Russland hat die Einsetzung eines unabhängigen UN-Tribunals zum Absturz des Fluges MH17 vor einem Jahr über der Ukraine mit einem Veto blockiert. Bislang ist ungeklärt, wer den Absturz herbeiführte, Russland und die Separatisten in der Ostukraine beschuldigen die ukrainische Regierung, diese wiederum beschuldigt die Separatisten und Moskau.
Moskaus Botschafter Witali Tschurkin legte am Mittwoch im UN-Sicherheitsrat das Veto seines Landes gegen eine Resolution ein. Russland sorgt sich offenbar um die Unabhängigkeit der Untersuchung. Angesichts des "aggressiven Propagandahintergrunds in den Medien" sei eine faire Untersuchung unwahrscheinlich, so Tschurkin. Man werde „auch weiterhin denkbar energisch Bemühungen zu einer umfassenden Unterstützung der Ermittlungen beizutragen“,
Über die Offensive der türkischen Regierung gegen die linke Opposition und die kurdische Befreiungsbewegung
Interview mit ŞERIFE CEREN UYSAL, 30. Juli 2015 -
Şerife Ceren Uysal ist Anwältin. Sie ist aktiv im größten linken Anwaltsverband des Landes, der Progressiven Anwaltsvereinigung (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği, CHD). Thomas Eipeldauer sprach mit ihr für Hintergrund über die jüngsten Entwicklungen in der Türkei.
Die AKP-Regierung hat in den vergangenen Tagen eine großangelegte Verhaftungswelle in der Türkei durchgeführt. Über eintausend Menschen wurden festgenommen. Handelt es sich um eine Operation gegen den Islamischen Staat, wie die Regierung behauptet?
Es ist ganz klar, dass es sich bei diesen
Es ist soweit, wie bereits angekündigt haben KMW und Nexter am 29. Juli 2015 in Paris die Gründung einer gemeinsamen Holding noch ohne Namen aber nach Vorbild der Airbus S.A.S. beschlossen. Sitz des neuen europäischen Rüstungsriesen soll nach angaben des Spiegel in Leiden in den Niederlanden sitzen.
In beiden Ländern werden die Fusionspläne kritisch beobachtet. In der SPD befürchtet man mit der Fusion würde Krauss-Maffei Wegmann zunehmend ein französisches Unternehmen und die auch mit Steuermitteln aufgebaute Technologie würde ins Nachbarland abwandern. Die deutschen Befürworter des Deals sagen jedoch, dass die Franzosen weniger streng sind, wenn es um Rüstungsexporte geht. Das könnte KMW nach einer Vereinigung für künftige Panzermodelle ausnutzen.
The news spread quickly when federal prosecutors announced on Tuesday night that FBI agents had foiled an Islamic State-linked plot to bomb a beach in Key West, Florida.
The alleged attacker, 23-year-old Cuban-American Harlem Suarez, also known as Almlak Benitez, hardly looks the part of an Islamic State fighter.
In a selfie posted on Facebook, Suarez has closed-cropped brown hair and tattoos that cover his right arm, left shoulder and chest. He wears a Batman T-shirt and a sleeveless hoodie.
The U.S. government alleges that Suarez conspired with an FBI informant and undercover agents to bomb a stretch of beach in Key West. The FBI affidavit supporting the criminal complaint portrays Suarez as a bumbler who lived with his parents — not an uncommon description for targets of FBI counterterrorism stings.
Indeed, in Suarez’s case no sophisticated surveillance operation was necessary: Suarez came to the attention of a law enforcement agency simply because he announced his support for the Islamic State online.
On April 8, an unidentified individual went to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office because he had received a friend request from Suarez, who had written, among other things, on his Facebook page: “We are the islamic state We are isis Muslims” and “We are you behad cristians isis.”
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office referred the tip to the FBI. In May, an FBI informant friended Suarez on Facebook. Suarez, who had posted a number of ISIS videos and statements to his Facebook page, allegedly told the informant in an online chat that he had two guns, and was looking for a rifle and a bulletproof vest.
In a phone conversation, according to the affidavit, Suarez told the informant that he had “thought about traveling to the Middle East and that he had been trying to contact someone from Syria.” In the FBI document, there is no confirmation, or even suggestion, that Suarez had been in contact with a member of the Islamic State.
With Suarez, the FBI followed its sting playbook to a tee. The informant recorded Suarez making video, as occurred in the sting involving Sami Osmakac, a mentally ill Albanian-American from Florida who was also caught up in a counterterrorism sting.
In the video, Suarez wore a black tactical vest, black shirt, black face mask and a yellow and black scarf. “I call to other brothers worldwide to create a caliphate in the Middle East,” Suarez had written in his video script, according to the affidavit. “Destroy our enemies against us.”
A couple of weeks later, on June 3, the informant introduced Suarez to an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as an Islamic State operative who could supply explosive devices. Suarez allegedly talked of an attack on July 4 in Marathon, Florida, or in Miami Beach.
“They would know that, you know, it’s coming from Islamic State,” Suarez allegedly said.
The Independence Day plot didn’t happen, of course. It’s unclear why, from the FBI affidavit. There is some suggestion that Suarez had cold feet. The undercover agent had to ask Suarez in a phone conversation on July 13 if he was playing games, according to the affidavit.
“No, I don’t,” Suarez answered. “I’m not playing no games.”
The agent then asked if Suarez if he was “true to the Islamic State.”
A one-word answer followed: “Yeah.”
The first undercover agent introduced Suarez to a second agent, a supposed bomb maker for the Islamic State. On July 27, Suarez met with the second undercover agent in Key West and accepted from him what he believed was a backpack bomb. In truth, the device was inert. FBI agents then arrested Suarez, and he was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
One of Suarez’s former co-workers on a hotel cleaning staff told the local newspaper he was a “a little slow.”
Suarez is the latest man to be arrested as part of an increased push to nab Islamic State sympathizers in FBI counterterrorism stings. These stings, like the ones over the previous decade that targeted so-called lone wolf Qaeda sympathizers, are catching people of questionable capacity who may not even be in contact with the Islamic State. Some of these recent targets have been described as mentally ill.
In Suarez’s case, it’s questionable whether he could have moved a terrorism plot forward were it not for the FBI. When he tried on his own to purchase an AK-47 using his real name and address, according to the FBI affidavit, the seller turned him away.
The reason: Suarez was incompetent. He had filled out the paperwork incorrectly.
The post FBI’s Key West Counterterrorism Sting Target “A Little Slow” appeared first on The Intercept.
In 2013, the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probed Apple’s tax avoidance schemes, finding that the technology company paid little to no corporate taxes on over $74 billion in income over a four year period.
As the accusations mounted, Apple paid Mark Isakowitz, a Washington lobbyist, to work on corporate tax and international tax structure issues in the Senate.
The tables have turned as Isakowitz was hired in January of this year to become the chief of staff to Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the new chief of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. According to a report by Bloomberg’s Jesse Drucker and Richard Rubin, the subcommittee under Portman is “shifting its focus” away from digging into inappropriate corporate behavior.
Under previous chairs, including Democrat Carl Levin and Republicans Susan Collins and Norm Coleman, the committee “probed powerful institutions, often spurring legislative changes and criminal indictments,” Bloomberg notes. The committee made headlines for its relentless pursuit of big business, investigating multinational financial firms UBS and Goldman Sachs.
Rather than investigating corporate misdeeds, the committee under Portman will host hearings on policy reform and will reportedly probe government programs, such as the alleged mismanagement of programs related to the Affordable Care Act.
Portman also appointed Brian Callanan as the staff director for the committee. Callanan previously worked on the government affairs team of King & Spalding, a firm that represents major corporate interests such as the Carlyle Group.
Photo of Apple CEO Tim Cook (center) at a 2013 Senate hearing.
The post New Chair of Committee That Gave Apple Grief Hires Apple Lobbyist appeared first on The Intercept.
Kicking U.S.-based ISIS supporters off social media could provoke them to engage in lone-wolf attacks, according to a report prepared for the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by The Intercept.
“If social media activity is disrupted — for example, through targeted and sustained account suspensions by the hosting companies — lone offender attacks may become more likely as law enforcement pressure could cause some U.S.-based individuals to mobilize on their own, in an attempt to avoid disruption,” says the report, issued in May by a group of regional anti-terrorism centers.
Here is an excerpt of the report, which is titled “Field Analysis Report: (U//FOUO) Assessing ISIL’s Influence and Perceived Legitimacy In The Homeland: A State And Local Perspective.” (It refers to ISIS, or the Islamic State, as ISIL):
But take that conclusion with a grain of salt. The footnote indicated by the asterisk there reads: “This forward-looking assessment of possible future developments related to ISIL messaging is based on an analytic exercise conducted by State and Local Fusion Center intelligence and law enforcement personnel, and moderated by Intelligence Community tradecraft experts provided by DHS & I&A” — that last one presumably being the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
An “analytic exercise” could easily be a bunch of people sitting around, speculating in the absence of facts about things they don’t really know about. And fusion centers, the notoriously inept entities established around the country by the Bush administration after 9/11, are particularly suspect. The centers were ostensibly intended to help local, state and federal authorities share information about public threats. Repeated studies of fusions center, including a particularly devastating 2012 Senate report, have found them to be useless, wasteful and intrusive.
Typically, the argument about keeping terrorists online versus booting them off is about whether the value of being able to monitor them for important information about radicalization and attack-planning exceeds the danger they will radicalize susceptible people into taking action those people wouldn’t otherwise take.
FBI Director James Comey has described radical Twitter users as the “devil” on people’s shoulders who “all day long [is] saying ‘Kill, kill, kill, kill.’” But, as he explained during a July 9 press conference, “There’s actually a discussion within the counterterrorism community about whether it makes sense to shut down Twitter accounts affiliated with terrorist organizations or to allow them to operate as a way to gather intelligence.”
Several lawmakers have urged social media companies to remove terrorist content or report it directly to the government. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., got a provision inserted into the Senate’s intelligence authorization bill approved on July 7 that would force all social media companies to directly report every instance of “terrorist activity” they become aware of. However, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., blasted the provision in a statement on Monday, saying that tech companies are understandably baffled by the vague, impossible and seemingly useless requirement.
Groups like former Bush aide Fran Townsend’s Counter Extremism Project work to shame Twitter into purging ISIS supporters from the Twitterverse. State Department officials and others say ISIS’ social media message is powerful, and hard to contradict at times, as it appeals to disenfranchised people all over the world.
DHS spokesperson S.Y. Lee declined to comment on the report’s conclusion. A spokesperson for the Delaware Information and Analysis Center, listed as the lead source of the report, did not respond to a request for comment.
Intercept reporter Jana Winter contributed to this story.
The post Report for DHS Warns That Booting Extremists Off Twitter Might Upset Them appeared first on The Intercept.
Former GOP Sen. Phil Gramm: “It Was an Outrage” That “Exploited” AT&T CEO Got Only $75 Million at Retirement
Phil Gramm, a former three-term Republican senator from Texas who once ran the Senate Banking Committee, told the House Financial Services Committee yesterday that “it was an outrage” that his friend Edward Whitacre, the CEO of AT&T, only got “$75 million” when he retired in 2007.
“If there’s ever been an exploited worker” it was Whitacre, said Gramm, testifying on the 5th anniversary of passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. Gramm appeared genuinely aggrieved by Whitacre’s shabby treatment and literally pounded the table while speaking.
Whitacre actually received a retirement package totaling $158 million.
Gramm attributed public anger at CEOs like Whitacre to “the one form of bigotry that is still allowed in America,” which is “bigotry against the successful.”
This is a clearly a long-standing belief of Gramm’s, who said almost the same thing, word for word, in 2001.
Gramm was co-chair of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and McCain’s top economic advisor until he was forced to resign after calling the U.S. “a nation of whiners.”
GRAMM: It’s the one form of bigotry that is still allowed in America, and that’s bigotry against the successful … My friend Ed Whitacre at AT&T, if there’s ever been an exploited worker, even though they made a big deal about him getting $75 million when he retired, the man added billions of dollars of value, he was exploited, it was an outrage!
Some of the most successful fighters against the Islamic State are being isolated and attacked by America’s new favorite ally in the region.
Kurdish militias are achieving the stated goals of the Obama administration — to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS — as well or better than any other fighting force. From Kobane to the recent liberation of Tel Abyad, Kurdish militias have won hard-fought victories against ISIS fighters in Syria, while preventing the advance of ISIS into northern Iraq.
What’s more, the Kurds in northern Syria have established a political order like few others in this region of the world. Known as Rojava, the Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria are governed through participatory decision-making forums that include councils made up of women, Christians, Yazidis and Muslims. David Graeber, a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, calls Rojava a “remarkable democratic experiment.”
But those gains are now in danger as Turkey, which has a long history of enmity towards ethnic Kurds and fears the potential for a Kurdish state to its immediate south, in northern Syria or Iraq, flexes its political muscle in Washington and applies its military might in the Middle East.
Behind the scenes, American lobbyists employed by Turkey started working to block U.S. military assistance to Kurdish fighters last year, lobbying disclosures show.
This past week, the Turkish government made two critical air bases available to U.S. forces, a long-sought concession that allows the U.S. military to launch anti-ISIS raids more quickly. And it began its own airstrikes against ISIS. But that move is increasingly being seen as something of a feint, with Turkey’s main focus being a new offensive against Kurdish militants.
Simultaneously with its announcement about U.S. access to the air bases, the Turkish government broke its truce with Kurdish militants. During the past week, the Turkish military began attacking Kurdish bases in Iraq and allegedly in Syria as well. The Turkish government says its campaign is simply a response to an attack by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a separatist group, and has emphasized that it is also targeting ISIS.
On Friday, Turkey launched a series of mass arrests. Though some ISIS supporters were detained, the “vast majority” of arrests, according to the local press, were of leftists and Kurds. And on Tuesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a crackdown on the People’s Democratic Party, a Kurdish-leftist political party that gained seats in parliament for the first time last month.
Turkey intends to use the increased airstrikes to create a “safe zone” for Sunni Arab militias, which as the New York Times noted, would come at the expense of Kurdish fighters.
Rather than condemn the attacks on the Kurds, the Obama administration praised Turkey’s government for making its air base available.
Turkey’s role as a coalition partner in the campaign against ISIS has been and remains the subject of some controversy. For years, foreign jihadi fighters trickled through Turkey’s porous border to join the ranks of ISIS. The Guardian reported on Saturday that a recent U.S.-led raid on an ISIS official responsible for selling black market oil to traders in Turkey revealed direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members
Vice President Joseph Biden remarked on this strange relationship with Turkey in a speech in October 2014. Turkey, Biden said, is “so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government] and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad — except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”
Biden quickly apologized, as good an example as any of the pressure to maintain long-standing U.S.-Turkey business and military relationships — and the intractable power of the Turkish lobby, which is among the biggest spenders on foreign lobbying in Washington and a major sponsor of congressional junkets.
Turkey employs an all-star lobbying team of former government officials, including former Democratic lawmakers Dick Gephardt and Al Wynn; former Republican Senator Tim Hutchinson; retired Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss; and, until he was indicted in June and left the Dickstein Shapiro law firm, former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert. Others on the payroll include Brian Forni, a former Democratic aide, the law firm Greenberg Traurig, and Goldin Solutions, a media strategy firm.
A number of public relations firms and lawyers help sponsor junkets to American politicians and journalists to visit Turkey. Turkish Coalition of America, a Turkish interest group that helps to sponsor the trips, retained Brown, Lloyd and James, the lobby group that, in an ironic twist, previously represented Assad’s wife.
Recently, the Turkish lobby has worked to block military support to the Kurds working to defeat ISIS.
The battle has been over legislation that would allow President Obama to bypass the Iraqi government in Baghdad and directly provide Iraqi Kurds with the heavy weapons and armored vehicles needed to battle ISIS. In the House, Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Elliot Engel, D-N.Y., the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman and ranking member, introduced a bill last November, and then again in March, to provide the administration with the appropriate authority to arm the Kurds.
David Thompson, a former Capitol Hill staffer retained by the Turkish government, lobbied House Republican leaders on the Royce-Engel legislation in late 2014. The firm contacted aides to GOP leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise regarding the bill, according to the statement filed by Thompson’s law firm, Dickstein Shapiro, with the Justice Department in January.
Turkish interests say they have legitimate concerns about the bill. “Supporting a militia for money and then unleashing them into the wild of terrorism we think is irresponsible,” said Gunay Evinch, a longtime attorney for the Turkish government and former president of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations.
“There are tidal wave kind of ripple effects that could be caused just by flooding a particular group within a broader group with heavy weapons and it could dwarf the ISIS problem or multiply it to many types of problems,” Evinch added. Evinch said that he was speaking only on behalf of the ATAA board of directors, not the Turkish government. He noted that he met with Turkish embassy officials, who said they had supplied information to congressional intelligence officials about the dangers of supplying Kurdish forces with weapons.
Human rights watchdogs point out that in some areas of Iraq, Kurdish forces have been linked with efforts to segregate Arab and Kurdish refugees.
Embassy officials and Thompson did not respond to multiple request for comment about the bill. The Turkish embassy later sent a fact-sheet claiming, “Though acting with different motivations, [ISIS] and the PKK share similar tactics and goals.”
President Erdogan has been clear about the threat posed by Kurdish militias. “I say to the international community that whatever price must be paid, we will never allow the establishment of a new state on our southern frontier in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said last month.
“Turkey has legitimate concerns about the international and American long-term policy towards Syria as well as in Iraq,” G. Lincoln McCurdy, the president of the Turkish Coalition of America, said in October. McCurdy, whose group organizes congressional junkets to Turkey and serves as the treasurer of a pro-Turkey political action committee, noted that he is working to improve Turkey’s image as a member of the anti-ISIS coalition, and stressed the need to highlight Turkey’s role as a major host country for refugees.
“We’re in a very strong position because of the PACs,” McCurdy explained to a gathering of Turkish American leaders and Turkish embassy officials in March. He pointed to the strong pro-Turkey sentiment of Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., a freshman lawmaker and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
At the event, Boyle took the stage, praising Turkey as “one of our best friends, if not the best friend, in the region.” He went on to chide his fellow lawmakers for introducing “nine anti-Turkish resolutions,” a reference to legislation to recognize the Armenian genocide and condemn Turkey’s efforts to restrict Internet freedom. “This is wrong and counterproductive and bad for U.S.-Turkish policy,” he declared. About a week after Boyle’s remarks, McCurdy’s Turkish Coalition PAC contributed $1,000 to Boyle’s reelection campaign.
When the Royce-Engel bill to arm Kurds against ISIS was reintroduced this year, most members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee signed on as co-sponsors. Boyle was not among them. Asked why he did not sign onto the legislation, Boyle’s spokesperson declined to comment.
Earlier this summer, the Senate rejected a similar bill to arm the Kurds fighting ISIS, with opponents citing White House concerns that such an effort would sow division within Iraq’s unity government.
It’s not the first time Washington has turned its back on the Kurds.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush’s public suggestion that Iraqis “take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside” encouraged a Kurdish and Shiite uprising against the Baathist regime. But when the uprising occurred, the Bush administration provided no support and thousands of Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis were slaughtered by the Saddam regime.
The post Turkey’s Political Influence Felt as Washington Turns Its Back on Kurds Fighting ISIS appeared first on The Intercept.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is blocking a major intelligence bill to prompt further debate on what tech companies are calling an impossible requirement that would lead to massive over-reporting of useless information.
A provision introduced into the 2016 Intelligence Authorization Bill by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein would require Internet and tech companies to report every instance of “terrorist activity” — without defining what that “terrorist activity” is.
“There is no question that tracking terrorist activity and preventing online terrorist recruitment should be top priorities for law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” Wyden said in a statement on Tuesday. “But I haven’t yet heard any law enforcement or intelligence agencies suggest that this provision will actually help catch terrorists, and I take the concerns that have been raised about its breadth and vagueness seriously.”
In a critique of the proposal, the Center for Democracy and Technology argued that it would “turn online service providers into law enforcement watchdogs,” and force them to distinguish between different forms of speech using a set of opaque criteria.
“It’s so important that Sen. Wyden has put a hold on this bill,” said Emma Llansó, the director the center’s Free Expression Project, told The Intercept. The mandatory reporting provision “has hardly been debated at all,” she said. “It’s not clear what problem it’s trying to solve.”
Law enforcement already has a vast amount of social media data to look through. FBI Director James Comey testified earlier this month to the Senate Intelligence Committee and responded directly to Feinstein’s provision, saying that tech companies like Twitter are actually “pretty good” about reporting content that is genuinely troubling.
The post Wyden Blasts Plan to Have Tech Companies Report “Terrorist Activity” – Whatever That Is appeared first on The Intercept.
The FBI on Friday announced the arrests in Oakland of two animal rights activists, Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane, and accused the pair of engaging in “domestic terrorism.” This comes less than a month after the FBI director said he does not consider Charleston Church murderer Dylann Roof a “terrorist.” The activists’ alleged crimes: “They released thousands of minks from farms around the country and vandalized various properties.” That’s it. Now they’re being prosecuted and explicitly vilified as “terrorists,” facing 10-year prison terms.
Buddenberg and Kissane are scheduled to appear this morning in a federal court in San Francisco for a hearing on bail conditions, while arraignment is set for early September. The indictment comes just days before the scheduled start of the Animal Rights National Conference, the largest and most important annual gathering of activists. The DOJ did exactly the same thing in July of last year: Shortly before the start of the 2014 conference, they arrested two activists on federal “terrorism” charges for freeing minks and foxes from a fur farm. The multiple activists and lawyers who spoke to The Intercept since Friday’s arrests are adamant that these well-timed indictments are designed to intimidate activists at the conference and more broadly to chill campaigns to defend animal rights.
This latest federal prosecution, and the public branding of these two activists as “domestic terrorists,” highlights the strikingly severe targeting over many years by the U.S. government of nonviolent animal and environmental rights activists. The more one delves into what is being done here — the extreme abuse of the criminal law to stifle nonviolent political protest or even just pure political speech, undertaken with tragically little attention — the more appalling it becomes. There are numerous cases of animal rights activists, several of whom spoke to The Intercept, who weren’t even accused of harming people or property, but who were nonetheless sent to federal prison for years.
One obvious and significant reason for the U.S. government’s fixation is that the industries most threatened by this activism are uncontrollably powerful in Washington, virtually owning the Congress without opposition, stacking the relevant agencies with their revolving-door cronies. Another is that this movement is driven by hard-core believers impressively willing to sacrifice their own liberty in defense of their political values — namely, trying to stop the mass torture and gratuitous slaughter of animals — and that frightens both industry and its government servants; that animal rights as a cause is gaining traction worldwide makes the threat even more alarming.
Yet another reason is that the specific forms of activism this movement has cultivated are shrewd and compelling: As is true for so many types of violence, the savagery, torture and sadism that makes these industries so profitable will be collectively tolerated only if we are not forced to confront their reality. That, for instance, is why the Obama DOJ is so desperately fighting the release of torture and Guantanamo photos, and why it has so severely punished whistleblowers: because few things are more menacing to status quo interests than truth revealed in its most visceral form.
While some E.U. countries have severely regulated or even banned many of the animal abuses targeted by activists, the U.S. factory farms that produce furs are among the cruelest and most sadistic anywhere, imposing extreme amounts of suffering and torture on the animals they slaughter — both in terms of how they confine them and then kill them. The very graphic photo here shows the carcasses of minks after they have been skinned; this deeply disturbing undercover video from PETA details their treatment at American fur factories:
Independent of the moral questions raised by this savage treatment of animals, these industrial practices spawn serious environmental degradation, exploit small farmers, and produce health risks for workers: practices that can remain undisturbed only as long as we remain blissfully unaware of the harms they cause.
But there’s something deeper driving this persecution. American elites are typically willing to tolerate political protest as long as it remains constrained, controlled, and fundamentally respectful of the rules imposed by institutions of authority — i.e., as long as it remains neutered and impotent. When protest movements adhere to those constraints, they are not only often ineffective, but more so, they can unwittingly serve as a false testament to the freedom of the political process and the generosity of its rulers (they let us speak out: see, we’re free!). That kind of marginal, modest “protest” often ends up strengthening the process it believes it is subverting.
When, by contrast, a movement transgresses those limitations and starts to become effective in impeding the injustices it targets — particularly when preserving those injustices is valuable to the most powerful — that’s when it has to be stopped at all costs, including criminalizing it with the harshest possible legal weapons. This is the dynamic that explains the emerging campaign in the West to literally criminalize the previously marginalized BDS movement designed to stop Israeli occupation: It’s gaining too much ground, becoming too effective, and thus must be banned, its proponents and leaders threatened with prosecution. The fear that the animal rights movement is growing stronger and will succeed in exposing the horrifying realities of these industries’ practices is driving the persecution to the point of declaring it to be — and formally punishing it as — terrorism.
Even beyond that, the animal rights movement strikes at the heart of what is most cherished by American elites: the pillars of unrestrained capitalistic entitlement. That so much industrial profit depends upon extreme, constant torture and slaughter of animals is something regarded as, in essence, a sacred right.
Lauren Gazolla, who was imprisoned for 40 months in 2004 for her nonviolent animal rights activism and now works at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said that this movement “strikes at something fundamental. It challenges a way of life: So much of how much we live our lives is based on massive violence against animals, and the more brutal these industries are, the more profit they make.”
Anything that targets or threatens this entitlement is regarded as the highest and most severe threat. That’s why the government, at the behest of the industry interests it serves, is calling it “terrorism”: to them, few things are genuinely more menacing or threatening than an effective political movement aimed at these practices.A systematic effort to convert animal rights activism into terrorism
The activists arrested on Friday are being charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), a draconian 2006 federal law heavily lobbied for by the agriculture, pharmaceutical and farming industries. Its drafting and enactment was led by the notorious and powerful American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), with the lobbying industries also hiding behind groups such as the Animal Enterprise Protection Coalition (AEPC) and the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).
As is typical for lobbyist and industry-supported bills, the AETA passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (its two prime Senate sponsors were James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.) and then was signed into law by George W. Bush. This “terrorism” law is violated if one “intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise . . . for the purpose of damaging or interfering with” its operations. If you do that — and note that only “damage to property” but not to humans is required — then you are guilty of “domestic terrorism” under the law.
Prior to the 2006 enactment of the AETA, animal rights activism that damaged property was already illegal under a 1992 federal law, as well as various state laws, and subject to severe punishments. The primary purpose of the new 2006 law was to expand the scope of criminal offenses to include plainly protected forms of political protest, and to heighten the legal punishments and intensify social condemnation by literally labeling animal-rights activists as “domestic terrorists.”
At the same time as this draconian statute was signed into law, numerous states enacted so-called “ag-gag” laws that — amazingly — “prohibit workers from taking undercover videos at the facilities and impose fines or jail time for those who do.” Moreover, “roughly half a dozen states have passed laws in recent years to prevent workers from taking images or videos of agricultural facilities.” They’re so desperate to conceal their savage conduct from the public that they’re literally criminalizing reporting and whistleblowing, so that those who enable vital (and horrific and hard-to-watch) videos like this one — showing incomprehensible cruelty to highly intelligent and emotionally advanced pigs — are subject to prosecution:
For a barbaric industry, nothing is more threatening than the truth. As the Wall Street Journal explained in May: “In 2008, a California meat company recalled 143 million pounds of beef — the largest beef recall in U.S. history — after the Humane Society of the United States distributed an undercover video showing workers kicking sick cows and using forklifts to get them on their feet. The condition of the cows suggested their meat could have posed a risk to consumers.”
That case was the result of an undercover investigation at the Hallmark Meat Packing Co. in Chino, which, in the words of the Humane Society, showed “slaughter plant workers displaying complete disregard for the pain and misery they inflicted as they repeatedly attempted to force ‘downed’ animals onto their feet and into the human food chain.” Because the cows were too sick to walk, they were dragged or pushed with hot prods into the slaughterhouse. Some of that food made its way into the National Lunch Program served to public school students.
In other words, cows that were too sick even to walk, because of their savage mistreatment, were being put into the human food chain. This was discovered only because an undercover video revealed it:
Is it any wonder that these industries are demanding that such reporting and exposure be outlawed? And is it hard to see why the brave activists bringing these truths to light and trying to stop them are regarded as criminals and even “terrorists” for doing so?Targeting core political speech
This latest case shows how extreme and oppressive this law is by design. No human beings were physically injured by the alleged activism of Buddenberg and Kissane, nor did they attempt to harm any. Whatever one thinks of their tactics, it was — even by the FBI’s telling — confined to property damage: essentially vandalism. In its Press Releases announcing indictments, the FBI tries to depict the alleged acts in the worst, most inflammatory light possible; for this case, this is all it could muster: They “used paint, paint stripper, a super glue-type substance, butyric acid, muriatic acid and glass etchant to vandalize Furs by Graf, a retail furrier located in San Diego.” There is absolutely no commonly understood meaning of “terrorism” (to the extent such a thing exists) that can include anything they did.
Ben Rosenfeld, a lawyer who has extensively represented animal and environmental activists, told The Intercept that “calling this terrorism is utterly irresponsible and offensive to victims of real terror.” Referring to both the DOJ and Congress, he said, “They should be ashamed of themselves.”
He added that in the post-9/11 era, “Calling this terrorism makes it almost impossible to get a fair trial for these activists. It’s very manipulative. Though the public is more jaded about the manipulative use of this term, it makes a huge impression on judges, most of whom have previously been prosecutors.” Because it’s in the title of the law, the term “terrorism” even appears on verdict forms, “so jurors see it very clearly.”
To label this nonviolent political protest “terrorism” yet again illustrates the utterly malleable and propagandistic nature of that term. This is particularly true given that the same DOJ that is charging the activists as “terrorists” just announced that Dylann Roof — who murdered nine people in a Charleston church to advance clear ideological and political objectives — will not be.
Even more abusive prosecutions — based exclusively on pure political speech and protest rights — have been common. Will Potter is likely the most knowledgeable journalist in the country on these issues; he’s author of a 2011 book entitled Green is the New Red, and editor of a great website by the same name that exhaustively covers these issues.
Potter has a new story, published yesterday, on the arrest of four animal-rights activists in Oregon for . . . “allegedly writing political slogans on the public street using sidewalk chalk.” Potter reports that “the chalking was done as part of the growing ‘No New Animal Lab’ campaign, which aims to stop the construction of a new underground animal experimentation facility at the University of Washington.”
In 2004, Gazolla was prosecuted — and imprisoned in a federal penitentiary — for 40 months (three-and-a-half years) on charges that she and other activists maintained a website that endorsed illegal protests, and that her chants at a protest outside an executive’s house included advocacy of violence.
Her co-defendant was Andy Stepanian of Fitzgibbon Media, the communications firm that represents The Intercept and, on a pro bono basis, Chelsea Manning. Stepanian was imprisoned for three years, and during his incarceration, was even placed in a highly oppressive “Communications Management Unit,” called “GITMO North,” typically reserved for Muslims accused of terrorism. The FOIA-obtained prison document ordering his transfer tells the story (redactions in original):
As Gazolla detailed in a 2014 Salon article, the only conceivable purpose of calling activists like her “terrorists” under the new 2006 law is to stifle legitimate speech:
The AETA was pushed through Congress by the immensely powerful animal agriculture, animal testing and fur industries. The law is not limited to punishing illegal activity; numerous existing laws already punish vandalism, threats and other illegal forms of protest. Rather, the AETA provides special protection to a specific class of businesses by targeting and stigmatizing a particular group of protesters, hanging the specter of prosecution as “animal enterprise terrorists” over their heads, and ultimately scaring them into silence.
Indeed, the very first case prosecuted under the AETA was in 2009, and it included the same Joseph Buddenberg who was arrested on Friday, along with three other defendants. Industry officials and their lobbyists were furious that no prosecutions had been brought in the two years since its enactment, and were aggressively pressuring the DOJ to find a case.
As Potter reported at the time, the DOJ’s entire case, calling these activists “terrorists,” rested on their pure First Amendment activity such as chalking sidewalks, marching and chanting outside researchers’ homes, and distributing fliers. The following year, the indictments were dismissed by a federal judge on the ground that the DOJ failed even to allege with any specificity what they did that constituted a crime.
But the history since that dismissal makes clear that pure political speech and protest are the real targets of these “terrorism” prosecutions. Gazzola told The Intercept that the AETA succeeded for a time in its goal of weakening and chilling activism: “My prosecution scared people,” she said.
But both Gazzola and Potter echoed what numerous activists and lawyers said: that despite the government’s efforts, animal rights activism is stronger, and the cause more widely accepted, than ever before. Others noted that there’s also a growing right-wing faction to the movement and that it’s starting to cut across ideological lines in interesting ways. Gazzola said that “more and more people are speaking up more strongly now, and there is more support from the broader left and social justice attorneys. All of that has really helped the movement come back.”Supporting activism, preventing abusive prosecutions
For years, animal rights activists worked without much support, even from the left, which generally regarded them as fringe and their cause as marginal (this post does a good job of laying that out). But all of the movement supporters interviewed by The Intercept are optimistic that, for a variety of revealing reasons, they have far more support than ever before.
Potter explained that the left’s aversion to animal rights activism was in part fueled by caricatures created by federal authorities. “They told the left, ‘don’t worry: we’re just going after these hard-core extremists, the ones who think you shouldn’t be able to go to circuses or wear leather shoes.'” That demonization made the left wary of being associated with a movement that had been successfully marginalized.
But activists point to a number of positive developments as evidence that animal rights is now becoming far more mainstream. There have been a few successful ballot initiatives to limit the worst abuses in agriculture. A single documentary on animal abuses at Sea World all but destroyed that company. Mainstream, influential figures advocate vegetarianism. The widespread availability of cheaper technology and access to the internet makes it far easier than ever to produce undercover videos and ensure widespread dissemination. Legal changes are, for the first time, recognizing pets and other animals as having emotional worth, beyond their value as “chattel.”
In sum, said Potter, we are collectively “expanding our circles of compassion, or at least consideration, in terms of the law and our moral framework.” For the first time in the U.S., it is now being recognized that “animals are worthy of moral consideration.”
But these changes, while positive, are limited, and far from what is needed to shield animal rights activism from vindictive prosecution and additional industry-fueled retribution. Potter used the term “greenwashing” to explain that “the Federal Government loves to tell you that it’s great for you to love the environment, but only if you do it in benign ways that don’t threaten industry.” You can and should recycle, but don’t impede lumber companies from cutting down trees or get in the way of whaling ships. Only “eco-terrorists” do that.
The same dynamic is at play in animal rights activism. We’re told that it’s great to love your pets. It’s fine to get outraged when some revolting, piggish Minnesota dentist — or the hideous spawn of Donald Trump — slaughter majestic animals in Africa for their own twisted pleasure or to compensate for their glaring sense of inadequacy. “But whatever you do,” said Potter, “don’t turn your gaze to the everyday behavior of America’s largest food companies and farming industries in order to shine a light on their wholesale torture and slaughter of animals.” No matter how much people have learned to love animals and regard them as possessing moral worth, that type of activism — effective and subversive of industry — is still radioactive.
That’s what most needs to change. The countless hours of interviews and reading I’ve now done has made me, for the first time, fully cognizant of the shocking amount of legal abuses being undertaken here. At the very least, the activists who are sacrificing their own liberty in order to protect animals from being tortured and slaughtered — activists who are often poor and thus vulnerable to most abusive prosecutions — deserve a vibrant legal defense.
A legal defense fund has now been created to ensure that both Buddenberg and Kissane have the funds needed to defend themselves. You can, and I hope will, donate to that here. Beyond that, both CCR and the Civil Liberties Defense Center have done stalwart work in fighting the pernicious efforts to equate this activism with “terrorism.”
The propagandistic exploitation of the term “terrorism” has produced a wide range of harms all over the globe. Few harms are as severe as its ongoing use not only to stifle, but outright criminalize, political speech and noble activism.
The post Dylann Roof Is Not a “Terrorist” — But Animal Rights Activists Who Free Minks From Slaughter Are appeared first on The Intercept.
At an event earlier this month to formally launch his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker cited a man in the crowd named Kevin Hermening as a formative influence on his foreign policy thinking. Hermening, a former U.S. Marine who was held hostage during the 1979 Iranian revolution, is a longtime friend of Walker, and has been described in press reports as “the face of Walker’s foreign policy.” The governor has repeatedly cited Hermening as a major influence on his worldview, including his opposition to the Obama administration’s recent nuclear deal with Iran.
But Walker’s choice of Hermening as a foreign policy counselor raises serious questions about Walker’s understanding of the issues. Hermening has publicly advocated conducting nuclear strikes against the capital cities of Muslim-majority countries, as well as the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, particularly those of “Middle Eastern descent” from the United States.
In 2001, Hermening wrote an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calling for a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that would include “the destruction of the capitals of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen,” unless the governments of those countries unequivocally agreed to help kill Osama bin Laden. “Every military response must be considered, including the use of nuclear weapons,” he wrote. In his commentary Hermening also called upon the United States to erect security fences “along the entire perimeter of the United States,” as well as deport “every illegal alien and immigrant, with a focus on removing those of Middle Eastern descent.”
In an interview earlier this week with Journal Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice, Hermening said that destroying the seven capitals would have been an appropriate response. “Hillary Clinton agreed. Hillary Clinton maybe wasn’t as expansive as I was because I included more countries. … But on Afghanistan and Iraq, the president of the United States and the majority of the U.S. Senate and Congress also agree.”
Reached by The Intercept, Hermening said that he is not a formal policy adviser to Walker. Asked about the views he expressed in the op-ed, Hermening said that the United States needed to send a “strong message” after the 9/11 attacks. But he said the use of nuclear weapons would not have been his “first resort.”
Walker responded to Bice’s column on Monday. “I’ll speak for myself,” he told the Journal Sentinel. “My policy is very clear, and it’s not aligned with what he said in that particular column.” Walker told the newspaper that he does not consider Hermening an adviser, even though his campaign has featured him prominently. Walker’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Intercept.
In an interview with The Intercept, Robert McCaw, a government affairs adviser with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called for the Walker campaign to distance itself from Hermening. “This is a possible Walker campaign adviser advocating for nuclear genocide across all of the Middle East, something that the campaign is apparently willing to defend. Gov. Walker should be distancing himself from Hermening, not embracing such extreme ideas.”
Walker has come under fire on several occasions for his apparent ineptitude on foreign policy issues, and since declaring his candidacy for president has made a number of unrealistically hawkish statements about his future foreign policy intentions. He has suggested that he would terminate the Iranian nuclear deal and potentially even commence military operations against Iran on the day of his inauguration. He has also cited his success at crushing labor unions in his home state of Wisconsin as a precedent for his future approach to combatting the militant group Islamic State.
In one instance, Walker described Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire 11,000 striking air traffic controllers as “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime.”
Photo: Getty Images/Scott Olson
The post Scott Walker Foreign Policy Guru Called for Nuking Muslim Countries, Mass Deportations appeared first on The Intercept.
Our friend and colleague David Vine, scored a very helpful op ed in the New York Times today, making a realpolitik call for the close of U.S. foreign military bases. The article comes in conjunction with the publication of his new book, Base Nation: How U.S. Milibary Bases Abroad Harm America and the World.” You’ll find his book at the url below, and you can ask your bookseller to stock his book!