The State Department announced it will lift its freeze on arms sales to the repressive government of Bahrain on Monday, despite the country’s myriad human rights abuses in recent years, including arbitrary detention of children, torture, restrictions for journalists and a brutal government crackdown on peaceful protestors in 2011.
“The Administration has decided to lift the holds on security assistance to the Bahrain Defense Force and National Guard that were implemented following Bahrain’s crackdown on demonstrations in 2011,” wrote John Kirby, a State Department spokesperson, in a press release on Monday.
Human rights groups were quick to criticize the decision. “There is no way to dress this up as a good move,” Brian Dooley, a program director at Human Rights First, said in a statement. “It’s bad for Bahrain, bad for the region, and bad for the United States.” Dooley said Obama should be “doing everything to stop sectarianism in the Middle East, rather than send more weapons to bolster a military drawn almost exclusively from Bahrain’s Sunni sect.”
Bahrain’s Sunni government rules a country where the majority of the population is Shiite.
Just three weeks ago, the State Department condemned the Bahrainian regime for convicting a leading opposition figure, Ali Salman.
“We do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate,” the State Department said.
But some things are evidently more important: “Bahrain is an important and long-standing ally on regional security issues, working closely with us on the counter-ISIL campaign and providing logistical and operational support for countering terrorism and maintaining freedom of navigation.”
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo of protesters running from Bahraini security forces in February 2011 by John Moore/Getty Images
The post U.S. Will Resume Sending Weapons to Bahrain Despite Ongoing Repression appeared first on The Intercept.
Two years after she cancelled her state visit to Washington in outrage over revelations that the U.S. had spied on her, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is back in Washington, taking a decidedly more friendly approach to President Barack Obama.
News articles in July 2013 based on documents provided by National Security Agency whistleblower showed the NSA had been spying on Rousseff’s phone calls and emails and hacking into the state oil corporation, Petrobas, where she serves on the board. She responded by delivering a fuming speech before the United Nations general assembly, and cancelling her visit.
But now, it’s apparently all water under the bridge. Many observers attribute the change to her newfound political weakness at home and Brazil’s economic downturn. She says it’s due to a conversation she had with Obama at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama City in April.
Here are some examples of Rousseff on NSA spying, then:
NSA’s motivations for spying on Petrobas “is not security or combating terrorism, but economic and strategic interests” which is “incompatible with democratic co-existence between friendly nations” and “manifestly illegitimate,” Rousseff wrote in an official note, dated September 2013.
“Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations,” she told the UN in September 2013. “A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.”
“We recognize the actions taken by the U.S. … that friendly countries won’t be spied on,” Rousseff said at the April summit in Panama. “And we have a declaration from President Obama. When he wants to know something, he’ll call me.”
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo: Obama with Rousseff visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. (Michael Reynolds/Getty)
The post Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s Flip-Flop on NSA Spying appeared first on The Intercept.
President Obama has been denouncing “dark money” since 2010, when he declared it “a threat to our democracy.” And he’s right to be concerned: Dark money — in the form of donations to politically active nonprofit organizations that do not have to disclose their donors — now amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars each election.
If he actually wanted to do something about it, he could — without any involvement by Congress. He could issue an executive order requiring corporations that do business with the federal government to disclose their dark money contributions and those by their top executives.
But last week, as 104 congresspeople and 26 senators urged him to do that, he used his spokesperson Eric Schultz to wave them off. “We believe Republicans should be taking steps to fix the campaign finance system, not trying to protect their ability to accept dark money,” Schultz said.
It’s hard to disagree with that. But it would be just as hard to disagree if a Republican spokesperson said, “We believe the Democratic president should be taking steps to fix the campaign finance system, not trying to protect his party’s ability to accept dark money.”
The federal government buys about $500 billion in goods and services every year, and most of the biggest U.S. corporations get chunks of that money and would hate to give it up. Obama used this leverage twice in 2014, first requiring federal contractors to pay their workers at least $10.10 per hour, and then forbidding contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
A new executive order on disclosure of political contributions would make a significant difference. According to a study by Public Citizen, 11 of the top 15 recipients of federal cash (including number one, Lockheed Martin) don’t fully disclose possible dark money contributions.
This past March, 50 organizations, including AFSCME, MoveOn, the NAACP and the Sierra Club, asked Obama to issue an executive order. Then in April the signatures of 550,000 people with the same request were delivered to the White House.
There’s no question that the GOP is scared of this. House Republicans tucked a provision that would protect corporations from disclosure into a spending bill — in fact, that’s what prompted Schultz’s comment.
And corporate America despises the idea. When the Obama administration floated issuing a dark money executive order in 2011, the top Chamber of Commerce lobbyist said: “We will fight it through all available means … all options are on the table.”
At that point Obama courageously gave up, and has continued giving up until today. But Republicans do still face the very real danger that his spokesperson will say mildly disapproving things about them.
- Hillary Clinton Fiercely Vows to [TBD] About Money and Politics
- Bernie Sanders on Obama’s “Biggest Mistake”
- Tea Party Oddsmaker Has Best Campaign Finance Reform Idea Yet (Really)
- Forty Years of Democrats Talking About How Much They Want to Get Money Out of Politics
- Obama Can Reform Dark Money With a Stroke of a Pen
Photo: Yuri Gripas/Getty
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
The post Obama Could Fix Dark Money, But Would Rather Just Yell at Republicans About It appeared first on The Intercept.
The Center for Security Policy’s gala last Monday, a black-tie affair at the stately Metropolitan Club of New York, featured a procession of speakers warning darkly about the threat posed by the religion of Islam.
Tommy Waller, a marine veteran and the legislative outreach director for the group, said he had fought the enemy on the battlefields of the Middle East, but that he did not truly understand them until he joined the center. The enemy has “existed for 1,400 years” and “at the expense of 270 million lives,” he said.
Doctors study medicine, Waller continued, “but we don’t study something that has brought devastation to nearly the same number of humans as the plague.”
The Center for Security Policy, billed as a policy shop for national security concerns, has emerged in recent years as the go-to think tank for Islamophobia. The group hosted two summits for GOP presidential candidates this year, and regularly advises lawmakers. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., spoke at the event on Monday.
Frank Gaffney (pictured above), the founder and president of the center, has claimed that President Obama may be a secret Muslim and that Justice Elana Kagan enabled the imposition of Sharia law. Gaffney and the center have whipped up anti-Islamic rage across the country, supporting efforts to block the construction of a mosque in Tennessee and a Muslim community center in New York. Anders Breivik, the Oslo mass murderer, cited Gaffney and the center’s publications seven times in his anti-Muslim manifesto.
The gala also featured a performance by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gaynor, who competed in NBC’s “The Voice,” a reality television singing competition; and a fiery speech by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Audience members included former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Fox News host Jeanine Pirro.
At the end of the event, Gaffney told me he fiercely opposed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s expected bid for the White House on the ground that Christie had once appointed a Muslim judge. Gaffney praised Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for expressing a “greater degree of clarity” on the threat of radical Islam and “Muslim Brotherhood fronts” in America. Gaffney said he is still undecided about Jeb Bush.
Photo of Frank Gaffney by Win McNamee/Getty Images
(This post is from our new blog: Unofficial Sources.)
The post Center for Security Policy Compares Islamic Religion to the Plague appeared first on The Intercept.
The U.S. government had produced “snippets of information from various sources, out of context, to weave together a narrative of terrorist ideation,” a Florida judge said Friday, ordering the release of Marcus Dwayne Robertson, an Orlando-based Islamic scholar who stood accused of supporting terrorism.
Robertson, also known as “Abu Taubah,” had been incarcerated since 2011 on charges of tax fraud and illegal gun possession. After his arrest and subsequent conviction on those charges, prosecutors sought to add a terrorism enhancement to his sentence, a sentencing guideline modification that would have sent the Islamic scholar to prison for up to 20 years.
Instead, following the judge’s rejection of the enhancement, he was sentenced to time served and ordered released immediately.
Robertson’s case attracted national attention after prosecutors attempted to argue earlier this year that the contents of his book collection constituted evidence of his connection to terrorism. Prosecutors singled out roughly 20 titles from the more than 10,000 e-books Robertson owned, highlighted a selection of controversial passages, and used that to argue that he should be sentenced as though he were a terrorist.
None of Robertson’s charges — conspiracy to file a false tax return and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon — were terrorism offenses.
In a memorandum issued along with his decision yesterday, Judge Gregory A. Presnell strongly repudiated the government’s argument that Robertson’s book collection proved a connection to terrorism. “[T]here was no evidence produced that Robertson ever accessed these particular documents, much less that he took their extremism to heart,” Presnell wrote, noting that even had Robertson read the books in question, it would not have constituted evidence of terrorism.
“The government has never disputed Robertson’s claim of being an Islamic scholar,” the judge continued. “It is not at all remarkable for an Islamic scholar to study, among many, many others, the writings of Islamic extremists.”
The memorandum concluded by describing the sum of the government’s terrorism allegations against Robertson as “woefully inadequate,” adding that the government had “not even come close to proving …. Robertson’s relatively minor income tax fraud was intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism.”
In his closing remarks at Friday’s sentencing hearing, Presnell also stated that he had received “hundreds of emails” in the past few weeks from anti-Muslim activists urging him to impose a harsh sentence on Robertson, an unprecedented experience in his judicial career. Disputing a claim he says was made in many of these emails — that U.S. courts were excessively lenient towards accused Muslim terrorists — Presnell stated that “our courts have actually been quite harsh” in post-9/11 terrorism cases.
“In America, everyone has a right to say and believe what they want, within the bounds of the law,” Presnell said, before instructing that Robertson should be processed and freed from custody by end of day.
Speaking outside the courthouse following the ruling, Robertson’s lawyer Daniel Broderson blasted the government’s tactics in the case. “At no point did the government ever have any actual evidence [Robertson] advocated terrorism, so they attempted to use his library of books as a backhanded way of branding him as a terrorist,” Broderson said. “He spent four years in prison, two years of it in isolation, over a prosecution that was both unfounded and that completely ran afoul of the first amendment.”
Hassan Shibly, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations who had advocated on behalf of Robertson and met with him in prison, cited the judge’s ruling as a rare positive legal precedent in post-9/11 terrorism prosecutions. “This is a huge blow to the FBI’s attempts to criminalize first amendment protected activity and maliciously entrap and prosecute American Muslims,” Shibly said. “We repeatedly warned the U.S. Attorney’s office that their charges were baseless and would be thrown out by any fair judge. We were proven right, and they should frankly be ashamed of themselves today.”
Robertson’s case began in 2011 after Jonathan Jimenez, a young acquaintance of Robertson’s from New York, came to stay with him and his family in Orlando. Jimenez, who had been struggling with drug problems and mental illness, had been invited to stay at Robertson’s home in an effort to help him straighten out his personal problems and further his religious studies. While staying with Robertson, Jimenez was also separately befriended by an undercover government informant, to whom he began making statements suggesting that Robertson had been grooming him to go abroad and conduct violent jihad.
Jimenez’s statements, which he later recanted to authorities, were the only evidence besides Robertson’s book collection that the prosecution produced in its effort to tie him to terrorism. Jimenez is presently serving a 10-year prison sentence for making false statements to federal officials.
Robertson’s case had also been clouded by allegations that he had worked abroad in the past as a covert operative on behalf U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, a claim the government at least partially confirmed. On April 30, a closed hearing was held to review details of Robertson’s alleged cooperation.
Speaking to The Intercept after his release, Robertson alleged that the government had attempted to use his case to establish a precedent for equating ordinary Muslim practices and scholarship with terrorism. “They’re trying to find an indirect way to sentence people with non-terrorism charges as though they’d committed terrorism offenses, without having to provide the preponderance of evidence that is normally required in such cases,” he said. “You own a few books and some guy tells an informant you said something, and suddenly that is legal basis enough to sentence you to prison for decades.”
Robertson, who was held in solitary confinement for several years of his imprisonment, says that while he is happy to be free from prison and reunited with his family, his case was handled unjustly and maliciously prosecuted by the government.
“I lost all those years, in jail, in terrible conditions, away from my family,” he said. “After all that, they couldn’t produce one single statement from me that supported terrorism.”
The post Florida Man, Accused of Terrorism Based on Book Collection, Set Free appeared first on The Intercept.
Despite the widespread perception that the debate over the Confederate flag is over, many leading Republicans have hedged their bets so far. And one GOP senator last week made it abundantly clear that the flag still has its defenders.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said on Thursday that calls to remove the Confederate flag from public buildings are among efforts by “the left” to “delegitimize the fabulous accomplishments of our country.”
After the June 17 massacare of nine African-American worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston by a white racist who revered the flag as a symbol of white supremacy, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley succumbed to public demands and urged that the Confederate battle flag be removed from the state capitol in Columbia. Two days later, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley had four Confederate flages removed from the state capitol in Montgomery.
Appearing on a Birmingham talk radio program, Sessions said he would not criticize Bentley’s decision. He said that “a lot [of] our good citizens feel like [the flag] was kind of commandeered” as an “idea of anti-civil rights,” telling host Matt Murphy that he was “sensitive” to that point of view.
But Sessions said he was no fan of any attempt to “erase history” or “who we are,” recalling his own family’s role in the Civil War. “This is a huge part of who we are and the left is continually seeking, in a host of different ways, it seems to me, I don’t want to be too paranoid about this, but they seek to delegitimize the fabulous accomplishments of our country,” the senator added.
Listen to Sessions’s remarks here:
Sessions has a long history of resistance to social change. During his confirmation hearing to become a federal judge in 1986, he faced criticism over his perceived hostility to civil rights groups and African-American organizations. A black former assistant U.S. attorney testified that Sessions had referred to him as a “boy,” and that he believed the NAACP was among “un-American organizations teaching anti-American values.”
Sessions’s remarks comes as another Alabama Republican, Rep. Gary Palmer, recently attacked those seeking to withdraw the flag from public buildings.
Some Republican politicians, including presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have backed calls to remove the Confederate flag.
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty
The post Senator: Confederate Flag Removal an Attempt to Delegitimize “Fabulous Accomplishments” appeared first on The Intercept.
Das Referendum über die Austeritätsmaßnahmen von EU und IWF in Griechenland könnte zum Anfang eines Kurswechsels in Europa werden
Von HANS BERGER, 29. Juni 2015 -
Wir hatten uns schon an die ewige Wiederkehr des Immergleichen gewöhnt, wenn es um die griechische Schuldenkrise ging. Griechenland macht Vorschläge, die europäischen Institutionen und der Internationale Währungsfonds (IWF) lehnen ab, präsentieren eigene Forderungen, die wiederum für die Regierung in Athen unannehmbar sind. Begleitet wird das Spiel durch permanente Drohungen, Mahnungen und Demütigungen.
Dann aber war alles sehr schnell gegangen. In der Nacht von Freitag auf Samstag hatte Athen bekannt gegeben, die eigene Bevölkerung am