on property containing critical infrastructure.
Jurisdictions once monitored by the justice department for racially discriminatory voting practices have collectively closed more than 1,000 polling places since a watershed 2013 US supreme court ruling released the jurisdictions from oversight, according to a new watchdog report. In 757 counties and county equivalents that formerly had to pre-clear voting practice changes with Washington, 1,173 polling places disappeared between 2014 and 2018, a study by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, part of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights coalition, found. The closures could disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color, especially when combined with restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering and aggressive voter roll purges, the report warned. Last month, a separate study found that US election jurisdictions with histories of egregious voter discrimination have been purging voter rolls at a rate 40% beyond the national average. “Closing polling places has a cascading effect, leading to long lines at other polling places, transportation hurdles, denial of language assistance and other forms of in-person help, and mass confusion about where eligible voters may cast their ballot,” the report said. “For many people, and particularly for voters of color, older voters, rural voters and voters with disabilities, these burdens make it harder – and sometimes impossible – to vote.”
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on elections corruption from reliable major media sources.
The government's watchlist of more than 1 million people identified as "known or suspected terrorists" violates the constitutional rights of those placed on it, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. The ruling from U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga grants summary judgment to nearly two dozen Muslim U.S. citizens who had challenged the watchlist with the help of a Muslim civil-rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. But the judge is seeking additional legal briefs before deciding what remedy to impose. The watchlist is disseminated to a variety of governmental departments, foreign governments and police agencies. "There is no evidence, or contention, that any of these plaintiffs satisfy the definition of a 'known terrorist'," Trenga wrote. And the alternate standard for placement — that of a "suspected terrorist" — can easily be triggered by innocent conduct that is misconstrued, he said. The watchlist, also known as the Terrorist Screening Database, is maintained by the FBI and shared with a variety of federal agencies. Customs officers have access to the list to check people coming into the country at border crossings, and aviation officials use the database to help form the no-fly list, which is a much smaller subset of the broader watchlist. The watchlist has grown significantly over the years. As of June 2017, approximately 1.16 million people were included on the watchlist, according to government documents filed in the lawsuit. In 2013, the number was only 680,000.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
The dark secret of America’s death penalty – the blatant and intentional racial bias that infects the system, distorting juries and throwing inordinate numbers of African Americans on to death row – will be laid bare next week in North Carolina. Some of the country’s top capital lawyers will gather on Monday at the state supreme court in Raleigh. The court’s seven judges will be asked to address a simple question. Will they allow men and women to be condemned to die despite powerful evidence that prosecutors deployed racially discriminatory tactics to put them on death row? At the heart of the case are four inmates facing execution: three African American men and a Native American woman. Over the past seven years Marcus Robinson, Quintel Augustine, Tilmon Golphin and Christina Walters have been on an extraordinary judicial roller coaster that has seen them taken off death row on grounds that their sentences were racially compromised, only to be slapped back on to it following a partisan backlash by the Republican-controlled state legislature. In all four cases, a review of their trials found racial bias had been an “overwhelming” feature of how death sentences were secured. In particular, the juries had been “bleached”. Black potential jurors were systematically struck off – consciously and intentionally – at a rate far higher than their white equivalents. As a result, juries were produced that were almost exclusively, or in Augustine’s case entirely, white.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on judicial system corruption from reliable major media sources.
While we all live under extensive surveillance, for government employees and contractors - especially those with a security clearance - privacy is virtually nonexistent. Everything they do on their work computers is monitored. Even when they try to outsmart their work computer by taking photos directly of their screen, video cameras in their workplace might be recording their every move. Government workers with security clearance promise “never [to] divulge classified information to anyone” who is not authorized to receive it. But for many whistleblowers, the decision to go public results from troubling insights into government activity, coupled with the belief that as long as that activity remains secret, the system will not change. The growing use of the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that criminalizes the release of “national defense” information by anyone “with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation,” shows how the system is rigged against whistleblowers. Government insiders charged under the law are not allowed to defend themselves by arguing that their decision to share what they know was prompted by an impulse to help Americans confront and end government abuses. “The act is blind to the possibility that the public’s interest ... might outweigh the government’s interest,” Jameel Jaffer, head of the Knight First Amendment Institute, wrote recently. “It is blind to the difference between whistle-blowers and spies.”
Note: The above article includes the stories of four whistleblowers charged under the Espionage act. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Law enforcement groups, including the FBI, have been monitoring opponents of a natural gas infrastructure project in Oregon and circulated intelligence to an email list that included a Republican-aligned anti-environmental PR operative, emails obtained by the Guardian show. The South Western Oregon Joint Task Force (SWOJTF) and its members were monitoring opponents of the Jordan Cove energy project, a proposal ... to build the first-ever liquefied natural gas export terminal on the US west coast, as well as a new 232-mile pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas to the port of Coos Bay. Jordan Cove opponents have raised concerns about the project’s significant environmental impacts. An email distribution list associated with the taskforce included addressees in the FBI, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Justice (DoJ), the National Forest Service (NFS), Oregon state police (OSP), and various Oregon municipal police and sheriffs departments. But some of its recipients are outside any government agency, most notably Mark Pfeifle, the CEO of the political consultancy Off The Record Strategies. Pfeifle was previously a Bush administration PR adviser. Pfeifle previously described his work with law enforcement at Standing Rock during a 2017 presentation to oil, gas and banking executives. “A lot of things that we were doing were being done to put a marker down for the protesters. And, ‘OK, if you’re going to go protest somewhere? There’s going to be consequences from it.’”
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday that white supremacy presents a "persistent" and "pervasive" threat to the United States. Wray also spoke out against hate crimes and was asked by Democrats what the FBI was doing to crack down on hate crimes, which they say have ticked up during Trump's presidency. "We are determined not to tolerate hate-filled violence in our communities, so we're going to aggressively investigate those cases," Wray said, adding that there has been an increase in "the reporting of hate crimes," but that this doesn't automatically mean more hate crimes were happening. FBI efforts to encourage the public to report hate crimes could be yielding benefits, he said. These comments aren't exactly in line with what Trump has said about the topic of white nationalism. Trump, who appointed Wray in 2017, has downplayed the danger of white nationalism and even praised some of the Nazi sympathizers who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. After the New Zealand mosque massacre last month, where a right-wing extremist killed 50 Muslim worshippers, Trump said he didn't consider white nationalism to be a rising global threat. "I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess," Trump said. An FBI assessment released last year found that there was a 17% spike in reports of hate crime incidents in 2017, compared to 2016.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
America in the summer of 1919 ran red with blood from racial violence, and yet today, 100 years later, not many people know it even happened. Hundreds of African American men, women and children were burned alive, shot, hanged or beaten to death by white mobs. Thousands saw their homes and businesses burned to the ground and were driven out, many never to return. It was branded "Red Summer" because of the bloodshed and amounted to some of the worst white-on-black violence in U.S. history." There are no national observances marking Red Summer. History textbooks ignore it, and most museums don't acknowledge it. The reason: Red Summer contradicts the post-World War I-era notion that America was making the world safe for democracy, historians say. "Ethnic cleansing was the goal of the white rioters," said William Tuttle, a retired professor of American studies at the University of Kansas. "They wanted to kill as many black people as possible and to terrorize the rest until they were willing to leave and live someplace else." The violence didn't start or end in 1919. Some count the era of Red Summer as beginning with the deaths of more than two dozen African Americans in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917 and extending through the Rosewood Massacre of 1923, when a black town in Florida was destroyed. All told, at least 1,122 Americans were killed in racial violence over those six years.
Like many African governments, the regime of [Emmerson] Mnangagwa’s predecessor, Robert Mugabe, was notoriously thin-skinned about social media criticism. Indeed, only two weeks before Mr. Mugabe was deposed in a coup last November, his government had arrested a young American woman working in Zimbabwe for allegedly tweeting that the country was being run by a “sick and selfish man.” For now, the temperature seems to have changed. But if Zimbabwe’s webspace has changed since the days of Mugabe, it also contrasts with many other African countries. Across the continent ... governments have increasingly targeted social media as a way to bring unruly dissenters to heel. In Tanzania, for instance, a recently introduced law slaps a registration fee of about $900 on bloggers and online forums. A 2016 law in Rwanda makes it illegal to use a digital device to cause “annoyance, inconvenience, or needless anxiety,” and Egypt’s government recently announced a law allowing it to block any social media users with more than 5,000 followers if they disseminate “fake news.” In Zimbabwe, the new government has attempted to show its openness to social media as a way of visibly distancing itself from the autocratic regime of Mugabe, whose iron grip on dissent resulted in broad sanctions against the country that sent Zimbabwe’s economy tanking. Mnangagwa has verified his Twitter account, opened a Facebook page, and set up a “broadcast list” on WhatsApp to send messages to his supporters.
In the fields of south Texas Mexican women work long hours in dangerous conditions under the ever-present threat of deportation. Many of them are paid on a contract basis, by the box. A box of cilantro will earn a worker $3; experienced farmworkers say they can fill one within an hour, which means a typical 5am to 6pm work day would earn them $39 total. The work can vary from physically uncomfortable and mundane (cilantro, lettuce, beets) to outright painful and dangerous (watermelon, parsley, grapefruit). The few women who work in the fields face even more hardships. Instances of workplace sexual harassment and rape are rampant and are both underreported and under-prosecuted. It is common for women to relent to a supervisor’s advances because she can’t risk losing her job or deportation. Most of these women are supporting children as well. [They] represent a diverse cross-section of lives upturned by drug-related and domestic violence in Mexico. Under new US immigration protocols, these are extraordinarily tense times for immigrants. A report by Human Rights Watch notes that although US law entitles undocumented workers to workplace protections, “the US government’s interest in protecting unauthorized workers from abuse conflicts with its interest in deporting them.” That report was written in 2015, but President Trump’s heightened drive for deportation and border closure has only made things more impossible for undocumented farmworkers attempting to protect their labor rights.
Dr. José M. R. Delgado of [Yale University] is one of the leading pioneers in ... E.S.B.: electrical stimulation of the brain. He is also the impassioned prophet of a new “psychocivilized” society whose members would influence and alter their own mental functions to create a “happier, less destructive and better balanced man.” [Delgado said,] “We know that [E.S.B.] can delay a heartbeat, move a finger, bring a word to memory, evoke a sensation.” [His] animals performed like electrical toys. One monkey, Ludy, each time she was stimulated [would] stand up on two feet and circle to the right; climb a pole and then descend again. This “automatism” was repeated [by Ludy] through 20,000 stimulations! The tickling of a few electric volts can send a monkey into a deep sleep, or snap him awake. Similarly, human beings are unable to resist motor responses elicited by E.S.B. Large‐scale studies of rats with electrodes in [a] “pleasureful area” found that they preferred E.S.B. above all else—including water, sex and food. Sometimes ravenously hungry rats, ignoring nearby food, would stimulate themselves up to 5,000 times an hour—persisting with manic singleness of purpose for more than a day running, until they keeled over on the floor in a faint! “In humans also ... states of arousal and pleasure have been evoked" ... Delgado added. One patient of ours was a rather reserved 30‐year‐old woman. E.S.B. at one cerebral point made her suddenly confess her passionate regard for the therapist—whom she'd never seen before." According to one psychoanalyst, “The danger of this being abused is ... tremendous.”
Note: Though quite long, this entire intriguing article is well worth reading. If behavior manipulation was this advanced in 1970, what are they capable of now, and why is it being kept quiet? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on mind control from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Mind Control Information Center.
The number of recommended vaccines was only 23 doses of seven vaccines in 1983. By 2017, the CDC’s recommended number skyrocketed to 69 doses of 16 vaccines – 50 doses given before age 6. Vaccination is not appropriate for every individual due to one’s genetic disposition, autoimmune deficiency, allergy or other circumstance. Medical professionals would never claim that because a certain drug or therapy was approved for most people, everyone should be subject to it – but with vaccine injury, the clinical evidence does not seem to apply. Despite ... specific warnings on each vaccine insert, there is an unwillingness to acknowledge the risk for some individuals. While some claim vaccine injuries are rare, the CDC-funded Harvard Pilgrim Project’s [found] that less than 1 percent are ever reported to VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. Taxpayers – not liability-free pharmaceutical companies – have paid patients $4 billion for their injuries or death through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program since 1988. Most families that have experiences with vaccine reactions were never notified beforehand of [this] program. Certain ingredients in vaccinations, including chemicals, human, animal, and insect DNA and RNA, are abhorrent to some for religious or ethical reasons. Mandated vaccination should not force someone to compromise their beliefs. The American Medical Association’s code of ethics affirms the right to both religious and philosophical exceptions for physicians themselves to not be vaccinated. The same standard should apply to their patients.
Note: See the highly revealing 6-page report on the US government's "Health Information Technology" website that states, "Adverse events from drugs and vaccines are common, but underreported. ... Fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported." A concise summary of this report can be found here. More valuable information is available here. For even more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on vaccines from reliable major media sources. Explore also the best website calling for responsibility in vaccination.
The Trump administration ... argues it is not legally required to provide [immigrant minors] with such items as soap, toothbrushes and sleeping accommodations. [This] drew an incredulous response from federal appeals court judges Tuesday at a hearing in San Francisco. The administration is appealing a federal judge’s June 2017 ruling that immigration officials were violating a 1997 court settlement requiring unaccompanied minors in federal custody to be kept in safe and sanitary conditions before being released. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of Los Angeles found that youths held in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas were being denied basic necessities and appointed a monitor to oversee compliance. Gee found evidence that minors were kept overnight in crowded, chilly rooms, sleeping on concrete floors with aluminum-foil blankets with the lights kept on all night. The administration denied violating the settlement and argued in court papers that nothing in the 1997 agreement required officials “to provide minors, in all situations, with sleeping accommodations, toothbrushes, toothpaste, showers, soap, towels and dry clothes,” as long as the facilities were safe and sanitary. A panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was clearly unconvinced. “It’s within everybody’s common understanding that if you don’t have a toothbrush, you don’t have soap, you don’t have a blanket, those are not safe and sanitary,” Judge A. Wallace Tashima told Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
A national public inquiry into possibly thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada has called the deaths a "Canadian genocide". The report was leaked to Canada's national broadcaster CBC which published details. The 1,200-page document reportedly blames the disproportionate violence faced by indigenous women on deep-rooted colonialism and state inaction. The findings of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls are long-awaited in Canada, where there are about 1.6m indigenous people. "It took 40 years to get to this present moment and only because indigenous women have been on the ground making noise about this," Robyn Bourgeois, a campaigner on the issue, told the BBC. The inquiry concluded that about 1,200 aboriginal women had been murdered or gone missing in Canada since 1980, but some activists say the number is likely to have been far higher. The report acknowledged disagreements over what constituted genocide, but concluded: "The national inquiry's findings support characterizing these acts, including violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual] people, as genocide." The inquiry, which cost C$92m ($67m; Ł53m), focused on the systemic causes of violence against indigenous women as well as on prevention. It has heard from more than 2,000 witnesses since 2017.
Note: Kevin Annett is a great Canadian hero who has worked tirelessly and courageously in the face of death threats to expose the systematic abuse and murders of native children in Canada. He was recently kidnapped while crossing the border. Don't miss his amazing story of all the happened.
Tensions have been mounting at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., where liberal activists from the group CODEPINK have occupied the building for the past month. On Thursday morning, things finally came to a head when law enforcement personnel entered the embassy to arrest and remove the activists. In a press release, CODEPINK said that their activists were charged with "interference with certain protective functions." Activists have been occupying the embassy since April 10. The four-story building has been vacant since the beginning of this year, when President Donald Trump recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela, instead of the current Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. CODEPINK denounced the arrests and slammed the Guaido government. “This struggle is far from over. We will continue to fight to stop this embassy from being handed over by the Guaidó supporters,” said CODEPINK Codirector Medea Benjamin. The activists believe that giving the Guaido government control over the embassy could endanger the American Embassy in Venezuela. The State Department withdrew all of its remaining personnel from Venezuela in March. On April 30, Guaido led an effort to oust Maduro, but the uprising failed after the country’s military sided with Maduro instead of the opposition.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Facebook on Thursday banned conspiracy theorist and InfoWars founder Alex Jones and the accounts of other controversial figures. The company, citing violations of its policies on hate speech and promoting violence, is also blocking religious leader Louis Farrakhan, who is known for sharing anti-Semitic views; Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who ran for Congress in 2018; far-right figures Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer; and conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson. Those individuals and accounts that represent them are also banned from photo-sharing app Instagram, which Facebook owns. “They have rules, but enforcement is completely random,” said Roger McNamee, a high-profile Silicon Valley investor who has become a sharp critic of Facebook. “They don’t do anything about it until massive harm has been done and they can no longer find a dodge. Facebook is clearly feeling pressure.” McNamee said Facebook’s business model depends on amplifying content that stimulates fear and outrage, and banning a few influential figures doesn't change that. "It is sacrificing a handful of the most visible extreme voices in order to protect a much larger number of users it needs to maximize profits," he said. The Menlo Park, Calif., company didn’t say what specific posts or actions led to the bans, though a spokesperson said that Jones, Yiannopoulos and Loomer have all recently promoted Gavin McInnes, founder of the violence-prone far-right group the Proud Boys, whom Facebook banned in October.
Note: What happened to freedom of speech guaranteed in the US Constitution? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the manipulation of public perception.
A federal court in Texas issued a ruling on Thursday afternoon preliminarily enjoining enforcement of Texas’ law banning contractors from boycotting Israel. The court ruled that the law plainly violates the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment. Following similar decisions by federal courts in Kansas and Arizona, the ruling becomes the third judicial finding – out of three who have evaluated the constitutionality of such laws – to conclude that they are unconstitutional attacks on the free speech rights of Americans. The case was brought by Bahia Amawi, a longtime elementary school speech pathologist in Austin, Texas, whose contract renewal was denied due to her refusal to sign an oath certifying that she does not participate in any boycotts of Israel. Amawi, a U.S. citizen and mother of four U.S.-born children, was required to sign the pro-Israel oath due to a new law enacted with almost no dissent by the Texas State Legislature in May 2017, and signed into law two days later by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. When signing the bill, Gov. Abbott proclaimed: “Any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy.” But this was precisely the mentality, along with the virtually unanimous pro-Israel sentiment in the Texas State Legislature, that the Texas federal judge identified when explaining why the pro-Israel oath so blatantly violates the free speech guarantees of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Halfway through his first five-year term, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres is becoming defined by his silence on human rights - even as serious rights abuses proliferate. Numerous governments have voiced concerns about China’s detention of 1 million Turkic, mainly Uighur, Muslims for forced indoctrination. Yet Guterres has not said a word about it in public. Instead, he praises China’s development prowess. Guterres has also repeatedly declined to exercise his authority to establish fact-finding missions into egregious rights violations, such as Saudi Arabia’s murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the murder of two U.N. sanctions monitors in Congo. Apart from his spokesman’s feeble appeal to the United States to fulfill its legal obligations as host for the United Nations, Guterres has stayed silent on the Trump administration’s revocation of a visa for the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor over possible investigations of U.S. torture in Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Guterres is a skilled and conscientious diplomat, but his decision to suppress his voice on human rights, especially as civilians are targeted in armed conflicts, is misguided. For more than two years, Guterres offered excuses for not publicly defending human rights. He wanted to focus on internal reforms. He needed to stabilize relations with Trump. But today’s crises are too acute, the civilian victims too numerous, for Guterres to reduce his job to mediator in chief.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Saudi Arabia has executed 37 men convicted of terror-related crimes, the kingdom's official news agency said Tuesday. One of the convicts was crucified. In Saudi Arabia, crucifixion means the body of someone executed is strung up and put on display as a deterrent to others. The majority of those executed were Shia men, according to Amnesty International, which dismissed the legal proceedings that led to the convictions as "sham trials that violated international fair trial standards which relied on confessions extracted through torture." The kingdom has repeatedly denied allegations of torture. Those executed include 11 men convicted of spying for Iran, and at least 14 others who were convicted of violent offenses related to participation in anti-government demonstration. One of the men listed in Tuesday's government statement was Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, who, according to Amnesty, was arrested at the age of 16 and convicted of offenses related to his involvement in anti-government protests. Since Prince Mohammed bin Salman first emerged onto the kingdom's political scene in 2015, he has overseen an intensified crackdown on dissent. He began his political career as defense minister and was elevated to Crown Prince in 2017. In recent years, the Crown Prince has ordered the rounding up of scores of activists, high-profile clerics, analysts, businessmen and princes, as well as women's rights defenders who were allegedly tortured.
Note: How is it that this monarchy which brands famous feminists as "traitors", beheads its enemies and strings up their bodies in public display is one of the closest allies of the US? According to this ABC news article a 2010 massive arms sale to the kingdom was "the single largest sale of weapons to a foreign nation in the history of the U.S." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
At least 25 prominent artificial-intelligence researchers, including experts at Google, Facebook, Microsoft and a recent winner of the prestigious Turing Award, have signed a letter calling on Amazon to stop selling its facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies because it is biased against women and people of color. The letter, which was publicly released Wednesday, reflects growing concern in academia and the tech industry that bias in facial-recognition technology is a systemic problem. Amazon sells a product called Rekognition through its cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services. The company said last year that early customers included the Orlando Police Department in Florida and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon. In January, two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a peer-reviewed study showing that Amazon Rekognition had more trouble identifying the gender of female and darker-skinned faces in photos than similar services from IBM and Microsoft. It mistook women for men 19 percent of the time, the study showed, and misidentified darker-skinned women for men 31 percent of the time. “There are no laws or required standards to ensure that Rekognition is used in a manner that does not infringe on civil liberties,” the A.I. researchers wrote. “We call on Amazon to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement.”
A group of American hackers who once worked for U.S. intelligence agencies helped the United Arab Emirates spy on a BBC host, the chairman of Al Jazeera and other prominent Arab media figures during a tense 2017 confrontation pitting the UAE and its allies against the Gulf state of Qatar. The American operatives worked for Project Raven, a secret Emirati intelligence program that spied on dissidents, militants and political opponents of the UAE monarchy. A Reuters investigation in January revealed Project Raven’s existence and inner workings, including the fact that it surveilled a British activist and several unnamed U.S. journalists. At first, the goal was to crack down on terrorism by helping the UAE monitor militants around the region. But Raven’s mission quickly expanded to include monitoring and suppressing a range of UAE political opponents. Among its targets was Qatar, which the UAE and Saudi Arabia had long accused of fueling political opposition across the region, in part through the Qatari government’s funding of Al Jazeera. The Emiratis also tapped Raven in the effort to contain dissent at home. After the Arab Spring, the operatives were increasingly tasked with targeting human rights activists and journalists who questioned the government. The Raven effort went beyond the Middle East. Operatives [targeted] the mobile phones of other media figures the UAE believed were being supported by Qatar, including journalists for London-based Arabic media outlets.
Political prisoners in Saudi Arabia are said to be suffering from malnutrition, cuts, bruises and burns, according to leaked medical reports that are understood to have been prepared for the country’s ruler, King Salman. The reports seem to provide the first documented evidence from within the heart of the royal court that political prisoners are facing severe physical abuse, despite the government’s denials that men and women in custody are being tortured. The Guardian has been told the medical reports will be given to King Salman along with recommendations that are said to include a potential pardon for all the prisoners, or at least early release for those with serious health problems. Pressure on Saudi Arabia over the detention and treatment of political prisoners has been growing in recent months amid claims that some female activists have been subjected to electric shocks and lashings in custody. With the kingdom also reeling from the aftermath of the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, King Salman is said to have ordered a review of the decision to arrest and detain about 200 men and women in a crackdown ordered by his heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to the medical reports seen by the Guardian, the comments about the detainees suggest many have been severely ill-treated and have a range of health problems. In almost all cases, the reports demanded the prisoners be urgently transferred from solitary confinement to a medical centre.
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The nation's eighth-largest nonprofit donated $56.1 million to a series of organizations identified as hate groups from 2015 to 2017, according to a report from Sludge. National Christian Foundation, which identifies itself as the largest Christian grant maker and one of the largest donor-advised funds in the nation, has served as a vehicle for individuals trying to anonymously send money. Donor-advised funds allow individuals sending the tax deductible contributions to remain anonymous from the IRS and instruct where they want the payments to be sent. For those donating via NCF, this meant sending money to 23 organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled hate groups. Most of the hate organizations that received money from the NCF opposed LGBT rights. The report also found that the NCF donated to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant organizations. Organizations receiving the most funds from NCF included the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has advocated for sterilizing transgender individuals, and the Family Research Council, which has advocated conversion therapy. Members of the Family Research Council including Tony Perkins, the organization's president, have sought to link pedophilia and homosexuality. The NCF's website says it has "accepted over $12 billion in contributions and made over $10 billion in giver-recommended grants to more than 55,000 charities."
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Police are violating no “clearly established rights” when they steal someone’s property after seizing it with a legal search warrant and, therefore, can’t be sued in federal court, an appeals court ruled Wednesday. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to reinstate a suit against Fresno police by two people whose homes and business were searched in 2013 during a gambling investigation. After the search, three officers signed an inventory sheet saying they had seized about $50,000. But the two owners, Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian, who operated automatic teller machines ... said the officers had actually taken $276,000 - $151,000 in cash and $125,000 in rare coins - and pocketed the difference. Darrell York, Jessop’s and Ashjian’s attorney, said police and a city attorney denied that a theft occurred. Even if Kumagai and his fellow officers stole money and coins from Jessop and Ashjian, the appeals court said, the owners could not sue in federal court to get their money back. Such a suit would require proof that their constitutional rights were violated, the court said, and suits against police must clear the additional hurdle of showing that those rights were “clearly established.” “The allegation of any theft by police officers - most certainly the theft of over $225,000 - is undoubtedly deeply disturbing,” Judge Milan Smith said in the 3-0 ruling. “Whether that conduct violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, however, is not obvious.”
Note: Read about "civil asset forfeiture" used by police to steal money and other private property for their departments. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Hours after police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on a quiet suburban street in Ferguson, Missouri, Olajuwon Ali Davis stood with a few dozen people on that same street. Davis, who was 22 at the time, kept showing up as the protests grew larger. Three months later, Davis and another young man named Brandon Orlando Baldwin were arrested in an FBI sting and accused of planning to ... blow up St. Louis’s iconic Gateway Arch. Three years later, the FBI listed Davis’s case in a secret memo warning of the rise of a “black identity extremist” movement whose members’ “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans” spurred what the FBI claimed was “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement.” The “black identity extremism” report was prepared by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit ... and was distributed to scores of local and federal law enforcement partners. Davis and Baldwin ... appear to be the first individuals retroactively labeled by the FBI as “black identity extremists.” According to The Intercept’s analysis, Davis and Olajuwon’s case was the only federal prosecution of individuals the FBI considers to be “black identity extremists” that resulted in a conviction. By comparison, the analysis found that 268 right-wing extremists were prosecuted in federal courts since 9/11 for crimes that appear to meet the legal definition of domestic terrorism.
The U.S. government created a secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers tied to the migrant caravan and in some cases, placed alerts on their passports. At the end of 2018, roughly 5,000 immigrants from Central America made their way north through Mexico to the United States southern border. As the migrant caravan reached the San Ysidro Port of Entry in south San Diego County, so did journalists, attorneys, and advocates who were there to work and witness the events unfolding. But in the months that followed, journalists who covered the caravan, as well as those who offered assistance to caravan members, said they felt they had become targets of intense inspections and scrutiny by border officials. Documents leaked to NBC 7 Investigates show [that the] government had listed their names in a secret database of targets, where agents collected information on them. Some had alerts placed on their passports, keeping at least two photojournalists and an attorney from entering Mexico to work. The documents were provided to NBC 7 by a Homeland Security source on the condition of anonymity. The individuals listed include ten journalists, seven of whom are U.S. citizens, a U.S. attorney, and 48 people from the U.S. and other countries, labeled as organizers, instigators or their roles “unknown.” In addition to flagging the individuals for secondary screenings, the Homeland Security source told NBC 7 that the agents also created dossiers on each person listed.
The number of hate groups in the United States rose for the fourth year in a row in 2018, pushed to a record high by a toxic combination of political polarization, anti-immigrant sentiment and technologies that help spread propaganda online, the Southern Poverty Law Center said Wednesday. The number of hate groups rose by 7 percent last year to 1,020, a 30 percent jump from 2014. That broadly echoes other worrying developments, including a 30 percent increase in the number of hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. from 2015 through 2017 and a surge of right-wing violence that the Anti-Defamation League said had killed at least 50 people in 2018. The center’s findings run parallel to a report on extremist-related killings in the United States that was issued last month by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. That report said that right-wing extremism was linked to every extremist-related killing the group tracked in 2018, at least 50, and that jihadist groups were linked to none. It said that made 2018 the deadliest year for right-wing extremism since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The law center and the Anti-Defamation League both pointed to the killing of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October as a symptom of the increasingly combustible mix of anti-immigrant sentiment, violence and online conspiracy-mongering.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Philando Castile, Walter Scott and Sandra Bland were all pulled over by police in routine traffic stops. All are dead. In an effort to curb racial profiling, North Carolina became the first state to demand the collection and release of traffic stop data. University of North Carolina professor Frank Baumgartner took a look at that data and wrote a book on the subject titled, "Suspect Citizens." Baumgartner analyzed 22 million traffic stops over 20 years ... and found that a driver's race, gender, location and age all factor in to a police officer's decision to pull over a vehicle. The data showed that African Americans had been stopped twice as often as white drivers, and while they were four times more likely to be searched, they were actually less likely to be issued a ticket. The study also highlighted that whites were more likely to be found with contraband than blacks or Hispanics. "There's a way that police interact with middle-class white Americans and there's a way that people in the police forces interact with members of minority communities, especially in poorer neighborhoods," Baumgartner said. Police discretion is a power that's been backed by the U.S. Supreme Court for decades. Baumgartner believes that's largely because the court looks like him, a white man. Philando Castile was stopped 46 times according to police records, racking up a total of $6,000 in fines. "When we look at some of these infractions, they're trivial. It's not keeping us any safer," Baumgartner said.
The world is moving towards legal gender equality - but it's moving very, very slowly. Only six countries currently give women and men equal rights, a major report from the World Bank has found. That's an increase - from zero - compared to a decade ago, when the organization started measuring countries by how effectively they guarantee legal and economic equality between the genders. But the rate of progress means that, by CNN calculations, women won't achieve full equality in the areas studied by the World Bank until 2073. Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden scored full marks of 100 in the bank's "Women, Business and the Law 2019" report. Of those nations, France saw the biggest improvement over the past decade for implementing a domestic violence law, providing criminal penalties for workplace sexual harassment and introducing paid parental leave. But countries in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa averaged a score of 47.37, meaning the typical nation in those regions gives women under half the legal rights of men in the areas measured by the group. The study ... did not measure social and cultural factors, or how effectively laws were enforced. The criteria analyzed were: going places, starting a job, getting paid, getting married, having children, running a business, managing assets and getting a pension. Overall, the global average came in at 74.71. The score indicates that in the average nation, women receive just three-quarters of the legal rights that men do.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
A high school class in Hightstown, New Jersey, has found an impressive way to shed light on unsolved civil rights crimes from the 1950s and '60s. The AP class, studying US government, drafted a bill that would create a board to review, declassify, and release documents related to such cases. The students ... went to Washington, walked the halls of Senate office buildings and passed out folders with policy research and information about their bill, said former student Joshua Fayer. Their efforts caught the attention of Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who introduced the bill - modeled after the JFK Assassination Records Act - in March 2017. Later Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Ted Cruz of Texas signed on. The House and Senate versions ... passed late last year, and President Trump signed the bill into law on January 8. Former student Jay Vainganker said the class was initially trying to solve unresolved hate crimes from the [civil rights] era. They filed public records requests for information from the FBI and Department of Justice, and they got back redacted responses from the government. In some cases, entire pages were redacted. That's when their focus changed, Vaingankar said. They decided to draft a bill that would make the government "a little bit more transparent." The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act creates "a board that would be authorized to look at these documents and see what should be redacted, what isn't relevant, what should be released," he said.
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A newspaper's report that the commander for the police rapid response team exchanged friendly text messages with a leader of far-right protests that have rocked the city [of Portland, OR] confirms collusion exists between some police and right-wing extremists. "I am not shocked, and I am not surprised at today's reporting of Lt. Jeff Niiya's collaboration with Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson over text to provide aid and support for their hate marches," [Portland] Councilwoman Jo Ann Hardesty said in a statement. Willamette Week obtained text messages through a public records request between Niiya and Gibson. The texts purportedly show Niiya had a friendly rapport with Gibson, frequently discussing Gibson's plans to demonstrate. In one text reported by the newspaper, Niiya tells Gibson that he doesn't see a need to arrest his assistant, Tusitala Toese, who often brawls with antifascist protesters, even if he has a warrant, unless Toese commits a new crime. Portland police were accused at a protest last August of being heavy-handed against people, injuring some, who were protesting a rally of extreme-right demonstrators organized by Gibson. Hardesty said the "broken policing system in Portland" must be addressed. "This story, like many that have come before it, simply confirms what many in the community have already known — there are members of the Portland police force who work in collusion with right-wing extremists," she said.
Note: Portland is know as being a fairly progressive city. In how many less progressive cities might some police have similar connections to hate groups? Police in Memphis, Tennessee were recently reported to have systematically spied on community activists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The FBI opened a “domestic terrorism” investigation into a civil rights group in California, labeling the activists “extremists” after they protested against neo-Nazis in 2016. Federal authorities ran a surveillance operation on By Any Means Necessary (Bamn), spying on [the] group’s movements in an inquiry that came after one of Bamn’s members was stabbed at the white supremacist rally. The FBI’s Bamn files reveal: The FBI investigated Bamn for potential “conspiracy” against the “rights” of the “Ku Klux Klan” and white supremacists. The FBI considered the KKK as victims and the leftist protesters as potential terror threats, and downplayed the threats of the Klan. The FBI ... cited Bamn’s advocacy against “rape and sexual assault” and “police brutality” as evidence in the terrorism inquiry. The FBI’s 46-page report ... presented an “astonishing” description of the KKK, said Mike German, a former FBI agent. The FBI launched its terrorism investigation and surveillance of Bamn after white supremacists armed with knives faced off with hundreds of counter-protesters, including Bamn activists, at a June 2016 neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento. Although numerous neo-Nazis were suspected of stabbing at least seven anti-fascists in the melee... the FBI chose to launch a inquiry into the activities of the leftwing protesters. California law enforcement subsequently worked with the neo-Nazis to identify counter-protesters, pursued charges against stabbing victims and other anti-fascists, and decided not to prosecute any men on the far-right for the stabbings. In a redacted October 2016 document, the FBI labeled its Bamn investigation a “DT [domestic terrorism] – ANARCHIST EXTREMISM” case.
Note: Why was Newsweek the only major media outlet in the U.S. to write an article on this mind-boggling story? The article states, "Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley teacher and member of BAMN, was stabbed at the rally. Felcara has now been charged with assault and rioting. Police also wanted to bring six charges against Cedric O’Bannon, an independent journalist at the rally who was stabbed by a pole while filming." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.
Until very recently, the entire Congress has remained mostly silent on the human rights nightmare that has unfolded in the occupied territories. Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel's political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel. Many civil rights activists and organizations have remained silent as well ... because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism. They worry ... that their important social justice work will be compromised or discredited by smear campaigns. Many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights because of the [blacklisting of] those who publicly dare to support boycotts against Israel, jeopardizing their employment prospects and future careers. We must condemn Israel’s ... unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations. We must cry out at the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements, and the severely limited access to decent housing, schools, food, hospitals and water. We ought to question ... the $38 billion the U.S. government has pledged in military support to Israel. And finally, we must, with as much courage and conviction as we can muster, speak out against the system of legal discrimination that exists inside Israel ... ignoring the rights of the Arab minority that makes up 21 percent of the population.
Note: With a population of less than 9 million, when you divide $38 billion by 9 million, you find that the U.S. provides the equivalent $400 in military support for every citizen of Israel, many times more than support to any other country in the world. Why is this?
Eight humanitarian volunteers who help migrants survive desert treks have been charged with federal crimes, prompting fears of an escalating crackdown by the Trump administration. The volunteers, all members of the Arizona-based group No More Deaths, appeared in court on Tuesday charged with a variety of offences including driving in a wilderness area, entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and abandoning property – the latter an apparent reference to leaving water, food and blankets on migrant trails. The charges came a week after No More Deaths, a coalition of religious and community activists, published a report accusing border patrol agents of condemning migrants to death by sabotaging water containers and other supplies. It also accused agents of harassing volunteers in the field. Hours after the report’s publication one activist, Scott Warren, 35, was arrested and charged with harboring two undocumented immigrants, a felony. No More Deaths stopped short of calling it retaliation for the report but said the timing was suspicious. Warren was among the eight who appeared in court this week. No More Deaths said the charges fit a pattern of interference in efforts to save the lives of migrants who trek for days or weeks across harsh deserts which bake by day and freeze by night. The charges relate to activities in Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge. Some 32 sets of human remains were found there last year.
The Trump administration has stopped cooperating with UN investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside America, in a move that delivers a major blow to vulnerable US communities and sends a dangerous signal to authoritarian regimes around the world. Quietly and unnoticed, the state department has ceased to respond to official complaints from UN special rapporteurs, the network of independent experts who act as global watchdogs on fundamental issues such as poverty, migration, freedom of expression and justice. There has been no response to any such formal query since 7 May 2018, with at least 13 requests going unanswered. Nor has the Trump administration extended any invitation to a UN monitor to visit the US to investigate human rights inside the country since the start of Donald Trump’s term two years ago in January 2017. [This] marks a stark break with US practice going back decades. Though some areas of American public life have consistently been ruled out of bounds to UN investigators – US prisons and the detention camp on Guantánamo Bay are deemed off-limits – Washington has in general welcomed monitors into the US as part of a wider commitment to upholding international norms. Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, said the shift gave the impression the US was no longer serious about honoring its own human rights obligations. The ripple effect around the world would be dire.
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A 36-year NSA veteran, William Binney resigned from the agency and became a whistleblower after discovering that elements of a data-monitoring program he had helped develop - nicknamed ThinThread - were being used to spy on Americans. So 2005, December, The New York Times article comes out. ... How important was it? "It touched on that real issues," [said Binney]. "The warrantless wiretapping was not really a major component of it, but it touched on the data mining, which is really, really the big issue, data mining of the metadata and content. That was really the big issue, because that's how you can monitor the entire population simultaneously, whereas the warrantless wiretaps were isolated cases. You could pick an isolated number of them and do them, whereas in the mining process, you would do the entire population." The administration [used] this article to start an aggressive whistleblowing hunt. "[On July 22, 2005] the FBI was in my house ... pointing a gun at me when I was coming out of the shower. The raid took about seven hours. At the time we didn't know that Tom Drake had gone to The Baltimore Sun," [said Binney]. "Material [Tom Drake was indicted for] was clearly marked unclassified, and all they did was draw a line through it and classified that material, and then they charged him with having classified material. It's like framing him. The judge in the court ... knew they were framing him," [said Biney].
When a judge acquitted a white St. Louis police officer in September 2017 for fatally shooting a young black man, the city’s police braced for massive protests. But St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Dustin Boone wasn’t just prepared for the unrest - he was pumped. “It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!!” he texted on Sept. 15, 2017, the day of the verdict. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s---heads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!!” Two days later, prosecutors say, that’s exactly what Boone did to one black protester. Boone, 35, and two other officers, Randy Hays, 31, and Christopher Myers, 27, threw a man to the ground and viciously kicked him and beat him with a riot baton, even though he was complying with their instructions. But the three police officers had no idea that the man was a 22-year police veteran working undercover, whom they beat so badly that he couldn’t eat and lost 20 pounds. On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted the three officers in the assault. They also indicted the men and another officer, Bailey Colletta, 25, for the attack. Prosecutors released text messages showing the officers bragging about assaulting protesters, with Hays even noting that “going rogue does feel good.” To protest leaders, the federal charges are a welcome measure of justice — but also a sign of how far St. Louis still has to go.
Note: If the man beaten had not been a police officer, we would never have heard about this. How often does it happen to other protestors acting peacefully? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
California law enforcement pursued criminal charges against eight anti-fascist activists who were stabbed or beaten at a neo-Nazi rally while failing to prosecute anyone for the knife attacks against them. In addition to the decision not to charge white supremacists or others for stabbings at a far-right rally that left people with critical wounds, police also investigated 100 anti-fascist counter-protesters, recommending more than 500 total criminal charges against them, according to court filings. Meanwhile, for men investigated on the neo-Nazi side of a June 2016 brawl ... police recommended only five mostly minor charges. The documents have raised fresh questions about California police agencies’ handling of rightwing violence and extremism, renewing accusations that law enforcement officials have shielded neo-Nazis from prosecution while aggressively pursuing demonstrators with leftwing and anti-racist political views. The Guardian previously interviewed two victims who were injured, then pursued by police – Cedric O’Bannon, a black journalist and stabbing victim who ultimately was not charged, and Yvette Felarca, a well-known Berkeley activist whose case is moving forward. Previous records also revealed that police had worked with the neo-Nazi groups to target the anti-racist activists. The records disclosed this week provided new details about six other stabbing and beating victims who were treated as suspects by police after the rally ... which was organized by a neo-Nazi group.
Human rights activists in Colombia say they are being gunned down by hitmen who can be hired for as little as $100, a top United Nations official said on Monday. A peace deal in Colombia signed two years ago that ended the nation’s half-century civil war has led to a 40 percent decline in the overall murder rate, but killings of activists have risen, Michel Forst, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders said. According to a July report by British-based campaign group, Global Witness, nearly four land and environmental activists were killed each week last year, in the deadliest year on record, with Latin America faring the worst. “In rural areas ... men and women (human rights) defenders are an easy target for those who see in them or in their human rights agenda an obstacle to their interests,” Forst said in a statement after a 10-day visit to Colombia. Activists working on human rights and land rights, those defending LGBT+ rights and community leaders from Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups, are most at risk, Forst said. “I was really appalled by what I heard from them,” Forst, who met with more than 200 activists across Colombia, told reporters in the capital Bogota. Forst noted that just during his 10-day official visit, four activists had been murdered. Forst said he was also concerned to hear testimonies from Afro-Colombian activists who claimed attacks on them may have directly or indirectly involved foreign companies operating in Colombia, mainly those from the extractive sector.
Note: Read a 2017 New York Times article describing the involvement of high level state agents and corporate executives in the assassination of Honduran activist Berta Cáceres. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the corporate world.
The new documentary series Shut Up and Dribble, which premiered the first of its three parts this weekend on Showtime, is a response to commentator Laura Ingraham's dismissive February 2018 sneer in the direction of LeBron James. The idea that athletes — or actors, or writers — shouldn't be politically active in the public sphere is surprisingly widely held. The point of the series is to demonstrate that in the case of black athletes, holding the game at a distance from the society in which it's played is not only contrary to history but impossible. And, perhaps, that it would be irresponsible. Shut Up And Dribble uses its first installment to chronicle several of professional basketball's early standouts who collided with the wider world in different ways: Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, and Isaiah Thomas. The next two installments ... consider the era of Michael Jordan and the explosion of endorsement deals — which ... tamped down public discussions of politics as protection of each athlete's personal brand became critical. While it's about activism and racism, much of this series is about power. Power accumulated by players, whether it's the economic power of endorsements or the bargaining power of free agency, directly enables them to use their platforms without worrying that they'll be, for instance, let go from their teams and unable to get new jobs because a political stand they consider crucial proves to be unpopular, or makes them targets.
By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people. The key to Snowden’s effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised “civil disobedience” rather than “lawful” whistleblowing. “None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the government’s warrantless surveillance ... had any success,” Devine told me. “They came forward ... but the government just said, ‘They’re lying. We’re not doing those things.’ And the whistleblowers couldn’t prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence.” The NSA whistleblowers were not leftwing peace nuts. They had spent their professional lives inside the US intelligence apparatus – devoted, they thought, to the protection of the homeland and defense of the constitution. They were political conservatives, highly educated, respectful of evidence, careful with words. And they were saying, on the basis of personal experience, that the US government was being run by people who were willing to break the law and bend the state’s awesome powers to their own ends. They were saying that laws and technologies had secretly been put in place that threatened to overturn the democratic governance Americans took for granted and shrink their liberties to a vanishing point.
Note: The article above was is adapted from Mark Hertsgaard’s book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The first thing I saw on my Facebook feed after news of the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue broke was a photo my friend posted from his daughter's bat mitzvah. As a former leader of a white supremacist group in the late 1980s and early 1990s, seeing images of Jewish, black, Latino, Asian and Muslim children today make me ask myself how I could have been so deranged as to think that they were anything less than children. The answer is: fear. Everything I did back then was rooted in fear, as was every genocide in human history. And nationalism cannot exist without fear: fear of losing, fear of others, fear of change. Thus, it's no surprise that nationalism and genocide often go hand in hand. Looking back at how my twisted mind operated when I was a white nationalist, I spun every shred of information to suit that same narrative of fear. They are coming for us. And nationalism was the context necessary to focus fear into an us/them binary. I was incredibly fortunate that the exhaustion of constant spin and fear, along with the loving guidance of my parents and brave people who refused to capitulate to my hostility, eventually led me from nationalism to where I am today: a place in which I embrace diversity, and the constant change that creates it. Embracing those truths is critical to reforming nationalist thinking. It is how we unlearn fear and separatism and find not only peace with change, but joy as well. That is how we create a society where all are valued and included.
Note: The story of a prominent white nationalist who changed his ways is introduced in this article and explored in-depth in this book. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Georgia secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp improperly purged more than 340,000 voters from the state’s registration rolls, an investigation charges. Greg Palast, a journalist and the director of the Palast Investigative Fund, said an analysis he commissioned found 340,134 voters were removed from the rolls on the grounds that they had moved – but they actually still live at the address where they are registered. “Their registration is cancelled. Not pending, not inactive – cancelled. If they show up to vote on 6 November, they will not be allowed to vote. That’s wrong,” Palast [said]. It’s the latest voting rights controversy to crop up in the Georgia governor’s race, which pits Republican Kemp against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who if elected would become the first African American woman governor of any state. Lawsuits have also charged that Kemp blocked the registrations of 50,000 would-be voters, 80% of them black, Latino or Asian, because of minor discrepancies in the spelling or spacing of their name. Another suit targeted the state’s most diverse county after it rejected an unusually large number of absentee ballots. “Brian Kemp has abused his power as secretary of state of Georgia to purge the voting rolls of Georgia primarily of black and brown people,” said Joe Beasley, an Atlanta civil rights activist. “If he had ... integrity, he would have stepped aside as secretary of state, because you can’t referee an election in which you stand to be a winner.”
Researchers across Canada are racing to shed light on a bleak part of the country’s history: How many indigenous children died at residential schools, and where are their unmarked graves? From 1883 to 1998, nearly 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families and sent to the government-funded, church-run boarding schools in an attempt to assimilate them. Once there, they were frequently neglected and abused. What happened at the schools was akin to “cultural genocide,” concluded a 2015 report from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also found that at least 3,200 students died at residential schools ... though the commission contended that the number was probably much higher and merited further investigation. In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, [which include] creating a register of the missing children and mapping their graves. But nearly three years later, some say that a lack of resources and missing documents is inhibiting progress, increasing the likelihood that the relatives of missing residential-school children will die without knowing the fate of their loved ones, and that unmarked graves could be destroyed. School records were often destroyed or inconsistently kept. Officials also frequently failed to record the name and gender of students who died or the cause of death. Authorities even neglected to report the deaths to the parents.
Note: Read more about 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.
A Trump administration proposal to limit protests at the White House and the National Mall, including by potentially charging fees for demonstrations, is meeting stiff resistance from civil rights groups who say the idea is unconstitutional. The National Park Service is considering a plan to push back a security perimeter so that it would include most of the walkway north of the White House, a spot closed to traffic since 1995 that has become a regular venue for demonstrations. The proposal also floats the idea of allowing the agency to charge a fee for protests. Though the ideas were proposed earlier this year, they are facing renewed attention given President Donald Trump's recent comments on protests following the confirmation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Trump called the protesters "screamers." The proposals "harken back to the era in which the courts had to be called upon to protect the right to dissent in the nation’s capital," the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a public comment letter to the National Park Service. "Many of the proposed amendments would be unconstitutional if adopted." ACLU attorneys wrote that if a "cost recovery" fee for demonstrations had been in place in 1963, the historic March on Washington – in which the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech – probably "couldn't have happened."
In the summer of 2015, as Memphis exploded with protests over the police killing of a 19-year-old man, activists began hearing on Facebook from someone called Bob Smith. His profile picture [was] a Guy Fawkes mask, the symbol of anti-government dissent. Smith acted as if he supported the protesters. Over the next three years, dozens of them accepted his friend requests, allowing him to observe private discussions. He described himself as a far-left Democrat, a “fellow protester” and a “man of color.” But Smith was not real. He was the creation of a white detective in the Memphis Police Department’s Office of Homeland Security whose job was to keep tabs on local activists. The detective, Tim Reynolds, outed himself in August under questioning by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which sued the police department for allegedly violating a 1978 agreement that prohibited police from conducting surveillance of lawful protests. The revelation validated many activists’ distrust of local authorities. It also provided a rare look into the ways American law enforcement operates online. Social media monitoring - including the use of software to crunch data about people’s online activity - illustrates a policing “revolution” that has allowed authorities to not only track people but also map out their networks, said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at [the] Brennan Center for Justice. But there are few laws governing this kind of monitoring.
Note: Memphis police were recently reported to have systematically spied on community activists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Not all stops are created equal. Sometimes the police pull people over for traffic-safety reasons – for speeding or running a red light, for example. More nefariously, recent reports ... have shown that police departments ... have used traffic enforcement to generate fines to fund local government. But [another] kind of stop – an investigatory or pretext stop – uses the traffic laws to uncover more serious crime. Such stops (and subsequent searches) exploded in popularity in the 1990s. Pretext stops are responsible for most of the racial disparity in traffic stops in the US. Political scientist Charles Epp found that when the police are actually enforcing traffic safety laws, they tend to do so without regard to race. But when they are carrying out investigatory or pretext stops, they are much more likely to stop black and other minority drivers: black people are about two-and-a-half times more likely to be pulled over for pretext stops. The damage from a pretext stop – of a driver, a pedestrian, a loiterer – doesn’t end with the stop itself. The pretext-stop regime ... propels disparities in the rest of the criminal justice system. By ... 2000, we had been steadily, incrementally, building the punitive criminal justice system we still live with today. Most of the pieces – the aggressive prosecutions and policing, longer sentences, prison-building, collateral consequences of convictions such as losing the right to vote or the chance to live in public housing – had been put in place. The years since [have] been primarily dedicated to maintaining ... that basic architecture.
Marsha Appling-Nunez was showing the college students she teaches how to check online if they're registered to vote when she made a troubling discovery. Despite being an active Georgia voter who had cast ballots in recent elections, she was no longer registered. She tried re-registering, but with about one month left before a November election ... Appling-Nunez's application is one of over 53,000 sitting on hold with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office. Kemp, who's also the Republican candidate for governor, is in charge of elections and voter registration in Georgia. His Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Stacey Abrams, and voting rights advocacy groups charge that Kemp is systematically using his office to suppress votes and tilt the election, and that his policies disproportionately affect black and minority voters. Through a process that Kemp calls voter roll maintenance and his opponents call voter roll purges, Kemp's office has cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012. Nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone. According to records obtained from Kemp's office through a public records request, Appling-Nunez's application - like many of the 53,000 registrations on hold with Kemp's office - was flagged because it ran afoul of the state's "exact match" verification process. An analysis of the records obtained by The Associated Press reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia's population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp's office is nearly 70 percent black.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged today that its agents plotted in 1970 to besmirch the reputation of Jean Seberg, the actress who committed suicide last week, by planting a rumor with news organizations that she was pregnant by [a] high-ranking member of the Black Panther Party. The action against Miss Seberg, part of the F.B.I.'s counterintelligence program COINTELPRO, was intended to discredit her support of the black nationalist movement. According to a document dated April 27, 1970, the Los Angeles office of the F.B.I. requested permission from J. Edgar Hoover, then Director of the bureau, to publicize Miss Seberg's pregnancy, saying it was “felt the possible publication of Seberg's plight could cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the general public.” Romain Gary, the prominent French author and diplomat who was Miss Seberg's husband in 1970, said at a news conference in Paris last week that the baby was his and that the F.B.I. had destroyed the actress's life. The bureau could not say today how many celebrities or others had been harassed or otherwise adversely affected by COINTELPRO activities similar to those directed at Miss Seberg. However, the bureau's animus toward the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and its activities against him are well documented. As with all documents released by the F.B.I., those relating to Miss Seberg were issued with names of all other living persons deleted.
Crystal Mason, the woman who became the poster child for voter suppression when she was sentenced to five years for casting a ballot in Texas, has gone into federal prison. Mason’s crime was to cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election. An African American woman, she had been encouraged by her mother to do her civic duty and vote. When she turned up to the polling station her name was not on the register, so she cast a provisional ballot that was never counted. She did not read the small print of the form that said that anyone who has been convicted of a felony – as she had, having previously been convicted of tax fraud – was prohibited from voting under Texas law. For casting a vote that was not counted, she will now serve 10 months in the federal system. While locked up it is likely that her final appeals in state court will be exhausted, which means she could be passed at the end of the 10 months directly to state custody for a further five years. Her lawyer, Alison Grinter, said she was dismayed to see Mason ripped from her family. “This is an act of voter intimidation, not the will of a free people.” Grinter added: Texas ... has one of the most strict voter ID laws in the country. Fort Worth ... has been particularly hardline, not only prosecuting Mason but also going after a Hispanic woman, Rosa Ortega, for mistakenly voting as a non-US citizen. Ortega, 37, who had permanent resident status in the US having come to the country as an infant, was sentenced to eight years in prison to be followed by deportation.
The U.S. government can monitor journalists under a foreign intelligence law that allows invasive spying and operates outside the traditional court system, according to newly released documents. Targeting members of the press under the law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, requires approval from the Justice Department’s highest-ranking officials. Prior to the release of these documents, little was known about the use of FISA court orders against journalists. Previous attention had been focused on the use of National Security Letters against members of the press; the letters are administrative orders with which the FBI can obtain certain ... records without a judge’s oversight. FISA court orders can authorize much more invasive searches and collection, including the content of communications, and do so through hearings conducted in secret and outside the sort of ... judicial process that allows journalists and other targets of regular criminal warrants to eventually challenge their validity. The rules apply to media entities or journalists who are thought to be agents of a foreign government, or ... possess foreign intelligence information. “There’s a lack of clarity on the circumstances when the government might consider a journalist an agent of a foreign power,” said [Knight Institute staff attorney Ramya] Krishnan. “Think about WikiLeaks; the government has said they are an intelligence operation.”
Note: In its latest instruction manual for federal prosecutors, the US Justice Department removed a subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial”. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Angeline Cheek is preparing for disaster. The indigenous organizer from the Fort Peck reservation in Montana fears that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could break and spill. But environmental catastrophe is not the most immediate threat. The government has characterized pipeline opponents like her as “extremists” and violent criminals and warned of potential “terrorism”. Recently released records [suggest] that police were organizing to launch an aggressive response to possible Keystone protests, echoing the actions against the Standing Rock movement in North Dakota. There, officers engaged in intense surveillance and faced widespread accusations of excessive force. Documents obtained by the ACLU ... have renewed concerns from civil rights advocates about the government’s treatment of indigenous activists known as water protectors. Notably, one record revealed that authorities hosted a recent “anti-terrorism” training session in Montana. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency also organized a “field force operations” training to teach “mass-arrest procedures”, “riot-control formations” and other “crowd-control methods”.
Woody Norris aims the silvery plate ... demonstrating something called HyperSonic Sound (HSS). I pace out a hundred yards. Norris pelts me with the Handel. The sound is inside my head. Imagine, he says, walking by a soda machine (say, one of the five million in Japan that will soon employ HSS) ... then hearing what you alone hear -- the plink of ice cubes and the invocation, ''Wouldn't a Coke taste great right about now?'' An HSS transmission can travel 450 feet - at practically the same volume all along its path. In past months, Norris and his staff have made a further, key improvement to HSS -- instead of sending out a column of sound, they can now project a single sphere of it, self-contained, like a bubble. [And] there are Defense Department applications. Norris [has] been busy honing something called High Intensity Directed Acoustics (HIDA). Although [it] has been routinely referred to as a "nonlethal weapon," ... in reality, HIDA is both warning and weapon. If used from a battleship, it can ward off stray crafts at 500 yards with a pinpointed verbal warning. Should the offending vessel continue ... the stern warnings are replaced by 120-decibel sounds that are as physically disabling as shrapnel. Certain noises, projected at the right pitch, can incapacitate even a stone-deaf terrorist; the bones in your head are brutalized by a tone's full effect whether you're clutching the sides of your skull in agony or not. "HIDA can instantaneously cause loss of equilibrium, vomiting, migraines - really, we can pretty much pick our ailment," he says brightly. Last month, [Norris' company] A.T.C. cut a five-year, multimillion-dollar licensing agreement with General Dynamics, one of the giants of the military-industrial complex.
Note: This entire article is well worth reading if you want to understand just how advanced these dangerous weapons are. And there is little doubt that this weapon can cause death. Remember the article was written in 2003. Sound weapons developed for war are now routinely used against civilian populations. Explore an excellent, well researched article going into more detail on these weapons. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing non-lethal weapons news articles from reliable major media sources.
Was it coincidence that a mass raid on two Memphis homes occurred on the first day of a trial in which police face claims of illegal surveillance of Black Lives Matter campaigners? More than two dozen police cars, most unmarked, blocked off the street before officers raided two homes. Witnesses described more than 50 heavily armed officers: local police, sheriff’s deputies, some from other agencies. Many shielded their identity with black ski masks. Minutes away, at a downtown courthouse, the police department was entering its first day on trial. The case, brought by activists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), alleges the Memphis police department (MPD) engaged in illegal surveillance of activists involved with Black Lives Matter and Fight for 15, including “catfishing” them with fake social media accounts. The homes raided belonged to the uncle and grandmother of ... one of the targets of the alleged police spying. Following the raids, activists reported police searching a community garden, tailing activists in unmarked cars, and ... pulling over a vehicle in which one passenger was an ACLU lawyer representing the activists. The lawyer was briefly detained, in handcuffs. A federal judge is currently considering his verdict on the ACLU lawsuit. He has already ruled that the city violated a federal consent decree barring the city from engaging in political surveillance.
Note: Memphis police were recently reported to have systematically spied on community activists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Trump administration in an attempt to restore protected status to immigrants from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador. Thousands from those four countries were given safe haven in the U.S. following crippling natural disasters and civil conflict, but earlier this year the Trump administration officially ended their protected status. Lawyers for the ACLU and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network convinced the court to order the federal government to disclose communication between DHS officials and other federal agencies. The messages reveal that DHS asked staffers to find "positive gems" about war-torn countries to justify sending more than 300,000 people back to their homelands. The internal back-and-forths also demonstrate more subtle ways DHS sought to downplay the severity of conditions in volatile countries, like using the word "challenges," instead of "disasters" in talking points to the public. That guidance raised alarms with seasoned State Department officials. To ACLU lawyer Ahilan Arulanantham ... the emails show that DHS is more concerned with carrying out Trump's hardline stance on immigration than it is with following the law. "They cut diplomats out of the decision-making process. They rewrote their reports, downplayed sometimes really horrific problems in countries and basically did everything they could to justify the result that the Trump administration wanted," Arulanantham said
When Crystal Mason appears in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, this week she has been warned by her lawyers to be prepared for the worst. Mason, a 43-year-old mother of three, has been sentenced to five years in Texas state penitentiary. All because she committed the crime of voting. On 8 November 2016 ... she walked to her local Fort Worth polling station to perform her civic duty as a US citizen. To her surprise, her name wasn’t registered on the voting rolls, so she cast a provisional ballot. She didn’t ... know that under Texas’s strict electoral laws, she was ineligible to vote. By dint of a previous conviction for tax fraud, for which she had served five years in prison ... she was one of 500,000 Texans barred from the electoral process. After Trump’s victory she was called to a Fort Worth courthouse [and] received her five-year sentence for illegal voting. There is a cruel irony to Crystal Mason’s predicament. While it is true that Fort Worth has a major problem with democracy ... the crisis is not that people are voting illegally, but that they are not voting at all. In 2016, researchers at Portland State University compared the turnout in mayoral ballots in 50 US cities. Fort Worth ... had a turnout of just 6%. With participation rates at such dire levels, politicians might be expected to try with equal urgency to boost voting. But at both national and Texas state level, the response from Republicans has been quite the opposite – they have embarked on a rash of efforts that tend to suppress turnout.
Note: A commission formed by President Trump to investigate supposed voter fraud found no evidence to support Trump's claims that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in 2016. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the commission was, "the most bizarre thing I’ve ever been a part of." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing elections corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials targeted nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency's inspector general. The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that on June 29, 2011, IRS staffers held a briefing with senior agency official Lois G. Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.” Six months later, the IRS applied a new political test to groups that applied for tax-exempt status as “social welfare” groups. On Jan. 15, 2012 the agency decided to target "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement," according to the appendix in the IG report, which ... has yet to be released. The new revelations are likely to intensify criticism of the IRS, which has been under fire since agency officials acknowledged they had deliberately targeted groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their name for heightened scrutiny. Sen. Susan Collins ... described the practice as “absolutely chilling” and called on President Obama to condemn the effort.
The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell's Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking. The device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records - it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think. The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability. Known as Aquaint, which stands for "Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence," the project was run for many years by John Prange, an NSA scientist at the Advanced Research and Development Activity. A supersmart search engine, capable of answering complex questions ... would be very useful for the public. But that same capability in the hands of an agency like the NSA - absolutely secret, often above the law, resistant to oversight, and with access to petabytes of private information about Americans - could be a privacy and civil liberties nightmare. "We must not forget that the ultimate goal is to transfer research results into operational use," said ... Prange.
Note: Watch a highly revealing PBS Nova documentary providing virtual proof that the NSA could have stopped 9/11 but chose not to. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The FBI doesn’t want the public to know more about how its agents pose as journalists during undercover investigations. But, in a federal court case, Justice Department lawyers ... acknowledged in a court filing that FBI agents who pretend to be journalists create a chilling effect, making it harder for real journalists to gain trust and cooperation from sources. The astonishing admission came as the FBI attempted to fend off litigation from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which has filed requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The Reporters Committee’s litigation involves documents related to an FBI undercover operation in which agents posed as documentary filmmakers from a fake company called Longbow Productions to investigate Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters. In a motion filed July 23, Assistant U.S. Attorney Johnny H. Walker argued that providing FBI documents about the Bundy investigation and others in which a journalistic cover may have been used would not only disclose sensitive investigative techniques but also ... “would allow criminals to judge whether they should completely avoid any contacts with documentary film crews, rendering the investigative technique ineffective.” The FBI has previously disclosed that agents have pretended to be news reporters to further investigations. But questions remain about how often such covers are used and what policies are in place to govern the deployment of fake reporters.
Note: A mistrial was recently declared in the case against Cliven Bundy and others after the Justice Department was found to have withheld "massive amounts of evidence undermining federal charges". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
A trove of documents released by the city of Memphis late last week appear to show that its police department has been systematically using fake social media profiles to surveil local Black Lives Matter activists, and that it kept dossiers and detailed power point presentations on dozens of Memphis-area activists. The surveillance project was operated through the Memphis police department’s office of homeland security. In a deposition for a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union over the information gathering, officials said it ... began to focus on “local individuals or groups that were staging protests” [around 2016]. This included the publication of daily joint information briefings on potential protests and known protesters. The briefings regularly included information about meetings on private property, panel discussions, town halls, and even innocuous events like “Black Owned Food Truck Sunday”. A good deal of that information appears to have been obtained by a fake MPD Facebook profile for a “Bob Smith”, which the ACLU said was used “to view private posts, join private groups, and otherwise pose as a member of the activist community”. The briefings, which contained ... photographs, dates of birth, addresses, and mental health histories were distributed beyond the department according to the ACLU lawsuit, to a number of local businesses including the region’s largest employer FedEx and the county school district.
Emmett Till’s black, broken body was plucked from the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi days after his killing in August 1955, a heavy cotton gin fan tied on his neck with barbed wire. It took 19 days for two white men, Roy Bryant and his brother-in-law J.W. Milam, to be acquitted of murder by an all-white jury. Then it took 52 years for historical markers to be erected at locations related to the teenager’s death, which galvanized the civil rights movement after the acquittal. And now, at the spot marking where Till’s body was pulled from the river, it took just 35 days since installation for a replacement sign to be pierced by gunfire. Again. Till was lynched, shot and tortured before his death, and a grim trail of his final moments is marked by signs installed by the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, a museum supported by Tallahatchie County. But the sign - the third iteration after the first was stolen and the second was destroyed by gunfire - apparently was pierced by four bullets ... five weeks after it was dedicated, center co-founder Patrick Weems said. The marker has drawn visitors to the site outside Glendora, Miss., the final stop on a civil rights movement driving tour across the Mississippi Delta. It has also become a beacon for racist expressions of violence, and a signal that work toward justice and equality remains unfinished.
Israel’s parliament has passed a law that could ban groups critical of the armed forces or the state from entering schools and speaking to students. As an amendment to the country’s education act, the law grants extensive powers to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the education minister and head of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party. He can decide to ban groups, the bill states, if they “actively promote legal or international political actions to be taken outside Israel against soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces ... or against the state of Israel”. However, critics warn the law is so vague that it could apply to any person or body that criticises Israel to a foreign entity or government – for example, an Israeli rights group that submits an unfavourable report to a UN agency. The legislation has been dubbed the “Breaking the Silence” bill, a reference to an anti-occupation Israeli human rights group run by military veterans that collects and publishes testimony on army abuses. Bennett has been deeply scathing of the organisation, accusing it of damaging Israel’s image abroad and putting soldiers and officials at risk of prosecution for alleged war crimes. Yehuda Shaul, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence, said the law was “the broadest restriction on freedom of expression for political reasons ever put into Israeli law”. He said its goal was to silence criticism of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade. Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million dollars in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody. Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states. By far the largest recipients of taxpayer money have been Southwest Key and Baptist Child & Family Services. From 2008 to date, Southwest Key has received $1.39 billion in grant funding to operate shelters; Baptist Child & Family Services has received $942 million. International Educational Services also was a big recipient, landing more than $72 million in the last fiscal year before folding amid a series of complaints about the conditions in its shelters. The recipients of the money run the gamut from nonprofits, religious organizations and for-profit entities. They are essentially government contractors for the Health and Human Services Department — the federal agency that administers the program keeping immigrant children in custody. In a recently released report, the State Department decried the general principle of holding children in shelters, saying it makes them inherently vulnerable.
Guantanamo Bay detainees who have been held for as long as 16 years without being charged cannot be imprisoned indefinitely, attorneys argued in federal court Wednesday. Speaking before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan in Washington, attorneys representing eight men detained at the military facility said the Trump administration had violated prisoners’ rights because it did not intend to try them or resettle them overseas. The case shines a light on the few remaining prisoners at Guantanamo, which President Trump has promised to keep open and potentially use to house new suspects, reversing his predecessor’s failed quest to shutter the facility. The men’s collective challenge ... is a reminder of the unsettled questions that continue to surround the prison, which for critics symbolizes what they see as excesses that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At its peak, the military facility ... held more than 700 prisoners. After 2009, President Barack Obama, seeking to close the prison, resettled close to 200 more but was unable to overcome congressional opposition to shutting the prison. Two of the men whose challenge was heard Wednesday, Tofiq Nasser Awad al-Bihani and Abdul Latif Nasser, have already been deemed eligible for resettlement overseas by a government panel, but they remain at Guantanamo. Much of the hearing revolved around the government’s assertion that it could continue to hold the detainees until hostilities against the United States cease, no matter how long that takes.
Note: A letter written by Al Hajj, a Yemeni citizen detained without charges for over 15 years, sheds further light on the plight of these prisoners. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
The indictment was damning enough: A former police chief of Biscayne Park and two officers charged with falsely pinning four burglaries on a teenager. But the accusations revealed in federal court last month left out far uglier details of past policing practices in tranquil Biscayne Park, a [suburb] of Miami. Records obtained by the Miami Herald suggest that during the tenure of former chief Raimundo Atesiano, the command staff pressured some officers into targeting random black people to clear cases. “If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries,” one cop, Anthony De La Torre, said in an internal probe ordered in 2014. “They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.” In a report from that probe, four officers — a third of the small force — told an outside investigator they were under marching orders to file the bogus charges to improve the department’s crime stats. Only De La Torre specifically mentioned targeting blacks, but former Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran, who ordered the investigation after receiving a string of letters from disgruntled officers, said the message seemed clear for cops on the street. The federal case doesn’t raise allegations of racial profiling, but records show the false charges were filed against a black Haitian-American teen identified only as T.D. in the indictment.
One of the children separated from his parents at the US-Mexico border was returned months later with lice, looking as if he hadn’t been bathed in weeks, and with irrevocable changes to his personality ... according to documents filed in a lawsuit against the Trump administration. The lawsuit, from 17 states and the District of Columbia, calls for an end to Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and demands the administration reunite all families that were separated at the border. One mother, Olivia Caceres, alleged that she was separated from her son in November at a legal point entry ... and wasn’t with him for 12 weeks. When he was returned to her custody, Caceres’s son was infested with lice and appeared as though he had not been bathed for the entirety of their separation. "[My son] is not the same since we were reunited. I thought that, because he is so young he would not be traumatized by this experience, but he does not separate from me. He cries when he does not see me. That behavior is not normal.” The stories about what happens to children who are reunited with their families are playing out as still hundreds more kids remain separated from their parents. On June 26, HHS was given a deadline to reunite children under the age of 5 to their families within 14 days and all children within 30 days. HHS Secretary Alex Azar ... admitted that they don’t know which of the nearly 3,000 migrant children in HHS’s custody have been separated from their parents.
A 2014 federal report found that St Louis area police’s use of traffic stops to raise revenue through fines was an underlying cause of racial unrest. A study published last month by the state attorney general’s office confirmed what many fear about “driving while black” in Missouri. It concluded black motorists were 85% more likely to be pulled over in traffic stops last year. It is the highest disparity since stops data began being collected 18 years ago. “There’s still an idea that cities should be using the municipal courts as a grab bag to help their coffers, and black Missourians are disproportionately on the other end of that,” said Nimrod Chapel, president of the Missouri chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Last summer, Chapel was one of the primary agitators behind the NAACP’s first ever statewide travel advisory, issued for Missouri. This extraordinary advisory warned black drivers that “they are traveling and living in Missouri at their own risk and subject to unnecessary search, seizure and potential arrest”.
Ethiopia’s new prime minister has been urged to investigate a raft of gruesome torture and abuse allegations involving senior officials in the country’s most notorious prison. Jail Ogaden, officially known as Jijiga central prison, is home to thousands of prisoners and lies at the heart of Jigjiga, the capital of Ethiopia’s eastern Somali region. According to a report by Human Rights Watch ... prisoners are routinely brutalised and denied access to adequate medical care, family, lawyers, and sometimes food. Many have never been convicted of any crime. Former prisoners claimed they saw people dying in their cells after being tortured by officials. The report provides the most extensive catalogue to date of human rights abuses in eastern Ethiopia under Somali regional president Abdi Mohamed Omar, commonly known as Abdi Iley. The study documents alleged abuses including rape, sleep deprivation, long-term arbitrary detention, collective punishment and forced confessions between 2011 and early 2018. It highlights, in particular, the role of a 40,000-strong Somali special police unit known as the Liyu, which Abdi, then head of regional security, established in 2008 as part of a brutal counter-insurgency campaign targeting the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a secessionist rebel group. Most Jail Ogaden inmates are accused of some affiliation to the group. “Torture in detention is a serious problem throughout Ethiopia, but Jail Ogaden is in a class of its own,” said Felix Horne, the report’s author.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The Supreme Court ruled that police generally need a search warrant to review cell phone records that include data like a user's location, which will impose a higher bar for law enforcement to access data collected on the millions of people who use smartphones on a daily basis. The plaintiff in the case, Timothy Carpenter, was convicted of multiple robbery and gun offenses in 2010 but challenged the conviction saying that officers investigating the case didn't get a warrant for his cell phone records. The government argued that law enforcement doesn't need a warrant to get cell phone records from the service provider since it's a third party. The Court ruled that the government's search, in this case, did not meet the bar for probable cause for a warrant. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority decision that the government is obligated to get a warrant before compelling a wireless provider to provide cell phone records in an investigation. "We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier's database of physical location information," Roberts said.
Note: While this ruling limits police powers, the NSA was authorized in 2016 to freely share communications data it collected without warrants on Americans with 16 intelligence and law enforcement agencies. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The business of housing, transporting and watching over migrant children detained along the southwest border is not a multimillion-dollar business. It’s a billion-dollar one. Southwest Key Programs has won at least $955 million in federal contracts since 2015 to run shelters and provide other services to immigrant children in federal custody. Its shelter for migrant boys at a former Walmart Supercenter in South Texas has been the focus of nationwide scrutiny, but Southwest Key is but one player in the lucrative, secretive world of the migrant-shelter business. About a dozen contractors operate more than 30 facilities in Texas alone, with numerous others contracted for about 100 shelters in 16 other states. Trump’s order ... calling for migrant families to be detained together likely means millions more in contracts. A small network of private prison companies already is operating family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, and those facilities are likely to expand. Defense contractors and security firms are also building a presence in the system, including General Dynamics ... and MVM Inc.. In Harlingen, [Texas] one recent morning, the federal courthouse that hears immigration cases was packed. Teenagers who had been apprehended crossing the border sat in the courtrooms. In the lobby, a group of men and women ... patiently waited for the hearings to end. They were there for the migrant youth. But they were neither relatives nor lawyers. They were contractors.
Note: What this article doesn't include is the possibility that some of these children are being fed into secret mind control programs and possibly even clandestinely sold into sex trafficking. For more on this, read this essay . For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The United States has quit the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), saying the body is a "cesspool of political bias." US ambassador Nikki Haley announced the move Tuesday, which followed criticism by the UNHRC of Israel's shooting of unarmed protesters and the separation of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. While US officials have tried to frame the move as pro-human rights, Washington's withdrawal is likely to renew criticism that the Trump administration places less value on human rights than its predecessors, as exemplified by Trump's dealings with alleged human rights abusers like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un or Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. The UNHRC is only the latest international body or agreement that the Trump administration has withdrawn from, including the Paris climate accords, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Both Haley and Trump have previously sparred with the wider UN ... with Haley claiming the international community pays outsized attention to Washington's actions while ignoring the "reprehensible human rights records of several members of its own Human Rights Council." That comment was in response to UN criticism of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. However, both the Trump White House and previous US administrations have been open to dealing economically and otherwise with human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt.
On May 30, Illinois became the 37th state to pass the Equal Right Amendment (ERA), which says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Next, advocates aim to secure the final state needed to ratify the amendment. They will probably target Virginia, North Carolina or Georgia. The law is overdue. Many Americans assume that the United States already has gender-equality rules. The Civil Rights Act, Title IX and the Equal Pay Act all offer protections against discrimination. But these are pieces of legislation. New laws and Supreme Court rulings can diminish their power. An amendment, by contrast, would force a constitutional reckoning for sex-based discrimination. Activists lobbied, marched, went on strike and persuaded Congress to pass the amendment in 1972. Within just two years, 34 states ratified it. Then the momentum faltered. The amendment failed to secure ratification from the four additional states needed before 1982, the expiration date set by Congress. Passing the ERA will not be easy. Fierce opposition has long accompanied feminist surges, and this is already happening today. In Illinois, Republicans largely spoke out against the amendment. The dominant party could block the ERA’s path at the federal level, and other states could rescind their decades-old ratification. Securing the final state to pass the ERA will probably prove as challenging as it was to secure the final state to pass the 19th Amendment a century ago.
“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted. President Trump’s top domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, was quoted in Sunday’s New York Times touting the crackdown. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry,” he said. “Period.” DHS announced last week that around 2,000 children have been taken from their families during the six weeks since the policy went into effect, and officials acknowledge the number may be even higher. More than a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump’s new “zero tolerance” policy to great fanfare, members of the administration continue to struggle with how to talk about it – alternating between defending the initiative as a necessary deterrent, distancing themselves, blaming Democrats, trying to use it as leverage for negotiations with Congress or denying that it exists at all. Former first lady Laura Bush compares what’s happening to Japanese internment: “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart. Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer.”
Note: On June 20th, Trump signed an executive order intended to keep families of immigrant detainees together, though the fate of the more than 2,300 children already separated is not clear. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) went to a shuttered Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, that has been converted into a detention center for immigrant children who have been separated from their parents. He asked for a tour. Instead, the government contractor that runs the converted store called the cops. An officer filled out a police report, and the senator was asked to leave. The half-hour incident at a strip mall near the southern border with Mexico underscores the lack of transparency from President Trump’s administration about its intensifying efforts to break up undocumented families caught crossing the border, the centerpiece of a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month. “The administration calls this ‘zero tolerance.' ... It is really a ‘zero humanity’ policy," Merkley said. The senator said he tried to go through proper channels to arrange a site visit but was rebuffed. Merkley said he’s also sought to figure out just how many kids are being held at the old Walmart ... but he still cannot get a straight answer. [This] policy may split up an untold number of families. Minors are not allowed in criminal jails, where adults are held when they’re charged with crimes related to crossing the border. Children are sent to separate facilities. This happens even if their folks present themselves at official ports of entry and declare that they are seeking asylum.
Note: The response from the White House to this incident was to blame Merkley for immigrant crimes. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Palestinian officials say at least 58 people have been killed in the latest round of protests. A mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire. Monday became the bloodiest day since the campaign of demonstrations began seven weeks ago to protest Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinians took part in the Gaza protests. Protests also took place on the West Bank. By late in the evening, 58 Palestinians, including several teenagers, had been killed and more than 1,350 wounded by gun fire, the Health Ministry said. Israeli soldiers and snipers used barrages of tear gas as well as live gunfire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory. The protest nearest to Gaza City ... turned into a pitched battle. Emergency workers with stretchers carried off a stream of injured protesters, many with leg wounds but some having been shot in the abdomen. Even as Palestinians’ anger erupted, American and Israeli officials celebrated President Trump’s move of the embassy to Jerusalem. Previous administrations in Washington, like the governments of most American allies, had been unwilling to make the transfer, insisting that the status of Jerusalem needed to be resolved in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing military corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Cedric O’Bannon tried to ignore the sharp pain in his side and continue filming. The independent journalist, who was documenting a white supremacist rally in Sacramento, said he wanted to capture the neo-Nazi violence against counter-protesters with his GoPro camera. But the pain soon became overwhelming. He lifted up his blood-soaked shirt and realized that one of the men carrying a pole with a blade on the end of it had stabbed him in the stomach, puncturing him nearly two inches deep. He limped his way to an ambulance. Police did not treat O’Bannon like a victim. Officers instead monitored his Facebook page and sought to bring six charges against him, including conspiracy, rioting, assault and unlawful assembly. His presence at the protest – along with his use of the black power fist and “social media posts expressing his ideals” – were proof that he had violated the rights of neo-Nazis at the 26 June 2016 protests, police wrote in a report. None of the white supremacists have been charged for stabbing O’Bannon. O’Bannon’s case is the latest example of police in the US targeting leftwing activists, anti-Trump protesters and black Americans for surveillance and prosecution over their demonstrations and online posts. At the same time, critics say, they are failing to hold neo-Nazis responsible for physical violence. Michael German, a former FBI agent, said the Sacramento case was part of a pattern of police in the US siding with far-right groups and targeting their critics.
Note: A New York Times article describes how journalists, legal observers and volunteer medics were charged with riot-related crimes for attending a protest. United Nations officials recently said that the US government's treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Protesters – mainly women – are defying police and energy companies in non-violent environmental activism. Way out in the Appalachian hills ... an orderly clutch of tents were surrounded by a plastic yellow ribbon that read, “police line do not cross”. Past that, a woman sat on top of a 50ft pole. Opposite the knot of tents where the woman’s supporters kept 24-hour vigil lay an encampment of police, pipeline workers, and private security. On Wednesday 23 May, the protester, nicknamed Nutty, finally came down after a record-breaking 57 days spent in the trees ... to stop a fracked natural-gas pipeline from being built through the state. Her final three days in the trees were spent without food. There are others, too, who remain in the forest and are still blocking construction by putting their lives on the line. These activists hold the typical concerns of having a gas pipeline run through the yard: if it leaks it poisons the water, the font of the incredible biodiversity in the area; there’s a two-and-a-half-mile blast radius if it explodes; the pipeline is taking their land through eminent domain against their will for resource extraction. But they also say this is about more than just a pipeline, built by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC. It is, they say, also about the erosion of democracy and the natural world. Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, took $50,000 from MVP’s largest shareholder, EQT Corp, and another $199,251 from Dominion Energy, [a] major shareholder of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline being built nearby.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has cast himself as a reformer, advocating equality for women and granting them the right to drive. But in the past few days, Saudi activists who called for exactly those things were arrested, accused by the authorities of undermining national security and branded “traitors” in pro-government newspapers. The unusually vicious state-led crackdown has targeted Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights advocates, including activists who led the first protests against the driving ban decades ago and were jailed for their defiance. The arrests have been puzzling for their timing — occurring just weeks before the driving ban is set to be lifted. But Saudis have also been stunned by the gravity of the charges and the deeply personal attacks on the activists, whose pictures were circulated in government-friendly media outlets in what human rights groups called a smear campaign intended to silence calls for women’s rights. But the detentions of the women’s rights advocates continue a pattern: Over the past year, as the crown prince has consolidated power, authorities have locked up dozens of dissidents and perceived enemies, including rights activists, clerics, businessmen and princes.
Note: Why is the US such close allies with such a repressive Muslim regime with almost total disregard for human rights? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and threats to civil liberties.
In 2017, officials at the Stewart immigration detention center in Georgia placed Shoaib Ahmed, a 24-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh, in solitary confinement for encouraging fellow workers to stop working. His punishment was solitary confinement for 10 days. Stewart is operated by the largest prison corporation in the US, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), under a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice). A growing number of detained immigrants ... are subjected to forced labor. In April, we filed a lawsuit ... against CoreCivic, alleging that the prison corporation violates human trafficking laws and employs a deprivation scheme to force immigrants detained at Stewart to work for sub-minimum wages, and then threatens to punish them for refusing to work through solitary confinement or loss of access to necessities. A lawsuit against Geo Group, another prison corporation, is moving forward for using similar practices. CoreCivic’s abuse and exploitation ... constitute a contemporary form of slavery as we detailed in a submission to the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. None of this bothered a group of 18 Republican lawmakers ... who sent a letter to Jeff Sessions, Ice, and the Department of Labor asking them to help ... Geo Group defend itself against the lawsuits. These legislators’ support for the prison corporations perhaps should not come as a surprise. Private prison companies contributed $1.6m during the 2016 federal election cycle.
Note: The federal class action lawsuit described in the article above was filed against CoreCivic by Project South jointly with the Southern Poverty Law Center, attorney Andrew Free, and the law firm Burns Charest LLP. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on prison industry corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opens on Thursday, is a place unlike any other in the United States. Together with a new Legacy Museum which also opens this week, it addresses head on a subject that has been marked by a booming silence until now – the enforcement of white supremacy in America through racial terrorism in the form of lynching, as well as its other guises: slavery, segregation and modern mass incarceration. The memorial records and honors the more than 4,000 people of color ... who lost their lives to terror lynching. [It] sits audaciously atop a hill overlooking the heart of Montgomery. From its grounds you look down on the state capitol, the legislative beating heart of Alabama that acted as the first capital of the Confederacy and presides over a state constitution that to this day outlaws white and black kids going to school together: in 2004 and 2012 Alabamans held referendums on whether to remove the racist ban; both times the overwhelmingly white majority voted to keep it. [Equal Justice Initiative] has identified more than 4,384 lynchings by white people of people of colour [from] 1877 to 1950. They spanned 800 counties. Huge crowds often turned out: 10,000 to watch Henry Smith, 17, tortured and burned on a 10ft-high stage in Paris, Texas in 1893; 20,000 at the burning alive of Willy Brown in Omaha, Nebraska in 1919. Such was the communal complicity that sometimes entire white communities would attend – to a man, woman and child.
Plainclothes police officers stormed the village of Madhura in Bihar State. They chased men into fields and detained the bride and groom, already covered in turmeric powder to prepare for the ceremony, for further questioning. Speaking to reporters at the police station later, Ms. Kumari, with downcast eyes, made her position clear: “I will not marry, sir,” she said. “I want to study.” India’s child marriage rate is one of the highest in the world. But as awareness has spread about the detriments associated with underage marriages ... the prevalence has dropped. Child marriage [in India] is finely threaded with other practices, including the exchange of a dowry from the bride’s family to the groom, and sometimes with sex trafficking, making it difficult to tackle any one issue without addressing others. Social workers said there are no easy solutions. Bihar, a poor, agrarian state in northern India, has one of the highest rates of underage marriages in the country. In 2005, 69 percent of surveyed women said they married when they were underage. Ten years later, the number fell to 42.5 percent. Last year, the Bihari government ... dispatched social workers to villages and cities across the state, and announced that priests who officiate weddings would be required to sign declarations affirming that both parties are of legal age to marry. The legal age for marriage for Indian women is 18 years old. For men, it is 21. With the 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Prevention Act, Indian lawmakers criminalized child marriage.
Note: While India has outlawed child marriage as a country, twenty-seven US States set no minimum age for marriage.
In recent months, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has called for five new detention facilities to be built and operated by private prison corporations across the country. ICE spends more than $2 billion a year on immigrant detention through private jails like [the Joe Corley Detention Facility], owned by GEO Group, the nation's largest private prison company. ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service pay GEO $32 million a year to house, feed and provide medical care for a thousand detainees. Between 2013 and 2014, Douglas Menjivar was one of those ICE detainees. Menjivar says he was raped by gang members in his cell, and when he reported it to the medical staff they mocked him. His lawyer has filed a federal civil rights complaint. Menjivar also says he was forced to work for a dollar a day. The forced labor allegations are part of two class-action lawsuits in federal court. But these are just the latest grievances against the business of immigrant incarceration. Human rights groups ... claim corporations skimp on detainee care in order to maximize profits. In its latest budget request, ICE has asked for more than 51,000 detainee beds - a 25 percent increase over the last year. The two largest private corrections corporations, GEO Group and CoreCivic, each gave $250,000 to Trump's inaugural festivities. The Obama administration [phased] out contracts with private prisons that house immigrants. Since Trump took office, the Bureau of Prisons has restored those contracts.
The Supreme Court on Monday shielded a police officer from being sued for shooting an Arizona woman in her front yard, once again making it harder to bring legal action against officers who use excessive force, even against an innocent person. With two dissents, the high court tossed out a lawsuit by a Tucson woman who was shot four times outside her home because she was seen carrying a large knife. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in dissent the victim did not threaten the police or a friend who was standing nearby. This "decision is not just wrong on the law; it also sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public," Sotomayor wrote. Since the Civil War, federal law has allowed people to sue government officials, including the police, for violating their constitutional rights. But in recent years, the Supreme Court has erected a shield of immunity for police and said officers may not be sued unless victims can point to a nearly identical shooting that had been deemed unconstitutionally excessive in a previous decision. The justices did not rule on whether officer Andrew Kisela acted reasonably when he used potentially deadly force against Amy Hughes. The court instead ruled [that Kisela] could not be sued because the victim could not cite a similar case. Sotomayor said the majority had revised the facts to favor the officer. "Hughes was nowhere near the officers, had committed no illegal act, was suspected of no crime, and did not raise the knife," she wrote.
Fifty years ago ... Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis. The Washington Post is running a series of commentaries. The New York Times ran an emotional editorial. Neither paper will mention that they each denounced Dr. King in his later years. Nor will any outlet today likely mention that King had fallen sharply out of favor with much of the national media ... on April 4, 1967. The offense was a speech in New York. King spoke of the “hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence” abroad, and added that a country as financially and politically committed to war as ours could never fight a “War on Poverty” in earnest. One hundred and sixty-eight newspapers denounced him in the days that followed. These editorials had a peculiarly vicious flavor. In late 1967, King pooh-poohed the “violence” and “extremism” criticisms of the civil rights movement, explicitly saying the excesses of urban rioters were “infinitely less dangerous and immoral” than the cold, corporatized murder of the “American mainstream.” “If destruction of property is deplorable,” he asked, “what is the use of napalm on people?” Yet the “mainstream” King is the one most Americans have been conditioned to believe in. King ... died wanting us to radically change our way of life. But history has sanitized him, turning him into a mainstream leader who accomplished what he could within an acceptable role. That sanitizing continues on each of these anniversaries, and is a sad commentary on our inability to listen to even the best of us.
Note: A recent Corbett Report on the assassination of MKL has some powerful evidence of conspiracy at the highest levels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on media corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The secret letter was tucked inside the pages of an old book. It had been written by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to a top lieutenant, condemning civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. [in] 1964. Hoover the previous day had assailed King at a news conference as “the most notorious liar in the country.” Now he was writing a colleague privately to say he hoped King was getting his “just deserts.” Four years later, King would be assassinated. And the letter ... sheds yet more light on the historic malice the FBI director had toward King. Washington scholar James L. Swanson said he found the letter ... clipped to a page in [a book] he purchased. “This is a hitherto unknown and unpublished letter,” Swanson said. “What happened was this: It was announced [the previous month] that Dr. King had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and that provoked Hoover,” he said. Hoover believed that King and his movement were threats to the social order. The FBI had begun wiretapping King’s home and office, and bugging his hotel rooms. No serious links to communism were uncovered, but hints about King’s sexual dalliances allegedly were. Days after Hoover’s news conference, a salacious anonymous letter was delivered to King’s wife. This letter was ... in a package that also [contained] a tape recording that allegedly captured evidence of King’s sexual misconduct. King suspected that the FBI was behind the letter. Sullivan ... later admitted his involvement in the plan during testimony before a Senate committee.
Note: Watch an excellent, six-minute clip from Canada's PBS giving powerful evidence based on the excellent work of William Pepper that King was assassinated by factions in government that wanted his movement stopped. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and assassinations.
Saudi Arabia's crown prince declared that his country, long linked to terrorism and repression, will eradicate extremism. “We won’t waste 30 years of our lives dealing with any extremist ideas," said [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman], who is the de-facto leader of the oil-rich state, at a conference for wealthy and influential business people. For decades, Saudi Arabia has been ruled by an absolute monarchy and governed under Wahhabism, a fundamentalist strain of Sunni Islam that has inspired extremist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Saudi Arabia has been criticized for exporting Wahhabism abroad and promoting radicalization. Recently, Saudi Arabia announced that it would allow women to drive and would open parts of its state-owned oil company to private investors. Experts say these moves are meant to impress Western allies and attract expats and foreign investors. While serving as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton devised plans to stop Saudi Arabia from funding terrorism. “We need to ... bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to (the Islamic State) and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” Clinton wrote in an email released by Wikileaks. Meanwhile, rights groups argue that Saudi Arabia continues to jail journalists and commit widespread human rights violations.
The U.S. military took more than four years to process a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the Guantánamo guidelines for censoring prison library material - and censored the guidelines when it processed the request. The paperwork the military released appeared to leave out three pages of the prison’s procedure for handling the Quran. The Miami Herald sought the Nov. 27, 2013, document in a Dec. 10, 2013, FOIA request. The U.S. Southern Command apparently released the document, with redactions, on March 21 but didn’t put it in the mail for five more days. It arrived at the Herald newsroom, which is next door to Southcom, on Tuesday. The Guantánamo prison is a Law of War detention site run by the Pentagon; left unclear was the U.S. military’s law enforcement or prosecution function related to the Detainee Library, which circulates books among 26 of the prison’s 41 detainees. Of those 26, only two have been convicted of war crimes. Former CIA captives at the clandestine Camp 7 prison, including those accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, don’t have privileges at the main library but can draw from a different, secret collection. In May 2016, a U.S. Army officer in charge of detainee diversionary programs told reporters that “negative screening criteria” included military topics, extreme graphic violence, nudity, sexuality and extremism. Many of the prison’s current detainees were held by the CIA for weeks or years before their transfer to U.S. military custody.
Note: A letter titled, "Will I Die At Guantanamo Bay? After 15 Years, I Deserve Justice" was recently published by Newsweek. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
The calls and emails started coming in: “Dr. Williams, are you available for commentary? Have you seen the recent shooting?” Another unarmed black man has been killed by law enforcement. I don’t want to watch it. But I feel like I have to. I need to give reporters an informed and responsible commentary on events. People ask me if the problem is getting worse. No, this has been going on all along but now we’re capturing more of it on video. How is this affecting the black community? “How do you think,” I want to say. We are sad, angry, and traumatized. We’re living in terror. This racial trauma can cause symptoms like anxiety, depression, phobias, acting-out and feelings of hopelessness. The trauma of exposure to these videos sits on top of layers of trauma that go all the way back to slavery. It is all one and the same. So should these videos be released? They have to be in order to show the public what’s going on and hold law enforcement accountable. I remind myself that there are good police officers, but these videos can help us see which ones aren’t doing their jobs. Despite the pain of viewing, many people of color want the videos to be shown for the same reason Emmett Till’s mother chose to have an open casket funeral – so the world could see what horrible torture had been done to her little boy for allegedly whistling at a white woman. We need the world to see what is being done to our people to help bring it to an end.
Note: The above was written by Monnica Williams, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Tim Ballard's career with the CIA and Homeland Security may not be what you'd expect. With years of leading rescue efforts to free victims of human trafficking, especially those used as prostitutes, he founded Operation Underground Railroad to liberate captive slaves. Ballard explains the need for his work. "There are an estimated 27 million enslaved human beings in the world: more slaves than ever existed during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Many are sex slaves, as sex trafficking represents the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Many reputable organizations exist to disseminate information about this problem, and others function as aftercare organizations for victims. Very few, if any, dedicate themselves to the pro-active rescue and direct extraction of the victims, and to the capture and prosecution of their captors. Operation Underground Railroad fills this void." Operation Underground Railroad's work is already logging success. "In just our first two years, O.U.R. has already rescued over 350 victims of human trafficking," Ballard reports. "Foreign governments often seek out O.U.R. to assist in sting operations against child sex traffickers. We keep the respective U.S. Embassies informed of our activities, and have been fortunate to count on their support and participation in a number of our rescues.
Note: Don't miss an incredibly inspiring video interview of Tim Ballard with Tony Robbins.
In the five decades since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead by an assassin at age 39, his children have worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy. They are unanimous on one key point: James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King. For the King family and others in the civil rights movement, the FBI’s obsession with King in the years leading up to his slaying in Memphis on April 4, 1968 - pervasive surveillance, a malicious disinformation campaign and open denunciations by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover - laid the groundwork for their belief that he was the target of a plot. Until her own death in 2006, Coretta Scott King, who endured the FBI’s campaign to discredit her husband, was open in her belief that a conspiracy led to the assassination. Her family filed a civil suit in 1999 ... and a Memphis jury ruled that the local, state and federal governments were liable for King’s death. “There is abundant evidence,” Coretta King said after the verdict, “of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.” The jury found the mafia and various government agencies “were deeply involved in the assassination. Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.” But nothing changed afterward. William Pepper, a New York lawyer and civil rights activist who knew and worked with King ... became convinced of Ray’s innocence and continued to investigate the case even after Ray died. Pepper wrote three books outlining the conspiracy, most recently “The Plot to Kill King” in 2016, which were largely ignored by the media.
Note: Watch an excellent, six-minute clip from Canada's PBS giving powerful evidence based on the excellent work of William Pepper that King was assassinated by factions in government that wanted his movement stopped. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
In November, the Saudi government locked up hundreds of influential businessmen - many of them members of the royal family - in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton in what it called an anti-corruption campaign. Most have since been released but they are hardly free. During months of captivity, many were subject to coercion and physical abuse. In the early days of the crackdown, at least 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse and one later died in custody with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse, according to a person who saw the body. To leave the Ritz, many of the detainees not only surrendered huge sums of money, but also signed over to the government control of precious real estate and shares of their companies - all outside any clear legal process. As the architect of the crackdown, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prepares to travel to the United States this month to court American investment. Saudi officials are spotlighting his reforms. But extensive interviews with Saudi officials, members of the royal family, and relatives, advisers and associates of the detainees revealed a murkier, coercive operation, marked by cases of physical abuse, which transferred billions of dollars in private wealth to the crown prince’s control. The government ... has refused to specify the charges against individuals and, even after they were released, to clarify who was found guilty or innocent, making it impossible to know how much the process was driven by personal score settling.
Note: Yet the U.S. continues to court Saudi Arabia as one of its closest allies. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in lending, African Americans and Latinos continue to be routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts. This modern-day redlining persisted in 61 metro areas even when controlling for applicants' income, loan amount and neighborhood, according to millions of ... records analyzed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. Lenders and their trade organizations do not dispute the fact that they turn away people of color at rates far greater than whites, [and] singled out the three-digit credit score ... as especially important in lending decisions. Reveal's analysis included all records publicly available under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Credit score was not included because that information is not publicly available. That's because lenders have deflected attempts to force them to report that data to the government. America's largest bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., has argued that the data should remain closed off even to academics. At the same time, studies have found proprietary credit score algorithms to have a discriminatory impact on borrowers of color. The "decades-old credit scoring model" currently used "does not take into account consumer data on ... bill payments," Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina wrote in August. "This exclusion disproportionately hurts African-Americans, Latinos, and young people who are otherwise creditworthy."
Last week, the existence of a draft Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report came to light, which calls for long-term surveillance of Sunni Muslim immigrants. Internal documents obtained from the FBI and DHS last year also showed how the agencies are surveilling the Movement for Black Lives, bringing into mind tactics of Cointelpro, an FBI program which secretly and illegally conducted surveillance on the civil rights movement in order to disrupt Americans’ ability to organize politically. But these are not the only types of surveillance this administration is engaged in. On 18 October, DHS implemented a new rule to track the internet activity of all visa applicants, visa holders and legal permanent residents. The rule would also apply to naturalized US citizens. The new rule would track and store social media account information and other highly sensitive data as part of individuals’ immigration files. The policy would allow DHS to collect and track immigrants’ social media accounts handles as well as aliases, and search results from both public search engines as well as commercial databases. The rule ... seems like it was designed with the specific purpose of hampering our freedom of speech, in line with the Trump administration’s other chilling tactics of attacks on the press and crackdowns on protesters who do not fall in line with the policies of this administration. This covert surveillance, now culminating in overt spying on immigrants, is designed as a tactic to control and fracture dissent.
Note: Read more about the FBI's infamous Cointelpro program. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The Justice Department was caught in another high-profile travesty last month. On Dec. 20, federal judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and others after prosecutors were caught withholding massive amounts of evidence undermining federal charges. Bundy, a 71-year old Nevadan rancher, and his sons and supporters were involved in an armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ... stemming from decades of unpaid cattle grazing fees and restrictions. The Bundys have long claimed the feds were on a vendetta against them, and 3,300 pages of documents the Justice Department wrongfully concealed from their lawyers provides smoking guns that buttress their case. A whistleblowing memo by BLM chief investigator Larry Wooten charges that BLM chose "the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale and militaristic trespass cattle (seizure) possible" against Bundy. The feds charged the Bundys with conspiracy in large part because the ranchers summoned militia to defend them after they claimed that FBI snipers had surrounded their ranch. Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim in prior trials ... but newly-released documents confirm that snipers were in place prior to the Bundy’s call for help. The feds also belatedly turned over multiple threat assessments which revealed that the Bundys were not violent or dangerous, including an FBI analysis that concluded that BLM was "trying to provoke a conflict" with the Bundys.
I was captured when I was in my 20s and brought to Guantanamo Bay in 2004, after more than two years in secret prisons. I have been imprisoned here without charges since then. I am now 43. Thirteen years ago, your country brought me here because of accusations about who I was. Confessions were beaten out of me in those secret prisons. I tried, but I am no longer trying to fight against those accusations from the past. What I am asking today is, how long is my punishment going to continue? Your president says there will be no more transfers from here. Am I going to die here? If I have committed crimes against the law, charge me. In 15 years, I have never been charged, and the worst things the government has said about me were extracted by force. The judge in my habeas case decided years ago that I had been subjected to physical and psychological abuse during my interrogations, and statements the government has wanted to use against me are not reliable. Even if I were cleared, it would not matter. There are men here who have been cleared for years who are sitting in prison next to me. Detainees here, all Muslim, have never had rights equal to other human beings. Even when we first won the right to challenge our detention, in the end, it became meaningless. It is hard for me to ... believe that laws will not be bent again to allow the government to win. But this week, I am joining a group of detainees here, all of us who have been held without charges for years, to try again to ask the courts for protection.
Note: The above was written by Sharqawi Al Hajj, a Yemeni citizen detained at Guantanamo Bay. For more along these lines, see the "10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture". For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
An Amish family in Pennsylvania must connect to its local municipal sewer system, even though it would require the use of an electric pump, which goes against the family's religious beliefs. A Jan. 5 opinion by a divided Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court finally ended the five-year legal battle. The court agreed with a lower court ruling that ordered the Yoder family to connect to the municipal sewer system. The Yoder family argued that use of electricity violates its religious convictions. The family has used an outhouse - an "old-fashioned privy" - that did not require running water or electricity. But Sugar Grove Township requires residents with properties that abut the sewer system to connect to it at the owners' cost. The ruling addressed whether the Yoders could connect to the system without use of an electric pump. The court ruled that that using an electric pump was the "least intrusive means" of connecting to the sewer system. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Patricia McCullough expressed concern with the ruling, saying there were other ways of disposing of sewage in a sanitary way that would not infringe upon the Yoder family's religious rights. That's a concern shared by Sara Rose, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. "They didn't consider the other ways that the government could have achieved its ends," she said. She also said the decision unduly put the burden on the Yoders.
The U.S. Coast Guard is targeting low-level smugglers in international waters - shackling them on ships for weeks or even months before arraignment in American courts. The U.S. Coast Guard never intended to operate a fleet of “floating Guantánamos,” as a former Coast Guard lawyer put it. But a set of laws, including the 1986 Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act ... defined drug smuggling in international waters as a crime against the United States. Through the 2000s, maritime detentions averaged around 200 a year. Then in 2012, the Department of Defense’s Southern Command [was] tasked with leading the war on drugs in the Americas. In 2016, under the Southern Command’s strategy, the Coast Guard ... detained 585 suspected drug smugglers, mostly in international waters. That year, 80 percent of these men were taken to the United States to face criminal charges, up from a third of detainees in 2012. In the 12 months that ended in September 2017, the Coast Guard captured more than 700 suspects and chained them aboard American ships. Most of these men remain confounded by their capture by the Americans, dubious that U.S. officials had the authority to arrest them and to lock them in prison. But it is the memory of their surreal imprisonment at sea that these men say most torments them. These detainees paint a grim picture of the conditions of their extended capture. The ... periods of detention employed by the United States in its antidrug campaign run counter to international human rights norms.
Note: The war on drugs has been called a "trillion dollar failure" with an "overwhelmingly negative" public health impact. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on military corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Shell should face investigations in three countries for alleged complicity in Nigerian government abuses, including murder and rape, more than two decades ago in the oil-rich Niger River delta, Amnesty International said. Authorities in Nigeria, the Netherlands and UK should investigate Shell’s conduct, especially in the Ogoni area of the southern delta, the London-based human-rights group said. Violations linked to Europe’s largest energy company amounted to criminal infractions for which it should be prosecuted, it said. “The evidence we have reviewed shows that Shell repeatedly encouraged the Nigerian military to deal with community protests, even when it knew the horrors this would lead to,” Audrey Gaughran, director of Global Issues at Amnesty International, said. Shell “even provided the military with material support, including transport, and in at least one instance paid a military commander notorious for human rights violations,” she said. Shell, the oldest energy company in Africa’s biggest oil producer, operates a joint venture with the government that pumps more than a third of the nation’s crude, the state’s main source of revenue. Other joint ventures are run by ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and Eni. Protests by the Ogoni ethnic minority against Shell in the 1990s alleging widespread pollution and environmental degradation prompted a repressive response from the military government then in power. Nine ethnic-minority activists, including the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed in 1995.
Note: It was reported in 2010 that pollution linked to oil production had reduced rural Nigerian life expectancy to "little more than 40 years of age". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the corporate world.
I traveled from Baltimore to join hundreds of thousands of protesters at counterdemonstrations around Mr. Trump’s swearing-in. Little did I know that I would be swept up into a legal nightmare that demonstrates how prosecutors intimidate and manipulate defendants into giving up their rights. Minutes after I got to downtown Washington on Jan. 20, police officers used pepper spray, “sting-ball” grenades and flailing batons to sweep up an entire city block in a mass-arrest tactic known as “kettling.” Next, prosecutors ... took the highly unusual step of indicting more than 200 of those arrested. Most of the people in the group, which includes journalists, legal observers and volunteer medics, face charges of engaging in a riot, inciting a riot, conspiracy to riot and property damage. In addition to seizing the contents of at least 100 cellphones, prosecutors secured broad warrants for Facebook pages. The government has failed to provide most defendants in the case with evidence of their alleged individual wrongdoing. For example, I was offered a plea deal (to a single misdemeanor charge) on the basis of virtually nothing more than being at the site of the protest. This serves to illustrate a critical problem in the American justice system: Prosecutors have the power to single-handedly destroy lives, and there are few consequences for abuse of that power. At the same time, their main measure of success is the ability to secure convictions, not the degree to which justice is served.
Note: United Nations officials recently said that the US government's treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Eric Loomis pleaded guilty to attempting to flee an officer, and no contest to operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent. Neither of his crimes mandates prison time. At Mr. Loomis’s sentencing, the judge cited, among other factors, Mr. Loomis’s high risk of recidivism as predicted by a computer program called COMPAS, a risk assessment algorithm used by the state of Wisconsin. The judge denied probation and prescribed an 11-year sentence. No one knows exactly how COMPAS works; its manufacturer refuses to disclose the proprietary algorithm. We only know the final risk assessment score it spits out, which judges may consider at sentencing. Mr. Loomis challenged the use of an algorithm as a violation of his due process rights. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear his case, meaning a majority of justices effectively condoned the algorithm’s use. Shifting the sentencing responsibility [from judges] to a computer does not necessarily eliminate bias; it delegates and often compounds it. Algorithms like COMPAS simply mimic the data with which we train them. An algorithm that accurately reflects our world also necessarily reflects our biases. A ProPublica study found that COMPAS predicts black defendants will have higher risks of recidivism than they actually do, while white defendants are predicted to have lower rates than they actually do.
The FBI counterterrorism division’s identification of a movement it calls “black identity extremists” is the latest addition to the list of protesters and dissidents the agency puts under the “domestic terrorism” umbrella. But many national security experts say the designation [is] simply a label that allows the FBI to conduct additional surveillance on “basically anyone who’s black and politically active,” said Michael German, who left the FBI in 2004. While the practice of labeling certain protest groups as domestic terrorists is not unique to President Trump’s administration, Hina Shamsi ... at the American Civil Liberties Union, said there’s concern that “abusive and unjustified investigations” by the FBI are rising. The problem, Shamsi said, is partly in the overly broad definition of domestic terrorism in the Patriot Act as a violation of the criminal laws ... intended to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” Eighty-four members of Congress cited that intention to intimidate or coerce in a letter to the Justice Department last week that asked whether the department had labeled Dakota Access Pipeline protesters domestic terrorists. The Justice Department did not respond to questions about the letter. The FBI report that focused on black identity extremists ... had interest groups questioning whether the designation has been used to single out members of Black Lives Matter.
Note: The Department of Homeland Security has reportedly been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement since 2014, in some cases producing "minute-by-minute reports on protesters’ movements". For more along these lines, read about Cointelpro, the program used by corrupt intelligence agencies to spy on and attack the U.S. civil rights movement beginning in the 1960's. See also concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of civil liberties.
The USS Cole case judge Wednesday found the Marine general in charge of war court defense teams guilty of contempt for refusing to follow the judge’s orders and sentenced him to 21 days confinement and to pay a $1,000 fine. Air Force Col. Vance Spath also declared “null and void” a decision by Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, 50, to release three civilian defense attorneys from the capital terror case. The lawyers resigned last month over ... something so secretive at the terror prison that the public cannot know. Wednesday evening ... Judge Spath issued another order: Directing the three lawyers - Rick Kammen, Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears - to litigate Friday in the death-penalty case against Abd al Rahim al Nashiri remotely from the Washington D.C., area by video feed to Guantánamo. The judge’s dizzying pace of events ... came as the colonel sought to force the civilian, Pentagon-paid attorneys back on the case. Spath, who has declared they had no good cause to quit, had ordered Kammen, Eliades and Spears to come to Guantánamo on Sunday with other war court staff for a pretrial hearing. They refused. Kammen, a veteran capital defense attorney who had represented Nashiri for a decade, said Spath’s order to travel was an “illegal” effort to have three U.S. citizens “provide unethical legal services to keep the façade of justice that is the military commissions running.” Nashiri is accused of orchestrating al Qaida’s Oct. 12, 2000 suicide bombing of the U.S. warship off Yemen. No trial date has been set.
Note: Nashiri was reportedly tortured by the CIA. Read the 10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese war planes bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Six decades later, Al Qaeda terrorists flew hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Neither President Franklin Roosevelt nor President George W. Bush targeted and killed Americans on U.S. soil in the aftermath of those attacks. Doing so wouldn't have made any sense. How strange, then, that Attorney General Eric Holder invoked those very attacks in a letter confirming that President Obama believes there are circumstances in which he could order Americans targeted and killed on U.S. soil. "It is possible ... for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States," he wrote. "The President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941 and on September 11, 2001." The very scenario to be guarded against is a president using the pretext of a terrorist attack to seize extraordinary powers. Isn't that among the most likely scenarios for the United States turning into an authoritarian security state?
I’m a taxi driver from Karachi, in Pakistan. Fifteen years ago I was sold for a bounty and taken by the U.S. military to a secret prison in Afghanistan. They mistook me for someone called Hassan Gul, and I was tortured for over a year before they flew me to Guantanamo. There’s no disputing this—it’s in the U.S. Senate report on torture. I’ve been held here ever since then, without charge or trial. I’ve been through a lot - but a new punitive medical regime at this prison might finally kill me. In May 2013, without any way of defending myself or securing my freedom, I resorted to peaceful protest, and began a hunger strike. On September 20, things abruptly changed. A new senior medical officer (SMO) arrived, bringing in a new Trump administration policy of refusing to tube-feed anyone on hunger strike. They apparently don’t mind if people die because of the injustice here, because they figure nobody cares about Guantanámo anymore, and nobody will notice. I’ve lost more weight than ever before - I’m well under 100 pounds - but they have stopped bringing anyone to check my vitals, weigh me, or force-feed me. They want this peaceful protest over. So they refuse us access to medical care. The doctors here do what the new medical boss tells them. He wants me to beg him for food, but I will not. He is like a dictator. They tell me it’s my fault if I die. But all I am asking for is basic justice - a fair trial or freedom. I am innocent, but I’m not allowed to prove it. I don't want to die, but they will not succeed in breaking my strike.
Note: The horrific treatment of Guantánamo Bay detainees is well documented. For more, read about the 10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture and many other questionable intelligence agency practices.
Trump administration lawyers are demanding the private account information of potentially thousands of Facebook users in three separate search warrants served on the social media giant. The warrants specifically target the accounts of three Facebook users who are described ... as "anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration's policies." One of those users, Emmelia Talarico, operated the disruptj20 page where Inauguration Day protests were organized and discussed; the page was visited by an estimated 6,000 users whose identities the government would have access to if Facebook hands over the information. Talarico says if her account information was given to the government, officials would have access to her "personal passwords, security questions and answers, and credit card information," plus "the private lists of invitees and attendees to multiple political events." The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the three Facebook users, filed a motion to quash the warrants Thursday. "What is particularly chilling about these warrants is that anti-administration political activists are going to [be] scrutinized by the very administration they are protesting," said ACLU attorney Scott Michelman. Facebook was initially served the warrants in February 2017 along with a gag order which barred the social media company from alerting the three users that the government was seeking their private information.
Note: United Nations officials recently said that the US government's treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Saudi Arabia is easing restrictions on women driving, finally allowing almost half its population to get behind the wheel. A royal decree has been issued that will allow women in the country to drive, the Saudi Foreign ministry said Tuesday. The government will have until June 24, 2018, to implement the new decree. Manal al-Sharif, one of the women behind the Women2Drive campaign, celebrated the victory by posting a photo on Twitter of herself behind the wheel of a car. Sharif, who now lives in Australia, was jailed in Saudi Arabia 2011 after posting a video on YouTube of herself, wearing a black headscarf and sunglasses, driving a car. The act provoked death threats and spurred her to start the campaign. Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, told CNN while it was a "very important step" there was still a long way to go for Saudi women. "This prohibition on driving is just one in a vast series of laws and policies which prevent women from doing many things," she said. "The guardianship rule stops women from making every decision in her life without the assistance of a male relative, even if that relative is her 7-year-old son. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follows a strict form of Wahhabi Islam that bans the mixing of sexes at public events and places numerous curbs on women. These restrictions are enforced by religious police.
Note: The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the strongest allies of the US, yet it is also about the most backward country in the world on women's rights. And it is a dictatorship by monarchy. Why isn't there more reporting on this? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
President Trump has some advice for National Football League owners: Fire players who kneel during the national anthem. He's also encouraging fans to walk out in protest. And the president is bemoaning what he describes as a decline in violence in the sport. Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have refused to stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest of the treatment of blacks by police. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the trend last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, hasn't been signed by an NFL team for this season. The NFL Players Association reacted to Mr. Trump's comments Saturday morning in a statement: "This union ... will never back down when it comes to constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men in a game that exposes them to great risks." During his campaign, Mr. Trump often expressed nostalgia for the "old days" - claiming, for example, that protesters at his rallies would have been carried out on stretchers back then. He recently suggested police officers should be rougher with criminals and shouldn't protect their heads when pushing them into squad cars. It's also not the first time he's raised the kneeling issue. Earlier this year he took credit for the fact that Kaepernick hadn't been signed.
An Oregon parent wanted details about school employees getting paid to stay home. College journalists in Kentucky requested documents about the investigations of employees accused of sexual misconduct. Instead, they got something else: sued by the agencies they had asked for public records. Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests - taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense. The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged, [and] name the requesters as defendants. The recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it's becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics. At least two recent cases have succeeded in blocking information while many others have only delayed the release. Even if agencies are ultimately required to make the records public, they typically will not have to pay the other side's legal bills. "You can lose even when you win," said Mike Deshotels, an education watchdog who was sued by the Louisiana Department of Education after filing requests for school district enrollment data last year.
It was just four years ago that roughly two dozen representatives of major news organizations crowded around a conference table at the Justice Department for a meeting with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Our agenda? Strengthening the Justice Department’s guidelines that limit when federal prosecutors can serve subpoenas on the news media. It had just been revealed that federal investigators had secretly seized the phone records of The Associated Press and the emails of a Fox News correspondent during leak investigations. The result was important: The Justice Department revised its internal guidelines to make it harder for prosecutors to obtain subpoenas for reporters’ testimony and records. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after being chided by President Trump for being weak, recently declared a war on leakers and made clear that the news media was also on his mind. It seems all but certain that the Justice Department will try to chip away at the subpoena guidelines, [which] say that prosecutors are to seek testimony and evidence from journalists only as a last resort, and that news organizations should have a chance to go to court to challenge any subpoenas. The guidelines are far from ironclad. If a prosecutor were to ignore them, a journalist would have no right to go into court and demand they be followed. When federal courts dial back protection for reporters, the guidelines become an essential first line of defense against overzealous prosecutors.
An international rights group says Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has given a “green light” to systematic torture inside detention facilities.” Human Rights Watch says el-Sissi, a U.S. ally who was warmly received at the White House earlier this year ... “has effectively given police and National Security officers a green light to use torture whenever they please,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based group. The allegations, the group said, amount to crimes against humanity. Most of the detainees are alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood group, which rose to power after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt arrested or charged some 60,000 people in the two years after Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood leader who became Egypt’s first freely elected president, was overthrown following a divisive year in power. Hundreds have gone missing in what appear to be forced disappearances, and hundreds of others have received preliminary death sentences. Based on interviews with 19 Egyptians detained as far back as 2013, the rights group documented abuses ranging from beatings to rape and sodomy. Local rights groups have documented dozens of deaths under torture in police custody. The Interior Ministry ... denied allegations of systemic torture. Citing national security, the government has shut down hundreds of websites, including many operated by independent journalists and rights groups.
This week, Donald Trump lifted the ban on certain military-grade weapons and equipment available from the Pentagon to our local police forces across the nation. Before Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2015 limiting the transfer of certain types of military equipment under the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, the Department of Defense transferred more than $5bn in surplus military equipment directly to police agencies. The Pentagon program creates a pipeline that bypasses normal ... procurement processes, enabling police departments to acquire expensive-to-maintain and often unneeded military equipment directly from the Pentagon without the approval or even knowledge of [elected] government officials. Citizens are left to pay the price when these military “toys” are put into the anxious hands of often untrained local law enforcement. Handing our police weapons of war, including but not limited to large-capacity, rapid-fire weapons and ammunition – including .50-calibers – bayonets, grenade launchers, armored vehicles including military tanks, unmanned vehicles (armed drones), explosives and pyrotechnics, and similar explosive devices, makes us less safe. It also drives a wedge between police officers and ... communities. Our nation was built on the principle that there are clear lines between our armed forces and domestic police. Moreover ... law enforcement is subject to civilian authority. This program blurs those lines. Militarizing America’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful.
Note: The above was written by US Congressman Hank Johnson, author of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2017. The Pentagon's 1033 program now being revived led to what the ACLU called an "excessive militarization of American policing". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
As soon as Theo Wilson started making YouTube videos about culture and race, trolls using racial slurs started flocking to his page. After engaging in endless sparring matches in the comments section, Wilson began to notice something curious: His trolls seemed to speak a language unto themselves, one replete with the same twisted facts and false history. Curious about where his trolls were getting their revisionist history lessons, Wilson ... decided to go undercover in their world. In 2015, he started by creating a ghost profile named “Lucious25,” a digital white supremacist. Within a few weeks Wilson's alternate identity was questioning President Barack Obama's birthplace [and] railing against Black Lives Matter. After several months, he was a disaffected fixture on alt-right websites that draw white supremacists. During his eight months as a racist troll, Wilson never revealed his true identity. When it was all over, Wilson said, he came to appreciate the way in which the far-right media bubble disables its participants - offering an endless stream of scapegoats for their problems but no credible solutions. "There are still people who think black people are not fully human and that we are lagging in terms of evolution," [said Wilson]. "My compassion comes from knowing these people are still so vulnerable to social programming. But the social forces that make racism commonplace aren't necessarily going away. Look at what happened in Charlottesville, for example. How did a brand-new generation of white guys get that hateful?"
Note: Theo Wilson describes his experience as an undercover racist in this Tedx video. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Local police departments will soon have access to grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and other surplus U.S. military gear after President Donald Trump signed an order Monday reviving a Pentagon program that civil rights groups say inflames tensions between officers and their communities. President Barack Obama had sharply curtailed the program in 2015. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky called the plan a dangerous expansion of government power that would "subsidize militarization." Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina said the program "incentivizes the militarization of local police departments, as they are encouraged to grab more equipment than they need." Congress authorized the program in 1990, allowing police to receive surplus equipment to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism. Agencies requested and received everything from camouflage uniforms and bullet-proof vests to firearms, bayonets and drones. More than $5 billion in surplus equipment has been given to agencies. The new order largely lets local agencies set their own controls and rules governing use of the equipment. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable plans to resolve allegations of pervasive civil rights violations. Sessions ... has also revived a widely criticized form of asset forfeiture that lets local police seize cash and property with federal help.
Note: The Pentagon's 1033 program now being revived led to what the ACLU called an "excessive militarization of American policing". The civil asset forfeiture program now being revived was widely criticized because it made it easy for corrupt police to steal money and property from poor people and seize private assets based on departmental "wish lists".
The Ku Klux Klan has grown faster since Donald Trump’s inauguration than any time in recent memory, a Klan leader has claimed. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I haven’t seen the Klan grow at the pace it’s growing now,” Chris Barker, an Imperial Wizard of the KKK, told The Independent. Mr Barker said that after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville he received 50 applications to join his group in one day. The next day, he received 80. Mr Barker leads the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, which has less than 200 members. As one of the most active Klan groups in the US, the group takes part in “activism” such as burning crosses, advocating for the murder of immigrants, and distributing leaflets claiming, among other things, “transgender is an abomination”. Mr Barker contacted The Independent about a previous article, from which he had gained notoriety for calling a Univision journalist a “n*****” and threatening to burn her out of the country. Approximately 30 KKK groups were active over the course of 2016 – a decrease from the year before. That number has since risen to 40. This summer also marked a departure from the trend of small, scattered, and sparsely attended KKK demonstrations. Several different Klan groups turned out for the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists from around the country protested the removal of a Confederate statue. The rally, which Mr Barker’s group also participated in, was said to be the largest white supremacist gathering in the US in decades.
The US government is seeking to unmask every person who visited an anti-Trump website in what privacy advocates say is an unconstitutional “fishing expedition” for political dissidents. The warrant appears to be an escalation of the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) campaign against anti-Trump activities, including the harsh prosecution of inauguration day protesters. On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration. The warrant ... seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited [the site], as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used. The warrant was made public Monday, when DreamHost announced its plans to challenge the government in court. The government has aggressively prosecuted activists arrested during the 20 January protests in Washington DC. In April, the US attorney’s office in Washington DC filed a single indictment charging more than 217 people with identical crimes, including felony rioting. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been advising DreamHost, characterized the warrant as “unconstitutional”. “I can’t conceive of a legitimate justification other than casting your net as broadly as possible,” senior staff attorney Mark Rumold [said]. “What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in attending these protests.”
Note: In May, United Nations officials said that the US treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of privacy.
A loud boom cut through the night and a stream of fire lit up the sky. A strong, unpleasant odor settled over the street. None of the neighbors reported what happened that night - nor the ... symptoms that followed. For [Joseph] Gaines, the symptoms included an intense sudden headache, tearing eyes, a runny nose, and congestion. A block and a half from Gaines’s house, the street ends in an Exxon Mobil refinery that ... releases at least 135 toxic chemicals, many of which - including 1,3-butadiene, benzo[a]pyrene, and styrene - are carcinogens. The plant is regularly in noncompliance with the Clean Air Act. Yet many of the people [in] Charlton-Pollard said they felt there was no point in trying to reduce the emissions. They raised [their concerns] in a formal complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency 17 years ago. The filing [described] the chemical pollution. And the complaint went further, arguing that the location of the oil refinery - next to a neighborhood where 95 percent of residents were African-American - was a civil rights violation. The majority of civil rights complaints the EPA accepted for investigation between 1996 and 2013 languished for years. As the people of Charlton-Pollard and Flint — as well as Tallassee, Alabama; Pittsburg, California; and Chaves County, New Mexico — can attest, the EPA’s lack of responsiveness to civil rights complaints spans not just many years, but also several presidential administrations. While pollution protections are moving backward, Exxon Mobil is planning to expand its Beaumont operations.
Officials seized Trump protesters’ cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration. Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison. Evidence against the defendants has been scant from the moment of their arrest. As demonstrators, journalists, and observers marched through the city, D.C. police officers channelled hundreds of people into a narrow, blockaded corner, where they carried out mass arrests. Some of those people ... are now suing for wrongful arrest. Police also seized more than 100 cell phones. All of the ... phones were locked. But a July 21 court document shows that investigators were successful in opening the locked phones. Prosecutors moved to use a wealth of information from the phones as evidence, including the phones’ “call detail records,” “SMS or MMS messages,” “contact logs/email logs,” “chats or other messaging applications,” “website search history and website history,” and “images or videos.” One of the more than 200 defendants has pleaded guilty to riot charges after being named extensively in a superseding indictment. But the case against most defendants is less clear; in the superseding indictment, prosecutors accuse hundreds defendants of conspiracy to riot, based on “overt acts” as banal as chanting anti-capitalist slogans or wearing dark clothing.
Note: In May, United Nations officials said that the US treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Body camera video produced Wednesday appears to show a Baltimore police officer plant drugs in late January, an act that later resulted in a criminal arrest. The 90-second Baltimore police body camera video, which was made public by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, belongs to Officer Richard Pinheiro, who appears to hide and later "find" drugs among trash strewn on a plot next to a Baltimore residence. Two other officers appear to be with the Pinheiro as he hides the drugs. "This is a serious allegation of police misconduct," Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. "There is nothing that deteriorates the trust of any community more than thinking for one second that police officers ... would plant evidence of crimes on citizens." One of the officers has been suspended, and two others have been placed on "nonpublic contact" administrative duty, Davis told reporters. Pinheiro is a witness in about 53 active cases, and he was even called to testify in a case earlier this week, the Public Defender's Office said. The new video has led to that case's dismissal after an assistant public defender forwarded it to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office. Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender's Special Litigation Section, said that Baltimore police have long had a problem with officer misconduct but that the city does not hold individuals accountable. "We have long supported the use of police body cameras to help identify police misconduct, but such footage is meaningless if prosecutors continue to rely on these officers, especially if they do so without disclosing their bad acts," Levi said.
Note: And how many thousands of times over the years has this been done and not recorded on video? Watch this video at the NBC link above. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Investigators have revealed that targets of high-tech spying in Mexico included an international group of experts backed by the Organization of American States who had criticized the government’s investigation into the disappearance of 43 students. Previous investigations by the internet watchdog group Citizen Lab found that the spyware had been directed at journalists, activists and opposition politicians in Mexico. But targeting foreign experts operating under the aegis of an international body marks an escalation of the scandal. The experts had diplomatic status, making the spying attempt even graver. The spyware, known as Pegasus, is made by the Israel-based NSO Group, which says it sells only to government agencies for use against criminals and terrorists. It turns a cellphone into an eavesdropper, giving snoopers the ability to remotely activate its microphone and camera and access its data. The spyware is uploaded when users click on a link in email messages. Citizen Lab said the spyware attempts against the international experts occurred in March 2016 as the group was preparing its final, critical report on the government investigation into the disappearances. The 43 students were detained by local police in the city of Iguala on 26 September 2014, and were turned over to a crime gang. Only one student’s remains have been identified. The experts criticized the government’s conclusions, saying ... that government investigators had not looked into other evidence.
Note: Read the report by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto for the details of these suspicious spyware attacks. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and the erosion of civil liberties.
Mexican journalists, lawyers and activists were targeted by spyware produced by Israel’s NSO Group that is sold exclusively to governments. [A] report by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto said the targets included people, such as prominent journalists Carmen Aristegui and Carlos Loret de Mola, who were investigating alleged government corruption and purported human rights abuses by security forces. The people targeted received messages with links that, if clicked on, opened up their devices to being exploited and spied upon. NSO’s Pegasus spyware allows hackers access to phone calls, messages, cameras and personal data. Other targets included members of the Centro Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez, a prominent human rights group that has investigated cases such as the disappearance of 43 students whom police allegedly detained and turned over to drug gang killers; the anti-graft group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity; and the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, a civil society group working on economic policy and combatting corruption. Aristegui, who exposed a case of possible conflict of interest involving a luxury home acquired from a government contractor ... was aggressively targeted. She received more than two-dozen messages with NSO links claiming to be from “the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, Amber Alerts, colleagues, people in her personal life, her bank, phone company and notifications of kidnappings,” the report said.
Note: If the above link is not working, this Associated Press article is also available here. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and the erosion of civil liberties.
Leaked documents and public records reveal a troubling fusion of private security, public law enforcement, and corporate money in the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline. By the time law enforcement officers began evicting residents of the ... resistance camp near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on February 22, the brutal North Dakota winter had already driven away most of the pipeline opponents. It would have been a natural time for the private security company in charge of monitoring the pipeline to head home. But internal communications between TigerSwan and its client, pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners, show that the security firm instead reached for ways to stay in business. Indeed, TigerSwan appeared to be looking for new causes, too. The ... firm’s sweeping surveillance of anti-Dakota Access protesters had already spanned five months and expanded into Iowa, South Dakota, and Illinois. TigerSwan became particularly interested in Chicago. [Leaked] documents dated between February 19 and February 21 describe TigerSwan’s efforts to monitor an anti-Trump protest organized by the local chapter of the Answer Coalition, an anti-war, anti-racism group. Answer Coalition’s ... John Beacham, who organized the protest TigerSwan described, said that [the NoDAPL movement] was not the event’s primary focus. “They’re trying to make connections where they aren’t. It’s almost like they’re trying to cast conspiracy theories across the entire progressive movement,” he told The Intercept.
Note: The above article is part of an in-depth series, and includes many original source documents. Standing Rock activists were also targeted for investigation by the FBI’s joint terrorism taskforce. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Fifteen years after he helped devise the brutal interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects in secret C.I.A. prisons, John Bruce Jessen, a former military psychologist, expressed ambivalence about the program. He described himself and a fellow military psychologist, James Mitchell, as reluctant participants in using the techniques, some of which are widely viewed as torture. The two psychologists ... are defendants in the only lawsuit that may hold participants accountable for causing harm. Revelations about the C.I.A. practices ... led to an eventual ban on the techniques and a prohibition by the American Psychological Association against members’ participation in national security interrogations. The two psychologists argue that the C.I.A., for which they were contractors, controlled the program. But it is difficult to successfully sue agency officials because of government immunity. Under the agency’s direction, the two men ... proposed [and applied] the “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Their business received $81 million. When [the psychologists] wanted to end the waterboarding sessions as no longer useful, C.I.A. supervisors ... ordered them to continue. Dr. Mitchell said that the C.I.A. officials told them: “‘You guys have lost your spine.’ I think the word that was actually used is that you guys are pussies. There was going to be another attack in America and the blood of dead civilians are going to be on your hands.”
Note: Prior to condemning torture, some of the American Psychological Association’s top officials sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by supporting the CIA's brutal interrogation methods. For more along these lines, read about how the torture program fits in with a long history of human experimentation by corrupt intelligence agencies working alongside unethical scientists. For more, see this list of programs that treated humans as guinea pigs.
Watergate prosecutors had evidence that operatives for then-President Richard Nixon planned an assault on anti-war demonstrators in 1972, including potentially physically attacking Vietnam whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, according to a never-before-published memo obtained by NBC News. The document, an 18-page 1973 investigative memorandum from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, sheds new light on how prosecutors were investigating attempts at domestic political violence by Nixon aides, an extremely serious charge. A plot to physically attack Ellsberg is notable because the former Pentagon official has long alleged that Nixon operatives did more than steal his medical files, the most well-known effort to discredit him. [The memo] states that “an extensive investigation” found evidence that Nixon operatives plotted an “assault on antiwar demonstrators” at a rally at the U.S. Capitol featuring Ellsberg and other anti-war "notables.” The anti-war demonstration occurred near a viewing of recently deceased FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. An accompanying memo [states that] the attack would be on "long-haired demonstrators, in particular Ellsberg” ... with the objectives of impugning Ellsberg for protesting near to Hoover lying in state and "simply having Ellsberg beaten up.”
Racial disparities have long been evident in the U.S. criminal justice system, but a new report drilling into statistics on wrongful convictions points up exactly how nefarious the problem is. African Americans are much more likely to be wrongfully convicted of a murder, sexual assault or drug offense than whites. The report, by the National Registry of Exonerations, found that “innocent black people are about seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people,” and thus also account for a disproportionate share of the growing number of exonerations. African Americans who were convicted and then exonerated of murder charges also spent four years longer on death row than wrongfully convicted whites (and three years longer for those sentenced to prison). According to the report, African Americans convicted of murder “are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers,” and that such wrongful convictions, even when later corrected, expands the impact of violence on African American communities.
A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states. TigerSwan, [working] at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, [described] the movement as “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component” and [compared] the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters. “Daily intelligence updates” developed by TigerSwan ... were shared with law enforcement officers, thus contributing to a broad public-private intelligence dragnet. [Leaked] documents ... also reveal a widespread and sustained campaign of infiltration of protest camps and activist circles. TigerSwan agents using false names and identities regularly sought to obtain the trust of protesters, which they used to gather information they reported back to their employer. In an October 3 report, TigerSwan discusses how to use its knowledge of internal camp dynamics: “Exploitation of ongoing native versus non-native rifts, and tribal rifts between peaceful and violent elements is critical in our effort to delegitimize the anti-DAPL movement.” The way TigerSwan discusses protesters as “terrorists,” their direct actions as “attacks,” and the camps as a “battlefield,” reveals how the protesters’ dissent was not only criminalized but treated as a national security threat.
Note: The above article is part of an in-depth series, and includes many original source documents. Standing Rock activists were also targeted for investigation by the FBI’s joint terrorism taskforce. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
More than 20 states have proposed bills that would crack down on protests and demonstrations since Donald Trump was elected, in a move that UN experts have branded “incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law”. The proposed laws would variously increase the penalties for protesting in large groups, ban protesters from wearing masks during demonstrations and, in some states, protect drivers from liability if they strike someone taking part in a protest. The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild have said many of the bills are likely unconstitutional. The flurry of legislation has prompted UN experts to intervene, with two special rapporteurs from the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – the UN body which works to promote and protect human rights – to complain to the US state department at the end of March. In a recent letter to the government, David Kaye and Maina Kiai, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), listed specific pieces of legislation which they said were “criminalizing peaceful protests”. Kaye and Kiai ... said the bills represent “a worrying trend that could result in a detrimental impact on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the country”.
Residents in North Carolina are fighting back against one of the state's most prominent industries: hog farming. But the legislation may not be on their side - a group of lawmakers in the state passed House Bill 467 last week, legislation that limits how much residents can collect in damages from hog farms. Hog farms in North Carolina dispose of pig feces and urine by spraying it, untreated, into the air where residents live. In response, nearly 500 of those residents ... from eastern North Carolina, brought a class action suit against Murphy-Brown, the state's largest producer of hogs. The lawsuit has now made its way to federal court. Residents have said the process of waste disposal has caused health problems. Much of the waste disposal affects low-income residents and black communities. "It can, I think, very correctly be called environmental racism or environmental injustice that people of color, low-income people bear the brunt of these practices," [University of North Carolina professor] Steve Wing ... said. "I shut my hog operation down, and I got out of it. And I ... just couldn't do another person that way, to make them smell that," Don Webb, a former pig factory farm owner, told Democracy Now. "You get stories like, 'I can't hang my clothes out.' Feces and urine odor comes by and attaches itself to your clothes." HB 467 ... was passed by both houses of the North Carolina Legislature. The bill would prevent people from recovering damages like those for healthcare bills and pain and suffering.
Note: In 2014, video footage of toxic cesspools around North Carolina farms exposed shockingly lax agricultural waste disposal standards. In response, the North Carolina Legislature passed a law to prevent whistle-blowers from exposing corporate wrongdoing. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the corporate world.
In 1953, the then-Director of Central Intelligence officially approved project MKUltra. Originally intended to make sure the United States government kept up with presumed Soviet advances in mind-control technology ... MKUltra has gone down in history as a significant example of government abuse of human rights. The intent of the project was to study “the use of biological and chemical materials in altering human behavior,” according to ... official testimony. Under MKUltra, the CIA gave itself the authority to [experiment on] unwitting test subjects, like drug-addicted prisoners, marginalized sex workers and terminal cancer patients. “The covert testing programs resulted in massive abridgements of the rights of American citizens, sometimes with tragic consequences,” concluded a Senate hearing in 1975-76. MKUltra wasn’t one project, as the US Supreme Court wrote in a 1985 decision. It was 162 different secret projects that were indirectly financed by the CIA, but were “contracted out to various universities ... and similar institutions.” In all, at least 80 institutions and 185 researchers participated, but many didn’t know they were dealing with the CIA. Many of MKUltra’s records were destroyed. But 8,000 pages of records - mostly financial documents that were mistakenly not destroyed in 1973 - were found in 1977. Nobody ever answered for MKUltra. Two lawsuits related to the program reached the Supreme Court, [writes Melissa Blevins for Today I Found Out], “but both protected the government over citizen’s rights.”
Note: Unfortunately, MK-ULTRA is far from the only program to have used humans as guinea pigs in attempts to create more powerful mind control technologies. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing mind control news articles from reliable major media sources.
Jose Charles was dazed, bleeding from his head and surrounded by police. His mother had gone to take one of the 15-year-old’s siblings to the bathroom at a Fourth of July celebration in Greensboro, N.C. - and returned to find an officer’s hand around Jose’s neck. Police charged Jose with four crimes, including attacking an officer. The teenager and his mother say police slammed and choked him without provocation. In a month, the court’s interpretation of the incident could determine Jose’s fate. Body camera footage from several officers who were at the scene of the encounter is sitting ... where almost no one can see it. Standing in the way of clarity and transparency, critics say, is a new North Carolina law that makes it more difficult than ever to view recordings of controversial interactions between police and members of the public. The law requires anyone who wants to see police body camera footage to pay a fee and plead their case to a Superior Court judge. The law gives an inordinate amount of power to prosecutors. Jose Charles’s mom, Tamara Figueroa ... said [her son] suffers from schizoaffective disorder. She said prosecutors have told her that if Jose doesn’t plead guilty to assault, they’ll ask a judge to send him to a [facility] which Figueroa calls “a kiddie jail,” unequipped to treat his mental illness. The video could change public perception and her son’s fate, Figueroa said: She has seen the footage and remains adamant that her son didn’t assault a police officer.
Undercover officers in the New York police department infiltrated small groups of Black Lives Matter activists and gained access to their text messages, according to newly released NYPD documents obtained by the Guardian. The records, produced in response to a freedom of information lawsuit ... provide the most detailed picture yet of the sweeping scope of NYPD surveillance during mass protests over the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and 2015. Lawyers said the new documents raised questions about NYPD compliance with city rules. The documents, mostly emails between undercover officers and other NYPD officials, follow other disclosures that the NYPD regularly filmed Black Lives Matter activists and sent undercover personnel to protests. In one email, an official notes that an undercover officer is embedded within a group of seven protesters on their way to Grand Central Station. This intimate access appears to have helped police pass as trusted organizers and extract information about demonstrations. In other emails, officers share the locations of individual protesters at particular times. Throughout the emails, the NYPD’s undercover sources provide little indication of any unlawful activity. “The documents uniformly show no crime occurring, but NYPD had undercovers inside the protests for months on end as if they were al-Qaida,” said David Thompson, an attorney of Stecklow & Thompson, who helped sue for the records.
Note: It was reported in 2015 that the Department of Homeland Security monitored the Black Lives Matter movement closely enough to produce "minute-by-minute reports on protesters’ movements". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of 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?
The FBI is investigating political activists campaigning against the Dakota Access pipeline, diverting agents charged with preventing terrorist attacks to instead focus their attention on indigenous activists and environmentalists. Officers within the FBI’s joint terrorism taskforce have attempted to contact at least three people tied to the Standing Rock “water protector” movement in North Dakota. “The idea that the government would attempt to construe this indigenous-led non-violent movement into some kind of domestic terrorism investigation is unfathomable to me,” said Lauren Regan, a civil rights attorney. “It’s outrageous, it’s unwarranted … and it’s unconstitutional.” Regan ... said she learned of three cases in which officers with the taskforce, known as the JTTF, tried to talk to activists in person. She described the encounters as attempted “knocks and talks”, meaning law enforcement showed up at people’s doors without a subpoena or warrant and tried to get them to voluntarily cooperate with an interview. The three individuals ... asserted their fifth amendment rights and did not respond to the officers, according to Regan. All three contacts were made in recent weeks after Trump’s inauguration. Trump, a former investor in Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based firm behind the pipeline, took executive action in his first week in office to expedite the project. On Wednesday, workers began drilling to complete the pipeline.
Note: The FBI has a long history of violating activists' rights. The 2011 National Defense Authorization Bill broadened the definition of "supporter of terrorism" to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and even journalists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is turning to Silicon Valley after receiving a surge in funds from opponents of US President Donald Trump. The non-profit organisation received $24m (Ł19m) last weekend after a controversial immigration order was issued on Friday. ACLU is teaming up with Y Combinator - which usually works with start-ups - over how to best utilise the donations. The donations made online at the weekend were six times the yearly average the organisation receives. How could Y Combinator help ACLU? The California-based firm ... helps its clients - usually start-ups - with funding as well as mentorship and networking. It typically deals with young companies looking to grow, but has dealt with mature organisations in the past. Y Combinator said it was contributing an undisclosed sum of money and would send some of its staff to the ACLU's New York offices. Y Combinator's founder Sam Altman, an outspoken critic of Mr Trump's, said: "We've been talking to them (ACLU) for some time. We were generally planning to get started more slowly, but things are so urgent now." Mr Trump's executive order bans immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the country for 90 days. The US refugee program has also been suspended for 120 days. The ACLU, which has been around for about a century, was among the first to react to the order. It filed a lawsuit which led a federal judge to halt deportations of people detained in US airports.
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.
White supremacists and other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in U.S. police departments and other law enforcement agencies. [FBI] policies have been crafted to take this infiltration into account. An October 2006 FBI internal intelligence assessment ... raised the alarm over white supremacist groups’ “historical” interest in “infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel.” In 2009 ... a Department of Homeland Security intelligence study, written in coordination with the FBI, warned of the “resurgence” of right-wing extremism. The report concluded that “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.” The report caused an uproar. Faced with mounting criticism, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano disavowed the document. The agency’s unit investigating right-wing extremism was largely dismantled and the report’s lead investigator was pushed out. “They stopped doing intel on that, and that was that,” Heidi Beirich, who leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s tracking of extremist groups, told The Intercept. Daryl Johnson, who was the lead researcher on the DHS report ... says the problem has since gotten “a lot more troublesome.” Homeland Security has given up tracking right-wing domestic extremists. “It’s only the FBI now,” he said, adding that local police departments don’t seem to be doing anything to address the problem.
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.
Four more journalists have been charged with felonies after being arrested while covering the unrest around Donald Trump’s inauguration, meaning that at least six media workers are facing up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted. A documentary producer, a photojournalist, a live-streamer and a freelance reporter were each charged with the most serious level of offense under Washington DC’s law against rioting, after being caught up in the police action against demonstrators. The Guardian learned of their arrests after reporting on Monday that the journalists Evan Engel of Vocativ and Alex Rubinstein of RT America had also been arrested and charged with felonies while covering the same unrest. All six were arraigned in superior court on Saturday and released to await further hearings. “These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests,” said Carlos Lauría, the [Committee to Protect Journalists'] senior Americas program coordinator. The National Lawyers’ Guild accused Washington DC’s metropolitan police department of having “indiscriminately targeted people for arrest en masse based on location alone” and said they unlawfully used teargas and other weapons. None of the arrest reports for the six journalists makes any specific allegations about what any of them are supposed to have done wrong.
Note: These outrageous charges come on the heels of similar tactics being used to silence reporters covering last October's Dakota Access Pipeline protests. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Young black men were again killed by police at a sharply higher rate than other Americans in 2016. Black males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers last year, according to data collected for The Counted, an effort by the Guardian to record every such death. They were also killed at four times the rate of young white men. Racial disparities persisted in 2016 even as the total number of deaths caused by police fell slightly. In all, 1,091 deaths were recorded for 2016, compared with 1,146 logged in 2015. Several 2015 deaths only came to light last year, suggesting the 2016 number may yet rise. The total is again more than twice the FBI’s annual number of “justifiable homicides” by police, counted in recent years under a voluntary system allowing police to opt out of submitting details of fatal incidents. Citing the Guardian findings, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expressed renewed concern over Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions for US attorney general. Sessions ... has been hostile to critics of police, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. The 2016 data showed a decline in the number of unarmed people killed by police, a central concern of protests across the country after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. A total of 169 unarmed people were killed in 2016, compared with 234 in 2015.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Law Department again has been sanctioned for withholding records involving a fatal police shooting, marking the eighth time in recent years a federal judge has formally punished the city [of Chicago] for failing to turn over potential evidence in a police misconduct lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gottschall on Tuesday ruled that the city acted in "bad faith" when it ignored a court order and made little effort to provide documents to the lawyer for the family of 20-year-old Divonte Young, who was shot and killed by an officer in 2012. In a sharply worded 24-page order, the judge criticized the city for its approach to discovery, the legal process that allows the two sides in a lawsuit to uncover relevant facts. "The City's cavalier attitude toward the discovery process ... warrant findings of willfulness, fault and bad faith," Gottschall wrote. In imposing her punishment, Gottschall ... stripped the city of legal protections that would have allowed its lawyers to withhold some documents from the Young family's lawyer. A Tribune investigation last year that analyzed nearly 450 cases alleging police misconduct since Emanuel took office found that a federal judge had to order the city to turn over potential evidence in nearly 1 of every 5 cases. The issue came to a head in January 2016, when a federal judge sanctioned one city lawyer for intentionally concealing evidence and ... took the rare step of tossing out a jury verdict in favor of the city and ordering a new trial.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
For a shocking glimpse of what’s been happening in the name of criminal justice in America, look no further than a Justice Department report last week on police behavior in Louisiana. Officers there have routinely arrested hundreds of citizens annually without probable cause, strip-searching them and denying them contact with their family and lawyers for days - all in an unconstitutional attempt to force cooperation with detectives who finally admitted they were operating on a mere “hunch” or “feeling.” This wholesale violation of the Constitution’s protection against unlawful search and seizure ... was standard procedure. The report described as “staggering” the number of people who were “commonly detained for 72 hours or more” with no opportunity to contest their arrest, in what the police euphemistically termed “investigative holds.” The sheriff’s office in Evangeline, with a population of 33,578, initiated over 200 such arrest-and-grilling sessions between 2012 and 2014. In Ville Platte, which has 7,303 residents, the local police department used the practice more than 700 times during the same years. The residents faced demands for information, the report said, “under threat of continued wrongful incarceration,” resulting in what may have been false confessions and improper convictions. “Literally anyone in Evangeline Parish or Ville Platte could be arrested and placed ‘on hold’ at any time,” the report found.
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.
By far the most populous of the three states that strip lifelong voting rights from people with felony convictions, Florida is home to some 1.5 million residents who can never again cast a ballot unless pardoned by the state’s governor. Florida’s legions of disenfranchised voters are disproportionately Democrat-leaning minorities - including nearly a quarter of Florida’s black population - numbers that advocates say amount to a long-standing and often ignored civil rights catastrophe. This ... mass disenfranchisement could have changed the outcome of some particularly important elections. Recently, after the state’s ... governor clamped down on the ability of ex-felons to have their rights restored, Donald Trump won the crucial swing state by a margin less than a tenth the size of the state’s disenfranchised population, leading some to question the effect that felony disenfranchisement may have had on the size of Trump’s Electoral College win. National groups, including the Democratic Party, have shown little interest in placing real resources behind recent efforts to roll back the country’s most impactful voting restriction. Yet in recent weeks, even without any significant organizational backing, a coalition composed largely of disenfranchised Floridians quietly reached a new landmark in a long and laborious fight to overturn the state’s law. On Monday ... Florida’s high court announced it had set a March date to consider the proposal to allow a referendum on the 2018 ballot asking voters to roll back the state’s felony voting restriction.
What do you say to someone who spent years on death row for a murder DNA evidence later proved he didn't commit? It's a question that Utah legislators and law students were faced with last week when they met Ray Krone, an Arizona man who was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for a 1991 Phoenix barroom slaying only to be exonerated and freed after years of staring down his potential execution. Krone is the 100th death row inmate freed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 and Utah executed Gary Gilmore. He was in Utah last week, meeting with more than a dozen legislators on Wednesday ahead of another attempt by death-penalty opponents to repeal Utah's law on executions in the upcoming legislative session. Last legislative session, a bill to repeal the death penalty passed the Senate but was blocked in the House. Marina Lowe, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said stories like Krone's, where the system got it wrong, were missing from the debate last year. "I want the public to see there are actually two sides of the justice system. It's not simply that everyone has done something wrong or they wouldn't have been arrested," Krone said. "To ignore the fact that people are being exonerated and to ignore the fact that our justice system is getting it wrong, to ignore the fact that police and prosecutors can perjure themselves - to ignore that fact puts us all at danger in our justice system if we are caught up in that."
Note: 100 innocent people who would have been executed have been exonerated. How can this happen? Can we trust our judicial system with all of its corruption to sentence people to death? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing judicial system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Given what we're seeing in the election's aftermath, photographer-filmmaker Lucian Read clearly picked a prescient title for his recent mini-doc series on inequality in the United States: America Divided, which ... took us to corners of a nation still hurting from the Great Recession. Read's latest short film, Mni Wiconi: The Standing at Standing Rock, turns a camera on the plight of Native Americans, a group that has been neglected and wronged perhaps more than any other in this nation. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota made national headlines for their protests against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline - which the tribe says interferes with its ancestral land and water rights. This 1,172-mile oil pipeline ... is 95 percent complete despite the lack of the official easements and permits needed to finish it. In addition to introducing key anti-pipeline figures, such as Standing Rock chairman Dave Archambault II and local landowner and activist LaDonna Allard, Read's nine-minute film is a ... sketch of the conflict's root causes, from poverty to broken treaties to the "militarization of the oil industry," as one character puts it. "People standing together is powerful," says Jodi Gilette, President Barack Obama's special assistant for Native American affairs and a Standing Rock tribal member, noting the outpouring of support from unrelated tribes.
Note: Don't miss this beautiful, informative 8-minute video on what's happening at Standing Rock at the link above. For more on this under-reported movement, see this Los Angeles Times article and this article in the UK's Guardian. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
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.
Hundreds of activists gathered to block construction of the Dakota Access pipeline on Thursday. Police with tanks and riot gear surrounded them and began making mass arrests. One officer on the loudspeaker warned the demonstrators not to shoot “bows and arrows”. For some Native American activists, the officer’s comment was the latest sign that a highly militarized police force has little understanding of indigenous culture. The notion that the criminal justice system is biased against Native American protesters came into sharp view hours later, when a jury in Portland, Oregon, issued a verdict of not guilty for white militia leaders who staged an armed occupation of federal land to protest government policies. The fact that protesters with guns were acquitted on the same day police arrested 141 “water protectors”, who have often relied on indigenous songs and prayers to convey their message, sparked a firestorm on social media. At the Standing Rock camps in North Dakota, where the fight against the $3.8bn oil pipeline is escalating ... Native Americans said the Oregon verdict was an infuriating and painful reminder that the law treats them differently – and that the odds are stacked against them in their ... battle to save their land. The ultra-conservative activists who seized the Malheur refuge were fighting against environmental restrictions aimed at protecting ... public lands. In North Dakota, the Native American-led movement is grounded in the idea that the land is sacred and must be preserved.
Note: For more on this under-reported movement, see this Los Angeles Times article and this article in the UK's Guardian. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, N.D., rallying against the Dakota Access oil pipeline have been calling for reinforcements since summertime. As of this week, about 800 people had come. But in the course of just a few days, more than 1.5 million people marked themselves present at the pipeline protest using Facebook - even though they weren’t actually there. A recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that law enforcement agencies across the country use location tracking and social media data to identify activists. Protesters have reported phones turning on on their own, phone calls cutting out and live video streams being interrupted as evidence that they’re being spied on, said Jennifer Cook, the policy director for the ACLU of North Dakota. Law enforcement agencies ... said they are not relying on Facebook’s check-in system to track protesters. Last week, video of violent clashes between lines of police and protesters circulated online, showing demonstrators running from officers as 142 people were arrested. Most of them were charged with rioting and criminal trespassing. About 300 people have been arrested since the protests began over the summer. Tensions have intensified in recent weeks as the pipeline’s construction moves closer to a river crossing that activists view as a critical water source that they fear will be compromised by the oil main, which many Native American tribes have said treads on sacred land.
Note: For more on this under-reported movement, see this Los Angeles Times article and this article in the UK's Guardian. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
US journalist Amy Goodman is facing charges of participating in a "riot" after filming Native American-led protests over an oil pipeline in North Dakota. The Democracy Now! reporter said she would surrender to authorities on Monday in response to the charge. District Judge John Grinsteiner will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to support the riot charge. Ms Goodman filmed the crackdown on protesters by authorities last month. "I wasn't trespassing, I wasn't engaging in a riot, I was doing my job as a journalist by covering a violent attack on Native American protesters," Ms Goodman said. The charge relates to her Democracy Now! coverage of the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline on 3 September. Earlier this month US actress Shailene Woodley was arrested at a construction site for broadcasting the North Dakota protests on Facebook. The video by the Divergent star was viewed more than 2.4 million times on social media within hours of being posted. The Dakota Access oil pipeline project, which will cross four states, has drawn huge protests. Native Americans have halted its construction in North Dakota, saying it will desecrate sacred land and damage the environment.
Note: A judge later rejected the riot charge for Goodman, but the fact that she was even accused speaks volumes. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
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.”
An alleged accomplice in the Sept. 11 terror attacks is to undergo surgery this week for decade-old damage from his “sodomy” in CIA custody, his attorney says. Defense attorney Walter Ruiz, a Navy Reserve officer, disclosed the upcoming surgery for his client, Mustafa al Hawsawi, 48, on the eve of pretrial hearings Tuesday in the case that accuses the Saudi Arabian Hawsawi and four other men of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Ruiz said a case prosecutor informed him of the procedure over the weekend. Defense lawyers have been litigating over conditions at the remote prison and, in the case of their client, have specifically sought medical intervention to treat a rectal prolapse that has caused Hawsawi to bleed for more than a decade. The disclosure comes days after The New York Times published a detailed account of former CIA and Guantánamo captives grappling with the aftereffects of torture. Hawsawi was denied a request to have a member of his legal team on standby near the surgery. He has sat gingerly on a pillow at the war court since his first appearance in 2008. But the reason was not publicly known until release of a portion of the so-called Senate Torture Report on the CIA program ... which described agents using quasi-medical techniques called “rectal rehydration” and “rectal re-feeding.” Former CIA captives like Hawsawi are segregated in a clandestine lockup called Camp 7 that has been described ... as having its own medical facility, the capabilities of which are not known.
Note: For more along these lines, see the "10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture". For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
The poster child of the American torture program sits in a Guantanamo Bay prison cell, where many U.S. officials hope he will simply be forgotten. Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, known to the world as Abu Zubaydah ... was the “guinea pig” of the CIA torture program. He was the first prisoner sent to a secret CIA “black site,” the first to have his interrogation “enhanced ” and the only prisoner subjected to all of the CIA’s approved techniques, as well as many that were not authorized. He is the man for whom the George W. Bush administration wrote the infamous torture memo in the summer of 2002. Senior officials thought he had been personally involved in every major al-Qaeda operation, including 9/11. Today, the United States acknowledges that assessment was, to put it graciously, overblown. His extended torture provided no actionable intelligence about al-Qaeda’s plans. He has never been charged with a violation of U.S. law, military or civilian, and apparently never will be formally charged. Instead, he languishes at Guantanamo. After years in secret prisons around the world, he remains incommunicado, with no prospect of trial. Who is Zubaydah, really? Public understanding about Zubaydah remains remarkably controlled and superficial. In connection with Zubaydah’s stalled case seeking federal court review of his detention, the government has recently agreed to clear for public release a few of the letters he has written to us. These brief letters [are] published here for the first time.
Note: The use of humans as guinea pigs in government, military, and medical experiments has a long history. For more along these lines, see the "10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture". For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
Legal papers filed by the New York police department reveal that the department sent its own undercover officers to protests led by Black Lives Matter after the death of Eric Garner. The NYPD documents also show that it collected multimedia records about the protests. The revelations come from the same records request that led to the Intercept’s release of documents last summer showing that MTA and Metro-North transit police had regularly spied on Black Lives Matter protesters in and around Grand Central, deploying plainclothes officers to monitor demonstrations, track their movements, and share photos of activists. The NYPD’s newly revealed operations are potential constitutional violations. “The fear and disarming effect caused by undercovers being assigned to what were and continue to be extraordinarily peaceful protests is disturbing,” said MJ Williams, one of the attorneys involved in the records request. “As someone who was present at the protests, it’s disturbing to know the NYPD may have a file on me, ready to be used or to prevent me from getting a job simply because I’ve been active in some political capacity.” The MTA and Metro-North disclosures from last summer revealed that transit police tracked activists’ locations and shared images of some activists. If similar multimedia images are being held by the NYPD, they could be a violation of the NYPD’s protest monitoring rules ... which are supposed to prevent the department from deploying undercovers or collecting images of protesters solely to keep tabs on their political activity.
On any given day in the United States, at least 137,000 people sit behind bars on simple drug-possession charges, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch. Nearly two-thirds of them are in local jails. The report says that most of these jailed inmates have not been convicted of any crime: They're sitting in a cell, awaiting a day in court, an appearance that may be months or even years off, because they can't afford to post bail. "It's been 45 years since the war on drugs was declared, and it hasn't been a success," lead author Tess Borden of Human Rights Watch said in an interview. "Rates of drug use are not down. Drug dependency has not stopped. Every 25 seconds, we're arresting someone for drug use." Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tell the story. Drug-possession arrests skyrocketed, from fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979 to more than 500 in the mid-2000s. The drug-possession rate has since fallen slightly ... hovering near 400 arrests per 100,000 people. Police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined. The report finds that the laws are enforced unequally, too. Over their lifetimes, black and white Americans use illicit drugs at similar rates. But black adults were more than 2˝ times as likely to be arrested for drug possession. The report calls for decriminalizing the personal use and possession of drugs, treating it as a public-health matter.
Note: This latest report adds to the evidence that the war on drugs is a trillion dollar failure. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in policing and in the prison system.
On May 31, the city of Chicago agreed to settle a whistleblower lawsuit brought by two police officers who allege they suffered retaliation for reporting and investigating criminal activity by fellow officers. The settlement, for $2 million, was announced moments before the trial was to begin. As the trial date approached, city lawyers had made a motion to exclude the words “code of silence” from the proceedings. Not only was the motion denied, but the judge ruled that Mayor Rahm Emanuel could be called to testify about what he meant when he used the term in a speech. The prevailing narrative in the press was that the city settled in order to avoid the possibility that Mayor Emanuel would be compelled to testify. But the mayor’s testimony, had it come to pass, would have been unlikely to provide much illumination. By contrast, that of the plaintiffs, Shannon Spalding and Danny Echeverria, promised to ... show extraordinarily serious retaliatory misconduct by officers at nearly all levels of the CPD hierarchy. Spalding ... and her partner, Danny Echeverria, spent over five years working undercover on a joint FBI-CPD internal affairs investigation that uncovered a massive criminal enterprise within the department. A gang tactical team led by a sergeant named Ronald Watts operated a protection racket in public housing developments on Chicago’s South Side. In exchange for “a tax,” Watts and his team shielded drug dealers from interference by law enforcement and targeted their competition. They were major players in the drug trade.
Note: Read the second article in this series titled "Corrupt Chicago Police Were Taxing Drug Dealers and Targeting Their Rivals." Read also how this criminal gang of police routinely framed people for crimes. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution did not end slavery. In fact, it is the first time the word "slavery" was ever mentioned in the Constitution and it is in this amendment where it is ... given the constitutional protection that has maintained the practice of American slavery in various forms to this very day. It is why, right now, the largest prison strike in American history is about to enter its third week - the men and women inside of those prisons are effectively slaves. Their free or nearly free labor represents, according to Alice Speri, “a $2 billion a year industry that employs nearly 900,000 prisoners while paying them a few cents an hour in some states, and nothing at all in others. “In addition to work for private companies, prisoners also cook, clean, and work on maintenance and construction in the prisons themselves — forcing officials to pay staff to carry out those tasks in response to work stoppages. ‘They cannot run these facilities without us,’ organizers wrote ahead of the strike. ‘We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.’” The entire 13th Amendment ... is just 47 words long. About a third of those words aren't about ending slavery, but are shockingly about how and when slavery could receive a wink and a nod to continue. In essence, the 13th Amendment both banned and justified slavery in one fell swoop. Slavery is legal in prisons.
Note: It's strange to note that very few major media have given any coverage to this important story. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the prison system.
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.
America has been enmeshed in a wrenching discussion about how the police treat young black men. But this week’s blistering report from the Justice Department on police bias in Baltimore also exposed a different, though related, concern: how the police in that majority-black city treat women, especially victims of sexual assault. In six pages of the 163-page report documenting how Baltimore police officers have systematically violated the rights of African-Americans, the Justice Department also painted a picture of a police culture deeply dismissive of sexual assault victims and hostile toward prostitutes and transgender people. It branded the Baltimore Police Department’s response to sexual assault cases “grossly inadequate.” Baltimore officers sometimes humiliated women who tried to report sexual assault, often failed to gather basic evidence, and disregarded some complaints filed by prostitutes. Some officers blamed victims or discouraged them from identifying their assailants. And the culture seemed to extend to prosecutors, investigators found. In one email exchange, a prosecutor referred to a woman who had reported a sexual assault as a “conniving little whore.” A police officer, using a common text-message expression for laughing heartily, wrote back: “Lmao! I feel the same.” Other “pattern or practice” investigations of police departments - including in New Orleans; Puerto Rico; and Missoula, Mont. - have also identified gender bias.
The devastating trauma and abuse inflicted on children held by Australia in offshore detention has been laid bare in the largest cache of leaked documents released from inside its immigration regime. More than 2,000 leaked incident reports from Australia’s detention camp for asylum seekers on the remote Pacific island of Nauru – totalling more than 8,000 pages – are published by the Guardian today. The Nauru files set out as never before the assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and living conditions endured by asylum seekers held by the Australian government, painting a picture of routine dysfunction and cruelty. Children are vastly over-represented in the reports. More than half of the 2,116 reports – a total of 1,086 incidents, or 51.3% – involve children, although children made up only about 18% of those in detention on Nauru during the time covered by the reports, May 2013 to October 2015. The findings come just weeks after the brutal treatment of young people in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory was exposed. Allegations of sexual assault ... are a persistent theme of the files. In one report an asylum seeker described being told she was “on a list” written by local Nauruan guards naming single women they were “waiting for”. In [another] report a “cultural adviser” for Wilson Security, the company that employs guards at the detention camp, allegedly told an asylum seeker who had been sexually assaulted in camp that “rape in Australia is very common and people don’t get punished”.
Note: Watch an excellent segment by Australia's "60-Minutes" team "Spies, Lords and Predators" on a pedophile ring in the UK which leads directly to the highest levels of government. A second suppressed documentary, "Conspiracy of Silence," goes even deeper into this topic in the US. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and sexual abuse scandals.
When should police be able to deactivate your social media account? The question is becoming more urgent, as people use real-time connections in the middle of critical incidents involving law enforcement. In the case of Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County, Md., earlier this month, police said that a suspect actively using a social media connection makes a standoff worse. Gaines posted videos to Instagram of the unfolding standoff with police, who were outside her apartment trying to get her to surrender. Gaines was shot and killed by Baltimore County police, [who] got Instagram's parent company, Facebook, to temporarily suspend her account. These days, police can use a special Web page provided by the social media company where they can make an emergency request to take down somebody's account. For cops, this is no different than the old practice of cutting a phone line. But to Rashad Robinson, it is different. He runs Color of Change, an online racial justice organization. He says live social media are much more than just a line of communication. "As the movement around police accountability has grown, it's been fueled by video evidence, the type of video that gives us a real insight into what's happening and creates the narrative, builds the narrative, for people to understand," he says. Robinson says imagine if police in Minnesota had blocked the Facebook Live video of the aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile earlier this summer. There wouldn't have been nearly the same kind of public reaction.
Federal drug agents regularly mine Americans’ travel information to profile people who might be ferrying money for narcotics traffickers - though they almost never use what they learn to make arrests or build criminal cases. Instead, that targeting has helped the Drug Enforcement Administration seize a small fortune in cash. The DEA surveillance is separate from the vast and widely-known anti-terrorism apparatus. DEA units assigned to patrol 15 of the nation’s busiest airports seized more than $209 million in cash from at least 5,200 people over the past decade “They count on this as part of the budget,” said Louis Weiss, a former [DEA group] supervisor. “Basically, you’ve got to feed the monster.” Federal law gives the government broad powers to seize cash and other assets if agents have evidence that they are linked to crime. That process, commonly known as asset forfeiture, has come under fire ... after complaints that police were using the law as a way to raise money rather than to protect the public or prevent crime. Court records show agents and informants flagged travelers for questioning based on whether they were traveling with one-way tickets, had paid in cash, had listed a non-working phone number on the reservation or had checked luggage. Agents said Zane Young fit that profile when they ... seized $36,000 from his bags. Young’s lawyer, Thomas Baker, said in a court filing that the drug agency’s profile was “vague, ambiguous, overbroad, and can be manipulated to include just about anyone.”
Note: Read about how the DEA stole a young man's life savings without ever charging him with a crime. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
For more than a decade, professional snoops have been able to search troves of ... addresses, DMV records, photographs of a person’s car - and condense them into comprehensive reports costing as little as $10. Now they can combine that information with the kinds of things marketers know about you, such as which politicians you donate to, what you spend on groceries, and whether it’s weird that you ate in last night, to create a portrait of your life and predict your behavior. IDI, a year-old company in the so-called data-fusion business, is the first to centralize and weaponize all that information for its customers. Chief Executive Officer Derek Dubner says the system isn’t waiting for requests from clients - it’s already built a profile on every American adult, including young people who wouldn’t be swept up in conventional databases, which only index transactions. These personal profiles include all known addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses; every piece of property ever bought or sold, plus related mortgages; past and present vehicles owned; criminal citations, from speeding tickets on up; voter registration; hunting permits; and names and phone numbers of neighbors. The reports also include photos of cars taken by private companies using automated license plate readers - billions of snapshots tagged with GPS coordinates and time stamps to help PIs surveil people or bust alibis. IDI also runs two coupon websites ... that collect purchasing and behavioral data.
When Ebony Buggs followed the noise of commotion to a vacant unit below her apartment on Chicago’s West Side, she found a group of men beating teens from the neighborhood. One man grabbed her and punched her in the face, according to Buggs, now 26. Buggs’ mother, seeing her daughter lying on the ground, threatened to call the police. “We are the police,” one of the men responded, as he grabbed her phone and threw it. The man who Buggs alleges beat her is Edwin Utreras. He was part of a group of five officers that city residents dubbed the “Skullcap Crew”, who patrolled the city’s South Side public housing communities until they were torn down. The members of this crew – Edwin Utreras, Robert Stegmiller, Christ Savickas, Andrew Schoeff and Joe Seinitz – have together faced at least 128 known official allegations from more than 60 citizen-filed complaints over almost a decade and a half. They have also been named in more than 20 federal lawsuits. Yet over the course of their careers, these officers have received little discipline. Instead, they have won praise from the department, accruing more than 180 commendations. All of them remain on the force except Seinitz, who resigned in 2007. The Citizens Police Data Project, a repository of more than 56,000 official complaints against police, has found that less than 3% of Chicago police misconduct complaints lead to disciplinary action.
Note: Another gang of Chicago police was recently reported to have run a drug dealing and extortion ring with the tacit support of their fellow officers. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
A Wall Street Journal reporter was detained by federal agents at the Los Angeles airport who demanded to confiscate her two cell phones. Maria Abi-Habib, a reporter who covers the Middle East for the paper, detailed in a long Facebook post Thursday how Department of Homeland Security agents detained her in "a special section of LAX airport" to ask her questions. Abi-Habib has both U.S. and Lebanese citizenship and was traveling on an American passport. "They grilled me for an hour," she wrote. The agents then asked for her cellphones. "That is where I drew the line," Abi-Habib wrote. "I told her I had First Amendment rights as a journalist she couldn't violate and I was protected under." The agent then presented a DHS document that read that the government has the right to confiscate phones within 100 miles from U.S. borders. "If they forgot to ask you at JFK airport for your phones, but you're having a drink in Manhattan the next day, you technically fall under this authority," she wrote. "And because they are acting under the pretense to protect the U.S. from terrorism, you have to give it up." Abi-Habib told the agents that they would have to call the Wall Street Journal's lawyers because the phones are the property of the newspaper. This led to the agent accusing her of "hindering the investigation." The agent left to speak with her supervisor, returning 30 minutes later to tell Abi-Habib that she was free to go. DHS acknowledged the incident occurred, [and] asserted it has legal authority to confiscate anyone's electronics.
The images that shaped public imagination of the American Indian - 19th and early 20th century photographs - were mostly fiction. Often, they were sentimentalized portrayals of what Edward S. Curtis, the most successful of all who trained their cameras on the subject, called “the vanishing race.” The ... pictures glossed over attitudes and policies that today are seen as cruelly neglectful, if not genocidal. Curtis himself, funded with J.P. Morgan money to produce some 40,000 photographic documents for his magnificent 20-volume “The North American Indian,” is known to have choreographed ceremonies and dances, phonied up costumes, retouched negatives to remove all signs of modernity; he paid reservation residents to play the part of native nobility. Other photographers purported to show the fearsomeness of the American Indian warrior. Two ... intensely engaging exhibitions newly opened at the California Historical Society present images of Northern California and southern Oregon’s Modoc tribe. “Sensationalist Portrayals of the Modoc War, 1872-73” examines reports of a sad chapter of American history, when a band of about 60 Indian fighters held off 600 U.S. Army troops. “Native Portraits: Contemporary Tintypes by Ed Drew” features Drew’s revival of a 19th century photographic process to depict present-day Modocs as they choose to be seen. Side by side, the two shows add up to a quiet rebuke of photography’s cravenly racist portrayal of the first Americans.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing media corruption news articles.
The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has called for an inquiry into juvenile detention after the ABC aired harrowing footage of apparent abuses of young people in custody in the Northern Territory. The program also prompted the leader of the NT, Adam Giles, to pledge he would seek advice on establishing a royal commission. The ABC's Four Corners program on Monday night aired footage of a 17-year-old boy, one of six boys tear-gassed at a juvenile detention centre near Darwin, being hooded and strapped to a mechanical restraint chair. The footage is part of a catalogue of evidence obtained by Four Corners of the repeated assault and mistreatment of boys at youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. Amnesty International has described the abuses carried out against children as shown in the Four Corners program as a violation of both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture. Julian Cleary, Indigenous rights campaigner at Amnesty International Australia, called for an end to the systemic abuse of children in youth detention. "To see a crying, distressed child seized by his neck, forced to the ground, manhandled, stripped naked by three grown men and left naked in a cell is just sickening," he said. "The footage of guards laughing at a child being tear-gassed and in distress defies belief." The NT has the highest rate of youth detention in Australia, and 95 per cent of detainees are Aboriginal.
Note: Unlike the US, Australia has signed and ratified The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. A follow-up article suggests that the UN may take action on prison system corruption in Australia.
One of the most tortured men in the history of Guantánamo Bay has received clearance from the wartime prison’s quasi-parole board to leave after nearly 14 years of detention without charge. Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian citizen whose harrowing account of his torture at Guantánamo Bay became an international bestseller in 2015, will soon leave behind the Cuban detention center where US military personnel contorted his body; bombarded him with noise; deprived him of sleep; stuffed his clothing with ice during a nighttime boat ride meant to to convince him he was headed to an even worse place; threatened his life; and threatened his mother with rape. A nonlegal panel representing various US security agencies tasked with assessing threats posed by Guantánamo’s 76 residual detainees, found Slahi to represent no “continuing significant threat to the security of the United States”. The consensus decision, reached on 14 July, was made public on Wednesday. A federal judge in 2010 [had previously] ordered him freed for lack of evidence untainted by torture to justify his detention, yet the US justice department appealed. In the summer of 2003, senior Guantánamo officials, believing Slahi was an important link to al-Qaida, sought and received permission from the Pentagon to torture him. US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally approved Slahi’s torture. In his book, Slahi recalled ... that he would tell his tormentors whatever they wished to hear. “I don’t care, as long as you are pleased,” Slahi informed his interrogators.
Note: By the time Slahi's bestselling book Guantanamo Diary was published, leaked documents obtained by BBC News had revealed that more than 150 innocent people were detained at Guantanamo after being rounded up for no reason. For more along these lines, read about how the torture program fits in with a long history of human experimentation by corrupt intelligence agencies working alongside unethical scientists.
On July 7, Dallas police officers used a bomb robot to kill the suspected perpetrator of a shooting that left five Dallas-area police officers dead and seven others wounded. While police have used robots to deliver chemical agents and pizza, it looks as if the deployment of the robot bomb on Thursday night was the first time American police officers have used a robot to kill someone. According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, “We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was.” The death of the alleged shooter in Dallas should prompt us to think carefully about how new technologies will be used by police to deliver lethal force. Robots like the one used by Dallas police are used by police departments across the country as part of bomb squads. But it’s worth keeping in mind that these robots will continue to improve, making it easier for police to use them in situations like the standoff in Dallas. Other tools such as drones could also potentially be used to kill suspects. In fact, North Dakota has legalized the use of armed drones in some circumstances, and Florida law defines a police drone as one that can “carry a lethal or nonlethal payload.” As technology improves, using tools such as robots to kill dangerous suspects will become easier, and we shouldn’t be surprised if they proliferate. Amid such changes we should keep a careful eye on how and when police use remote devices, especially in cases not as clear cut as the recent standoff.
Note: The use of robots in warfare has been increasing. Militarization of US police, led by the Pentagon, suggests that robots will also be increasingly used in domestic law enforcement. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
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.
In 2009, I was living in Tel Aviv during Operation Cast Lead. During that offensive, Israel killed about 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza. To take concrete action to bring about freedom and full rights for Palestinians ... I embraced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The non-violent effort, started in 2005 by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations, is a call for solidarity from the international community until Israel complies with international law and ends its violations of Palestinian rights. It’s hard going though. Seven years later, there have been two more horrific assaults on Gaza. During this time there have been attacks on Israeli civilians too. These are a horrifying symptom of ongoing occupation and repression, as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai pointed out after a recent attack in Tel Aviv killed four Jewish Israelis. BDS is a powerful way to encourage the state to act. But our efforts have been threatened here in the United States by a nationally coordinated, well-funded strategy financed by the Israeli government and advocacy organizations. Over the last year, 22 states have introduced or passed anti-BDS legislation. Many of these measures make it illegal for states to do business with companies that support BDS. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has escalated that strategy with a draconian executive order that would create a blacklist of companies and organizations that choose not to invest in Israel or that advocate for BDS.
Note: Read an Israeli soldier's account of following orders to methodically kill women and children in Israel's 2009 Gaza offensive. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The [FDA] amassed a stockpile of pistols, shotguns, and semiautomatic rifles, along with ample supplies of ammunition, liquid explosives, gun scopes, and suppressors. Between 2006 and 2014, [the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency of the USDA] spent nearly $4.8 million to arm itself. And far from being an outlier, it is one of dozens of federal agencies that spends lavishly on guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment. A report issued this month by American Transparency ... chronicles the explosive - and expensive - trend toward militarizing federal agencies, most of which have no military responsibilities. Between 2006 and 2014, the report shows, 67 federal bureaus, departments, offices, and services spent at least $1.48 billion on ammunition and material one might expect to find in the hands of SWAT teams, Special Forces soldiers - or terrorists. The Internal Revenue Service, for example, now spends more than $1 million annually on firearms, ammunition, and military gear. Since 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs ... has poured nearly $11.7 million into guns and ammo. Even the Smithsonian Institution and the Social Security Administration have each devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars to weaponry. There are now fewer US Marines than there are officers at federal administrative agencies with the authority to carry weapons and make arrests.
Note: The Washington Post in 2009 reported that military influence over US civilian authorities was quietly increasing, and the militarization of US police has been well-documented. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Tailyn Wang was two months pregnant when federal police officers broke into her house in Mexico City, ripped off her nightgown and threw her to the ground. They groped her breasts while punching and kicking her in front of her terrified children, before taking her blindfolded to a police base – without an arrest warrant. Wang is one of scores of innocent women illegally arrested and tortured by Mexican security services looking to boost arrest figures to justify the war on drugs, according to damning new research by Amnesty International. Of the 100 women interviewed for the report, 72 said they were sexually abused during or soon after the arrest. Ten of the women were pregnant when arrested; eight subsequently suffered a miscarriage. The vast majority were young, poor, single mothers. Most spend years in prison awaiting trial, without access to adequate healthcare or legal advice. Wang, who has reported the torture to judges, prosecutors, doctors, and the National Commission for Human Rights, was falsely accused by an acquaintance, a local police officer, after he was also tortured. Reports of torture have increased exponentially in Mexico since former President Felipe Calderón first deployed tens of thousands of armed forces on the streets to combat warring drug cartels and organised crime. The navy, which has been deployed in some of the most violent states ... appears to have a particularly serious torture problem. Among the women interviewed by Amnesty, eight out of the ten arrested by the navy were raped.
The push by congressional Democrats to bar suspected terrorists from acquiring guns and explosives has focused renewed attention on the government’s secretive terrorist watch lists, which have grown exponentially since the 9/11 attacks. Since the mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, Democrats have endorsed various measures to get weapons out of the hands of people on the lists. The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, had been on the FBI’s terrorist watch list but was removed in 2014. His was one of approximately 800,000 names in that database, the most prominent of at least seven overlapping watch lists. The government does not release the exact number of watch lists or the specific criteria for getting on them. The no-fly list ... contained 16 people on Sept. 11, 2001. By 2014, it had grown to about 64,000 people. Civil liberties advocates [say] the watch lists are riddled with inaccurate and outdated information, nearly impossible to get off and stigmatize the people on them. The largest watch list is The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center. As of August 2014, it contained about 1.1 million names. The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center ... maintains what is known as the government’s "consolidated Terrorist Watchlist." It contains about 800,000 names. Last year, [a] federal judge ruled that the government’s lack of effective procedures for people to challenge their inclusion on the no-fly list was unconstitutional.
Note: A 2013 New York Times article further describes the rapid expansion of these mysterious lists, which are made according to secret rules. Some people have reportedly been added to watch lists by federal air marshals simply to meet quotas. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties 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.
At a time of justified concern about arbitrary police stops, the Supreme Court on Monday made such harassment more likely. By a 5-3 vote, the court upheld the search of a drug defendant that grew out of a stop that the state conceded was unlawful. The decision in a Utah case pokes yet another hole in an important principle: that courts may not consider evidence that is the result of an illegal search or seizure – the so-called “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Edward Strieff was stopped by a police officer after he walked out of a house in South Salt Lake City. After Strieff identified himself, the officer ran his name through a database and discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation. The officer then arrested Strieff on that charge and searched him, finding a bag containing methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. The state subsequently admitted that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Strieff, as required under Supreme Court interpretations of the 4th Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas concluded that it didn’t matter if the officer had no basis on which to stop Strieff; the evidence was admissible anyway. The decision could have far-reaching consequences. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a powerful dissent: “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants - even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop.”
A 40-year-old man - with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent - boarded a plane. The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently ... scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard. His seatmate ... looked him over. Something about him didn’t seem right to her. He appeared laser-focused [on] those strange scribblings. Shortly after boarding had finished, she flagged down a flight attendant and handed that crew-member a note. The plane turned around and headed back to the gate. The woman was soon escorted off the plane. [Then] the pilot came by, and approached the ... darkly-complected foreign man. He was now escorted off the plane, too, and taken to meet some sort of agent, though he wasn’t entirely sure of the agent’s affiliation. What do you know about your seatmate? The agent asked the foreign-sounding man. Well, she acted a bit funny, he replied. And then the big reveal: The woman [had seen] her seatmate’s cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize, [and alerted] the authorities. The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism. The curly-haired man laughed. Those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or ... some special secret terrorist code. They were math. Yes, math. A differential equation, to be exact. This good-natured, bespectacled passenger - Guido Menzio - is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. Last year he was awarded the prestigious Carlo Alberto Medal, given to the best Italian economist under 40.
For the first time, a federal judge is letting a civil lawsuit proceed against two CIA contract psychologists who designed and supervised brutal interrogation tactics that critics called torture. The ruling allows two former CIA detainees and the family of another who died in agency custody to try to win damages in federal court for the abuse they suffered at then-secret CIA prisons in the early 2000s. According to the lawsuit and a Senate Intelligence Committee report, the mistreatment included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, confinement in small boxes, rectal feeding and beatings. As the lawsuit progresses, it may shed more light on the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that the CIA used in an effort to collect intelligence ... after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “It’s unprecedented,” [said] Dror Ladin, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued the plaintiffs' case in court. “No CIA torture victim has ever taken this step toward accountability. Every previous lawsuit has been shut down before this stage. “It gives our clients a chance to ... finally get some justice,” he said. The Department of Justice had blocked previous lawsuits aimed at the CIA's now-barred detention and interrogation program on grounds that any case could reveal secrets and compromise national security. That changed after the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report in December 2014 that exposed details about the program, including the role played by [psychologists Bruce] Jessen and [James E.] Mitchell.
Note: Read more in this ACLU article. For more along these lines, read about how the torture program fits in with a long history of human experimentation by corrupt intelligence agencies working alongside unethical scientists. For more, see this list of programs that treated humans as guinea pigs.
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.
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.
Pete Seeger, composer of classic American folk tunes including "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", was spied on by FBI agents for more than two decades because he wrote a protest letter as a young man concerned about plans to deport tens of thousands of Japanese American citizens at the end of the second world war. A vast file on Seeger was released ... in response to a request under the freedom of information act. The bureau’s spies first took an interest in the singer in 1943, [and continued] into the early 1970s. The suspicion was that Seeger, who died in early 2014, was a security risk with close connections to the Communist party. The FBI file on him has nearly 1,800 pages – 90 of them are still withheld for security reasons. Throughout the 1950s, when Seeger was part of the Weavers folk group, the bureau commissioned hundreds of reports on him. As the Weavers scored chart hits, Seeger was blacklisted for his suspected Communist party links. In 1955 he was called before the House Committee on un-American Activities and asked if he was a communist. “I am not going to answer any questions as to my associations, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs or how I voted in any election or any of these private affairs,” Seeger replied. Two years later he was cited for contempt of Congress and then, four years later, found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison. Let free on bail, Seeger’s conviction was overturned a year later.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
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.
Microsoft filed a landmark lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday. The company accuses the federal government of adopting a widespread, unconstitutional policy of looking through Microsoft customers' data - and forcing the company to keep quiet about it. Over the past 18 months, federal judges have approved 2,600 secret searches of Microsoft customers. In two-thirds of those cases, Microsoft can't even notify their customers that they've been searched - ever - because there's no expiration date on these judicial orders. At issue here is the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which creates a double standard when it comes to a person's right to know when police are rummaging through their stuff. "People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud," Microsoft says in its lawsuit. "The government, however, has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations." In its lawsuit, Microsoft claims that federal agents have been violating the company's First Amendment right to speak to its own customers, as well as their customers' Fourth Amendment right to know when they're being searched. This lawsuit also notes the odd, modern distinction that the government makes between searching your computer and searching your information on a company's computer. Law enforcement agents often remain covert when they dig through information stored on company data backup services.
One of the biggest corruption scandals to hit America's juvenile justice system began unfolding in 2007, when parents in a central Pennsylvania county began to complain that their children had been tossed into for-profit youth centers without a lawyer to represent them. The kickback scheme, known as "kids for cash," has resulted in prison terms for two Luzerne County judges and two businessmen. Convictions of thousands of juveniles have been tossed out. Now the case is entering its final chapter: a few remaining class action lawsuits. One of those claims drew to a close ... when a federal judge signed off on a settlement in which one of the businessmen, Robert Powell, would pay $4.75 million. Powell, who co-owned two private juvenile justice facilities, served an 18-month prison term after admitting to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to former ... Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. and his boss, Judge Michael Conahan. In return, Ciavarella routinely found children guilty and sent them to Powell's facilities. Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 of racketeering and other charges, and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Conahan, a friend of Powell's who oversaw the scam, pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced to more than 17 years behind bars. A fourth conspirator ... pleaded guilty for his part in the plot and was sentenced to a year in prison.
Note: More than 5,000 kids were exposed to a court that jailed them for profit in this conspiracy involving just a handful of corrupt officials. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and civil liberties.
The CIA took naked photographs of people it sent to its foreign partners for torture. A former US official who had seen some of the photographs described them as “very gruesome”. In some of the photos, which remain classified, CIA captives are blindfolded, bound and show visible bruises. Some photographs also show people believed to be CIA officials or contractors alongside the naked detainees. It is not publicly known how many people ... were caught in the CIA’s web of so-called “extraordinary renditions”, extra-judicial transfers of detainees to foreign countries, many of which practised even more brutal forms of torture than the US came to adopt. Human rights groups over the years have identified at least 50 people the CIA rendered, going back to Bill Clinton’s presidency. “Is the naked photography a form of sexual assault? Yes. It’s a form of sexual humiliation,” said Dr Vincent Iacopino, the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights. “It’s cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment at a minimum and may constitute torture,” he said. International human rights law, to include the Geneva conventions, forbids photographing prisoners except in extremely limited circumstances related to their detention, to include anything that might compromise their dignity. The CIA is known to have employed nudity in other aspects of its custody of terrorism suspects. Often the nudity occurred in tandem with other torture techniques, such as shackling and frigid conditions, leading in at least one case to a detainee’s death.
Note: For more along these lines, see the "10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture". For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
The Justice Department has announced that it is resuming a controversial practice that allows local police departments to funnel a large portion of assets seized from citizens into their own coffers under federal law. The "Equitable Sharing Program" gives police the option of prosecuting some asset forfeiture cases under federal instead of state law. Federal forfeiture policies are more permissive than many state policies, allowing police to keep up to 80 percent of assets they seize. Asset forfeiture is a contentious practice that lets police seize and keep cash and property from people who are never convicted of wrongdoing - and in many cases, never charged. Use of the practice has exploded in recent years, prompting concern that, in some cases, police are motivated more by profit and less by justice. A wide-ranging Washington Post investigation in 2014 found that police had seized $2.5 billion in cash alone without warrants or indictments since 2001. In response, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced new restrictions on some federal asset forfeiture practices. Asset forfeiture is fast growing - in 2014, for instance, federal authorities seized more than $5 billion in assets. That's more than the value of assets lost in every single burglary that year. Reformers had hoped that the suspension of the program in December was a signal that the Justice Department was looking for ways to rein in the practice. But that no longer appears to be the case.
Note: Some police decide what property to seize based on departmental "wish lists". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Government lawyers on Thursday continued their fight to bury the Senate Torture Report, arguing before the D.C. District Court of Appeals that the 6,700-page text could not be released on procedural grounds. When the 500-page executive summary of the report was released more than a year ago, it prompted international outcry and renewed calls for prosecution. The summary describes not only the CIA’s rape and torture of detainees, but also how the agency consistently misrepresented the brutality and effectiveness of the torture program. But many of the most graphic details are in Volume III of the full report, which former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein has said contains “excruciating” details on “each of the 119 known individuals who were held in CIA custody.” On the same day the executive summary was released, the Intelligence Committee sent copies of the full report to executive branch agencies with instructions ... that they be used “as broadly as appropriate to make sure that this experience is never repeated.” Last year, after succeeding Feinstein as chair, Sen. Richard Burr, R-Ga., requested that the copies distributed to federal agencies be returned to Congress, prompting a legal standoff. In the meantime ... the Justice Department has “refuse[d] to allow executive branch officials to review the full and final study.”
Note: For more along these lines, see the "10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture". For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
Federal prosecutors declined to bring charges against law enforcement officers in the United States facing allegations of civil rights violations in 96 percent of such cases between 1995 and 2015, according to an investigation by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper. The newspaper examined nearly 3 million U.S. Justice Department records related to how the department's 94 U.S. attorney's offices across the country ... handled civil rights cases against officers. The data included cases referred to the Justice Department by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies. Overall, prosecutors turned down 12,703 potential civil rights violations out of 13,233 total complaints. By contrast, prosecutors rejected only about 23 percent of referrals in all other types of criminal cases. The findings could bolster arguments by activists, such as those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, who claim police officers are rarely held criminally responsible for their misconduct. The report comes just days after the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, announced he would not press charges against a white officer who killed an unarmed black teenager inside his own apartment in 2012. The most common reasons that prosecutors cited for declining to bring civil rights cases against officers were weak or insufficient evidence, lack of criminal intent and orders from the Justice Department.
The “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains [that] domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. This basically formalizes what was already happening. We’ve known for a couple of years now that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS were getting information from the NSA. Because that information was obtained without a warrant, the agencies were instructed to engage in “parallel construction” when explaining to courts and defense attorneys how the information had been obtained. It certainly isn’t the only time that that national security apparatus has let law enforcement agencies benefit from policies that are supposed to be reserved for terrorism investigations in order to get around the Fourth Amendment, then instructed those law enforcement agencies to misdirect, fudge and outright lie about how they obtained incriminating information. This isn’t just a few rogue agents. The lying has been a matter of policy.
The Justice Department is asking local courts across the country to be wary of how they slap poor defendants with fines and fees. In a letter ... to the chief judges and court administrators in all 50 states, Vanita Gupta, the head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, and Lisa Foster, director of the Office for Access to Justice, wrote that illegal enforcement of fines and fees had been receiving increased attention. “Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape,” Gupta and Foster wrote. “Furthermore, in addition to being unlawful, to the extent that these practices are geared ... toward raising revenue, they can cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal and erode trust between local governments and their constituents.” The White House and the department convened a summit on the issue in December. The Justice Department alleged in a recent lawsuit that officers in Ferguson, Mo., were violating citizens’ civil rights in part because their policing tactics were meant to generate revenue. The financial penalties - typically for minor misdemeanors, traffic infractions or violations of city code - disproportionately affect the poor, who cannot afford to pay immediately and are then hit with arrest warrants or additional penalties. Some towns [derive] 40 percent or more of their annual revenue from [these] petty fines and fees.
Note: Along with relying on municipal fines and fees that disproportionately impact the poor, some police departments simply steal from people when times get tough. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and income inequality.
692 felony convictions in California ... were thrown out between 1989 and 2012 based on errors or misconduct by police, prosecutors, defense lawyers or judges, according to a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania. The report ... didn’t include misdemeanor cases, which amount to about 80 percent of all prosecutions, or juvenile cases. And it also excluded the costs of jailing people who were later released without charges, which may amount to $70 million a year, the report said. The study examined only records from California and ... looked at cases in which felony convictions were overturned and the defendants were later cleared. More than half the cases involved prosecutors’ wrongful withholding of evidence. One example was that of former Black Panther Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt. Pratt was convicted in 1972 of murdering schoolteacher Carolyn Olson [in 1968] and was sentenced to life in prison, based in part on [witness] testimony. He was freed in 1999 after a judge found that prosecutors had withheld evidence that the witness was an informant for the FBI, which was then trying to discredit Pratt as part of its Cointelpro campaign. The authors questioned long-standing laws that shield prosecutors from lawsuits by criminal defendants. They said they knew of no other profession that received immunity for “intentional wrongdoing that gravely injures another.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has quietly developed a new way to measure its success in the war on terror: counting the number of terror threats it has “disrupted” in a year. In the section on “Performance Measures” in the FBI’s latest financial statement, the bureau reports 440 “terror disruptions” in the 12-month period ending on September 30, 2015. That’s ... more than three times the 2015 “target” of 125. In a vacuum, that would appear to suggest that the FBI’s terror-fighting mission - which sucked ... 54 percent of the bureau’s $9.8 billion budget in 2015 - is exceeding expectations. But that number - 440 - is much higher than the number of arrests reported by the FBI. The Washington Post counted about 60 terror-related arrests in 2015. Of those arrests, many were of people trying to travel abroad or trying to help others do so. Many more involved people planning attacks that were essentially imaginary, often goaded by FBI informants. There was only one genuinely “foiled attack” in the United States between January 2014 and September 2015. And that one ... was stopped by the local police department. The fact that the agency establishes a target for terrorism disruptions is also troubling, said Michael German, a former FBI agent.
Note: The FBI has made a habit of manufacturing "terrorist plots" from thin air. Now it appears that activities reminiscent of COINTELPRO are again being carried out to justify massive anti-terrorism spending. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing terrorism news articles from reliable major media sources.
Local councils, public bodies and even some university student unions are to be banned by law from boycotting “unethical” companies. All publicly funded institutions will lose the freedom to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Any public bodies that continue to pursue boycotts will face “severe penalties”, ministers said. Underlining the main target of the ban, the formal announcement will be made by the Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock when he visits Israel this week. Israeli companies, along with other firms which have investments in the occupied West Bank, have been among those targeted by unofficial boycotts in the past. In 2014 Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank while the Scottish Government published a procurement notice to Scottish councils which “strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements”. Mr. Hancock said the current position where local authorities had autonomy to make ethical purchasing decisions was “undermining” Britain’s national security.
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.
Canada's electronic spy agency broke privacy laws by sharing information about Canadians with foreign partners, a federal watchdog said Thursday. Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe said in his annual report that the Communications Security Establishment passed along information known as metadata to counterparts in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Metadata is information associated with a communication, such as a telephone number or email address, but not the message itself. The communications agency intercepts and analyzes foreign communications for intelligence information of interest to the federal government. The agency is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata churning through cyberspace. Plouffe, who keeps an eye on the highly secretive agency, said he found that it lacks clarity regarding the sharing of certain types of metadata. Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said the sharing won't resume until he is satisfied that the proper protections are in place. Plouffe's report noted that certain metadata was not being properly minimized, or rendered unidentifiable, prior to being shared. The CSE's failure to strip out certain Canadian identity information violated the National Defense Act and therefore the federal Privacy Act as well. Privacy advocates have stressed that metadata is far from innocuous since it can reveal a great deal about a person's online behavior and interactions.
Note: Many countries do not allow their intelligence agencies to spy on their own citizens without going through a legal process. The easy way around this that has been used for decades is to simply getting the information from a friendly country. So if the CIA wants information on you in the US, they can't spy directly, but they can ask the UK to do so and pass the information to them and thus get around the laws. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency 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.
A national debate has played out over mass surveillance by the National Security Agency. [Meanwhile], a new generation of technology ... has given local law enforcement officers unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens. The powerful systems also have become flash points for civil libertarians and activists. “This is something that’s been building since September 11,” said Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “First funding went to the military to develop this technology, and now it has come back to domestic law enforcement. It’s the perfect storm of cheaper and easier-to-use technologies and money from state and federal governments to purchase it.” But perhaps the most controversial and revealing technology is the threat-scoring software Beware. As officers respond to calls, Beware automatically runs the address. The searches return the names of residents and scans them ... to generate a color-coded threat level for each person or address: green, yellow or red. Exactly how Beware calculates threat scores is something that its maker, Intrado, considers a trade secret, so ... only Intrado - not the police or the public - knows how Beware tallies its scores. The system might mistakenly increase someone’s threat level by misinterpreting innocuous activity on social media, like criticizing the police, and trigger a heavier response by officers.
The Transportation Security Administration’s new rules for screening passengers with its controversial full-body scanners - which were quietly changed just before the busy holiday travel season - represent a significant policy reversal that could affect your next flight. Getting checked by the TSA’s advanced-imaging technology used to be entirely optional, allowing those who refused a scan to be subjected to a pat-down. In fact, many observers thought the agency installed the 740 body scanners in 160 airports with an understanding that no one would be forced to use them, ever. But on a Friday in late December, the TSA revised its rules, saying an “opt out” is no longer an option for certain passengers. “The TSA is going back on its word,” says Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University and prominent TSA-watcher. “The scanners were sold to Congress and the public on the promise that they were optional, but for at least some people, that is no longer the case.” In previous court filings, the agency offered written assurance that the scanners were optional. Based on the agency’s statements, a federal appeals court affirmed the legality of using the full-body scanners as long as fliers were given a choice.
Note: Read more on the controversy surrounding TSA's costly but technically questionable scanners. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Saudi Arabia’s well-funded public relations apparatus moved quickly after Saturday’s explosive execution of Shiite political dissident Nimr al-Nimr to shape how the news is covered in the United States. The execution led protestors in Shiite-run Iran to set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, precipitating a major diplomatic crisis. The Saudi side of the story is getting a particularly effective boost in the American media through pundits who are quoted justifying the execution, in many cases without mention of their funding or close affiliation with the Saudi Arabian government. Meanwhile, social media accounts affiliated with Saudi Arabia’s American lobbyists have pushed English-language infographics, tweets, and online videos to promote a narrative that reflects the interests of the Saudi regime. An editorial published by the Wall Street Journal approvingly quoted Joseph Braude of the Foreign Policy Research Institute claiming that Nimr was a violent extremist. Braude’s depiction of Nimr aligns with ... Saudi Arabia’s terrorism law, [which] includes as acts of terrorism merely criticizing the government. But as journalists and editors from the Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian, the BBC, and other prominent outlets have reported, Nimr advocated nonviolence and encouraged his followers to protest peacefully. Braude did not provide any evidence for his claims beyond anonymous “Saudi sources.”
Note: Read about the Saudi campaign to charm American policy makers even as it set a record in the number of public beheadings. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and media manipulation.
In March I received a call from the White House counsel’s office regarding a speech I had prepared for my boss at the State Department. The speech was about the impact ... of National Security Agency surveillance practices. The draft stated that “if U.S. citizens disagree with congressional and executive branch determinations about the proper scope of signals intelligence activities, they have the opportunity to change the policy through our democratic process.” But the White House counsel’s office told me that no, that wasn’t true. I was instructed to amend the line. Some intelligence practices remain so secret, even from members of Congress, that there is no opportunity for our democracy to change them. Public debate about the bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ data by the NSA has focused largely on Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Based in part on classified facts that I am prohibited by law from publishing, I believe that Americans should be even more concerned about the collection and storage of their communications under Executive Order 12333 than under Section 215. Unlike Section 215, the executive order authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons. It does not require that the affected U.S. persons be suspected of wrongdoing and places no limits on the volume of communications by U.S. persons that may be collected and retained. None of the reforms that Obama announced earlier this year will affect such collection.
Note: The above was written by John Napier Tye, former section chief for Internet freedom in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. A 2014 Washington Post investigation sheds more light on the NSA's legally dubious domestic mass surveillance program. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Nearly a thousand times this year, an American police officer has shot and killed a civilian. In a year-long study, The Washington Post found that ... the great majority of people who died at the hands of the police fit at least one of three categories: they were wielding weapons, they were suicidal or mentally troubled, or they ran when officers told them to halt. Although black men make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year. The FBI is charged with keeping statistics on such shootings. Fewer than half of the nation’s 18,000 police departments report their incidents to the agency. The Post documented well more than twice as many fatal shootings this year as the average annual tally reported by the FBI over the past decade. The research also noted whether victims were mentally ill or experiencing an emotional crisis. Officers fatally shot at least 243 people with mental health problems: 75 who were explicitly suicidal and 168 for whom police or family members confirmed a history of mental illness. Most of them died at the hands of police officers who had not been trained to deal with the mentally ill. An average of five officers per year have been indicted on felony charges over the previous decade; this year, 18 officers have been charged with felonies. Such accusations rarely stick, however.
Note: A similar project run by The Guardian called "The Counted" tracks police killings by all methods - not just shootings - and had noted 1117 such deaths in 2015 as the above story went to press. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. They found no evidence of any criminal activity. The investigation leading to the raid began ... when Robert Harte and his son went to a gardening store to purchase supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department began [sending] deputies out to sort through the family’s garbage. The deputies repeatedly found “saturated plant material” that they thought could possibly be marijuana. On two occasions, a drug testing field kit inexplicably indicated the presence of THC, the active drug in marijuana. Lab tests would later reveal that the “saturated plant material” was actually loose-leaf tea. Why did the field tests come up positive for pot? These tests come up positive whenever the police need them to. The tests [can] be manipulated to generate positive results. The Hartes wanted to know what happened. They spent more than $25,000 in legal fees just to learn why the sheriff had sent a SWAT team into their home. Once they finally had that information, the Hartes filed a lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed every one of the Hartes’s claims, [and] ruled that the police were under no obligation to know that drug testing field kits are inaccurate.
Note: 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 news articles about government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
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.
Navy SEALs stomped on ... bound Afghan detainees and dropped heavy stones on their chests. A few hours earlier, shortly after dawn on May 31, 2012, a bomb had exploded at a checkpoint manned by an Afghan Local Police unit that the SEALs were training. Angered by the death of one of their comrades in the blast, the police militiamen had rounded up half a dozen or more suspects from a market in the village of Kalach and forced them to a nearby American outpost. Along the way, they beat them. A United States Army medic standing guard at the base, Specialist David Walker, had expected the men from SEAL Team 2 to put a stop to the abuse. Instead, he said, one of them “jump-kicked this guy kneeling on the ground.” Two others joined in, [and] beat the detainees so badly that by dusk, one would die. Four American soldiers working with the SEALs reported the episode. The SEAL command, though, cleared the Team 2 members of wrongdoing in a closed disciplinary process that is typically used only for minor infractions. Two of the SEALs and their lieutenant have since been promoted. Several military justice experts ... said that it had been inappropriate for the SEAL command to treat such allegations as an internal disciplinary matter. “It’s unfathomable,” said Donald J. Guter, a retired rear admiral and former judge advocate general of the Navy, in charge of all its lawyers. “It really does look like this was intended just to bury this.”
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing military corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
A high-ranking member of Thailand’s police force charged with investigating human trafficking has fled to Australia and requested asylum. Major General Paween Pongsirin said he ... believed his life was in danger after the investigation uncovered evidence that members of Thailand’s military and police force were participating in human trafficking operations. “I worked in the trafficking area to help human beings who were in trouble,” he said. “But now it is me who is in trouble. Paween began leading the investigation in May, after more than 30 bodies were found buried in graves near Thailand’s southern border with Malaysia. Paween’s investigation has led to allegations of trafficking against 153 people, including at least one senior military official, though he said other government officials would be implicated. The suspected traffickers are accused of starving refugees and denying health treatment, among other offenses. Thailand’s military has held leadership in the country since a coup d'état last year. Paween told the Guardian he resigned in November after the five-month investigations was halted. Despite his protests, Paween was transferred to southern Thailand, where he said "senior police" officials were linked to the human trafficking trade. “Human trafficking is a big network that involves lots of the military, politicians and police,” he told the Guardian. “Unfortunately, those bad police and bad military are the ones that have power.”
U.S. jails now hold nearly 700,000 inmates on any given day, up from 157,000 in 1970, and the Vera Institute of Justice found that smaller counties now hold 44 percent of the overall total, up from just 28 percent in 1978. Jail populations in mid-sized counties with populations of 250,000 to 1 million residents grew by four times and small-sized counties with 250,000 residents or less grew by nearly seven times, Vera's analysis shows. In that time large county jail populations grew by only about three times. Exactly what's behind that trend is not clear but experts say a range of factors likely contribute, from law enforcement's increased use of summonses and traffic tickets to the closing of state mental hospitals in that time. Unlike state prisons that hold inmates doing lengthy terms, local jails and county lockups are generally used to house pretrial detainees or those who have been sentenced to serve stints of a year or less for relatively minor crimes. Jail use continues to rise though crime rates have declined since peaking in 1991, the analysis shows. Blacks are jailed at nearly four times the rate of whites and the number of women locked up in jails has grown 14-fold since 1970, according to the Vera report. The number of jails with 1,000 beds or more has soared from 21 in 1970 to 145 in 2014, and the average number of days people stay locked up in jail has grown from nine in 1978 to 23 in 2014.
Note: Violent crime rates have dropped to 1/3 of what they were just 20 years ago. See an excellent graph on this. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on prison system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Ali al-Nimr was sentenced to beheading and crucifixion for participating in a protest at age 17. Raif Badawi was to receive a thousand lashes - a punishment sure to kill - for his blog posts. A Sri Lankan maid, whose name has not been released, was sentenced, on scant evidence, to death by stoning for adultery. These are just some of the people awaiting horrific punishment in Saudi Arabia for things most of the world would not consider serious crimes, or crimes at all. Saudi Arabia’s justice system has gone into murderous overdrive. More than 150 people have been executed this year, the most since 1995. More than 50 people are reported to be scheduled for imminent execution on terrorist charges, though some are citizens whose only crime was protesting against the government. This wave of killing has prompted some to compare Saudi Arabia to the Islamic State: both follow Shariah law. Part of the problem is the lack of a penal code defining specific crimes and punishments, leaving judges complete discretion. That Saudi Arabia serves on the United Nations Human Rights Council makes this year’s execution spree all the more egregious. It is shameful that the United States and other democracies that consider Saudi Arabia a valuable ally are so often silent in the face of such gruesome excesses.
Note: Yet Saudi Arabia is one of the closest allies of the US. George H.W. Bush was even at a conference with Bin Laden's brother the day before 9/11, as reported in this Washington Post article. And this Wall Street Journal article reports how Bush along with his Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State "have made the pilgrimage to the bin Laden family's headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia."
Women have been elected to municipal councils in Saudi Arabia for the first time after a ban on women taking part in elections was lifted. At least four women were elected, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. Other news agencies put the number between nine and 17. The vote is being seen as a landmark in the conservative kingdom. However, the councils have limited powers. Saudi women still face many curbs in public life, including driving. A total of 978 women registered as candidates, alongside 5,938 men. Officials said about 130,000 women had registered to vote in Saturday's poll, compared with 1.35 million men. The disparity was attributed by female voters to bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of transport, the AFP news agency says. Female candidates were also not allowed to address male voters directly during campaigning. Elections of any kind are rare in the Saudi kingdom - Saturday was only the third time in history that Saudis had gone to the polls. There were no elections in the 40 years between 1965 and 2005. The decision to allow women to take part was taken by the late King Abdullah and is seen as a key part of his legacy. In announcing the reforms, King Abdullah said women in Saudi Arabia "have demonstrated positions that expressed correct opinions and advice". Before he died in January, he appointed 30 women to the country's top advisory Shura Council. There were 2,100 council seats available in Saturday's vote. An additional 1,050 seats are appointed with approval from the king.
Note: Remember that Saudi Arabia was recently selected to head a UN human rights panel. Yet they only now are allowing women to vote and public beheadings are still commonplace.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has used a secretive authority to compel Internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data including an individual’s complete web browsing history and records of all online purchases, a court filing released Monday shows. The documents are believed to be the first time the government has provided details of its so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance without the need for court approval. National security letters have been available as a law enforcement tool since the 1970s, but their frequency and breadth expanded dramatically under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They are almost always accompanied by an open-ended gag order barring companies from disclosing the contents of the demand for customer data. The secretive orders have long drawn the ire of tech companies and privacy advocates, who argue NSLs allow the government to snoop on user content without appropriate judicial oversight. Last year, the Obama administration announced it would permit Internet companies to disclose more about the number of NSLs they receive. But they can still only provide a range such as between 0 and 999 requests. Twitter has sued in federal court seeking the ability to publish more details in its semi-annual transparency reports. Several thousand NSLs are now issued by the FBI every year. At one point that number eclipsed 50,000 letters annually.
Note: Read more about the FBI's use of these controversial secret letters. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
On a snowy afternoon in February 2004, an FBI agent came to Nick Merrill’s door, bearing a letter that would change his life. At the time, Merrill was running a small internet service provider. The envelope that the agent carried contained what is known as a “national security letter”, or NSL. It demanded details on one of his company’s clients; including cellphone tower location data, email details and screen-names. It also imposed a non-disclosure agreement which was only lifted this week, when – after an 11-year legal battle by Merrill and the American Civil Liberties Union, he was finally allowed to reveal the contents of the letter to the world. The NSL which Merrill was given was a new use for what was a relatively old tool. The FBI had long – if sparingly – used them, [but] the Patriot Act vastly expanded the scope of what an NSL could be applied to. The FBI greatly increased the number issued; according to a 2007 inspector general’s report, the NSL that Merrill was handed by the agent was one of nearly 57,000 issued that year. All of those thousands of NSLs were accompanied by a non-disclosure agreement, or “gag order” – which barred recipients were ever disclosing that they had received an NSL – even to the person whose records were being sought. With the ACLU, Merrill went to court to challenge the constitutionality of the letter, especially of the gag order. In 2014, Merrill sued again, helped by ... the Yale Law Clinic. Finally, [a] judge ... ruled that the gag order be completely lifted. It had taken Merrill almost 12 years.
Note: A 2007 Washington Post article summary sheds more light on Merrill's long struggle.
On the day of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the city's SWAT team was training for an active shooter situation just minutes away from the scene of the massacre. "We were just working through scenarios when this call went out," says Lt. Travis Walker, the SWAT team commander. Walker was running his officers through scenarios with volunteers playing the role of shooters. "We'd just finished a training scenario that involved multiple shooters at multiple locations within a small confined area," he says. And then they were off — to the scene of a real-life multiple-shooter attack. They didn't get there in time to stop it, but the suspects were killed in a shootout later in the day. Walker and his team were there for that, too, using armored vehicles to get close. That scene was meaningful because those were the very same kind of armored vehicles that for the past year or so have become a symbol of what some people call police militarization.
Important Note: So "by coincidence" a team was training for a terrorist event the very day of this shooting not far from the scene. The very same "coincidence" happened in the recent Paris shootings, on the day of 9/11 where a team was training in DC for an attack where a plane would hit a government building, and the London bombings where a team was training for a subway terrorist attack that very morning at the same stations where the bombings occurred. Could all four be just coincidences? Might this have been another false flag operation to promote fear and the militarization agenda? Read also solid evidence that ISIS was a creation of intelligence services, including a confession by a USAF General that "we helped build ISIS."
There is evidence the RCMP broke the law while conducting a high-profile terrorism sting and must hand over confidential legal documents, says a B.C. Supreme Court judge. Justice Catherine Bruce has not yet ruled whether the RCMP entrapped John Nuttall and Amanda Korody into plotting to blow up the B.C. legislature in 2013, but she said in a ruling released Wednesday that the Mounties may be guilty of knowingly facilitating a terrorist act. Undercover officers posing as jihadi warriors gave Nuttall and Korody groceries, cigarettes, bus passes, cell phones, phone cards, clothing, cash and a portable hard drive. They also provided the pair with a place to work on their terrorist scheme and a location to build the explosives, chauffeured them to various stores to purchase bomb-making equipment and transported them ... over the course of the four-month sting operation. Lawyers had advised the RCMP on numerous occasions, including recommending officers "drive target but don't shop" when purchasing materials to build the explosives. Bruce's ruling ordered the police to disclose confidential legal advice they received about running the undercover affair.
Note: Read this New York Times article which shows how the FBI also aids and abets terrorism on a regular basis to keep us in fear. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and throughout intelligence agencies.
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.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seven other former and current government officials are at risk of arrest if they set foot in Spain, after a Spanish judge effectively issued an arrest warrant for the group. Spanish national court judge Jose de la Mata ordered the police and civil guard to notify him if Mr Netanyahu and the six other individuals enter the country, as their actions could see a case against them regarding the Freedom Flotilla attack of 2010 reopened. The other men named in the issue are former defence minister Ehud Barak, former foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman, former minister of strategic affairs Moshe Yaalon, former interior minister Eli Yishai, minister without portfolio Benny Begin and vice admiral Maron Eliezer, who was in charge of the operation. The case – which was put on hold by Judge de la Mata last year – was brought against the men following an attack by Israeli security forces against the Freedom Flotilla aid ships in 2010, which was trying to reach Gaza. It concerns the Mavi Marmara ship, the main civilian vessel in a fleet of six that were attempting to break an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. The six ships were carrying around 500 passengers, humanitarian aid and construction materials. The Israeli Defence Force stormed the ship in a raid that left nine human rights activists dead.
Note: A spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry commented, "We consider it to be a provocation." Autopsies of the activists killed were reported by The Guardian to contradict Israeli reports of the incident.
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.
Fourteen years later, thanks a heap, Osama bin Laden. With a small number of supporters, $400,000-$500,000, and 19 suicidal hijackers, most of them Saudis, you ... goaded us into doing what you had neither the resources nor the ability to do. George W. Bush and company used those murderous acts and the nearly 3,000 resulting deaths as an excuse to try to make the world theirs. It took them no time at all to decide to launch a “Global War on Terror” in up to 60 countries. Don’t you find it strange, looking back, just how quickly 9/11 set their brains aflame? Don’t you still find it eerie that, amid the wreckage of the Pentagon, the initial orders our secretary of defense gave his aides were to come up with plans for striking Iraq, even though he was already convinced that Al Qaeda had launched the attack? Washington’s post-9/11 policies in the Middle East helped lead to the establishment of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in parts of fractured Iraq and Syria. The United States has gone into the business of robotic assassination big time, [and] Washington has regularly knocked off women and children while searching for militant leaders. Fourteen years later, don’t you find it improbable that our “war on terror” has so regularly devolved into a war of and for terror; that our methods ... have visibly promoted, not blunted, the spread of Islamic extremism; and that, despite this, Washington has generally not recalibrated its actions in any meaningful way? Fourteen years later, how improbable is that?
Note: A carefully researched report on the covert origins of ISIS suggests the creation of terrorists is useful for Washington's elite. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing terrorism news articles from reliable major media sources.
The tools European security agencies now have at their disposal ... would make any American or Canadian intelligence officer drool. Britain has literally created a surveillance state. The British Security Industry Authority estimated three years ago the government has installed about six million closed-circuit TV cameras in the public square; one for every 10 citizens. The French, too, have vastly expanded public video surveillance in recent years. And it's all been done with overwhelming support from the general public, which feels safer for the presence of the surveillance, never mind the lack of objective proof that they are more protected against outrages, which keep on occurring. Both England and France are former colonial powers that ... long ago subordinated individual rights to collective security. Canada and America more dearly cherish individual rights. Still, a surveillance state is growing here, too. David Lyon, a professor of surveillance studies at Queen's University, has identified several public surveillance trends, all of which he says are "increasing at an accelerating rate." Canada is not about to become Western Europe, he says, but "it is incumbent upon us as a society to think about the ethical consequences" of mass surveillance. [Some] would argue that the cameras are desperately needed tools, and that anyone who isn't doing anything wrong has nothing to worry about. That of course is the police state justification. They hate us because we are free, we are told. The fact that we've responded by giving up ever more freedom doesn't seem to matter.
Note: Many of the politicians publicly defending the surveillance state receive huge sums of money from private security companies. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
On Sept. 6, I locked myself out of my apartment in Santa Monica, Calif. A few hours and a visit from a locksmith later, I was inside my apartment and slipping off my shoes when I heard a man’s voice ... near my front window. I imagined a loiterer and opened the door to move him along. “What’s going on?” I asked. Two police officers had guns trained on me. They shouted: “Who’s in there with you? How many of you are there?” I had no idea what was happening, but I saw [that] something about me - a 5-foot-7, 125-pound black woman - frightened this man with a gun. I sat down, trying to look even less threatening. I again asked what was going on. I told the officers I didn’t want them in my apartment. They entered anyway. One pulled me, hands behind my back, out to the street. The neighbors were watching. Only then did I notice the ocean of officers. I counted 16. They still hadn’t told me why they’d come. Later, I learned that the Santa Monica Police Department had dispatched 19 officers after one of my neighbors reported a burglary at my apartment. It didn’t matter that I told the cops I’d lived there for seven months, told them about the locksmith, offered to show a receipt for his services and my ID. To many, the militarization of the police is primarily abstract or painted as occasional. That thinking allows each high-profile incident of aggressive police interaction with people of color - Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray - to be written off as an outlier. What happened to them did not happen to me, but it easily could have.
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.
Federal prosecutors are battling in court to keep $167,000 in cash seized in a 2013 traffic stop, despite the motorist never being charged in the incident. The case ... highlights the ongoing concerns about the government unjustly seizing money and property. A Nevada state trooper pulled over ... Straughn Gorman’s motor-home in January 2013 for allegedly going too slow along Interstate 80. The trooper released Gorman but not before requesting the county sheriff’s office stop him again ... this time with a drug-sniffing dog. No drugs were found [when] Gorman was pulled over for two alleged traffic violations. But his vehicle, computer, cellphone and the cash ... were seized. In June, a federal judge in Nevada ordered Gorman’s cash be returned. In his ruling, District Judge Larry Hicks cited Gorman’s “prolonged detention” for the alleged traffic violations and criticized federal authorities for failing to disclose that the first officer requested the second stop. Hicks [wrote], “The two stops were for minor traffic violations, and they both were extended beyond the legitimate purposes for such traffic stops.” Hicks also said in his ruling the second stop never would have happened if the first officer had not relayed information about the first stop. The federal government earlier this month appealed Hicks' ruling in the 9th Circuit Court. Federal attorneys did not submit a reason for the appeal. The court is expected to also decide whether Gorman should be reimbursed $153,000 in legal fees, which federal lawyers don’t want to pay.
Note: A recent Washington Post investigation found that the theft of private property by police and other government officials has dramatically increased in recent years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Civil asset forfeiture ... lets police seize and keep cash and property from people who are never convicted - and in many cases, even charged - with wrongdoing. The past decade has seen a "meteoric, exponential increase" in the use of the practice. In 2008, there were less than $1.5 billion in the combined asset forfeiture funds of the Justice Department and the U.S. Treasury. But by 2014, that number had tripled, to roughly $4.5 billion. Critics ... say that the increase in forfeiture activity is due largely to the profit motive created by laws which allow police to keep some or all of the assets they seize. In one case represented by the Institute [for Justice], a drug task force seized $11,000 from a college student at an airport. They lacked evidence to charge him with any crime, but they kept the money and planned to divvy it up between 13 different law enforcement agencies. Asset forfeiture's defenders say that the practice is instrumental in dismantling large-scale criminal enterprises. But evidence suggests that forfeiture proceedings are often initiated against small time criminals or people who aren't criminals at all. An [ACLU] report earlier this year found that the median amount seized in forfeiture actions in Philadelphia amounted to $192. These forfeiture actions were concentrated in the city's poorest neighborhoods. In most states the typical forfeiture amount is very small. The median forfeiture case in Illinois is worth $530. In Minnesota, $451. Those are hardly kingpin-level hauls.
Note: Some police decide what property to seize based on departmental "wish lists". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Simply put, Guantánamo is one of the best propaganda tools that terrorists have today. It’s no coincidence that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, dresses its victims in the same orange prisoner suits used in Guantánamo before conducting their ghastly beheadings. Our policies have allowed terrorists to cloud who holds the moral high ground. President George W. Bush said that he wanted Guantánamo to be closed. So did the former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Colin L. Powell, as well as the former secretaries of defense Robert M. Gates and Leon E. Panetta, among others. In addition to being a terrorist recruiting tool, Guantánamo is a huge drain on taxpayer dollars. The cost per detainee at Guantánamo is 30 times more than that of the most secure detention facilities in the United States. It’s hard to justify spending more than $2.5 million per detainee when it costs just $86,374 to hold an inmate in the so-called Supermax federal penitentiary in Colorado. During the Bush administration, 779 people were brought to Guantánamo, all without charge. Over time we’ve learned that many were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and shouldn’t have been detained in the first place. Most detainees — 532 to be exact — were released by the Bush administration. Of the 112 detainees who remain today, only about 10 have been convicted or charged with a crime. One thing has become clear: Keeping detainees at Guantánamo indefinitely hasn’t worked.
Note: The above was written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, vice chairwoman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. In 2013, a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee heard that "Guantanamo is a terrorist-creating organization". A carefully researched report on the covert origins of ISIS suggests the creation of terrorists is useful for Washington's elite.
Russ Tice, a former intelligence analyst and Bush-era NSA whistleblower, claimed Wednesday that the intelligence community has ordered surveillance on a wide range of groups and individuals, including high-ranking military officials, lawmakers and diplomats. “They went after – and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things – they went after high-ranking military officers. They went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees," [said] Tice. “But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House.” Then Tice dropped the bombshell about Obama. "In summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator for Illinois ... that’s the president of the United States now.” FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds and Tice agreed that such wide-ranging surveillance of officials could provide the intelligence agencies with unthinkable power to blackmail their opponents. “I was worried that the intelligence community now has sway over what is going on,” Tice said. Tice first blew the whistle on ... domestic spying across multiple agencies in 2005.
Note: Listen to Tice's shocking revelations in this interview. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and throughout intelligence agencies.
On Page 5 of a credit card contract used by American Express ... is a clause that most customers probably miss. If cardholders have a problem with their account, American Express explains, the company “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.” Those nine words are at the center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations. By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices. It has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without agreeing to private arbitration. The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home. By banning class actions, companies have essentially disabled consumer challenges to ... predatory lending, wage theft and discrimination. “This is among the most profound shifts in our legal history,” William G. Young, a federal judge ... said in an interview. “Ominously, business has a good chance of opting out of the legal system altogether and misbehaving without reproach.” Thousands of cases brought by single plaintiffs over fraud, wrongful death and rape are now being decided behind closed doors. And the rules of arbitration largely favor companies.
The European Parliament voted Thursday in support of a resolution that calls on member states to protect Edward Snowden from extradition. The vote ... has no legal force. The resolution urges nations to drop criminal charges and "consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender." Snowden called Thursday's vote a "game-changer." "This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward," he wrote.The Justice Department has said Snowden would face criminal prosecution if he returns to the United States. He's been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act. Snowden told the BBC this month that he has offered "many times" to go to prison in the United States as part of a deal to return from exile in Russia, but is still waiting for an answer from the American government. In response to Thursday's vote, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. policy on Snowden has not changed. "He needs to come back to the United States and face the due process and the judicial process here in the United States.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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.
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.
Survivors of CIA torture have sued the contractor psychologists who designed one of the most infamous programs of the post-9/11 era. In an extraordinary step, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen now face a federal lawsuit for their role in convincing the CIA to subject terror suspects to mock drowning, painful bodily contortions, sleep and dietary deprivation and other methods long rejected by much of the world as torture. In practice, CIA torture meant disappearances, mock executions, anal penetration ... and at least one man who froze to death, according to a landmark Senate report last year. On behalf of torture survivors ... as well as a representative of the estate of Gul Rahman – who froze to death in a CIA black site in Afghanistan – the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the suit against Mitchell and Jessen on Tuesday in a federal court in Washington state. The suit calls the torture program a “joint criminal enterprise” and a “war crime” in which the CIA, Mitchell and Jessen colluded and from which Mitchell and Jessen financially profited. Although numerous US government investigations have pierced the veneer of secrecy around the torture program, the program’s government architects have faced no legal reprisal. A Justice Department inquiry ended in 2012 without prosecutions. The new lawsuit, aimed not at government officials but the contractors Mitchell and Jessen, aims to break the trend.
Note: For more along these lines, read about how the torture program fits in with a long history of human experimentation by corrupt intelligence agencies working alongside unethical scientists. For more, see this list of programs that treated humans as guinea pigs.
Britain allegedly helped Saudi Arabia's controversial election to the UN human rights council (UNHRC) through a secret vote-trading deal, leaked diplomatic cables have reportedly shown. Saudi foreign ministry files, among 61,000 documents released by Wikileaks, reportedly refer to talks with British diplomats ahead of a November 2013 vote in New York and have been translated by Geneva-based human rights organisation UN Watch. The classified exchanges, published by The Australian newspaper, allegedly suggest the UK initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support. Both countries were later elected to the UNHRC, which consists of 47 member states. Saudi Arabia has been repeatedly denounced for its poor human rights record. The Gulf state is planning to imminently behead and crucify Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was arrested in 2012 for his participation in the Arab Spring protests when he was just 17 years old. The wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi said the "scandalous" appointment shows that "oil trumps human rights".
Note: Watch an incredibly eye-opening video report by Abby Martin showing blatantly how money trumps ethics. Saudi Arabia, a brutal regime run by a king and an all-powerful monarchy, 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. Watch also an episode of Empire Files documenting the human rights violations of this repressive regime. The UK profits handsomely from selling arms to human rights violators.
The Chicago Police Department has routinely spied on activist groups during the past six years, police records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show — including union members, anti-Olympics protesters, anarchists, the Occupy movement, NATO demonstrators and critics of the Chinese government. And it has continued to do so, according to the records ... which the police department fought to withhold. Under the department’s rules, cops aren’t allowed to purposely interfere with people exercising their free-speech rights. In recent years, though, department officials have repeatedly justified spying on protesters by saying they fear they might engage in “disorder” and “civil disobedience.” One investigation involving the surveillance of protest groups is still underway, 10 months after it was launched, the records show. The police won’t say who is being investigated or discuss the methods being used. “There’s something deeply disturbing about monitoring and documenting the exercise of First Amendment rights,” says Molly Armour, an attorney who has represented protesters investigated by the police. In July, the Illinois attorney general’s office issued an opinion saying “worksheets” — outlining the scope of these investigations — are public records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The office ordered the police department to “promptly produce unredacted copies of the worksheets.” It took nearly two months for the department to comply with the ruling.
Note: Undercover police in New York City have reportedly been spying on Black Lives Matter activists. Does the mention of an unnamed investigation that is "still underway" suggest that Chicago police are doing the same? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Five years ago this week, FBI agents raided the homes of six political activists of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin, as well as the office of the nonprofit Anti-War Committee. A series of FBI documents left behind at Mick Kelly’s Minneapolis home shed more light on the FBI’s activities. What is especially illuminating is the mindset the documents reveal, particularly some of the questions FBI agents were instructed to ask those being served with the search warrants, such as “What did you do with the proceeds from the Revolutionary Lemonade Stand?” In February 2014, as a result of further legal action ... the search warrants for the raids [were] unsealed. The FBI began surveilling the FRSO shortly after the protests at the 2008 GOP convention, using a confidential informant. Despite the FBI’s collection of over a hundred hours of recordings and its multiyear [investigation], to date none of the activists have been charged with any crime. Just four days prior to the FBI raids against the Anti-War Committee and the FRSO, the Department of Justice Inspector General [IG] released the results of an investigation into post-9/11 surveillance of peace groups and other domestic dissidents up through 2006, [which] found that the bureau “engaged in tactics and strategies toward those groups and their members that were inappropriate, misleading and in some cases counterproductive, [and] accused FBI witnesses of ... offering ‘incomplete and inconsistent accounts of events.’”
Note: By 2011, the legal definition of "supporter of terrorism" had come to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and journalists. For more along these lines, read about Cointelpro, the program used by corrupt intelligence agencies to spy on and attack U.S. activists beginning in the 1960's.
From the mid-1970s to the mid-’80s, America’s incarceration rate doubled, from about 150 people per 100,000 to about 300 per 100,000. From the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s, it doubled again. By 2007, it had reached a historic high of 767 people per 100,000. In absolute terms, America’s prison and jail population from 1970 until today has increased sevenfold, from some 300,000 people to 2.2 million. In 2000, one in 10 black males between the ages of 20 and 40 was incarcerated — 10 times the rate of their white peers. At a cost of $80 billion a year, American correctional facilities are a social-service program — providing health care, meals, and shelter for a whole class of people. An authoritative report issued last year by the National Research Council concluded, “the current U.S. rate of incarceration is unprecedented by both historical and comparative standards.” Even once an individual is physically out of prison, many do not elude its grasp. In 1984, 70 percent of all parolees successfully completed their term without arrest and were granted full freedom. In 1996, only 44 percent did. As of 2013, 33 percent do. Deindustrialization had presented an employment problem for America’s poor and working class of all races. Prison presented a solution: jobs for whites, and warehousing for blacks. Mass incarceration “widened the income gap between white and black Americans,” writes [historian] Heather Ann Thompson ... “because the infrastructure of the carceral state was located disproportionately in all-white rural communities.”
Note: The article above provides a detailed history of some U.S. policies that created the corrupt prison industry.
The tally of people shot and killed by on-duty police officers passed 700 on Wednesday night — a fatal milestone that is almost double the highest number of police shootings ever reported by the FBI for an entire year — according to a Washington Post database tracking all shootings death at the hands of police this year. As of Thursday morning, The Post has tracked 703 fatal police shootings. Of the 703 people who have been shot and killed by officers in 2015, the vast majority have been armed with either a gun or other potentially-deadly weapon. At least 65 of those shot and killed were unarmed. Federal data on police shootings is notoriously inaccurate and incomplete — in large part because the data they collect is voluntarily reported, and most police departments do not participate. The FBI has never recorded more than 460 fatal police shootings in any year going back to at least 1976. The Post, relying on public documents, local news coverage and original reporting had confirmed 463 such shootings in just the first six months of the year.
Note: A similar project run by The Guardian called "The Counted" tracks police killings by all methods - not just shootings - and had noted 836 such deaths as the above story went to press. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
A police officer in Alabama proposed murdering a black resident and creating bogus evidence to suggest the killing was in self-defence, the Guardian has learned. Officer Troy Middlebrooks kept his job and continues to patrol Alexander City after authorities there paid [Vincent Bias] $35,000 to avoid being publicly sued over the incident. Middlebrooks, a veteran of the US marines, said the man “needs a god damn bullet” and allegedly referred to him as “that nigger”, after becoming frustrated that the man was not punished more harshly over a prior run-in. The payment was made ... after a secret recording of Middlebrooks’s remarks was played to the city’s police chiefs and the mayor. Elected city councillors said they were not consulted. A copy of the recording was obtained by the Guardian. Middlebrooks, 33, made the threatening comments to Bias’s brother-in-law during a May 2013 encounter at his home, which Bias was visiting. Police came to the home after they discovered an unleashed dog. A lawsuit from Bias that the city paid to settle before it reached court stated that ... the officer remarked to Bias’s brother-in-law, who is white, that he was tired of “that nigger” being released from jail. Middlebrooks allegedly said “the police were going to pull [Bias] aside on a routine traffic stop and [Bias] would get killed”.
Zaher Hamdoun is a 36-year-old Yemeni man who has been detained in Guantánamo without charge since he was 22, one of 116 prisoners still detained there six years after Obama promised to close the facility. Hamdoun is not among the 52 men approved for transfer from Guantánamo, nor is he in a dwindling group of detainees the government plans to charge. He is in a nebulous middle category of people the Obama administration has determined it is not going to charge but doesn’t know if it is ever going to release. Though the president in 2011 ordered periodic administrative reviews of men in this group ... the reviews didn’t start until a mass hunger strike broke out in 2013. Still today, the majority of men haven’t been reviewed, including Hamdoun. Though he has been a Guantánamo prisoner for almost 14 years without charge, and doesn’t know if he will ever be released, the administration says this is not indefinite detention. [Hamoud writes of his current state]: "I have become a body without a soul. I breathe, eat and drink, but I don’t belong to the world of living creatures. I rather belong to another world, a world that is buried in a grave called Guantánamo. I fall asleep and then wake up to realize that my soul and my thoughts belong to that world I watch on television, or read about in books. That is all I can say about the ordeal."
It was the spring of 2002. Pakistani authorities burst into the house [Emad Hassan] shared with 14 other foreign students and brought them to a nearby prison. After two months of beatings and interrogation, the Pakistanis handed him over to the U.S. military. They stripped him of his clothes and put him in a diaper. Then they blindfolded him, placed earmuffs over his head and marched him onto a plane. When the aircraft landed, he soon learned he was in the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. For years, the White House has been trying to close Gitmo. As of early September, 52 of the 116 prisoners who remain at the U.S. facility have been cleared to be set free, a tacit admission, critics say, that they should never have been imprisoned. The Pakistani forces who took Hassan from his student housing, his lawyers say, received $5,000 from the U.S. military. This was typical. According to a 2006 analysis ... the vast majority of detainees at Guantánamo Bay were arrested by local groups eager to profit from the counterterrorism gold rush. His lawyers claim much of the U.S. government’s incriminating information comes from a small group of informants at Guantánamo who told interrogators what they wanted to hear. Many sold out their fellow detainees for small rewards. [In 2009] Obama’s task force cleared Hassan for release - a process that requires six federal agencies to agree that a prisoner doesn’t pose a national security threat.
Note: In 2015, Hassan was freed from Gitmo and granted asylum by Oman. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Tens of thousands of troops were used in testing conducted by the U.S. military between 1922 and 1975. The military wanted to learn how to induce symptoms such as "fear, panic, hysteria, and hallucinations" in enemy soldiers. Those who are still alive are part of a class action lawsuit against the Army. If they're successful, the Army will have to explain to anyone who was used in testing exactly what substances they were given and any known risks, [as well as] provide those veterans with health care for any illnesses that result, in whole or in part, from the testing. At least 70,000 troops were used in the testing. Researchers kept information about which agents they were administering from test subjects, [referring to the agents by] code names such as CAR 302668. That's one of the agents, records show, that researchers injected into Frank Rochelle in 1968. In 1975, the Army's chief of medical research admitted to Congress that he didn't have the funding to monitor test subjects' health after they went through the experiments. Since then, the military says it has ended all chemical and biological testing. Test subjects like Rochelle say that's not enough. "We were assured that everything that went on inside the clinic, we were going to be under 100 percent observation; they were going to do nothing to harm us," he says. "And also we were sure that we would be taken care of afterwards if anything happened. Instead we were left to hang out to dry."
Note: The rampant use of humans as guinea pigs in government, military, and medical experiments over the last century is laid out on this timeline. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing military corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
David Cameron is facing questions over Britain’s decision to follow the US model of drone strikes after the prime minister confirmed that the government had authorised an unprecedented aerial strike in Syria that killed two Britons fighting alongside Islamic State (Isis). Cameron justified the strikes on the grounds that Reyaad Khan, a 21-year-old from Cardiff, who had featured in a prominent Isis recruiting video last year, represented a “clear and present danger”. Two other Isis fighters were killed in the attack, [which was] the first time that a UK prime minister has authorised the targeting of a UK citizen by an unmanned aerial drone outside a formal conflict. One of them, Ruhul Amin, 26, was also British. A third Briton, Junaid Hussain, 21, was killed by a separate US airstrike three days later. Cameron disclosed the strikes in a dramatic afternoon statement which had originally been billed as a chance to outline his plans to take thousands of extra refugees from Syria. Downing Street dismissed suggestions that the prime minister had deliberately engineered UK involvement in the drone strikes rather than leaving them to the US ... as a way of making the case for greater British involvement in action against Isis in the country. Cameron, who had said that he would seek parliament’s approval before extending any British military action against Isis targets from Iraq to Syria, said he had acted in line with his commitments, [because he] reserved the right to authorise strikes without a vote in the event of an emergency.
Note: So as long as a person is declared a known terrorist, the government is claiming the right to kill that person without any legal process. Is that constitutional? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing war news articles from reliable major media sources.
Thomas Demint's voice is heard only briefly on the eight-minute video he took of police officers arresting two of his friends, and body-slamming their mother. "I'm videotaping this, sir," he tells an officer. After he stopped recording, Demint says three officers tackled him, took away his smartphone and then tried, unsuccessfully, to erase the video. They then arrested him on charges of obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest. Demint is part of a growing trend of citizen videographers getting arrested after trying to record police behavior. "By all accounts the situation has gotten worse," said Chris Dunn ... of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "People are more inclined to pull out their phones and record, but that is often met with a very bad response from police." What makes the situation hard to define ... is that no one is ever arrested on a charge of recording police because that has widely been upheld as protected under the First Amendment. Instead, they are being hauled into court on obstruction, resisting arrest or other charges. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said the right to take videos of police encounters in public is clearly protected by the First Amendment. He said the trend is for police to detain people who are shooting video, and subsequently drop the charges. "State and federal courts ... have made it abundantly clear that citizens have right to film police in public," he said. "Police are ignoring this clear precedent and continue to threaten citizens."
A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison in connection to a bribery scandal that roiled the state's juvenile justice system. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of taking $1 million in bribes from developers of juvenile detention centers. The judge then presided over cases that would send juveniles to those same centers. The case came to be known as "kids-for-cash." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. More than a dozen people who said they had been affected by the judge's decision stood outside [the court house in Scranton, PA], awaiting the sentencing. Jeff Pollins was in that crowd. His stepson was convicted by Ciavarella. "These kids are still affected by it. It's like post traumatic stress disorder," Pollins told the Times Leader. "Our life is ruined. It's never going to be the same".
Note: Two crooked judges and a for-profit detention center company used millions of taxpayer dollars to systematically violate the rights of thousands of kids. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison industry corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way. The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones. Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed ... to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones. Even “less than lethal” weapons can kill though. At least 39 people have been killed by police Tasers in 2015 so far. The Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department ... is hiding a full accounting of how many drone missions they’ve flown since 2012. The FAA notes 401 drone “operations” performed by the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department from 2012 to September 2014, while [County Sheriff Bob] Rost and [drone pilot Al] Frazier maintain just 21 missions have taken place. “We don’t make a practice of snooping on people,” Rost said recently. However, Rost’s statement was followed by an admission that the sheriff expects drones to be used in criminal investigations in the near future. Few noticed when HB 1328 passed with a clause allowing them to be armed.
Note: For more along these lines, read about the increasing militarization of police in the U.S. after 9/11. Also, 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.
Local police around the country are increasingly using high-tech mass surveillance gear that can vacuum up private information on entire neighborhoods. Many cops are ... purposefully hiding their spying from courts to avoid any scrutiny from judges. Two important news reports from the last week have shed light on the disturbing practices. The first investigation, done by USA Today’s Brad Heath, found: “In one case after another ... police in Baltimore and other cities used the phone tracker, commonly known as a stingray, to locate the perpetrators of routine street crimes and frequently concealed that fact from the suspects, their lawyers and even judges.” Stingrays are so controversial that some state legislatures have already passed laws restricting their use – which is exactly why police want to keep [their use] secret. The Wall Street Journal also reported last week about newer devices costing as little as a few hundred dollars [that] the police supposedly don’t think ... require a court order at all to use against potential suspects. These devices are handheld or can be attached to clothing. Not only are these cops violating the constitutional rights of defendants by spying on them without court orders, but, in some cases, they’re also allegedly dismissing felony cases involving potentially dangerous criminals, so they can prevent judges from ruling on whether their surveillance tactics are legal ... all to continue their blanket surveillance practices with minimal scrutiny.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of privacy rights.
The Associated Press sued the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday over the FBI's failure to provide public records related to the creation of a fake news story used to plant surveillance software on a suspect's computer. At issue is a 2014 Freedom of Information request seeking documents related to the FBI's decision to send a web link to the fake article to a 15-year-old boy suspected of making bomb threats to a high school. The FBI has used spyware before to pursue suspected criminals. AP strongly objected to the ruse, which was uncovered last year. AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser [wrote] in a 2014 letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder, "It is improper and inconsistent with a free press for government personnel to masquerade as The Associated Press or any other news organization. The FBI may have intended this false story as a trap for only one person. However, the individual could easily have reposted this story to social networks, distributing to thousands of people, under our name, what was essentially a piece of government disinformation." In a November opinion piece in the New York Times, FBI Director James Comey revealed that an undercover FBI agent had also impersonated an AP reporter. AP's records request also seeks an accounting of how many times since 2000 the FBI has impersonated media organizations to deliver malicious software. In a response to AP, the FBI indicated it might take nearly two years to find and copy the requested records.
Note: According to The Guardian, the FBI forced an informant to hack into and compromise the computer systems of a major UK newspaper in 2011. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in the intelligence community and the manipulation of mass media.
On the evening of April 21 in Building 21 at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, Samuel Harrell ... got into a confrontation with corrections officers, was thrown to the floor and was handcuffed. As many as 20 officers repeatedly kicked and punched Mr. Harrell, who is black, with some of them shouting racial slurs, according to more than a dozen inmate witnesses. Mr. Harrell was then thrown or dragged down a staircase. Corrections officers called for an ambulance, but ... mentioned nothing about a physical encounter, [and] told the ambulance crew that Mr. Harrell probably had an overdose of K2, a synthetic marijuana. An autopsy report ... concluded that Mr. Harrell, 30, had cuts and bruises to the head and extremities and had no illicit drugs in his system. The manner of death: Homicide. No officers have been disciplined in connection with the death. Inmate witnesses at Fishkill say they are the ones who have been punished. Several described being put into solitary confinement and threatened with violence after speaking with Mr. Harrell’s family, their lawyers and with news reporters. The Times documented similar allegations of abuse from inmates at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., where in June two convicted murderers escaped, resulting in a three-week manhunt. There, inmates described being beaten and choked with plastic bags by corrections officers seeking information about the escapees.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Nearly 300 documents, released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Metro-North Railroad, reveal more on-the-ground surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists than previous reports have shown. Conducted by a coalition of MTA counterterrorism agents and undercover police in conjunction with NYPD intelligence officers, the protest surveillance ... raises questions over whether New York-area law enforcement agencies are potentially criminalizing the exercise of free speech. In [one] document, sent February 13 concerning a demonstration at Grand Central, Anthony D’Angelis, identified in the document as an MTA liaison with the NYPD’s counterterrorism division, shared and labeled a photo of Alex Seel, a local photographer. Several protesters at Grand Central say they are perturbed by the photo file’s existence, considering that Seel did not share his name publicly that night and usually only comes to the protests as a quiet photographer. Another document from a December 7 protest [includes] a photo of prominent activist and former Philadelphia police officer Ray Lewis, [and mentions] Lewis’ past activities with Occupy Wall Street. Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College [sociology professor] argues this is part of a long history of police surveillance of activists, [noting that], "in the post-9-11 environment, there’s been a ... massive expansion of intelligence gathering. Protest activity often gets lumped in with terrorism investigation.”
Note: For more along these lines, read about Cointelpro, the program used by corrupt intelligence agencies to spy on and attack the U.S. civil rights movement beginning in the 1960's. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of civil liberties.
In some juvenile court systems around the country, young people regularly appear at hearings in handcuffs, leg irons, or both. But 21 states – five this year alone – have reformed such shackling practices. Skye Gosselin was 12 the first time court officers shackled her. She had been charged with disorderly conduct. At 14, she spent several hours handcuffed to another girl as she awaited her hearing, this time for skipping school. Then she was taken into court with metal bands wrapped around both her wrists and ankles, said the now-16-year-old. "The dehumanizing experience shaped not only how others saw me, but how I saw myself for many years. (It) made me think of myself as a criminal,” [she said]. Children as young as 9 have been shackled, as have children who have been abused by their parents. Up to 100,000 youths are shackled each year. [Reformers] say the automatic use of restraints is not in line with the rehabilitative purpose of juvenile court, limits youths’ ability to participate in their defense, tends to hurt and humiliate them, and, in some cases, traumatizes them. It makes little sense that adult courts typically have to follow guidelines to determine if shackling is really needed, but juvenile courts in many states don’t, says Shakyra Diaz, policy manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The US Supreme Court has ruled that routine shackling of adults in court is unconstitutional because it can undermine the presumption of innocence.
The Defense Department earlier this summer released a comprehensive manual outlining its interpretation of the law of war. The 1,176-page document, the first of its kind, includes guidelines on the treatment of journalists covering armed conflicts that would make their work more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship. Journalists, the manual says, are generally regarded as civilians, but may in some instances be deemed “unprivileged belligerents,” a legal term that applies to fighters that are afforded fewer protections than the declared combatants in a war. The manual warns that “Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying.” It says that governments “may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy.” Allowing this document to stand as guidance for commanders, government lawyers and officials of other nations would do severe damage to press freedoms. Authoritarian leaders around the world could point to it to show that their despotic treatment of journalists — including Americans — is broadly in line with the standards set by the United States government. The document’s broad assertion that journalists’ work may need to be censored lest it reveal sensitive information to the enemy ... seems to contravene American constitutional and case law, and offers other countries that routinely censor the press a handy reference point.
Note: Read a critical analysis of the Pentagon’s new manual from the Committee to Protect Journalists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in the intelligence community and the manipulation of public perception.
Facial recognition software, which American military and intelligence agencies used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify potential terrorists, is being eagerly adopted by dozens of police departments around the country. It is being used with few guidelines and with little oversight or public disclosure. Facial recognition ... is among an array of technologies, including StingRay tracking devices and surveillance aircraft with specialized cameras, that were used in overseas wars but have found their way into local law enforcement. The F.B.I. is pushing ahead with its $1 billion Next Generation Identification program, in which the agency will gather data like fingerprints, iris scans and photographs, as well as information collected through facial recognition software. The F.B.I. system will eventually be made accessible to more than 18,000 local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies. But people who are not criminal suspects are included in the database, and the error rate for the software is as high as 20 percent — meaning the authorities could misidentify millions of people. Among the cities that use facial recognition technology are New York and Chicago, which has linked it to 25,000 surveillance cameras. In many ways, though, San Diego County is at the forefront. Here, beat cops, detectives and even school police officers have been using hand-held devices to create a vast database of tens of thousands of photos of people — usually without the person’s consent.
Note: For more along these lines, read about the increasing militarization of police in the U.S. after 9/11, or see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of privacy rights.
18-year-old Michael Brown ... was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson. The final few minutes of Brown’s life had been captured by a small surveillance camera rolling inside a nearby grocery shop. As protesters have taken to the streets to demonstrate over Brown’s death, even a year on, so a legion of amateur cameramen and women have begun watching officers closely, posting recordings that undermine the monopoly once held by police on the official version of events. The surge in vigilante recording is being met with aggressive resistance from police. Judges uphold the right of American people to film law enforcement officers under the first amendment of the US constitution. But officers increasingly complain that filming interferes with their duties. An increasing number are taking direct action to prevent recordings – snatching or smashing phones or demanding the handover of footage, sometimes even after it has been livestreamed directly online. For many who capture horrific acts of violence, returning to a normal life becomes impossible. They complain of harassment by police, of threats against their life and of recurring trauma as a result of the death and brutality they have witnessed. Carlos Miller [is] a former journalist who now tracks the issue on his website Photography Is Not A Crime. Already this year, the site has reported on 87 cases in which people were arrested, manhandled or threatened for filming police. The rate of such incidents has increased in recent years, Miller says.
When police officers shoot people under questionable circumstances, Dr. Lewinski is often there to defend their actions. He has testified in or consulted in nearly 200 cases over the last decade. His conclusions are consistent: The officer acted appropriately, even when shooting an unarmed person. Even when shooting someone in the back. Even when witness testimony, forensic evidence or video footage contradicts the officer’s story. He has appeared as an expert witness in criminal trials, civil cases and disciplinary hearings, and before grand juries. In addition, his company, the Force Science Institute, has trained tens of thousands of police officers. His research has been roundly criticized by experts. An editor for The American Journal of Psychology called his work “pseudoscience.” The Justice Department denounced his findings as “lacking in both foundation and reliability.” Civil rights lawyers say he is selling dangerous ideas. In the protests that have followed police shootings, demonstrators have often asked why officers are so rarely punished for shootings that seem unwarranted. Dr. Lewinski is part of the answer. In testimony on the stand, for which he charges nearly $1,000 an hour, he ... sprinkles scientific explanations with sports analogies. Dr. Lewinski and his company have provided training for dozens of departments. His messages often conflict, in both substance and tone, with the training now recommended by the Justice Department and police organizations.
Note: An article in the UK's Guardian newspaper, titled The Uncounted, describes why the U.S. government claims it is unable to keep track of killings by police, but does not mention that police shootings rise as crime falls. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The frustrated politicians who called for a federal investigation into Chicago’s off-the-books police warehouse have renewed calls for the first official inquiry into the facility. Danny Davis, the US congressman who represents the home district of Homan Square, said he would personally seek ... to learn the “rationale” for a practice of holding Americans without a public record of their whereabouts or access to a lawyer while interrogating them at the police site, known as Homan Square. On Wednesday, the Guardian revealed the initial results of a transparency lawsuit it filed to uncover the extent of Homan Square’s emergence as what ex-detainees, lawyers and activists describe as the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site. The lawsuit compelled the Chicago police to disclose that over 3,500 people – 82% of whom a Guardian independent investigation found to be black – have been subject to detention at Homan Square, with only three documented visits from lawyers to the building since September 2004. Long-time Chicago civil rights lawyers [responded to the lawsuit] as the “extremely troubled” results of a city with a “fundamentally racist” history of law enforcement. “Police assassination of Black Panther leaders, the torture of scores of African American suspects, the police ‘red squad’ spying indiscriminately on black citizens, and now Homan Square,” said attorney Flint Taylor, who played a major role in pushing the city to creating a reparations fund earlier this year.
Jean Maria Arrigo’s inbox is filling up with apologies. For a decade, colleagues of the 71-year-old psychologist ignored, derided and in some cases attacked Arrigo for sounding alarms that the American Psychological Association was implicated in US torture. But now ... a devastating report has exposed deep APA complicity with brutal CIA and US military interrogations – and a smear campaign against Arrigo herself. David Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor, confirmed what she has crusaded against for a decade: the APA’s institutional involvement with torture led to a concerted effort to quash dissent, lie to the public, and silence people like her. In 2005, Arrigo ... was a member of an internal panel, known as the Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (Pens), that greenlit psychologist participation in national-security interrogations. The taskforce was intentionally weighted in favor of the US department of defense, through stacking it with representatives from the military and CIA. It rejected efforts ... to include references to the Geneva Convention and specific interrogation techniques that psychologists could not be involved in. Arrigo took her concerns public. In response, [Gerald] Koocher ... who served as APA president in 2006, [launched] “a highly personal attack.” Arrigo said she was untroubled by Koocher’s “idiotic” broadside. What was more troubling to her, she said, were the well-meaning members of APA who did not challenge the attacks.
Note: Read an article on how military psychologists are fighting against torture reforms. For more, read about how the torture program fits in with a long history of human experimentation by corrupt intelligence agencies working alongside unethical scientists.
The Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement since anti-police protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri last summer, according to hundreds of documents obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request. The reports confirm social media surveillance of the protest movement and ostensibly related events in the cities of Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York. The tracking of domestic protest groups and peaceful gatherings raises questions over whether DHS ... has allowed its mission to creep beyond the bounds of useful security activities as its annual budget has grown beyond $60 billion. In an email to The Intercept, DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee wrote: “The DHS National Operations Center statutory authority ... is limited to providing situational awareness." Baher Azmy, a legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, however, argues that, “What they call situational awareness is Orwellian speak for watching and intimidation. Some of the documents show that the DHS has produced minute-by-minute reports on protesters’ movements in demonstrations. Surveillance of [an] April 29th protest, which the bulletin explicitly refers to as a “First Amendment-protected event,” raises questions about the potentially compromised state of protesters’ civil liberties — a worry that also surfaced after it was revealed in 2012 that the DHS was monitoring Occupy Wall Street.
Note: For more along these lines, read about Cointelpro, the program used by corrupt intelligence agencies to spy on and attack the U.S. civil rights movement beginning in the 1960's. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of civil liberties.
A trooper who pulled over and later arrested a woman found dead in her jail cell was put on desk duty Friday for violating procedures, the Texas Department of Public Safety said. Sandra Bland, 28, was arrested July 10, and after spending the weekend in the Waller County jail, she was found hanged in her cell Monday. Harris County's medical examiner said the death was a suicide, but Bland's family disputes the finding. The FBI has joined the Texas Rangers in investigating the circumstances surrounding her death. The state Public Safety Department and Waller County district attorney have requested that the FBI conduct a forensic analysis on video footage from the incident. In arresting Bland, the trooper "violated the department's procedures regarding traffic stops and the department's courtesy policy," state public safety officials said Friday without specifying what procedures the trooper, whose name has not been released, had violated. Since Bland's death, alleged video of her arrest has been posted to both Facebook and YouTube. The video shows deputies cuffing Bland on the ground. She appears to be yelling, saying the deputies slammed her head into the ground. One of the deputies then turns his attention to the person recording the altercation, telling the person to leave.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the routine violation of civil liberties.
According to newly released police video, a Texas trooper threatened Sandra Bland with a Taser when he ordered her out of her vehicle during a traffic stop on July 10, three days before she was found dead in a county jail. Bland — a 28-year old African American woman — was stopped for failing to signal while changing lanes, but the routine traffic stop turned confrontational after the officer, Brian Encinia, ordered Bland to put out her cigarette. Bland refused. Encinia opened the driver’s door and attempted to physically remove Bland from the vehicle. “I’m going to yank you out of here,” Encinia said as the two struggled in the car. “Don’t touch me, I’m not under arrest,” Bland said. “I will light you up!” Encinia said, while pointing the Taser at Bland. State Sen. Royce West (D) said that after viewing the video, he could confirm that Bland was threatened with a Taser by the officer. Details of the confrontation were not included in the arrest warrant written by Encinia, which officials released ... eight days after Bland’s death in the Waller County Jail. During the incident, Bland repeatedly asks why she is being arrested. The remainder of the confrontation occurs outside the view of the camera, but the audio captured what appeared to be a struggle. On Wednesday, authorities responded to allegations that the dashcam video had been edited from its original form. The video uploaded by state officials to YouTube contains visual sequences that appeared to repeat themselves.
Note: The video referenced above was removed from YouTube after this article was published. See strong evidence in this NPR report showing the video was altered to hide what really happened. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the routine violation of civil liberties.
America ... is indecently over-incarcerated. We lock up far more people per capita than any nation even close to our size: roughly 2.4 million men, women, and children. The financial toll of mass incarceration is irresponsible; the human toll is unconscionable. Just 40 years ago, our incarceration rates were much lower, and on par with our peer nations. Since then, however, our prison population has ballooned by about 700%. What happened? We launched the so-called War on Drugs. Criminalizing drug abuse only further shatters people and families that are already in pieces. Our criminal-justice system ... takes people whom we have failed since birth — subjecting them to substandard food, poor living conditions, failing schools, unsafe communities — and then tries to “correct” them through inhumane, over-punitive treatment. For four decades, we have embraced the lie that incarceration ... protects us. Mass incarceration does not make us safer; it makes us more vulnerable. It destroys communities, wastes resources, separates families, ruins lives. It is the result of policies that criminalize poverty and make prisons and jails become warehouses for deeply damaged people with little or no access to mental health or substance abuse treatment. Instead, let’s invest those resources in our neighbors and family members so they don’t end up in the system to begin with, and if they do, so they can get back on their feet.
Note: What is not mentioned here is the role of the greedy prison-industrial complex which has privatized prisons and made imprisoning people profitable. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the corrupt prison industry built upon by systematic violations of civil rights.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a new report. The 542-page report ... raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon, [and] concludes that some of the [American Psychological] Association’s top officials ... sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the Defense Department’s interrogation policies. The association’s ethics office “prioritized the protection of psychologists — even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public,” the report said. Two former presidents of the psychological association were on a C.I.A. advisory committee, the report found. One of them gave the agency an opinion that sleep deprivation did not constitute torture, and later held a small ownership stake in a consulting company founded by two men who oversaw the agency’s interrogation program. The association’s ethics director, Stephen Behnke, coordinated the group’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, the report said, and then received a Pentagon contract to help train interrogators while he was working at the association, without the knowledge of the association’s board.
Note: For more along these lines, read about how the torture program fits in with a long history of human experimentation by corrupt intelligence agencies working alongside unethical scientists. For more, see this list of programs that treated humans as guinea pigs.
The torture scandal consuming the US’s premiere professional association of psychologists has cost three senior officials their jobs. As the American Psychological Association copes with the damage reaped by an independent investigation that found it complicit in US torture, the group announced on Tuesday that its chief executive officer, its deputy CEO and its communications chief are no longer with the APA. All three were implicated in the 542-page report issued this month by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman, who concluded that APA leaders “colluded” with the US department of defense and aided the CIA in loosening professional ethics and other guidelines to permit psychologist participation in torture.. Despite rumors ... the APA framed the departures of longtime executive officials Norman Anderson and Michael Honaker as “retirements”. Rhea Farberman, who served as APA’s communications director for 22 years, “resigned”, the APA said in a statement. Anderson, Honaker and Farberman join Stephen Behnke, the APA’s former ethics chief also implicated in torture, in the first wave of APA departures as the organization seeks to rebuild its credibility. A call to end all psychologist participation in US interrogation and detention operations is slated for APA consideration at a major conference next month.
Note: For more along these lines, read about how the torture program fits in with a long history of human experimentation by corrupt intelligence agencies working alongside unethical scientists. For more, see this list of programs that treated humans as guinea pigs.
The Oscar-winning documentary film-maker Laura Poitras is suing the US government. Poitras, 51, said she had been held at borders more than 50 times between 2006 and 2012, often for hours at a time. At various times she alleges being told by officials that she was on a “no fly” list, having her electronic equipment confiscated ... and being threatened with handcuffs for taking notes. The latter incident took place when she was working on a film about the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Poitras [is] launching the legal action "because the government uses the US border to bypass the rule of law,” said the film-maker. She was repeatedly stopped until 2012, when the journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote an article about her experiences. Poitras’s reporting on the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, along with work by Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Barton Gellman contributed to the Pulitzer prize for public service won jointly by the Washington Post and the Guardian in 2014. Her film on Snowden, Citizenfour, won the 2015 Oscar for best documentary. The director is being represented by lawyers from digital-rights advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The well-documented difficulties Ms Poitras experienced while traveling strongly suggest that she was improperly targeted by federal agencies as a result of her journalistic activities,” senior counsel David Sobel told the Intercept. “Those agencies are now attempting to conceal information that would shed light on tactics that appear to have been illegal.”
With nearly 1.5 million Facebook fans, CopBlock is relentless and gleeful in its posts of alleged cases of police misconduct and abuse of power. Made up of a loosely affiliated network of grassroots activists, CopBlock members also “patrol” their local law enforcement, monitoring traffic stops and other interactions, often shouting advice to those they perceive as victims. It’s a method that was initiated by the Black Panthers and, unsurprisingly, police have not always taken kindly to this sort of citizen oversight. Some even want to see CopBlock members listed as domestic terrorists. One of the emerging voices seeking to counter CopBlock is called, succinctly, Civilians Against CopBlock. Many of their posts attack those who would question police powers or officers accused of crimes. It’s worth noting here that the Department of Justice did find racial bias in Ferguson’s police department, and you can’t discuss race and police without mentioning New York’s infamous stop-and-frisk law, which an independent review from Columbia University found to be strongly biased. And a paper from the University of Pennsylvania found clear, strong tendencies for African Americans to be profiled and stopped. But does this mean most cops are racist or prone to violent abuse of power? No, of course not. There are nearly a million law enforcement officers in the United States, men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep the rest of us safe so we can fight on the Internet.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of civil liberties.
Expert comparisons of hair, handwriting, marks made by firearms on bullets, and patterns such as bite marks and shoe and tire prints are in some ways unscientific and subject to human bias, a National Academy of Sciences panel chartered by Congress found. Even fingerprint identification is partly a subjective exercise that lacks research into the role of unconscious bias or even its error rate, the panel’s 328-page report said. Since 2002, failures have been reported at about 30 federal, state and local crime labs serving the FBI, the Army and eight of the nation’s 20 largest cities. A 2009 study of post-conviction DNA exonerations — now up to 289 nationwide — found invalid testimony in more than half the cases. FBI examiners claimed until recently that they can match fingerprints to the exclusion of any other person in the world with 100 percent certainty. The academy report found that assertion was “not scientifically plausible” and had chilled research into error rates. In 1999, a Justice Department official, Richard Rau, told a federal court that the department delayed such a study because of the legal ramifications. Meanwhile, errors occur. In 2004, DNA for the first time exonerated a person convicted with a fingerprint match and, separately, the FBI made its first publicly acknowledged fingerprint misidentification. Brandon Mayfield, a Portland, Ore., lawyer, mistakenly was arrested in connection with the terrorist train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people.
Note: A Washington Post investigation recently found that over a 20 year period, "nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the corrupt prison industry built upon by systematic violations of civil rights.
"I have a dream today." Those are the words that still echo to this day. But that dream was deferred by a gunshot in Memphis. The date was April 4th 1968. Reverend Charles Sherrod ... knew Martin Luther King Junior as more than a civil rights leader. "I got to know him as a person," said Sherrod. And he says he knows to this very day there's more to his murder. On that day in April at the Lorraine Motel, several people pointed to where the deadly gunshot came from. Reverend Jesse Jackson was one of them. "We were telling the police, you guys are coming this way but the bullet came from that way. Don't come here. Go there," said Jackson. The investigation led to the arrest of ... James Earl Ray. Ray maintained until his death that he took the blame but a man by the name of Raul actually killed King. So who did it? "The government," said Sherrod. Reverend Sherrod says King was getting more radical with his approach to civil rights and people wanted him quieted. "So what happens when he comes to Memphis? There was a breakdown, an intentional breakdown," said Sherrod. Shelby County Criminal Prosecutor John Campbell and a team of investigators spent four years re-examining evidence from the King murder. "We know that J. Edgar Hoover was doing all types of illegal things to Dr. King. We also know that Bobby Kennedy approved ... illegal wire taps. It's not a stretch to say if they were doing that they were certainly capable of killing him," said Campbell.
Note: Watch clips of this news report and a CNN program on a conspiracy surrounding the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination. Then watch an excellent six-minute video clip of a Canadian news program giving an excellent overview of the 1999 civil trial in Memphis which found the U.S. government guilty in the assassination.
Forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot down. The alleged assassin [was] a small time criminal on the run. Some of Dr. King's closest aides believe the full story has yet to be told. From his first days in the civil rights movement, Dr. King lived under the shadow of death - his house bombed in the Montgomery bus boycott, followers killed in Birmingham and Selma. He was stabbed once in Harlem at a book signing. Dr. King's electrifying speech at the March on Washington in August of 1963 had made him the ... the FBI's nightmare, according to the official paper trail. They called him in one of the FBI memos released later "the most dangerous Negro." Pulitzer Prize winner David Garrow ... discovered thousands of these memos while writing his book, "The FBI and Martin Luther King." The memos show an FBI obsessed. Director J. Edgar Hoover sent Attorney General Robert Kennedy [the] warning [that] communists were pulling Dr. King's puppet strings. Fellow minister Ralph Abernathy discovered an FBI bug while speaking at an Alabama church. Hoover ... called Reverend King "the most notorious liar in the country" in a rare 1964 press conference. When Dr. King won the Nobel Prize, the FBI mailed an anonymous package to Dr. King's office [containing sexually explicit recordings along] with an ominous note. There was nothing nervous about him that last day in Memphis. "I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man," King said. He probably never even heard the shot.
Note: Watch clips of this news report and a CNN program on a conspiracy surrounding the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination. Then watch an excellent six-minute video clip of a Canadian news program giving an excellent overview of the 1999 civil trial in Memphis which found the U.S. government guilty in the assassination.
[One spy unit is] responsible for some of the United Kingdom's most controversial tactics of surveillance, online propaganda and deceit. Documents ... demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers "extremist". Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile [after] Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in "dirty tricks" like deploying sexual "honey traps" designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down Internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks and generally warping discourse online. Particularly revealing is a fascinating 42-page document from 2011 detailing JTRIG's activities. The document lays out the tactics the agency uses to manipulate public opinion, its scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced. Many GCHQ documents describing the "missions" of the "customers" for which it works make clear that the agency has a wide mandate far beyond national security, including providing help on intelligence to the Bank of England, ... to various departments on agriculture and whaling activities, to government financial divisions to enable good investment decisions. Beyond JTRIG's targeting of Anonymous, other parts of GCHQ targeted political activists deemed to be "radical," even monitoring the visits of people to the WikiLeaks website. [The document] includes detailed discussions of how to foster "obedience" and "conformity".
Note: Read amazing excerpts of this report at the link above showing how JTRIG plays an active role on the Internet in directly manipulating many political discussions and websites. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in intelligence agencies from reliable major media sources.
Three days after the New York Times revealed that the U.S. government was secretly monitoring the calls and emails of people inside the United States without court-approved warrants, the National Security Agency issued a top-secret assessment of the damage done to intelligence efforts by the story. The conclusion: the information could lead terrorists to try to evade detection. Yet the agency gave no specific examples of investigations that had been jeopardized. The December 2005 bombshell story, by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, set off a debate about the George W. Bush administration's expansion of spying powers after the 9/11 attacks, and also about the Times editors' decision to delay its publication for a year. White House officials had warned the Times that revealing the program would have grave consequences for national security. "To this day we've never seen any evidence – despite all the claims they made to keep us from publishing – that it did any tangible damage to national security, " Lichtblau told The Intercept. "The reality was that the story ... didn't tell terrorists anything that they didn't know," he said. The NSA's damage assessment on the article ... is among the files provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The memo recounts meetings in 2004 and 2005 in which administration officials disclosed "certain details of the special program to select individuals from the New York Times to dissuade them from publishing a story on the program at that time."
Note: You can read the revealing memo mentioned at the link above. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on civil liberties from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Media Information Center.
A US appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a claim against former attorney general John Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials, stemming from the abuse of Arab and Muslim men and others detained for months ... after the September 11 attacks. The unusual decision cleared the way for once-anonymous plaintiffs to advance charges that the top officials in the Justice Department had violated their constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law. Officials ... knew the abuse was happening and that they knew the detainees weren’t terrorism suspects. The court wrote, “The suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy.” The case was first brought 13 years ago by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit. The current complaint is joined by eight named plaintiffs, all of whom were caught up in law enforcement sweeps that netted hundreds of men after the 9/11 attacks. The “9/11 detainees” had in common an unresolved immigration status and a perceived Arab or Muslim background. The result, in some cases, was months of detention without charges, abuse at the hands of guards, solitary confinement and other punitive measures. The complaint details gratuitous strip searches, beatings, broken bones and verbal abuse. In one case, a Buddhist from Nepal ... was arrested for filming a Queens street, and held and abused in a Brooklyn detention center for three months. The appeals court found those measures to be “punitive and unconstitutional”.
Note: For more, read this New York Times article. Most of the "9/11 detainees" were deported after being cleared of any involvement in terrorism. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about investigations into 9/11 and its aftermath, or read the excellent, reliable resources provided in our 9/11 Information Center.
At any given time, roughly 480,000 people sit in America's local jails awaiting their day in court, according to an estimate by the International Centre for Prison Studies. These are people who have been charged with a crime, but not convicted. They remain innocent in the eyes of the law. Three quarters of them ... are nonviolent offenders, arrested for traffic violations, or property crimes, or simple drug possession. Many will be found innocent and have their charges dropped completely. Defendants who [are] detained before trial [wait] a median of 68 days in jail. Many ... are forced to wait simply because they can't afford to post bail. A 2013 analysis by the Drug Policy Alliance ... found that nearly 40 percent of New Jersey's jail population fell into this category. People sit behind bars not because they're dangerous, or because they're a flight risk, but simply because they can't come up with the cash. A recent analysis by the Vera Institute ... found that 41 percent of New York City's inmates were sitting in jail on a misdemeanor charge because they couldn't meet a bail of $2,500 or less. For low income people, the consequences of a pre-trial detention, even a brief one, can be disastrous. And in many cases, these people will eventually be found to be innocent. Some civil rights reformers [argue] that bail policies are tantamount to locking people up for being poor. We spend somewhere in the ballpark of $17 billion dollars annually to keep innocent people locked up as they await trial.
Retailers have the ability to scan your face digitally, and use that identification to offer you special prices or even recognize you as a prior shoplifter. But should they use it? Should they get your permission first? Privacy advocates announced Tuesday they have walked away from a government-run effort with industry intended to ... hash out voluntary protocols for facial recognition technology in a way that doesn't hurt consumers. The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, was acting as mediator. The two sides had been meeting for 16 months ... until the nine major privacy groups said they had hit a dead end and that "people deserve more protection than they are likely to get in this forum. At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they've never heard of are tracking their every movement — and identifying them by name — using facial recognition technology," the groups said. "We have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise." The ability to apply a unique signature to a person's face, even if you don't identify them by name, is particularly invasive, according to privacy advocates. "You can change your password and your credit card number; you cannot change your fingerprints or the precise dimensions of your face. Through facial recognition, these immutable, physical facts can be used to identify you, remotely and in secret, without any recourse."
Note: Read this article for more in this matter. Remember, the same technologies that lead to the disappearance of privacy rights for individuals are also used by corrupt corporations against nonprofit civic organizations to undermine democracy.
With every video that surfaces of questionable or shocking police conduct, at least two questions arise. The first is how exactly each incident happened. The second is how common such incidents are. The first question can be addressed though investigation, which can surprise both police and their critics, and eventually through better training. The second question is more straightforward - and the lack of an answer is unacceptable. The U.S. Department of Justice actually has two separate counts of deaths in police custody - one by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and one by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Each count misses half of all deaths; the department hoped that by combining them, it would get a reasonably accurate number. Its hope was misplaced. The department pretty much acknowledges that its number is unreliable. The Bureau of Justice Statistics suspended its data collection more than a year ago and has since been examining ways to improve the accuracy of its count. A law passed last December with strong bipartisan support allows the attorney general to withhold up to 10 percent of some federal grants to states if they fail to comply with reporting requirements. The law gives states 120 days to begin reporting deaths on a quarterly basis, but the department will not set any requirements for reporting until it completes an internal review of its own data collection. Better numbers won't solve the problem. But they can be a useful gauge through which to measure and focus any proposed solution.
Note: An article in the UK's Guardian newspaper, titled The Uncounted, describes why the U.S. government claims it is unable to keep track of killings by police, but does not mention that police shootings rise as crime falls. The Guardian now independently tracks killings by U.S. police.
A study has found rules that required Canadian aboriginals to attend state-funded church schools were responsible for "cultural genocide". The report released on Tuesday found that First Nation children were often physically and sexually abused. "They were stripped of their self-respect and they were stripped of their identity," said Murray Sinclair, one of the study's authors. More than 130 residential schools operated across Canada. The Canadian government forced more than 150,000 First Nation children to attend these schools from the 19th Century until the mid-1990s. The schools sought to integrate the children into mainstream Canadian society, but in doing so rid them of their native culture. The policies have been cited as a major factor in an epidemic of substance abuse on reservations. Students said they were beaten for speaking their native language and were separated from their parents and customs. Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a historic apology in parliament in 2008, acknowledging the physical and sexual abuse that took place in the schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which wrote the report, was created in 2006 as part of a $5bn (Ł3.3bn) class action settlement between the government, churches and the 90,000 surviving First Nation students. The report issued 94 recommendations including an investigation into missing and murdered aboriginal women and an apology from Pope Francis on behalf of the Catholic Church.
Note: Watch powerful evidence in a suppressed Discovery Channel documentary showing that child sexual abuse scandals reach to the highest levels of government. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on sex abuse scandals and violations of basic civil rights.
A nurse was unfairly denied unemployment benefits after she was fired for refusing a flu shot without claiming a religious or medical exemption, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Thursday. The three-judge panel wrote that the hospital's policy of allowing religious or medical exemptions to the flu shot requirement "unconstitutionally discriminated against" plaintiff June Valent by rejecting her refusal to be vaccinated for secular reasons. Valent was working as a nurse at Hackettstown Community Hospital in 2010 when the hospital's parent company began requiring employees to take the flu vaccine unless they had medical or religious reasons not to. Employees claiming an exemption were required to sign a form and provide documentation. Anyone refusing the vaccine was required to wear a mask while at work. Valent declined the vaccine but didn't state a medical or religious reason, and agreed to wear a mask. She was terminated based on her refusal of the vaccine and disqualified for unemployment benefits by a Department of Labor board of review after several hearings and appeals from both sides. The board concluded that the hospital demonstrated Valent had engaged in work-related misconduct by refusing the flu shot, according to Thursday's ruling. The appellate judges concluded that the hospital violated Valent's right to freedom of expression by endorsing the religious-based exemption while denying her secular choice.
The US Central Intelligence Agency used a wider array of sexual abuse and other forms of torture than was disclosed in a Senate report last year, according to a Guantánamo Bay detainee turned government cooperating witness. Majid Khan said interrogators poured ice water on his genitals, twice videotaped him naked and repeatedly touched his “private parts” – none of which was described in the Senate report. Khan’s is the first publicly released account from a high-value al-Qaida detainee who experienced [these] “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The 35-year-old Khan ... is awaiting sentencing after [confessing] to delivering $50,000 to al-Qaida operatives in Indonesia. Khan was captured in Pakistan and held at an unidentified CIA “black site” from 2003 to 2006, according to the Senate report. In the interviews with his lawyers, Khan described a carnival-like atmosphere of abuse when he arrived at the CIA detention facility. He said that he experienced excruciating pain when hung naked from poles and that guards repeatedly held his head under ice water. In a July 2003 session, Khan said, CIA guards hooded and hung him from a metal pole for several days and repeatedly poured ice water on his mouth, nose and genitals. When a doctor arrived to check his condition, Khan begged for help. Instead, Khan said, the doctor instructed the guards to again hang him from the metal bar. After hanging from the pole for 24 hours, Khan was forced to write a “confession” while being videotaped naked.
Note: For more, read about the 10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture and many other questionable intelligence agency practices.
The US government does not keep a comprehensive record of people killed by law enforcement, often leaving families, politicians and advocates powerless to quantify and analyse the size of the issue at hand. The lack of data has been glaring amid the protests, riots and the national debate set in motion by the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown last summer in Ferguson, Missouri. “We lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents,” the outgoing US attorney general Eric Holder said before stepping down earlier this year. “Fixing this is an idea that we should all be able to unite behind.” The Guardian has begun an investigative project, The Counted, to record the deaths of people at the hands of US police. When informed of the comprehensive reporting project, which will also be crowdsourced, the families of those whose deaths led to international attention called The Counted a breakthrough. [Many] relatives, campaign groups, activists and authorities ... argue that a national standard of mandatory accounting is a prerequisite for an informed public discussion about the use of force by police. Erica Garner-Snipes, daughter of Eric Garner: "Giving this kind of data to the public is a big thing. Other incidents like murders and robberies are collected, so why not police-involved killings? With better records, we can look at what is happening and what might need to change."
Note: Another recent Guardian article, titled The Uncounted, describes why the U.S. government claims it is unable to keep track of killings by police, but does not mention that police shootings rise as crime falls.
1971: A group of ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. What they discovered shocked them. Long before Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance, these activist-burglars exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI’s illegal surveillance program that involved the intimidation of law-abiding Americans. For forty years the burglars kept their identities secret, but in Johanna Hamilton’s new film 1971, these previously anonymous Americans publicly tell their story for the first time. Hamilton took the time to talk to us about how she approached telling this story: "To me, every aspect of the story was compelling. A group of ordinary people who put everything on the line to protect freedom of speech and hold their government accountable. They were total outsiders who trained themselves for one night of amateur burglary in order to break into an FBI office — on a hunch! They manage to evade capture. The revelations from the break-in helped lead to the Church Committee hearings in Congress, which ended up establishing the first ever set of guidelines governing the FBI’s investigative powers. The Citizens’ Commission risked everything because they suspected the government was conducting illegal surveillance. And they were right. We are in the midst of the same discussion today. Post 9/11 we lost many of the checks and balances that the government normally operates under. Governments should not spy on law-abiding citizens — whether it’s Hoover’s FBI or today’s NSA."
Joseph Rivers ... pulled together $16,000 in seed money to fulfill a lifetime dream of starting a music video company. Last month, Rivers took the first step in that voyage [by] boarding an Amtrak train headed for Los Angeles. He never made it. A DEA agent boarded the train at the Albuquerque Amtrak station and began asking various passengers, including Rivers, where they were going and why. When Rivers replied that he was headed to LA to make a music video, the agent asked to search his bags. Rivers complied. The agent found Rivers's cash, still in a bank envelope. He explained why he had it. The agents didn't believe him. Rivers let them call his mother back home to corroborate the story. They didn't believe her, either. The agents found nothing in Rivers's belongings that indicated that he was involved with the drug trade. They didn't arrest him or charge him with a crime. But they took his cash anyway, every last cent, under the authority of the Justice Department's civil asset forfeiture program. Rivers says he suspects he may have been singled out for a search because he was the only black person on that part of the train. According to a Washington Post investigation last year ... asset forfeiture is lucrative. In fiscal year 2014 Justice Department agencies made a total of $3.9 billion in civil asset seizures, versus only $679 million in criminal asset seizures. Asset forfeitures have more than doubled during President Obama's tenure.
Note: Read a New York Times article on this program which allows law enforcement agencies to seize money with impunity. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
We learned recently from Paris that the Western world is deeply and passionately committed to free expression and ready to march and fight against attempts to suppress it. That’s a really good thing, since there are all sorts of severe suppression efforts underway in the West — perpetrated not by The Terrorists but by the Western politicians claiming to fight them. One of the most alarming examples comes, not at all surprisingly, from the U.K. government, which is currently agitating for new counterterrorism powers, “including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalize young people.” Advocating any ideas or working for any political outcomes regarded by British politicians as “extremist” will not only be a crime, but can be physically banned in advance. Prime Minister David Cameron unleashed this Orwellian decree to explain why new Thought Police powers are needed: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” It’s not enough for British subjects merely to “obey the law”; they must refrain from believing in or expressing ideas which Her Majesty’s Government dislikes. Threats to free speech can come from lots of places. But right now, the greatest threat by far in the West to ideals of free expression is coming not from radical Muslims, but from the very Western governments claiming to fight them.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
The FBI breached its own internal rules when it spied on campaigners against the Keystone XL pipeline, failing to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened files on individuals protesting against the construction of the pipeline in Texas. Internal agency documents show for the first time how FBI agents have been closely monitoring anti-Keystone activists, in violation of guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming unduly involved in sensitive political issues. The hugely contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which is awaiting approval from the Obama administration, would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast. It has been strongly opposed for years by a coalition of environmental groups ... who have been monitored by federal law enforcement agencies. Mike German, a former FBI agent ... said [the documents] indicated the agency had opened a category of investigation that is known in agency parlance as an “assessment”. Introduced as part of an expansion of FBI powers after 9/11, assessments allow agents to open intrusive investigations into individuals or groups, even if they have no reason to believe they are breaking the law. German ... said the documents also raised questions over collusion between law enforcement and TransCanada. “These documents suggest the FBI interprets its national security mandate as protecting private industry from political criticism,” he said.
Chicago's leaders took a step Wednesday typically reserved for nations trying to make amends for slavery or genocide, agreeing to pay $5.5 million in reparations to the mostly African-American victims of the city's notorious police torture scandal and to teach schoolchildren about one of the most shameful chapters of Chicago's history. Chicago has already spent more than $100 million settling and losing lawsuits related to the torture of suspects by detectives under the command of disgraced former police commander Jon Burge from the 1970s through the early 1990s. The city council's backing of the new ordinance marks the first time a U.S. city has awarded survivors of racially motivated police torture the reparations they are due under international law, according to Amnesty International. "It is a powerful word and it was meant to be a powerful word. That was intentional," Alderman Joe Moore said of the decision to describe it as reparations. "This stain cannot be removed from our city's history, but it can be used as a lesson in what not to do," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who stressed that Chicago had to do more than just pay the victims if it is to really get beyond this stain on its history.
Note: Jon Burge tortured false confessions out of as many as 120 prisoners, and according to the Chicago Reader, may have learned how to do this while serving as a soldier in Vietnam. Chicago police maintain hidden interrogation sites where brutal treatment of suspects is used to obtain criminal confessions. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about civil liberties and government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Guantánamo Diary ... in which Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi tells of his odyssey through overseas prisons and his torture and abuse by the US and its counterterrorism allies, is pockmarked with redactions left by military censors. The diary was finally published last week. Slahi, a 44-year-old Mauritanian educated in Germany, was rendered by the CIA to prison in Jordan in late 2001, then held by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. The U.S. has never charged him with a crime. By the time the editor Larry Siems got hold of the manuscript in 2012, volumes of information about Slahi’s case had come into the public record. In 2006, the government released transcripts from hearings evaluating prisoners’ detention status, Slahi’s among them. Reports from the Justice Department and the Senate Armed Services Committee detailed his interrogation. Siems was able to cross-reference these materials to establish the chronology of Slahi’s narrative, in which all dates have been redacted. Journalists have not been allowed to speak directly to current detainees. For Larry Siems, censorship is at the core of Slahi’s story, and while the redactions sometimes impede his narrative, they serve a literary function as well. “Secrecy was imposed in order for abuse to happen, and then more secrecy was imposed in order to cover it up,” said Siems. “The redactions are like the fingerprints of that longstanding censorship regime.”
Note: Despite U.S. officials acknowledging that many Guantanamo detainees pose no real threat to society, prisoners like Slahi continue to be detained as part of the ineffective but profitable war on terror.
Elite service members from four branches of the U.S. military will launch an operation this summer in which they will operate covertly among the U.S. public and travel from state to state in military aircraft. Texas, Utah and a section of southern California are labelled as hostile territory, and New Mexico isn’t much friendlier. That’s the scheme for Jade Helm 15, a new Special Operations exercise that runs from July 15 to Sept. 15. Army Special Operations Command announced it last week, saying the size and scope of the mission sets it apart from many other training exercises. The exercise has prompted widespread conspiracy theories that the United States is preparing to hatch martial law. In particular, some have expressed alarm about this map, which outlines events for the exercise in unclassified documents posted online last week. The Washington Post verified them to be legitimate by speaking to Army sources. They appear to have been prepared for local authorities. It’s also worth noting that the military has routinely launched exercises in the past in which regions of the United States are identified as hostile for the purpose of training.
Note: This Washington Post article is clearly playing down some important facts and developments. Why is the US military spending so much time and money preparing for scenarios where US soil and citizens are considered enemies? Read and educate yourself with this excellent article on Operation Jade Helm 15, one in a string of US exercises planning for mass civilian arrests under a variety of scenarios.
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions. The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.
As the Missouri National Guard prepared to deploy to help quell riots in Ferguson, Missouri ... the guard used highly militarized words such as "enemy forces" and "adversaries" to refer to protesters, according to documents obtained by CNN. The National Guard's language, contained in internal mission briefings obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, is intensifying the concerns of some who objected to the police officers' actions ... after the August 9 shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by city police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson in the case. "It's disturbing when you have what amounts to American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy," said Antonio French, an alderman in St. Louis. The documents reveal that the Missouri guard was especially concerned that "adversaries" might use phone apps and police scanners to expose operational security. A document titled "Operation Show-Me Protection II," which outlines the Missouri National Guard's mission in Ferguson, listed players on the ground deemed "Friendly Forces" and "Enemy Forces." Among groups characterized as hate groups were ... "General Protesters." In addition to analyzing the threat general protesters could pose to soldiers, the National Guard also briefed its commanders on their intelligence capabilities so they could "deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri National Guard vulnerabilities," the mission set states.
Note: The Pentagon's systematic militarization of domestic police forces is well-reported. Now we learn that the National Guard is trained to treat protesters like enemy troops. What happens to civil liberties when civil society is viewed by authorities as a battle-front?
Whenever Chicago Police commander Jon Burge needed a confession, he would walk into the interrogation room and set down a little black box, his alleged victims would later tell prosecutors. The box had two wires and a crank. Burge ... would attach one wire to the suspect’s handcuffed ankles and the other to his manacled hands. Then [he] would place a plastic bag over the suspect’s head. Finally, he would crank his little black box and listen to the screams of pain as electricity coursed through the suspect’s body. As many as 120 African-American men on Chicago’s South Side ... were allegedly tortured by Burge between 1972 and 1991. On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the establishment of a $5.5 million fund for these victims. Some of the men spent years on Illinois’s death row because of confessions allegedly obtained by Burge under duress. In 2003, Governor George Ryan pardoned four men on death row who claimed to have been tortured by Burge, [whom] the Chicago Police Board voted to fire [in 1993] for his alleged torture activities. [He] was allowed to keep his $4,000 per month pension. In 2002, Cook County appointed [a special prosecutor] to investigate Burge’s conduct. The investigation took four years and cost $7 million, but the 300-page report didn’t recommend bringing any charges against the former cop. The statute of limitations for the alleged crimes had expired, Egan argued.
Note: According to the Chicago Reader, Burge may have learned how to torture prisoners while serving as a soldier in Vietnam. Chicago police maintain hidden interrogation sites where brutal treatment of suspects is used to obtain criminal confessions. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about civil liberties and government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Human rights campaigners have prepared a federal lawsuit aiming to permanently shut down the bulk collection of billions of US phone records – not, this time, by the National Security Agency, but by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The program ... served as a template for the NSA’s gigantic and ongoing bulk surveillance of US phone data after 9/11. The revelation of mass phone-records collection in the so-called “war on drugs” raises new questions about whether the Obama administration or its successors believe US security agencies continue to have legal leeway for warrantless bulk surveillance on American citizens. Starting in 1992, the so-called “USTO” effort operated without judicial approval, despite the US constitution’s warrant requirement. Attorney general Eric Holder ended USTO in September 2013 out of fear of scandal following Snowden’s disclosures. While Snowden did not expose USTO, several NSA programs he has exposed referenced the DEA as an NSA partner, giving the DEA another secret pathway to massive amounts of US communications records. The warrantless bulk records collection provides prosecutors the ability to enter into evidence incriminating material that could otherwise be thrown out of court, [and] has not stopped the upward growth of domestic narcotics consumption.
Note: In order to deny due process to people accused of crimes, the DEA's Special Operations Division constructs lies about the origins of data obtained from warrantless mass surveillance. Award-winning journalists have presented powerful evidence of direct DEA and CIA involvement in and support of drug running and drug cartels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
More than 750 plaintiffs are suing the Johns Hopkins Hospital System Corp. over its role in a series of medical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and 1950s during which subjects were infected with venereal diseases. The lawsuit in Baltimore seeks $1 billion in damages for individuals, spouses and children of people infected with syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases through a U.S. government program between 1945 and 1956. The suit claims Johns Hopkins officials had "substantial influence" over the studies, controlling some advisory panels, and were involved in planning and authorizing the experiments. A Hopkins spokesperson ... confirmed that faculty members took part in reviewing funding applications, but said this did not warrant a lawsuit against the medical center. The statement expressed "profound sympathy for individuals and families impacted by the deplorable 1940s syphilis study conducted by the U.S. Government in Guatemala," and noted that the ethical standards for conducting medical research have changed significantly in the decades since then. It's the latest in a series of lawsuits over the studies. A federal judge in 2012 dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. government involving the same study.
Note: Explore an excellent list of dozens of studies over the years in which humans were used unknowingly as guinea pigs in clear breach of ethical standards. Links are provided for verification of each study. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in the medical industry and in government.
An undercover police unit that monitored political groups over 40 years gathered intelligence on members of at least five trade unions, a whistleblower has revealed. Peter Francis, who spent four years undercover infiltrating political activists, has named five trade unions whose members he spied on: Unison, the Fire Brigades Union, Communication Workers Union, National Union of Teachers, and the National Union of Students. Francis, who has become a whistleblower in recent years ... was part of the covert Metropolitan police unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), that monitored hundreds of political groups between 1968 and 2008. Francis gave a statement to a packed meeting in Parliament that marked the launch of a new book about the blacklisting of thousands of workers by multi-national construction firms. This month, the Daily Mirror revealed that one of the undercover officers in the SDS, Mark Jenner, posed as a joiner and was a member of the construction workers union, UCATT, for three years. Jenner’s involvement in trade unions is detailed here by the Undercover Research Group, a resource on covert infiltration of political groups. It describes how he attended meetings of UCATT and other unions, regularly went on pickets and ferried trade unionists to demonstrations. In his statement ... Francis said, ”Let me state very clearly that Mark Jenner was 100% one of my fellow undercover SDS police officers deployed alongside me in the 1990s.”
Note: While undercover, Mark Jenner had a four-year relationship with a woman who did not know his real identity. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology. Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone. “It’s scanning the area. What is the government doing with that information?” said Linda Lye, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which in 2013 sued the Justice Department to force it to disclose more about the technology. In November, in a response to the lawsuit, the government said it had asked the courts to allow the technology to capture content, not just identify subscriber location.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of privacy rights from reliable major media sources.
When Yonas Fikre stepped off a luxury private jet at Portland airport last month, the only passenger on a $200,000 flight from Sweden, he braced for the worst. The 36-year-old Eritrean-born American was finally back in Portland at the end of a five-year odyssey that began with a simple business trip but landed him in an Arab prison where he alleges he was tortured at the behest of US anti-terrorism officials because he refused to become an informant at his mosque in Oregon. Fikre is suing the FBI, two of its agents and other American officials for allegedly putting him on the US’s no-fly list – a roster of suspected terrorists barred from taking commercial flights – to pressure him to collaborate. When that failed, the lawsuit said, the FBI had him arrested, interrogated and tortured for 106 days in the United Arab Emirates. As shocking as the claims are, they are not the first to emanate from worshippers at Fikre’s mosque in Portland, where at least nine members have been barred from flying by the US authorities. “The no-fly list gives the FBI an extrajudicial tool to coerce Muslims to become informants,” said Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer who represents other clients on the list. “There’s definitely a cluster of cases like this at the FBI’s Portland office. Fikre has not been charged with any terrorism related crimes or even questioned as a potential threat on his return to the US. He remains on the no-fly list.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing articles about questionable intelligence agency practices from reliable sources.
The Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., released a report on the history of lynchings in the United States. The authors of the report compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. Next comes the process of selecting lynching sites where the organization plans to erect markers and memorials, which will involve significant fund-raising, negotiations with distrustful landowners and, almost undoubtedly, intense controversy. The process is intended, [Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan] Stevenson said, to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way. “Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” Mr. Stevenson said, arguing that many participants in the great migration from the South should be thought of as refugees fleeing terrorism rather than people simply seeking work. The lynching report is part of a longer project Mr. Stevenson began several years ago. One phase involved the erection of historical markers about the extensive slave markets in Montgomery. The city and state governments were not welcoming of the markers, despite the abundance of Civil War and civil rights movement memorials in Montgomery, but Mr. Stevenson is planning to do the same thing elsewhere.
Note: See just how widespread historic racial violence was on this interactive map of lynchings developed from the Equal Justice Initiative report. Then read about the black policeman who has been subjected to a "stop and frisk" search 30 times. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound. The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Police practices at Homan Square [allegedly] include: Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases; Beating by police, resulting in head wounds; Shackling for prolonged periods; Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility; Holding people [as young as 15] without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours. Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Jacob Church learned about Homan Square the hard way. On May 16 2012, he and 11 others were taken there after police infiltrated their protest against the Nato summit. After serving two and a half years in prison, Church ... and his co-defendants were found not guilty in 2014 of terrorism-related offenses. Tracy Siska, a criminologist and civil-rights activist with the Chicago Justice Project, said that Homan Square, as well as the unrelated case of ex-Guantánamo interrogator and retired Chicago detective Richard Zuley, showed the lines blurring between domestic law enforcement and overseas military operations. “The real danger in allowing practices like Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they ... creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago.”
Note: Church was one of three young activists charged with 'terrorism' after police manufactured evidence against peaceful Occupy Wall St protesters in Chicago in 2012. For more, read about the increasing militarization of police in the U.S. after 9/11, or see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles.
The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the ... latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. It appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant. One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. These cases ... end up sending young people to prison for decades for “crimes” which even their sentencing judges acknowledge they never would have seriously considered, let alone committed, in the absence of FBI trickery. We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of [terrorism]. But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI? The Justice Department is aggressively pressuring U.S. allies to employ these same entrapment tactics in order to create their own terrorists, who can then be paraded around as proof of the grave threat. The FBI’s terrorism strategy — keep fear alive — drives everything they do.
Note: Human Rights Watch has documented the government manufacture of fake "terrorism" plots being used to keep fear alive in war on terror. There is even evidence that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was an F.B.I. entrapment plan gone awry. In 2012, the New York Times exposed the pattern of F.B.I. entrapment used to produce these fake "terrorism" plots. How can corrupt intelligence agencies continue to blatantly manipulate public perception like this?
The recent release of a landmark report on the history of lynching in the United States is a welcome contribution to the struggle over American collective memory. One dimension of mob violence that is often overlooked, however, is that lynchers targeted many other racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, including Native Americans, Italians, Chinese and, especially, Mexicans. Americans are largely unaware that Mexicans were frequently the targets of lynch mobs, from the mid-19th century until well into the 20th century, second only to African-Americans in the scale and scope of the crimes. From 1848 to 1928, mobs murdered thousands of Mexicans. These lynchings occurred not only in the southwestern states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, but also in states far from the border, like Nebraska and Wyoming. Some of these cases did appear in press accounts, when reporters depicted them as violent public spectacles, as they did with many lynchings of African-Americans in the South. The story of mob violence against Mexicans in the Southwest compels us to rethink the history of lynching. Southern blacks were the group most often targeted, but comparing the histories of the South and the West strengthens our understanding of mob violence in both.
A group of top American intellectuals have volunteered to "take" the 1,000 lash sentence imposed by the Saudi government on a prominent liberal blogger. Raif Badawi ... received the sentence for insulting his country's hardline Islamic clerics. The move, which follows widespread international outrage at the sentence, is being led by Robert P. George, a leading professor at Princeton University. Professor George said: "Together with six colleagues on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, I sent a letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the US calling on the Saudi government to stop the horrific torture of Raif Badawi — an advocate of religious freedom and freedom of expression in the Saudi Kingdom. If the Saudi government refuses, we each asked to take 100 of Mr. Badawi's lashes so that we could suffer with him. The seven of us include Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Christians, Jews, and a Muslim." Mr Badawi, 31, who set up a liberal website to discuss Saudi politics in which he criticised the country’s hardline religious establishment, has been sentenced to ten years in prison as well as 1,000 lashes. So harsh is the flogging that it has to be administered in individual sessions of 50 lashes a time in order to stop the recipient dying or suffering serious injury during the process. The first bout of 50 lashes was dished out to Mr Badawi on January 9, before hundreds of spectators in a public square in front of a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The date for a second set of lashes has so far been postponed as doctors have said that Mr Badawi's injuries from the first flogging have not yet healed.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Russia, the United States, Japan and many parts of Europe lost ground last year in its ranking of global press freedoms. The rise of non-state groups, crackdowns on demonstrations, wars and economic crises provided a backdrop for a tough 2014. The Paris-based media watchdog [Reporters Without Borders] said two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed in its annual World Press Freedom index scored worse than a year earlier. Western Europe, while top-ranked, lost the most ground as a region. Three Nordic countries headed the list, but there was slippage in Italy — where Mafia and other threats weighed on journalists — and Iceland, where the relationship between the media and politicians soured. The U.S. fell three places to 49th amid a “war on information” by the Obama administration. Reporters also faced difficulty covering events like demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, where black teen Michael Brown was shot dead in August by a white police officer. Russia dropped two notches to 152nd place after passing “draconian laws” to limit freedom of information, the group said. Legislation allowing access to information helped Mongolia jump 34 spots — the highest single advance — to 54th place. China, Iran and North Korea all remained among the 10 lowest-ranked countries. The group uses seven criteria to calculate its index — measures for media independence, the diversity of opinions expressed, self-censorship, transparency, abuses and the legislative environment.
Note: For more on ongoing threats to press freedom, see concise summaries of deeply revealing media manipulation stories from reliable sources.
Journalist and former Anonymous member ... Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison by a federal judge in Dallas on Thursday. The judge also ordered him to pay more than $890,000 in restitution and fines. An investigative journalist, essayist and satirist who has written for the Onion, Vanity Fair and the Huffington Post, as well as for the Guardian, Brown claims to have split with Anonymous in 2011. Brown also founded Project PM, a crowdsourced investigative thinktank dedicated to looking into abuses by companies in the area of surveillance. In September 2012, Brown was arrested by the FBI. In October 2012, after being held for two weeks without charge, he was indicted on charges of making an online threat, retaliating against a federal officer and conspiring to release personal information about a government employee. Two months later, he was indicted on 12 further charges related to the hacking of private intelligence contractor Stratfor in 2011. Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who actually carried out the Stratfor breach, was sentenced to the maximum possible 10 years. Brown, who was accused of sharing a link to the data Hammond obtained from the breach ... at one point faced a possible sentence of 105 years. He will reportedly be eligible for supervised release after one year, and once released will have his computer equipment monitored. The $890,250 in restitution payments will go to Stratfor and other companies targeted by Anonymous.
Note: Even after being targeted by a high level conspiracy, jailed on spurious charges, and forced to pay nearly a million dollars to Stratfor for merely writing about the hack of their private spy agency, Brown states that he remains committed to exposing corruption as a journalist from within the US prison system.
Two Ohio men wrongly accused of murder experienced freedom for the first time in nearly four decades on Friday morning, but said they don’t harbor bitterness over their unjust imprisonment. A Cleveland judge on Wednesday had dropped all charges against Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, allowing for the pair’s release. Jackson was 19 when he was convicted along with Bridgeman and Bridgeman’s brother, Ronnie, in the 1975 shooting death and robbery of Harold Franks, a Cleveland-area money order salesman. Testimony from a 12-year-old witness helped point to Jackson as the triggerman and led a jury to convict. The witness, Edward Vernon, now 53, recanted his testimony last year, saying he was coerced by detectives, according to Cuyahoga County court documents. Vernon wrote in a 2013 affidavit that he never saw the murder take place, but he was told by detectives that if he didn’t testify against Jackson, his parents would be arrested. The Ohio Innocence Project, which took up the case, said Jackson had been the longest-held U.S. prisoner to be exonerated. Jackson was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated because of a paperwork error. The Bridgeman brothers remained on death row until Ohio declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1978. “One of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional” said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project.
Note: Watch an inspiring five-minute video of this beautiful man who was originally sentenced to death based largely on the testimony of a 12 year old, who it turns out was coerced by police to blame him. And how many have been wrongly executed that we will never know about? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties articles from reliable major media sources.
At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside. Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant. The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving. The device the Marshals Service and others are using [was] first designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the latest example of battlefield technology finding its way home to civilian policing and bringing complex legal questions with it. Those concerns are especially thorny when it comes to technology that lets the police determine what's happening inside someone's home.
Note: This technology is not new. Working as interpreter in Washington, DC, WantToKnow.info founder Fred Burks witnessed this technology being used by the police there in the late 1980s. Explore an informative ACLU report detailing the many surveillance technologies used by police which are often used illegally. For more along these lines, see this deeply revealing summarized NPR report about The Pentagon's massive Program 1033 to widely distribute military hardware to domestic police forces.
The outrageous legal attack on WikiLeaks and its staffers ... is an attack on freedom of the press itself. WikiLeaks has had their Twitter accounts secretly spied on, been forced to forfeit most of their funding after credit card companies unilaterally cut them off, had the FBI place an informant inside their news organization, watched their supporters hauled before a grand jury, and been the victim of the UK spy agency GCHQ hacking of their website and spying on their readers. Now we’ve learned that, as The Guardian reported on Sunday, the Justice Department got a warrant in 2012 to seize the contents – plus the metadata on emails received, sent, drafted and deleted – of three WikiLeaks’ staffers personal Gmail accounts. The tactics used against WikiLeaks by the Justice Department in their war on leaks [are] also used against mainstream news organizations. For example, after the Washington Post revealed in 2013 the Justice Department had gotten a warrant for the personal Gmail account of Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010 without his knowledge. Despite the ongoing legal pressure, WikiLeaks has continued to publish important documents in the public interest.
Note: In recent years, Wikileaks' radical transparency has made draft texts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership public, and uncovered a secret CIA report that suggests the US government’s policy of assassinating foreign 'terrorists' does more harm than good. So who is the real problem here?
A man is given 50 lashes in a public square for "insulting Islam" on a liberal blog. Another is arrested for filming and uploading a woman's public beheading. Two females are imprisoned and put on trial for writing on Twitter in support of women driving. The cases are part of a sweeping clampdown on dissent. Acts that offend the country's religious hard-liners or open up the kingdom to criticism â€” like the video of the execution of a woman convicted of murdering her stepdaughter â€” have landed people in jail as a warning to others. The case of Raif Badawi, a 31-year-old father of three who was flogged this month, has attracted the most attention in recent days, particularly in the aftermath of the deadly attack in Paris. Badawi was arrested in 2012 after writing articles critical of Saudi Arabia's clerics on his Free Saudi Liberals blog. He was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes and was fined $266,000. Just days after the attacks in Paris, Saudi Arabia's minister of state for foreign affairs took part in the huge march that was held there to support free speech and honor the victims. Two days earlier, Badawi was flogged [for "insulting Islam" on his blog]. Critics of the crackdown on dissent point out that public beheadings are also practiced by al-Qaida and IS.
Note: Saudi Arabia continues to be a key ally of the US. Is this really what we want to support? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using [a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing] to seize cash, cars and other property without warrants or criminal charges. The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them â€śadoptedâ€ť by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. It allowed police ... to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of adopted seizures. Since 2001, about 7,600 of the nationâ€™s 18,000 police departments and task forces have participated in Equitable Sharing. For hundreds of police departments and sheriffâ€™s offices, the seizure proceeds accounted for 20 percent or more of their annual budgets in recent years. The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security paid private firms millions to train local and state officers in the techniques of an aggressive brand of policing [that] emphasized the importance of targeting cash. Most of the money and property taken under Equitable Sharing since 2008 â€” $3 billion out of $5.3 billion â€” was not seized in collaboration with federal authorities. The Treasury Department is also changing its asset forfeiture program to follow the same guideline included in Holderâ€™s order, the statement said.
Note: While civil asset forfeiture may remain common in some U.S. states, Holder's announcement means that police can no longer pad their departmental budgets with this federal program. A Washington Post investigation and an Institute for Justice Study were instrumental in exposing this program's corrupting influence.
Hardly a week goes by without a new report of some massive data theft that has put financial information, trade secrets or government records into the hands of computer hackers. The best defense against these attacks is clear: strong data encryption and more secure technology systems. U.S. intelligence agencies hold a different view. James Comey, the FBI director, is lobbying Congress to require that electronics manufacturers create intentional security holes — so-called back doors — that would enable the government to [easily] access data on every American's cellphone and computer. Building a back door into every cellphone, tablet, or laptop means deliberately creating weaknesses that hackers and foreign governments can exploit. What these officials are proposing would be bad for personal data security and bad for business. Built-in back doors have ... disastrous results. The U.S. House of Representatives recognized how dangerous this idea was and in June approved [an] amendment [to] prohibit the government from mandating that technology companies build security weaknesses into any of their products. I introduced legislation in the Senate to accomplish the same goal. Advances in technology always pose a new challenge to law enforcement agencies. But curtailing innovation on data security is no solution, and certainly won't restore public trust in tech companies or government agencies.
Note: Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote the article summarized above. The NSA routinely creates and exploits security holes in commercial encryption software and devices to spy on people, and shares the personal data it obtains with the CIA, FBI, IRS, and others through the DEA's Special Operations Division. What exactly is the FBI director asking congress for now?
The U.S. Supreme Court building proclaims a high ideal: “Equal Justice Under Law.” But inside, an elite cadre of lawyers has emerged [to give] their clients a disproportionate chance to influence the law. A Reuters examination of nine years of cases shows that 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court ... were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others. About half [of these 66 lawyers] worked for justices past or present, and some socialize with them. Although they account for far less than 1 percent of lawyers who filed appeals to the Supreme Court, these attorneys were involved in 43 percent of the cases the high court chose to decide from 2004 through 2012. The Reuters examination of the Supreme Court’s docket, the most comprehensive ever, suggests ... a decided advantage for corporate America. Some legal experts contend that the reliance on a small cluster of specialists, most working on behalf of businesses, has turned the Supreme Court into an echo chamber – a place where an elite group of jurists embraces an elite group of lawyers who reinforce narrow views of how the law should be construed. Of the 66 most successful lawyers, 51 worked for law firms that primarily represented corporate interests. In cases pitting the interests of customers, employees or other individuals against those of companies, a leading attorney was three times more likely to launch an appeal for business than for an individual, Reuters found.
Note: How interesting that no major media seem to have picked up this revealing story. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption from reliable major media sources.
[Making bank deposits of] less than $10,000 is illegal if it is done to evade a federal bank reporting requirement. [By] a practice known as civil asset forfeiture, prosecutors can seize [such bank deposits]. As an individual, you may be presumed innocent unless or until you are proven guilty, but your money and possessions have no such protections. To get your money back, you have to go to court essentially to prove that you and your assets are not guilty. Federal agents have used this power to seize medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized medical marijuana ... to shut down what are legal businesses under California law without having to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the owners violated federal drug laws. Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and President Obama’s nominee to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General, has been an aggressive practitioner of asset seizures. Lynch’s office has served as a major forfeiture operation, bringing in more than $113 million in civil actions from 123 cases between 2011 and 2013. [One] case involves Bi-Country Distributors, a Long Island family business that stocks convenience stores. In May 2012, federal agents seized more than $400,000 from the business bank account. Brothers Jeffrey, Richard and Mitch Hirsch who run the business ... made frequent deposits under $10,000. Federal prosecutors grabbed the money, but didn’t charge the Hirsches with a crime.
Note: This story references facts from a Wall Street Journal article that calls civil asset forfeiture "an all-purpose cash machine for police departments and prosecutors." For more along these lines, see this deeply revealing summary of a New York Times article that shows how cops steal from innocents to pad police department budgets.
One quiet consequence of this week’s sensational release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the C.I.A. detention program was a telephone call that a human rights lawyer, Meg Satterthwaite, placed to a client in Yemen, Mohamed Bashmilah. For eight years since Mr. Bashmilah, 46, was released from C.I.A. custody, Ms. Satterthwaite ... had been trying without success to get the United States government to acknowledge that it had held him in secret prisons for 19 months and to explain why. In the phone call on Wednesday, she told him that the Senate report listed him as one of 26 prisoners who, based on C.I.A. documents, had been “wrongfully detained.” After learning the news, Mr. Bashmilah pressed Ms. Satterthwaite, who heads the global justice program at New York University Law School, to tell him what might follow from the Senate’s recognition. Would there be an apology? Would there be some kind of compensation? Among the others mistakenly held for periods of months or years, according to the report, were an “intellectually challenged” man held by the C.I.A. solely to pressure a family member to provide information; two people who were former C.I.A. informants; and two brothers who were falsely linked to Al Qaeda. Ms. Satterthwaite was not able to answer Mr. Bashmilah’s question about an apology or reparation. No apology was forthcoming from the C.I.A., which declined to comment on specific cases.
Note: An ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Bashmilah and others flown to prisons on C.I.A. aircraft was dismissed on the grounds that it might expose state secrets. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing stories about questionable intelligence agency practices from reliable sources.
The American Civil Liberties Union has released the results of its year-long study of police militarization. The study looked at 800 deployments of SWAT teams among 20 local, state and federal police agencies in 2011-2012. Among the notable findings: 62 percent of the SWAT raids surveyed were to conduct searches for drugs. Just 7 percent of SWAT raids were “for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.” In at least 36 percent of the SWAT raids studied, no contraband of any kind was found. This figure could be as high as 65 percent. SWAT tactics are disproportionately used on people of color. 65 percent of SWAT deployments resulted in some sort of forced entry into a private home. In over half those raids, the police failed to find any sort of weapon, the presence of which was cited as the reason for the violent tactics. SWAT teams today are overwhelmingly used to investigate people who are still only suspected of committing nonviolent consensual crimes. And because these raids often involve forced entry into homes, often at night, they’re actually creating violence and confrontation where there was none before. In short, we have police departments that are increasingly using violent, confrontational tactics to break into private homes for increasingly low-level crimes, and they seem to believe that the public has no right to know the specifics of when, how and why those tactics are being used.
An undercover California Highway Patrol officer who was attempting to infiltrate a demonstration against police brutality in Oakland pulled a gun on the protesters after he and his partner were outed. "About 50 people were marching near Lake Merritt just after 11:30 p.m. Wednesday when some of the demonstrators began calling out two men who were walking with the group," said [news photographer] Michael Short. “Just as we turned up 27th Street, the crowd started yelling at these two guys, saying they were undercover cops,” Short said Thursday. “Somebody snatched a hat off the shorter guy’s head and he was fumbling around for it. A guy ran up behind him, knocked him down on the ground. The crowd began surging on them. “The other taller guy... as the crowd started surging on them, he pulled out a gun.” Chief Browne said the officer also pulled out a badge ... though Short, other members of the media and protesters reported that they did not see a badge. The officers, who Browne said he is not identifying, had been trailing the crowd in an unmarked car and began following on foot. Short said the officers were wearing street clothes and had their faces covered with bandannas. Browne confirmed this and ... said it was common. Several protesters took to Twitter to say that the officers had actually instigated acts of vandalism and were banging on windows alongside others.
Note: Here is proof that the police are infiltrating marches by protesters and wearing masks to cover their identities. Often those promoting violence are using masks. Could the police in some instances actually be provoking violence among protesters to discredit the movement?
When [Claudette Colvin] was 15, she refused to move to the back of the bus and give up her seat to a white person — nine months before Rosa Parks did the very same thing. Most people know about Parks and the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott that began in 1955, but few know that ... Colvin was the first to really challenge the law. She remembers taking the bus home from high school on March 2, 1955. The bus driver ordered her to get up and she refused, saying she'd paid her fare. Two police officers put her in handcuffs and arrested her. Now her story is the subject of a new book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. Author Phil Hoose says that ... there was this teenager, nine months before Rosa Parks, "in the same city, in the same bus system, with very tough consequences, hauled off the bus, handcuffed, jailed and nobody really knew about it." He also believes Colvin is important because she challenged the law in ... the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama. People may think that Parks' action was spontaneous, but black civic leaders had been thinking about what to do about the Montgomery buses for years. The stories of Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. are ... the stories of people in their 30s and 40s. Colvin was 15. Hoose feels his book will bring a fresh teen's perspective to the struggle to end segregation.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties articles from reliable major media sources.
Eric Garner was not the first American to be choked by the police, and he will not be the last, thanks to legal rules that prevent victims of police violence from asking federal courts to help stop deadly practices. The 1983 case City of Los Angeles v. Lyons vividly illustrates the problem. That case also involved an African-American man choked by the police without provocation. Unlike Mr. Garner, Adolph Lyons survived. He then filed a federal lawsuit, asking the city to compensate him for his injuries. He also asked the court to prevent the Los Angeles Police Department from using chokeholds in the future. The trial court ordered the L.A.P.D. to stop using chokeholds. The Supreme Court overturned this order. The court explained that Mr. Lyons would have needed to prove that he personally was likely to be choked again in order for his lawsuit to be a vehicle for systemic reform. This is the legal standard when a plaintiff asks a federal court for an injunction — or a forward-looking legal order. When the stakes are this deadly, federal courts should step in. If police departments still failed to comply, federal judges could impose penalties. How do we know? Consider school segregation. Local officials had promised change but failed to ensure it. It took decades of close supervision by federal courts to make a dent in the problem. As the courts started to leave this field in more recent years, de facto segregation returned.
Amid widespread criticism of the deployment of military-grade weapons and vehicles by police officers in Ferguson, MO ... NPR obtained data from the Pentagon on every military item sent to local, state and federal agencies through the Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Office — known as the 1033 program — from 2006 through April 23, 2014. We took the raw data, analyzed it and have organized it. We are making that data set available to the public. The 1033 program is the key source of ... military items being sent to local law enforcement [such as] mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs. More than 600 of them have been sent ... mostly within the past year. The Pentagon has also distributed: 79,288 assault rifles, 205 grenade launchers, 11,959 bayonets, 3,972 combat knives, $124 million worth of night-vision equipment, including night-vision sniper scopes, 479 bomb detonator robots, 50 airplanes, 422 helicopters, [and] more than $3.6 million worth of camouflage gear and other "deception equipment." The list [also] includes building materials, musical instruments and even toiletries. Congress authorized the 1033 program in 1989 to equip local, state and federal agencies in the war on drugs. In 1996, Congress widened the program's scope to include counterterrorism. The data do not confirm whether either of those public safety goals are, in fact, driving decisions.
If you've ever been in a did-that-really-just-happen scenario, you might have wished you had a recorder running -- particularly when it comes to run-ins with the law. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey just released an app that allows Android phone users to record and store their interactions with police to "hold police accountable." The app, cleverly called "Police Tape," also includes legal information about citizens' rights during encounters with law enforcement. What sets this apart from being just a video camera with a send button is that you can also record in "stealth mode." The app disappears from the screen once the recording starts, "to prevent any attempt by police to squelch the recording," according to the ACLU of New Jersey site. Users can send the recording to the organization through the app for backup storage and analysis. Though there is no federal law preventing recording police in public, some states have different statutes covering such activity. Earlier, the New York American Civil Liberties Union released its Stop and Frisk Watch application. The New York ACLU promotes that app as a way for bystanders and designated event observers to record incidents. That's probably a better idea than whipping out your phone when a cop asks for your license, particularly if you are in an emotionally charged or intense setting. That's probably not going to be received well.
Civil asset forfeiture ... allows the government, without ever securing a conviction or even filing a criminal charge, to seize property. The practice ... has become a staple of law enforcement agencies because it helps finance their work. Under a Justice Department program, the value of assets seized has ballooned to $4.3 billion in the 2012 fiscal year from $407 million in 2001. From Orange County, N.Y., to Rio Rancho, N.M., forfeiture operations are being established or expanded. Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, some of which have been captured on video. In the sessions, officials ... offered advice on dealing with skeptical judges, mocked Hispanics whose cars were seized, and ... gave weight to the argument that civil forfeiture encourages decisions based on the value of the assets to be seized rather than public safety. Prosecutors boasted in the sessions that seizure cases were rarely contested or appealed. Civil forfeiture places the burden on owners, who must pay court fees and legal costs. And often the first hearing is presided over not by a judge but by the prosecutor whose office benefits from the proceeds. Mr. McMurtry [chief of the forfeiture unit in the Mercer County, N.J., prosecutor’s office] said his handling of a case is sometimes determined by department wish lists. “If you want the car, and you really want to put it in your fleet, let me know — I’ll fight for it.”
Note: Watch the video at the link above showing a trainer teaching cops how to steal a car that a cop might want legally. For more along these lines, see these concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption and civil liberties news articles from reliable sources.
(senior federal district judge) Jed A. Rakoff’s essay in The New York Review of Books ... tries to explain why innocent people so often plead guilty. At least 20,000 people have pled guilty to and gone to jail for felonies they did not commit — if you very conservatively take criminologists’ lowest estimates, and cut them in half. Rakoff identifies three ways the criminal justice system obstructs its own “truth seeking mechanism,” a trial by jury: 1. By embracing the increasingly popular plea bargain. 97 percent of federal trials were resolved last year through plea bargain. Plea bargains ... are weighted largely in favor of the prosecutor. The notion that a plea bargain is a contractual mediation between two relatively equal parties, Rakoff argues, “is a total myth”. 2. Through mandatory minimum sentences. The combination of mandatory sentences and prosecutorial discretion forces the defendant [to] run the risk of losing the case and serve the maximum sentence or take a reduced charge, at a reduced sentence, even when innocent. 3. Via the unfettered rise of prosecutorial power. Prosecutors have far more power ... than any other party involved in the criminal justice system. The one mechanism that could check their power is the jury trial, which is becoming “virtually extinct” in federal court, Rakoff writes. One possible solution to all these problems — aside from repealing mandatory minimum sentences and generally reducing the severity of sentences — is greater judicial oversight.
The intelligence services have routinely been intercepting legally privileged communications ... according to internal MI5, MI6 and GCHQ documents. The information obtained may even have been exploited unlawfully and used by the agencies in the fighting of court cases in which they themselves are involved, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has been told. MP David Davis, a former shadow home secretary, said past practice was to delete such material immediately if it was ever picked up. 28 extracts of internal intelligence policies showing how legally privileged material is handled by security officials were released to lawyers pursuing a claim through the IPT. The claim has been brought by two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami Al Saadi. They were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and ... tortured by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004. Belhaj has been given permission to sue the government for his mistreatment. Davis, who attended the hearing, said: “In the past, when a bug or intercept on a criminal accidentally picked up a conversation with the criminal’s lawyer, the rule was that it was immediately deleted. Today’s hearing shows that is no longer the case. Agencies are clearly keeping records of legal privileged material, and have explicit policies to handle it. In the case of MI5 that policy includes concealing ... that they have the material. This change has been carried out without changing the law or telling parliament. This is an enormous breach of defendants’ judicial rights.”
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency corruption news articles from reliable sources.
Who runs the world’s most lucrative shakedown operation? If you are a big business ... America’s regulatory system. The formula is simple: find a large company that may (or may not) have done something wrong; threaten its managers; force them to use their shareholders’ money to pay an enormous fine to drop the charges in a secret settlement. Repeat with another large company. In many cases, the companies deserved some form of punishment: BNP Paribas ... abetted genocide, American banks fleeced customers. BP despoiled the Gulf of Mexico. But justice should not be based on extortion. Regulators and prosecutors are in effect conducting closed-door trials. The agencies that pocket the fines have become profit centres: Rhode Island’s bureaucrats have been on a spending spree courtesy of a $500m payout by Google, while New York’s governor and attorney-general have squabbled over a $613m settlement from JPMorgan. Not only are regulators in effect judge and jury as well as plaintiff in the cases they bring; they can also use the threat of the criminal law. The public never finds out the full facts of the case, nor discovers which specific people — with souls and bodies — were to blame. Since the cases never go to court ... it is unclear what exactly is illegal. That enables future shakedowns. Nor is it clear how the regulatory booty is being carved up. This ... risks the prospect of a selective — and potentially corrupt — system of justice in which everybody is guilty of something and punishment is determined by political deals.
Did you know that when you buy an airline ticket and make other travel reservations, the federal government keeps a record of the details in a file called Passenger Name Record or PNR? If airlines don’t comply, they can’t fly in the U.S., explains Ed Hasbrouck, a privacy expert with the Identity Project who has studied the records for years and is considered the nation’s top expert. Before each trip, the system creates a travel score for you, generated by your PNR. Before an airline can issue you a boarding pass, the system must approve your passage, Hasbrouck explains. That’s one way people on the No Fly List are targeted. The idea behind extensive use of PNRs, he says, is not necessarily to watch known suspects but to find new ones. Want to appeal the process? “It’s a secret administrative process based on the score you don’t know, based on files you haven’t seen,” Hasbrouck says. The program collects seemingly trivial details. If you have an argument with an airline gate agent and that agent enters a notation ... that record stays in your PNR. “The U.S. government is getting the data and sharing it in ways we don’t fully know about with other governments,” Hasbrouck says. The information collected by the airlines is shared with third-party data companies who store it. Where? In the cloud. Make you feel safer? In Canada and the European Union, the collection of this information spurred public debate. But not here.
Note: Read this excellent article for lots more details on how the government spies on your travels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable sources.
For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. She deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account. She has not been charged with any crime. The money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time. Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers ... the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint. Richard Weber, the chief of Criminal Investigation at the I.R.S., said in a written statement ... that making deposits under $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, called structuring, is ... a crime. The Institute for Justice, a Washington-based public interest law firm ... analyzed structuring data from the I.R.S., which made 639 seizures in 2012, up from 114 in 2005. Only one in five was prosecuted as a criminal structuring case. Law enforcement agencies get to keep a share of whatever is forfeited. This incentive has led to the creation of a law enforcement dragnet, with more than 100 multiagency task forces combing through bank reports, looking for accounts to seize. There are often legitimate business reasons for keeping deposits below $10,000, said Larry Salzman, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice. For example, he said, a grocery store owner in Fraser, Mich., had an insurance policy that covered only up to $10,000 cash.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles.
Last week, a federal judge told us what we already knew. Namely, that police in Ferguson, Mo. violated the rights of protesters demonstrating against the shooting death of Michael Brown. U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry struck down an ad hoc rule under which cops had said people could not stand still while peacefully protesting. Still, one’s sense of righteous vindication is tempered by the fact that police felt free to try this absurd stratagem in the first place — and by the fact that this was hardly the only recent example of police using the Constitution for Kleenex. Ferguson, let us not forget, is also the town where reporters were tear gassed and jailed and photographers ordered to stop taking pictures. In our unthinking mania for laws to “get tough on crime,” we actually made it tougher on ourselves, altering the balance of power between people and police to the point where a cop can now take your legally-earned money off your sovereign person and there’s little you can do about it. Indeed, at the height of the Ferguson protests, an L.A. cop named Sunil Dutta published in the Washington Post an Op-Ed advising that, “if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.” Don’t argue, he said, even if you “believe (or know)” your rights are being violated. Deal with it later. It’s all well and good that now, several weeks after the fact, a court affirms the rights Ferguson police denied. But that’s a poor consolation prize. An argument can be made that rights which aren’t respected in the moment they are asserted are not really rights at all.
Note: For more on the history of civil rights violations in Ferguson, MO, see this deeply revealing news article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of recent news articles about the erosion of our civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
[National security letters], the reach of which was expanded under the Patriot Act in 2001, let the FBI get business records from telephone, banking, and Internet companies with just a declaration that the information is relevant to a counterterrorism investigation. The FBI can get such information with a subpoena or another method with some judicial oversight. Can the government make demands for data entirely in secret? That was the question yesterday before a federal appeals court in San Francisco, where government lawyers argued that National Security Letters — FBI requests for information that are so secret they can’t be publicly acknowledged by the recipients — were essential to counterterrorism investigations. One of the judges seemed to question why there was no end-date on the gag orders, and why the burden was on the recipients of NSLs to challenge them. “It leaves it to the poor person who is subject to those requirements to just constantly petition the government to get rid of it,” said the judge, N. Randy Smith. The FBI sends out thousands of NSLs each year – 21,000 in fiscal year 2012. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft filed a brief in support of the NSL challenge, arguing that they want to “publish more detailed aggregate statistics about the volume, scope and type of NSLs that the government uses to demand information about their users.” Twitter also announced this week that it was suing the U.S. government over restrictions on how it can talk about surveillance orders. Tech companies can currently make public information about the number of NSLs or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders they receive in broad ranges, but Twitter wants to be more specific.
The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications — a request the company believed was unconstitutional — according to court documents unsealed [on September 11] that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program. The documents ... outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the NSA extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms. The ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts and found constitutionally sound. Eventually, most major U.S. tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and AOL, complied. Microsoft had joined earlier, before the ruling, NSA documents have shown. PRISM was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year. Documents made it clear that the program allowed the NSA to order U.S.-based tech companies to turn over e-mails and other communications to or from foreign targets without search warrants for each of those targets. Other NSA programs gave even more wide-ranging access to personal information of people worldwide, by collecting data directly from fiber-optic connections.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
Prime Minister John Key ... has denied that New Zealand’s spy agency GCSB engages in mass surveillance, mostly as a means of convincing the country to enact a new law vesting the agency with greater powers. Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called “XKEYSCORE.” It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance. The prime minister’s claim to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks. It means they have the ability see every website you visit, every text message you send, every call you make, every ticket you purchase, every donation you make, and every book you order online. From “I’m headed to church” to “I hate my boss” to “She’s in the hospital,” the GCSB is there. Your words are intercepted, stored, and analyzed by algorithms long before they’re ever read by your intended recipient.
Note: New Zealand's prime minister has acknowledged that Snowden may be right, as reported in this article. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America [marketers of the Crytophone 500], points me to a map that he and his customers have created, indicating 17 different phony cell towers known as “interceptors,” detected by the CryptoPhone 500 around the United States during the month of July alone. Interceptors look to a typical phone like an ordinary tower. Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of “over-the-air” attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device. “Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated,” Goldsmith says. “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.” Who is running these interceptors and what are they doing with the calls? Goldsmith says we can’t be sure, but he has his suspicions. “Are some of them U.S. government interceptors?” [asks] Goldsmith. Interceptors vary widely in expense and sophistication – but in a nutshell, they are radio-equipped computers with software that can use arcane cellular network protocols and defeat the onboard encryption. For governments or other entities able to afford a price tag of “less than $100,000,” says Goldsmith, high-quality interceptors are quite realistic. Some interceptors are limited, only able to passively listen to either outgoing or incoming calls. But full-featured devices like the VME Dominator, available only to government agencies, can not only capture calls and texts, but even actively control the phone, sending out spoof texts, for example.
Note: Do you think the government might have put up fake cell towers to nab more data? For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [is] facing a military commission at Guantanamo Bay and potentially the death penalty. He was captured in 2003 but his case still hasn't gone to trial. Last week, Maj. Jason Wright — one of the lawyers defending Mohammed — resigned from the Army. He has accused the U.S. government of "abhorrent leadership" on human rights and due process guarantees and says it is crafting a "show trial." For nearly three years, he served on Mohammed's defense team. Wright formally resigned on Aug. 26. Wright [says] that it's hard to gain any client's trust, but it was especially hard with Mohammed. His former client is one of six "high-value detainees" being prosecuted at Guantanamo for offenses that could carry the death penalty. "All six of these men have been tortured by the U.S. government," he says. Wright says Mohammed in particular has faced a level of torture "beyond comprehension." He says his client was waterboarded by the CIA 183 times and subjected to over a week of sleep deprivation; there were threats that his family would be killed. "And those are just the declassified facts that I'm able to actually speak about," Wright says. Wright wasn't allowed to discuss too many details of the detainee abuse in court. "The CIA tortured these men. They've gone to extraordinary lengths to try to keep that completely hidden from public view," Wright says. "So the statute that Congress passed has a number of protections to ensure that no information about the U.S. torture program will ever come out."
Note: Why hasn't this been covered by other major media in the US? For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing terrorism news articles from reliable major media sources.
The US government’s web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. You can be pulled into the National Security Agency’s database quietly and quickly. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors. The watchlist [is] based on [low] standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the US government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information – including a Facebook or Twitter post – to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist. Of the 680,000 individuals on that FBI master list, roughly 40% have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”, according to the Intercept. These individuals don’t even have a connection – as the government loosely defines it – to a designated terrorist group, but they are still branded as suspected terrorists. The US [government uses] a loose standard – so-called “reasonable suspicion” – in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted. ["Reasonable suspicion"] requires neither “concrete evidence” nor “irrefutable evidence”. Instead, an official is permitted to consider “reasonable inferences” and “to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience”.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing terrorism news articles from reliable major media sources.
The officers got the wrong man, but charged him anyway—with getting his blood on their uniforms. Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him. [A] 52-year-old welder named Henry Davis ... had been arrested for an outstanding warrant that proved to actually be for another man of the same surname, but a different middle name and Social Security number. The booking officer had no other reason to hold Davis, who ended up in Ferguson only because he missed the exit for St. Charles and then pulled off the highway because the rain was so heavy he could not see to drive. The cop who had pulled up behind him must have run his license plate and assumed he was that other Henry Davis. Davis said the cop approached his vehicle, grabbed his cellphone from his hand, cuffed him and placed him in the back seat of the patrol car, without a word of explanation. The booking officer ... proceeded to escort him to a one-man cell that already had a man in it asleep on the lone bunk. Davis balked at being a second man in a one-man cell. The booking officer summoned a number of fellow cops. One opened the cell door while another suddenly charged, propelling Davis inside and slamming him against the back wall. [A] female officer allegedly lifted Davis’ head as the cop who had initially pushed him into the cell reappeared. “He ran in and kicked me in the head,” Davis recalled. “Paramedics came. They said it was too much blood. I had to go to the hospital.” A federal magistrate ruled that the [police] perjury about the “property damage” charges was too minor to constitute a violation of due process and that Davis’ injuries were ... too minor to warrant a finding of excessive force. Never mind that a CAT scan taken after the incident confirmed that he had suffered a concussion.
Note: If you are willing to know how bad it gets, read the entire article at the link above. Then read an educational article on the skewed reporting of the New York Times on the Michael Brown murder. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
Alex Landau, who is African-American, was adopted by a white couple as a child and grew up in largely white, middle-class suburbs of Denver. "I thought that love would conquer all and skin color really didn't matter," [his mother, Patsy] Hathaway [said, speaking to her son]. "I had to learn the really hard way when they almost killed you." That was in 2009, when Landau, then a college student, was stopped by Denver police officers and severely beaten. Landau was 19 at the time, driving around Denver with a friend in the passenger seat. He noticed red and blue lights behind him. The officer who pulled him over "explained I had made an illegal left turn, and to step out of the car," Landau says. Landau thought he was safe. He wasn't in handcuffs, he says, and he'd already been patted down. "Plus there's three officers on the scene. And I had never had a negative interaction with police in my life. "So I ask them, 'Can I please see a warrant before you continue the search?' " Landau says. "And they grab me and began to hit me in the face. I was hit several times, and I remember gasping for air" and spitting blood, he says. "And then I hear an officer shout out, 'He's reaching for a gun,' " he tells his mother. "I immediately started yelling, 'No, I'm not. I'm not reaching for anything.' " Landau felt a gun against his head, he says. "And I expected to be shot. And at that point I lost consciousness. ... It took 45 stitches to close up the lacerations in my face alone," Landau says. I was just another black face in the streets, and I was almost another dead black male." In 2011, Alex was awarded a $795,000 settlement by the City of Denver.
Note: Listen to the very moving three-minute audio of this white mother and her black son who was nearly killed by police simply for being black. Then read an educational article on the skewed reporting of the New York Times on the Michael Brown murder. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is a reminder that civilians—innocent or guilty—are far more likely to be shot by police in America than in any other rich country. In 2012, according to data compiled by the FBI, 410 Americans were “justifiably” killed by police—409 with guns. That figure may well be an underestimate. Not only is it limited to the number of people who were shot while committing a crime, but also, amazingly, reporting the data is voluntary. Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period. The explanation for this gap is simple. In Britain, guns are rare. Only specialist firearms officers carry them; and criminals rarely have access to them. In America, by contrast, it is hardly surprising that cops resort to their weapons more frequently. In 2013, 30 cops were shot and killed—just a fraction of the 9,000 or so murders using guns that happen each year. Add to that a hyper-militarised police culture and a deep history of racial strife and you have the reason why so many civilians are shot by police officers.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. ICREACH [as the search engine is called] contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Earlier revelations sourced to the Snowden documents have exposed a multitude of NSA programs for collecting large volumes of communications. The NSA has acknowledged that it shares some of its collected data with domestic agencies like the FBI, but details about the method and scope of its sharing have remained shrouded in secrecy. ICREACH has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work, according to a 2010 memo. Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
Development of a U.S. counterattack for cyberterrorism that could do more harm than good was one of the final events that drove Edward Snowden to leak government secrets, the former National Security Agency contractor tells Wired magazine. Snowden ... said the MonsterMind program was designed to detect a foreign cyberattack and keep it from entering the country. But it also would automatically fire back. The problem, he said, is malware can be routed through an innocent third-party country. "These attacks can be spoofed," he told Wired. MonsterMind for example ... could accidentally start a war. And it's the ultimate threat to privacy because it requires the NSA to gain access to virtually all private communications coming in from overseas. "The argument is that the only way we can identify these malicious traffic flows and respond to them is if we're analyzing all traffic flows," he said. "And if we're analyzing all traffic flows, that means we have to be intercepting all traffic flows. That means violating the Fourth Amendment, seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing. For everyone, all the time. You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it," Snowden told Wired. "But if you do that, it creates a slippery slope that just increases over time. And by the time you've been in 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, you've seen it all and it doesn't shock you. And so you see it as normal."
Note: Read the cover story from Wired magazine with a deep inside report on Snowden.
Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the "direct involvement" of government agents or informants, a new report says. Some of the controversial "sting" operations "were proposed or led by informants", bordering on entrapment by law enforcement. Yet the courtroom obstacles to proving entrapment are significant, one of the reasons the stings persist. The lengthy report, released on [July 21] by Human Rights Watch, raises questions about the US criminal justice system's [respect for] civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases. [The report] portrays a system that features not just the sting operations but secret evidence, anonymous juries, extensive pretrial detentions and convictions significantly removed from actual plots. "In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act," the report alleges. Out of the 494 cases related to terrorism the US has tried since 9/11, the plurality of convictions ... are not for thwarted plots but for "material support" charges, a broad category expanded further by the 2001 Patriot Act that permits prosecutors to pursue charges with tenuous connections to a terrorist act or group. Several cases featured years-long solitary confinement for accused terrorists before their trials. Some defendants displayed signs of mental incapacity. Jurors for the 2007 plot to attack the Fort Dix army base, itself influenced by government informants, were anonymous, limiting defense counsel's ability to screen out bias.
Note: Why was this important news not picked up by any major US media? For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist. The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted. The rulebook ... was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.
The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, “amplif[y]” sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be “extremist.” The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call. The tools were created by GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIG’s use of “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag operations,” “honey traps” and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users. A newly released top-secret GCHQ document called “JTRIG Tools and Techniques” provides a comprehensive, birds-eye view of just how underhanded and invasive this unit’s operations are. The document—available in full here—is designed to notify other GCHQ units of JTRIG’s “weaponised capability” when it comes to the dark internet arts, and serves as a sort of hacker’s buffet for wreaking online havoc.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.
Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. [90% of] account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. Many of them were Americans. [Many] files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless. The cache Snowden provided came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA content is generally stored in closely controlled data repositories, and for more than a year. The files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
When Australia's Susie O'Neill claimed the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, she dedicated her victory to Scott Volkers, the swimming coach who had taken over her training two years earlier. By this time, three women who had been Volkers' students were losing belief in themselves and the swimming community. Julie Gilbert, Kylie Rogers and Simone Boyce took the stand at the royal commission into child abuse in Sydney this week to describe their mental breakdowns, eating disorders, anxiety and isolation from a swimming hierarchy that refused to believe them or failed to explore the possibility that Volkers molested them – as girls aged 12 to 18 – in the 1980s. Volkers remained on the payroll of elite Australian swimming institutions until 2010, when he was finally forced to move to Brazil, where he still works as a leading coach. Was it Australia's win-at-all-costs swimming culture that kept him in the presence of young athletes? An exasperated Andrew Boe, the lawyer representing Gilbert, Rogers and Boyce, pointed out: "This is not an examination of whether he was a good swimming coach or not." Nor is it an examination of the guilt or innocence of Volkers – against whom charges concerning these three alleged victims were dropped in 2002 – or other swimming coaches. It is an inquiry into the institutional responses to abuse. Swimming Australia's association with Volkers [ended] in 2005, when the coach's fourth accuser came forward with claims that Volkers had groped her breasts and attempted to stimulate her vagina in the late 1990s, when she was 15. The allegations were very similar to the earlier cases.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing sexual abuse scandals news articles from reliable major media sources.
A classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well. The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The documents underscore the remarkable breadth of potential “foreign intelligence” collection. An affidavit in support of the 2010 foreign-government certification said the NSA believes that foreigners who will be targeted for collection “possess, are expected to receive and/or are likely to communicate foreign intelligence information concerning these foreign powers.” That language could allow for surveillance of academics, journalists and human rights researchers. A Swiss academic who has information on the German government’s position in the run-up to an international trade negotiation, for instance, could be targeted if the government has determined there is a foreign-intelligence need for that information. If a U.S. college professor e-mails the Swiss professor’s e-mail address or phone number to a colleague, the American’s e-mail could be collected as well, under the program’s court-approved rules.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency news articles from reliable major media sources.
The First Amendment protects public employees from job retaliation when they are called to testify in court about official corruption, the Supreme Court ruled [on June 19]. The unanimous decision cheered whistleblower advocates, who said it could encourage more government workers to cooperate with prosecutors in public fraud cases without fear of losing their livelihoods. The justices decided in favor of Edward Lane, a former Alabama community college official who says he was fired after testifying at the criminal fraud trial of a state lawmaker. Lower courts had ruled against Lane, finding that he was testifying as a college employee, not as a citizen. Writing for the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Lane's testimony was constitutionally protected because he was speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concern, even if it covered facts he learned at work. In past cases, the court has said that public employees generally do not have free-speech rights when they discuss matters learned at their jobs. "This ruling gives a green light to all public employees who have information concerning official corruption and fraud and want to expose these crimes," said Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center. He predicted the decision [will] have a "wide impact" on investigations of securities, banking and tax fraud. Lane was director of a college youth program at Central Alabama Community College in 2006 when he discovered that a state lawmaker, Sue Schmitz, was on the payroll but not showing up for work. Lane fired Schmitz despite warnings that doing so could jeopardize his own job.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
A whistle-blower living in exile in Russia. A publisher seeking the asylum he has already been granted while his sources are imprisoned. This isn't the cast of a summer blockbuster. It's a perfect storm of real-life cases that make it clear that constitutional guarantees of a free press and government accountability are rhetorical devices, not political realities. The whistle-blower is Edward Snowden. This month marks the first anniversary of his disclosures of massive National Security Agency surveillance. The publisher is Julian Assange. Thursday marks two years since he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Meanwhile, two of Assange's sources, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) and Jeremy Hammond, remain in prison for providing WikiLeaks with confidential documents. Harassment, targeting and pros