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Feds: Ferguson Preys Viciously on Black Residents

The Intercept - Engl. - vor 7 Stunden 11 Minuten

Police in Ferguson, Missouri have presided over a predatory system of entrenched racism, economic exploitation and constitutional rights violations stretching back several years, according to a long-awaited Department of Justice investigation released Wednesday. The scathing 102-page report paints a portrait of a vicious environment in which Ferguson’s black residents are disproportionately mired in municipal court fines — frequently resulting from dubious traffic stops — in order to generate revenue for the St. Louis suburb and routinely subjected to excessive use of force. 

The report, six months in the making, confirms many of the complaints black residents raised in the wake the fatal August shooting of Michael Brown — an unarmed African American teen — by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer. Brown’s killing sparked months of protest, highlighting longstanding discriminatory practices carried out by Ferguson’s majority white police force against Ferguson’s majority black population.

In a press conference Wednesday unveiling the report, Attorney General Eric Holder blamed Ferguson’s police for creating a “powder keg” that exploded when Brown was gunned down in broad daylight. In November, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson in Brown’s slaying; in a separate development Wednesday, the DOJ cleared Wilson of alleged civil rights violations in the teen’s killing.

The DOJ’s report on the Ferguson police department places responsibility for the deplorable civil rights conditions in Ferguson on department and city officials alike–some of whom federal officials documented sending racist emails denigrating the president, the first lady and black people in general.

The report took aim at five distinct areas: the Ferguson Police Department’s exploitation of citizens as a source of revenue, police practices, the municipality’s court system, racial bias and community distrust. In each area, the police department in Ferguson was found to be an abysmal failure in which interlocking abuses and perverse incentives have eroded constitutional rights.

The report tells the story of a city where, under the color of law enforcement, demands for revenue have been coupled with racial discrimination, resulting in disastrous conclusions for the city’s black residents.

As the report noted, from 2012 to 2014 African Americans accounted for “85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations, and 93 percent of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67 percent of Ferguson’s population.” Tickets mean money for the city–in 2013, municipal court fines were Ferguson’s second highest source, the bulk of which were leveled against African Americans.

“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs,” the report stated. “This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community.”

For those familiar with law enforcement in St. Louis County, the report reflected a confirmation of longstanding problems. “This report tells us something we already know,” said Montague Simmons, chair of the St. Louis nonprofit Organization for Black Struggle. “The question we should be asking is what do we do with it? Do we dismantle the racist police state, and disband the Ferguson the Police Department? Or do we learn nothing and keep on with the same thing.”

Holder’s DOJ stopped short of calling for the wholesale disbanding of Ferguson’s police department, though he did blame the department for fostering a “toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment.” In the report, however, his office laid 26 recommendations for Ferguson’s police department and municipal court system. Failure to comply with “consent decree” could result in the city facing a lawsuit from the federal government.

“It is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action,” Holder said Wednesday, adding that adding that, “the United States Department of Justice reserves all its rights and abilities to force compliance and implement basic change.”

The report found that in nearly nine out of 10 uses of force by the Ferguson police department, the person on the receiving end was black. In one particularly brutal scene described in the report, the police tasered a mentally disabled man who had tried to commit suicide in his cell. It occurred in July 2011 when, “a correctional officer used a [taser] to stun an African-American male inmate three times after he tried to hang himself with material torn from a medical dressing and banged his head on the cell wall.”

Another incident in the report illustrated how Ferguson police frequently violated the First Amendment rights of Ferguson’s black residents. “In July 2012,” the report said, “a police officer arrested a business owner on charges of Interfering in Police Business and Misuse of 911 because she objected to the officer’s detention of her employee. According to FPD records, the owner ‘became verbally involved,’ came out of her shop three times… The officer characterized her protestations as interference and arrested her inside her shop. The arrest violated the First Amendment.”

Such arrests were routine; the report detailed numerous cases of police arresting residents for constitutionally protected activities such as disrespectful language toward police and the recording of citizens’ encounters with police. 

The Department of Justice accused Ferguson Police of being too quick to “escalate encounters with subjects they perceive to be disobeying their orders or resisting arrest. They have come to rely on [Electronic Control Weapons], specifically Tasers, where less force—or no force at all—would do.”

The department’s use of force also included the discriminatory use of police canines, even on children: “FPD engages in a pattern of deploying canines to bite individuals when the articulated facts do not justify this significant use of force. The department’s own records demonstrate that, as with other types of force, canine officers use dogs out of proportion to the threat posed by the people they encounter, leaving serious puncture wounds to nonviolent offenders, some of them children.” The report documented 14 bites by police dogs in which racial information was available–every person was black.

The Ferguson police also targeted black women. In one scene, officers were called to a domestic disturbance, but instead of aiding the woman who called 9-1-1, police jailed her for an occupancy violation.  In a separate incident, another black woman, who had also called 9-1-1, was issued a summons for an occupancy permit violation. The report says she told the officer that she “hated the Ferguson Police Department and will never call again, even if she is being killed.” The Department of Justice also cataloged how police tasered black women even when they posed no physical threat.

Discriminatory behavior by street-level cops was matched by racist attitudes by higher-level city officials. One remarkable section of the report detailed how “some Ferguson decision makers hold negative stereotypes about African Americans, and lack of personal responsibility is one of them”—despite the fact that black residents made incredible efforts to pay the fines that were disproportionately handed out to them. At the same time, according to the report, white Ferguson police officers made a habit of fixing parking tickets for friends. “Even as Ferguson City officials maintain the harmful stereotype that black individuals lack personal responsibility,” the report said, “and continue to cite this lack of personal responsibility as the cause of the disparate impact of Ferguson’s practices — white City officials condone a striking lack of personal responsibility.”

Ferguson’s municipal employees also held anti-black views, using official city email accounts to trade racist jokes. The report documents seven such emails. In one email municipal officials “mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: ‘I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!’”  Other employees referred to Barack Obama as a Chimpanzee, and endorsed the termination of black pregnancies as an effective tool for reducing crime. Another email “included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, ‘Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion’.” The authors of the emails were not identified.

The city of Ferguson—which is still reeling from the events following Brown’s killing last summer—will now have to answer for a report that depicts a widely bigoted police force and local government that actively targets black residents for harassment and assault.

In a statement released Wednesday, Brown’s parents welcomed the report, saying, “It is our hope that through this action, true change will come not only in Ferguson, but around the country. If that change happens, our son’s death will not have been in vain.”

Photo: Michael Thomas/Getty

The post Feds: Ferguson Preys Viciously on Black Residents appeared first on The Intercept.

Auf dem Weg zu neuen Konflikten (III)

German Foreign Policy - vor 9 Stunden 24 Minuten
(Eigener Bericht) - Die Japan-Reise der deutschen Kanzlerin Anfang nächster Woche findet in einer Phase des Ausbaus militärischer Beziehungen zwischen Berlin und Tokio statt. Vor allem die deutsche Marine kooperiert regelmäßig mit den japanischen Seestreitkräften, mit denen sie am Horn von Afrika taktische Manöver durchführt. Auch Heer und Luftwaffe strecken seit geraumer Zeit ihre Fühler nach Japan aus. Parallel intensivieren Großbritannien und Frankreich ihre militärpolitischen Beziehungen zu Japan. Dasselbe gilt für die NATO, die mit der japanischen Regierung im vergangenen Jahr ein "Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme" vereinbart hat. Deutsche Regierungsberater haben bereits vor zwei Jahren empfohlen, sich "an der politisch-militärischen Neuausrichtung der USA nach Asien (zu) beteiligen". Dabei geht es um die Stärkung westlicher Positionen im unmittelbaren regionalen Umfeld der Volksrepublik China, die machtpolitisch zurückgedrängt werden soll. Japan, Schlüsselverbündeter der USA in Asien, gilt dabei auch für Berlin und die EU als wichtiger Partner in der Rivalität mit Beijing.

Top Lobbyist: 2016 To Be “Bumper Year” Thanks to Clinton Campaign

The Intercept - Engl. - Mi, 04/03/2015 - 21:28

Each year, UBS — the Swiss financial services giant best known in the U.S. for paying $1.5 billion to settle charges it rigged the Libor benchmark interest rate — hosts a “Global Media & Communications Conference.” 2014’s conference took place last December at the Westin Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

At one presentation, a UBS analyst asked Sir Martin Sorrell, head of the London-based lobbying and advertising mega-firm WPP Group, if he foresaw anything noteworthy for WPP’s future financial prospects.

Yes, responded Sorrell: “2016 should be a bumper year as Hillary Clinton wins the election here.”

Sorrell’s confidence in the profitable possibilities of 2016 is justified: American political operatives employed by the WPP Group are deeply involved in lining up support for the former secretary of state’s nascent presidential campaign. The Super PAC Ready for Hillary is being closely advised by Craig Smith, who is employed by WPP-owned PR firm Penn Schoen Berland. Hillary’s “shadow campaign” is reportedly being organized by executives from the WPP-owned political affairs and lobbying shop Dewey Square Group. And the managing director of the Glover Park Group, a D.C. lobbying firm purchased by WPP in 2011, has also organized fundraising efforts.

A similar dynamic is playing out on the other side of the aisle, with lobbyists seizing management roles in the campaigns of leading GOP contenders and the Super PACs backing them.

Both Govs. Scott Walker and Chris Christie tapped top political talent from the very same lobbying firm, Mercury LLC.

Bob Livingston, a lobbyist who once represented Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s government in Washington, is leading the new Super PAC set up to support Gov. Bobby Jindal’s expected presidential run.

Similarly, Jeb Bush’s Super PAC, Right to Rise, was founded by Charlie Spies, a lobbyist for the casino giant Wynn Resorts. And Sen. Marco Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC is managed by his former chief of staff, Cesar Conda, who has returned to the private prison lobbying firm he founded, Navigators Global.

“There is no doubt that outside organizations — PACs, Super PACs, etc. — wield enormous influence over both candidates and voters,” says Jessica Levinson, clinical professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “Because money flows so freely throughout our political system, I think the important thing at this point is for there to be thorough transparency about who these lobbyists are, and the interests that they work for.”

Some consulting firms involved with the 2016 race are required by the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act to disclose their clients, because they engage in direct lobbying of legislative and executive branch officials. BGR Group lobbyist Jonathan Mantz is guiding the fundraising for Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton Super PAC, while simultaneously lobbying for interests such as Comcast, Chevron, the Republic of India, the Kurdish Regional Government and the Thai Royal Embassy. Similarly, Glover Park Group’s Susan Brophy has fundraised for Ready for Hillary while serving as a paid representative of JPMorgan Chase, Verizon and the Egyptian government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Mercury LLC, the firm from which both Christie and Walker have recruited campaign operatives, represents firms including Sallie Mae, eBay, Alcoa, Air Canada and as of last month, the Qatari government. (Pierre Omidyar, founder of The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, is the chairman of eBay.)

However, firms such as the Glover Park Group, which solely engage in “astroturf” lobbying — the organizing of grassroots groups on behalf of corporate interests — are not required to disclose their clients.

Speaking recently with The Hill, uber-lobbyist Tony Podesta predicted that “whoever the next president is will not maintain the lobbyist ban” instituted by President Obama — a ban, he noted, that has already crumbled under the weight of numerous exemptions and waivers. It’s not hard to see that happening, given that the shadow campaigns are already managed by lobbyists.

The post Top Lobbyist: 2016 To Be “Bumper Year” Thanks to Clinton Campaign appeared first on The Intercept.

The “Snowden is Ready to Come Home!” Story: a Case Study in Typical Media Deceit

The Intercept - Engl. - Mi, 04/03/2015 - 19:30

Most sentient people rationally accept that the U.S. media routinely disseminates misleading stories and outright falsehoods in the most authoritative tones. But it’s nonetheless valuable to examine particularly egregious case studies to see how that works. In that spirit, let’s take yesterday’s numerous, breathless reports trumpeting the “BREAKING” news that “Edward Snowden now wants to come home!” and is “now negotiating the terms of his return!”

Ever since Snowden revealed himself to the public 20 months ago, he has repeatedly said the same exact thing when asked about his returning to the U.S.: I would love to come home, and would do so if I could get a fair trial, but right now, I can’t.

His primary rationale for this argument has long been that under the Espionage Act, the 1917 statute under which he has been charged, he would be barred by U.S. courts from even raising his key defense: that the information he revealed to journalists should never have been concealed in the first place and he was thus justified in disclosing it to journalists. In other words, when U.S. political and media figures say Snowden should “man up,” come home and argue to a court that he did nothing wrong, they are deceiving the public, since they have made certain that whistleblowers charged with “espionage” are legally barred from even raising that defense.

Snowden has also pointed out that legal protections for whistleblowers are explicitly inapplicable to those, like him, who are employed by private contractors (rendering President Obama’s argument about why Snowden should “come home” entirely false). One month after Snowden was revealed, Daniel Ellsberg wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post arguing that Snowden did the right thing in leaving the U.S. because he would not be treated fairly, and argued Snowden should not return until he is guaranteed a fully fair trial.

Snowden has said all of this over and over. In June 2013, when I asked him during the online Guardian chat why he left the U.S. for Hong Kong, he said: “the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home . . . That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.” In January 2014, AP reported about a new online chat Snowden gave: “Snowden said returning would be the best resolution. But Snowden said he can’t return because he wouldn’t be allowed to argue at trial that he acted in the public interest when he revealed the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs.” In that chat, he said: “Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself.”

In his May, 2014 interview with NBC News’ Brian Williams, Snowden said: “I don’t think there’s ever been any question that I’d like to go home.” That led to headlines like this one from CBS News — on May 29, 2014, more than 9 months ago:

For many months, it has also been repeatedly reported there have been negotiations between the DOJ and Snowden’s lawyers for the terms of his return, though those negotiations have gone nowhere. In April, 2014, the New York Times reported that Snowden “retained a well ­known Washington defense lawyer last summer in hopes of reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors that would allow him to return to the United States and spare him significant prison time.” In June, 2014, Bill Gertz reported that “Federal prosecutors recently held discussions with representatives of renegade National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden on a possible deal involving his return to the United States.”

Snowden’s U.S. lawyers have repeatedly said the same thing. In April, 2014New York Magazine — under the headline “Snowden Hired Lawyer to Negotiate a Plea Deal” — reported:

Government officials said negotiations with Snowden’s lawyers remained at an early stage, and it doesn’t appear that there’s any deal on the horizon. However, Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents Snowden, said he is still “interested in returning home” from Moscow, where he has temporary asylum. Wizner continued:

“He is and always has been on America’s side. He would cooperate in extraordinary ways in the right circumstances. But he does not believe that the ‘felon’ label is the right word for someone whose act of conscience has revitalized democratic oversight of the intelligence community and is leading to historic reforms.”

Yesterday, in Moscow, Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena held a press conference to promote his new book, was asked about Snowden’s case, and said exactly what has been known for almost two years: “He has a desire to go back, and we are doing everything possible to make that happen.” Kucherena added that lawyers in various countries have been working on Snowden’s behalf to negotiate terms for a fair trial.

Various media outlets then took these redundant, anodyne comments and distorted them into some brand new BREAKING!! event — as though Snowden suddenly decided for the first time he wants to Come Home — and then proceeded to extract from this fake narrative a series of utterly misleading, false and propagandistic claims about Snowden, Russia, and the NSA. The first instance I saw of this was yesterday morning, from Politico‘s digital editorial director Blake Hounshell, looking as always to generate Politico clicks by hyping empty garbage:

That was re-tweeted by dozens of journalists and others, treating it like some sort of new confession on Snowden’s part that he’s suddenly “ready to return” home. Over and over, print and television media outlets then spent the rest of the day screeching that Snowden has now decided he wants to come home!!! “Snowden Seeks to Return Home,” proclaimed the headline of the New York Times, while the article strongly suggested this was a new desire created by life in Moscow: Snowden “would like to return to the U.S. after nearly two years of exile in Russia.” The NSA-allied website Lawfare cited the article to claim: “Edward Snowden wants to come home.” ABC pronounced: “NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Wants to Return Home.” Reuters: “Fugitive ex-NSA contractor Snowden seeks to come home: lawyer.” And on and on and on.

Countless cable shows similarly treated this like some sort of breaking, revealing news about Snowden’s life in Russia and his desperation to return to the Land of the Free — all based on things that happened over and over during the last 20 months. The most hilariously inane was this CNN discussion of “BREAKING NOW” news hosted by Wolf Blitzer, involving his know-nothing panelists: CNN “counter-terrorism analyst” (i.e., former CIA counter-terrorism official) Phillip Mudd, Washington Post’s David Ignatius, and Newt Gingrich, all of whom put on their Serious Expert Faces to spout utter idiocy. Let’s look at some of what they said:

Mudd: “I don’t understand why someone who is one of the most remarkable leakers we’ve ever seen gets to flee overseas, and then talk to the Department of Justice about what he wants for his trial. Come home, son, and spend your 30 years in jail. He’s cooked.”

CNN’s “expert” is apparently unaware that the DOJ very frequently — almost always, in fact — negotiates with people charged with very serious felonies over plea agreements. He’s also apparently unaware of this thing called “asylum,” which the U.S. routinely grants to people charged by other countries with crimes on the ground that they’d be persecuted with imprisonment if they returned home.

Also, with this prevailing mentality being spewed by former government officials and current news network “experts” — “come home, son, and spend your 30 years in jail. He’s cooked” — does anyone have difficulty seeing why Snowden believes he would not get a fair trial?

Ignatius: “It must be very difficult to be Edward Snowden, living in the Moscow of Vladimir Putin, at a time when Putin’s opposition is being murdered in the streets, so I can’t help but think that Snowden wants out, and the fact that he’s willing to negotiate, which he said before he wouldn’t do, is interesting.”

It’s hard to overstate how false and misleading this is. Snowden had never said he wouldn’t negotiate for his return; as I’ve demonstrated, he’s been negotiating this through his lawyers informally for a long time, and his position has always been the same: he’d like to return home if he could be assured a fair trial. David Ignatitus just made all of this up, all based on this fake news item that Snowden has had some sort of sudden change of heart.

Then there’s the bit about living in the Russia “of Vladimir Putin.” For more than 60 years, U.S. elites have been eager to tell Americans that anyone living in Russia is inherently miserable. That’s particularly true of western dissidents: the apocryphal stories of British defector Kim Philby being destroyed by a dark, lonely, miserable existence that culminated in his drinking himself to death are often invoked to suggest that a similar fate awaits Snowden (who doesn’t drink, who lives with his long-time girlfriend, who is regarded as a hero by millions and millions of people around the world, who receives awards and prestigious appointments, and who is incredibly gratified and fulfilled both by what he did and his current life).

That’s all Ignatius is up to with these claims, all based on the obvious media-created fiction that Snowden has suddenly realized how desperate he is to leave Russia. Again, this entire conversation — like the whole media blitz yesterday about this story — is all based on utter fiction.

This “everyone-in-Russia-is-miserable” line has been a staple of U.S propaganda since the end of World War II, and remarkably, nothing has changed. Indeed, the climate created by our New Cold Warriors is, in some respects, even more desperate than the “he’s-a-Soviet-shill” tactics pioneered in the 1950s (yesterday, BuzzFeed investigated a journalist for the Thought Crime of writing articles which BuzzFeed’s blogger, Miriam Elder, deemed to be “pro-Russia,” and thus smeared him with evidence-free innuendo as a likely paid Kremlin agent). Yes, many political rights are severely abridged in Russia, but there are over 140 million people living in Russia and some of them are fulfilled human beings living fulfilled human lives (BREAKING!) while there is substantial human misery in the U.S. as well.

Snowden did not choose to live in Russia. He was forced to remain there when trying to leave because the U.S. government revoked his passport and bullied the Cubans out of offering him safe passage on his way to Latin America. But whether jingoists like David Ignatius can comprehend this or not, Snowden (as most people would) actually considers living in Moscow with his girlfriend and freely participating in the vital global debate he provoked to be preferable to withering in a cage inside the repressive U.S. penal state.

Blitzer: “What do you think, Mr. Speaker? He could spend the rest of his life in Moscow — it might be chilly there in the winter — but it’s better, presumably, than jail?”

I can’t overstate how many times I’ve heard people say that Snowden must be miserable in Moscow because of how cold it gets in the winter. Leave aside the bizarre view that climate is the greatest factor in determining how happy and fulfilled someone’s life is, and further leave aside the notion that all 140 million Russians must have a horrible life because it’s cold during the winter. There are other places — such as Canada, North Dakota, Sweden, Boston — that are also extremely cold; do people believe that residents there are, as a result of the weather, inherently doomed to horrible lives?

Gingrich: “I think if we can find a way to get him home, get the rest of the documents that he has not leaked. . . it’s worth doing, but I think he’d have to serve jail time, and it’d probably be fairly lengthy. I don’t think the country would tolerate this level of betrayal, not having some very significant jail time —

Blitzer: “You say lengthy. What do you think?

Gingrich: “I’m not an expert in this, but I’d say more than 10 years.”

Where to start? First, Gingrich’s belief that it’s possible to “get the rest of the documents that he has not leaked” is simply adorable. Second, Gingrich is a fascinating choice for CNN to have pontificate on proper punishments given that he is the first House Speaker to ever be punished for ethics violations, for which he was fined $300,000. Third, David Petraeus was just allowed to plead guilty for leaking extremely sensitive secrets — not out of a whistleblowing desire to inform the public but simply to satisfy his mistress — and will almost certainly spend no time in jail; Gingrich, Blitzer, Ignatius and friends would never dare suggest that the General should go to prison (just as DC’s stern law-and-order advocates who demand Snowden’s imprisonment would never dare suggest the same for James Clapper for having lied to Congress).

Most important, if you were Snowden, and you constantly heard U.S. political and media elites consigning you to prison for a decade or longer before your trial started, would you remotely believe assurances that you’d get a fair trial? What rational person would ever willingly submit themselves to a penal state that imprisons more of its citizens than any other in the world, run by people with this mentality?

And when you examine case studies like this of what U.S. media is not just capable of doing but eager to do — concoct a completely false narrative based on fictitious events and then proceed to spend a full day drawing all sorts of self-serving and propagandistic lessons from it — why would anyone regard what comes spewing forth from them with anything other than extreme suspicion and contempt?

Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty

The post The “Snowden is Ready to Come Home!” Story: a Case Study in Typical Media Deceit appeared first on The Intercept.

New Zealand Spies on Neighbors in Secret ‘Five Eyes’ Global Surveillance

The Intercept - Engl. - Mi, 04/03/2015 - 18:44

New Zealand’s electronic eavesdropping agency is spying on its neighbors and sharing communications it intercepts in bulk with the National Security Agency through a controversial Internet mass surveillance system, according to newly revealed secret documents.

Government Communications Security Bureau, New Zealand’s equivalent of the NSA, has been sweeping up the data from across the Asia-Pacific region, targeting island nations such as Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga and France’s overseas territories New Caledonia and French Polynesia. Each of these small nations and territories maintains friendly relations with New Zealand.

The surveillance, reported Wednesday by the New Zealand Herald in collaboration with The Intercept, is being carried out by GCSB from an intelligence base in New Zealand’s Waihopai Valley (pictured above). Intercepted data collected at the Waihopai site is being shared through an NSA surveillance system called XKEYSCORE, which is used to analyze vast amounts of emails, internet browsing sessions and online chats that are intercepted from some 150 different locations worldwide.

The documents on the spying, obtained by The Intercept from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, shine a light on New Zealand’s role in the so-called Five Eyes, a surveillance alliance that includes electronic eavesdropping agencies from New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

GCSB is perhaps the smallest player in the alliance in terms of its funding and number of staff, but the agency is seen as an important player because of New Zealand’s location in the world.

GCSB has been designated a geographic “area of responsibility” to monitor communications in the Southwest Pacific as part of Five Eyes efforts to maintain global surveillance coverage, according to the documents. One NSA memo notes that New Zealand provides “valuable access not otherwise available to satisfy US intelligence requirement.” This includes gathering intelligence about trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region and about governments in neighboring islands, the documents show. A New Zealand intelligence source confirmed these details, telling the New Zealand Herald that GCSB was monitoring government ministers and senior officials, government agencies, international organizations and non-government organizations in the South Pacific nations.

Last year, The Intercept reported that the New Zealand agency was planning a secret project to tap into Internet data flowing across undersea cables. The Waihopai base focuses on gathering data and communications from another source — vacuuming them up as they are being transmitted through the air between satellites. The spying station, designated the codename IRONSAND by the NSA, has previously been linked to a Five Eyes satellite surveillance network known as ECHELON.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic secret shift in the surveillance policy at the Waihopai base.

Former GCSB officials told the New Zealand Herald that, during the 1990s, Waihopai intercepted a large number of phone calls and emails from the Asia-Pacific region, but only retained and gave its allies communications collected from certain specified targets. This has now changed. In 2009, Snowden documents show, GCSB upgraded its capabilities in order to collect “full-take” data at the base and then share it directly onto XKEYSCORE. Full-take is a term used by surveillance agencies to refer to large-scale collection of both content of communications and the metadata — details showing who is contacting whom and when. Instead of targeted collection against a specific set of individuals, full-take surveillance sweeps up all communications indiscriminately.

Once the New Zealand agency makes the data accessible through the XKEYSCORE system, it can then be analyzed by spies across the Five Eyes. One secret British memo, dated from 2011, noted: “GCSB have given us access to their XKS [XKEYSCORE] deployments at IRONSAND, a GCSB comsat [communications satellite] site which is rich in data for the South Pacific region.” The memo added: “Specifically, we can access both strong selected data and full-take feed from this site.”

Following the earlier disclosures about GCSB’s surveillance last year, Snowden wrote in an op-ed for The Intercept that New Zealand citizens’ communications intercepted by the Waihopai base were among those being shared with the Five Eyes agencies. “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,’” Snowden wrote. New Zealand’s prime minister John Key later conceded that Snowden’s allegation “may well be right,” but he refused to comment on whether the country’s spies used XKEYSCORE.

On Wednesday, GCSB declined to comment about the latest revelations. A spokesman for the agency said in a statement to The Intercept and the New Zealand Herald: “The GCSB exists to protect New Zealand and New Zealanders. We have a foreign intelligence mandate. We don’t comment on speculation about matters that may or may not be operational. Everything we do is explicitly authorized and subject to independent oversight.”

The NSA had not responded to a request for comment at time of publication.

In the coming days, more revelations about surveillance in New Zealand from the Snowden documents will be reported as part of collaboration between The Intercept, the New Zealand Herald, the Herald on Sunday and the Sunday-Star Times.

Photo: A satellite surveillance dome at GCSB’s Waihopai Valley site; Tim Cuff/New Zealand Herald/AP

The post New Zealand Spies on Neighbors in Secret ‘Five Eyes’ Global Surveillance appeared first on The Intercept.

The Tsarnaev Trial and the Blind Spots in ‘Countering Violent Extremism’

The Intercept - Engl. - Mi, 04/03/2015 - 16:33

On April 19, 2013, as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lay bleeding from gunshot wounds in a suburban Boston backyard, he scrawled a note that contained the following message:

“The US Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that….I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [unintelligible] it is allowed…Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”

This message mirrored comments Tsarnaev would later give to investigators, in which he cited grievances over American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as his motivation for the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.

In his trial, which begins today, more details are expected to emerge about how he went from a popular college student to an alleged homegrown terrorist.

Widely described as a “self-radicalized” terrorist, Tsarnaev now serves as a prime example of the type of individual targeted by Countering Violent Extremist (CVE) programs. Yet in fact,  Tsarnaev’s life trajectory leading up to the bombing does not resemble the “path to radicalization” identified in CVE frameworks — raising questions about the capacity of these programs to intervene effectively to preempt terrorism.

“Typical signatures” in the path toward terrorism frequently invoked in CVE models include those featured in a 2007 NYPD study: giving up recreational drug use, wearing traditional Islamic clothing and associating primarily with like-minded individuals motivated by Salafi Islam. Tsarnaev is not reported to have exhibited any of those traits (though of course most who do will not themselves end up becoming terrorists).

CVE models do not usually even discuss political grievances, such as those Tsarnayev repeatedly cited as a motive for his acts.

In response to what it characterized as a growing threat of homegrown extremism, the Department of Justice last September announced the launch of a national pilot program on CVE in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center. The White House recently held a major summit on radicalization.

Documents recently published by The Intercept show that while the government tends to focus on social and economic problems officials believe contribute to extremism, it does not address the political motivations most often cited by terrorists themselves. 

“Government agencies are using models of radicalization which don’t reflect reality,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow at the Brennan Center’s National Security Program. “These models are not designed to actually identify the problem, they’re designed to suppress the questioning of political motives when discussing violence.”

Media coverage of the bombing has also tended to gloss over the implications of Tsarnaev’s political motivations. A controversial 2013 Rolling Stone cover story, “Jahar’s World,” focused overwhelmingly on building a social and psychological profile of Tsarnaev but made only passing reference to the political context of his actions. 

A separate article published in Rolling Stone on May 6, 2013 was cited in an “Official Use Only” bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Office as highlighting some of the problems with the concept of radicalization as presently understood.

“The [Rolling Stone article] cited ‘preventive policing’ as an ineffective tool to stop an attack and allows for law enforcement monitoring of ‘radicalization incubators,’” read the bulletin, a copy of which was obtained by The Intercept. “The cornerstone of a proper CVE program is to rely on the community and its leaders to assist law enforcement in identifying extremist behaviors and subjects prior to an attack.”

However, the line between community partnerships and surveillance is often blurred, leading many members of Muslim communities to be wary of law enforcement authorities. 

A prominent local Muslim leader who attended the same mosque as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the now-deceased brother of Dzhokhar, told The Intercept that it was a common belief in the community that mosques in the area were subject to surveillance, and that prior to the bombing a fellow attendee at the mosque had been revealed to be a longtime undercover informant. “I’ve had a number of experiences where I have suspected someone [of being an informant] — it’s always in your mind when talking with someone at the mosque that they could have been sent to conduct infiltration there.”

On multiple occasions, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was known to have been ejected from the Boston-area mosque for making provocative comments objecting to the commemoration of American holidays.

Experts on the issues of terrorism and radicalization have suggested that these efforts at indiscriminately surveilling Muslim communities have been counterproductive to the effort of swaying individuals from the path of extremism.

“American Muslims today rightly fear law enforcement infiltration and scrutiny of their innocuous conversations about religion, foreign affairs and current events. One reason the First Amendment protects conversations like these is so that people can explore different views and debate appropriate responses to government policies,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “This is exactly why mass and suspicionless surveillance of American Muslims is so counterproductive — it engenders a climate of fear that chills public discourse and prevents the kinds of constructive conversations and debates people need and want to have.”

Among ultra-conservative Salafi Muslims, religious figures have often expressed fear about broaching topics of conflict and radical politics even when feeling pressure to engage on these issues by their followers. In 2011, Abu Eesa Niamatullah and Yasir Qadhi, two influential Salafis, shelved a potential course discussing the fiqh (jurisprudence) of warfare in Islam in response to repeated questions posed to them by students of their religious institute. Explaining the decision at the time, Niamatullah said, “Picture two bearded guys talking about the fiqh of jihad. We would be dead. We would be absolutely finished.”

A critical 2012 assessment of U.S. CVE approaches by the Foreign Policy Research Institute suggested the need to provide meaningful outlets of expression for individuals with radical political grievances, and recommended the facilitation of “positive, alternative outlets for their activism” that might discourage them from seeking to express dissent through violence. 

The study also implicitly concedes the role that foreign policy plays in driving domestic radicalism, suggesting that dissuading many individuals from extremism will remain difficult “given the intractable nature of larger political problems that drive some forms of terrorism.”

Photo: Jane Flavell Collins/AP

The post The Tsarnaev Trial and the Blind Spots in ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ appeared first on The Intercept.

Newly Released Records Show US Paid $6 Million for Civilian Harm in Afghanistan

The Intercept - Engl. - Mi, 04/03/2015 - 15:27

The U.S. military has paid nearly $6 million to civilians killed and injured in combat operations over almost 10 years of war in Afghanistan, according to the latest numbers released by the Army Central.

These sums, known as condolence payments, are among the ways the U.S. military compensates civilians for deaths, injuries or property damages that occur during fighting.

The new numbers come from spreadsheets that the Army Central posted recently to its Freedom of Information Act website. The Intercept had requested all of this data but had received it only for fiscal years 2011 through 2013 — years we included in our analysis and visualization of compensation for civilian casualties published last week. The military’s figures cover fiscal years 2006 through 2014, and total $5,927,200.

In conflicts since the Korean War, the U.S. has paid out these token amounts in situations where commanders decide it is culturally appropriate. The payments are not intended to admit wrongdoing or actually assess the value of lost life or property. Condolence payments began in Afghanistan in 2005, but as The Intercept has reported, the system is far from perfect, marred by inconsistency and poor record keeping.

Like those we reported on last week, these records offer only a bare minimum of information. Most do not have a date, only the province is given by way of location, and the level of detail in the incident synopsis varies widely. Some entries are simply labeled “condolence payment.” A few include names of the victims, and are as specific as “Mr A. Khan’s truck, cow and a cord of wood was destroyed during combat activities on 27 Sept 04,” or “local national’s hand injured and lost 3 fingers.”

The most money was spent in fiscal year 2011, when the military logged 557 payments for a total of $1.3 million, followed by $1.29 million in 2010. For the first two years the program was in existence, however, there are only a few dozen recorded payments. Between October 2013 and September 2014, the most recent data, the U.S. committed to pay more than $174,200 in 89 payments.

The Pentagon has previously said that the general ceiling for condolence payments in Afghanistan is $5000. These records show greater amounts were regularly paid out — but those sometimes reflect a lump sum for multiple deaths or injuries. In fiscal year 2010, for example, there was one payment of $156,720 for the family members of 22 people who were killed and 23 who were wounded.

The earlier years include a few payments for repairs for battle damage. One payment of $160,000 was to replace “a dozen commercial vehicles due to collateral damage.”

In our analysis, we have not separated out totals for deaths, injuries and property damage, because many of the records do not specify what they are for.

In Afghanistan, these payments come from a special congressionally funded pot of spending money known as the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program. (It is also used for reconstruction and other “goodwill” projects.) The military distinguishes between condolence payments and “solatia,” which, while functionally the same, come out of a unit’s operating budget. So these condolence payment records are still only a partial accounting of how much the U.S. has paid to civilians.

You can download the year-by-year data from the Army Central’s FOIA website.

Photo: Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty

The post Newly Released Records Show US Paid $6 Million for Civilian Harm in Afghanistan appeared first on The Intercept.

Kampf ums Überleben

Hintergrund.de - Mi, 04/03/2015 - 11:45


In der libanesischen Bekaa-Ebene leben 400 000 syrische Flüchtlinge in Zelten. Internationale Hilfsorganisationen versuchen, sie mit dem Nötigsten zu versorgen – aber auch sie sind überlastet.

Die Reise in die Beeka-Ebene führt aus Beirut über das Libanon-Gebirge. Lastwagenkolonnen, beladen mit Hilfsgütern für Syrien, passieren die zahlreichen Checkpoints der Armee, die einen Eindruck der angespannten Sicherheitslage in dieser Region vermitteln. In dem Tal, das als wichtigstes Agrargebiet des Libanon gilt, leben derzeit etwa 400 000 Flüchtlinge aus dem benachbarten Syrien. Der nunmehr vier Jahre andauernde und von allen Seiten

Weiterlesen...

Kein Verzicht

German Foreign Policy - Mi, 04/03/2015 - 00:00
(Eigener Bericht) - Mit dem Eingeständnis einer Mitverantwortung der Sudetendeutschen am Holocaust und dem Verzicht auf ihre exponiertesten Forderungen inszeniert die Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft eine vorgebliche Mäßigung ihrer Politik. Am vergangenen Wochenende hat sie unter anderem das Ziel der "Wiedergewinnung" ihrer Herkunftsgebiete in der Tschechischen Republik aus ihrer Satzung gestrichen. Diese und weitere Anpassungen, die medial als eine "echte Zäsur" gelobt werden, erklären sich aus einem Kurswechsel des Bundes der Vertriebenen (BdV), dem die Landsmannschaft angehört. Dieser zielt darauf ab, die Einflussarbeit der Umgesiedelten unter den deutschsprachigen Minderheiten ihrer ost- und südosteuropäischen Herkunftsgebiete deutlich auszuweiten. Vorbild ist die Kooperation mit der deutschsprachigen Minderheit Rumäniens, die inzwischen den rumänischen Staatspräsidenten stellt - ein exklusiver Ansatzpunkt für die Berliner Machtpolitik. Die Einflussarbeit der "Vertriebenen" vor Ort verlangt, soll sie erfolgreich sein, ein weniger aggressives Auftreten. Jenseits der inszenierten Mäßigung halten der BdV allgemein wie auch speziell die Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft an ihren Positionen in der Frage der Entschädigungsansprüche umgesiedelter Deutscher fest.

Petraeus Plea Deal Reveals Two-Tier Justice System for Leaks

The Intercept - Engl. - Di, 03/03/2015 - 23:30

David Petraeus, the former Army general and CIA director, admitted today that he gave highly-classified journals to his onetime lover and that he lied to the FBI about it. But he only has to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor that will not involve a jail sentence thanks to a deal with federal prosecutors. The deal is yet another example of a senior official treated leniently for the sorts of violations that lower-level officials are punished severely for.

According to the plea deal, Petraeus, while leading American forces in Afghanistan, maintained eight notebooks that he filled with highly-sensitive information about the identities of covert officers, military strategy, intelligence capabilities and his discussions with senior government officials, including President Obama. Rather than handing over these “Black Books,” as the plea agreement calls them, to the Department of Defense when he retired from the military in 2011 to head the CIA, Petraeus retained them at his home and lent them, for several days, to Paula Broadwell, his authorized biographer and girlfriend.

In October 2012, FBI agents interviewed Petraeus as part of an investigation into his affair with Broadwell — Petraeus would resign from the CIA the next month — and Petraeus told them he had not shared classified material with Broadwell. The plea deal notes that “these statements were false” and that Petraeus “then and there knew that he previously shared the Black Books with his biographer.” Lying to FBI agents is a federal crime for which people have received sentences of months or more than a year in jail.

Under his deal with prosecutors, Petraeus pleaded guilty to just one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information, a misdemeanor that can be punishable by a year in jail, though the deal calls only for probation and a $40,000 fine. As The New York Times noted today, the deal “allows Mr. Petraeus to focus on his lucrative post-government career as a partner in a private equity firm and a worldwide speaker on national security issues.”

The deal has another effect: it all but confirms a two-tier justice system in which senior officials are slapped on the wrist for serious violations while lesser officials are harshly prosecuted for relatively minor infractions.

For instance, last year, after a five-year standoff with federal prosecutors, Stephen Kim, a former State Department official, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act when he discussed a classified report about North Korea with Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2009. Kim did not hand over a copy of the report — he just discussed it, and nothing else — and the report was subsequently described in court documents as a “nothing burger” in terms of its sensitivity. Kim is currently in prison on a 13-month sentence.

“The issue is not whether General Petraeus was dealt with too leniently,  because the pleadings indicate good reason for that result,” said Abbe Lowell, who is Kim’s lawyer. “The issue is whether others are dealt with far too severely for conduct that is no different. This underscores the random, disparate and often unfair application of the national security laws where higher-ups are treated better than lower-downs.”

In 2013, former CIA agent John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by disclosing the name of a covert CIA officer to a freelance reporter; he was sentenced to 30 months in jail. Kiriakou’s felony conviction and considerable jail sentence — for leaking one name that was not published — stands in contrast to Petraeus pleading guilty to a misdemeanor without jail time for leaking multiple names as well as a range of other highly-sensitive information.

Kiriakou, released from prison earlier this year, told The Intercept in an emailed statement, “I don’t think General Petraeus should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, just as I don’t think I should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act.  Yet only one of us was. Both Petraeus and I disclosed undercover identities (or confirmed one, in my case) that were never published. I spent two years in prison; he gets two years probation.”

The prosecution of Kiriakou, Kim and other leakers and whistleblowers has been particularly intense under the Obama Administration, which has filed more than twice as many leak cases under the Espionage Act as all previous administrations combined. In 2013, Army Private Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, pleaded guilty to violating the Espionage Act by leaking thousands of documents to Wikileaks, and she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Manning received a harsh sentence even though then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2010 that the leaks had only “modest” consequences.

“I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on …. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought,” Gates said. “Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”

Senior officials tend to get far kinder treatment. As The Times noted today, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was “admonished but not charged” for keeping classified information at his house; John Deutch, the former CIA director, resigned and lost his security clearance but was not charged for storing classified documents on a home computer; and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor after he surreptitiously removed classified documents from the National Archives.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The post Petraeus Plea Deal Reveals Two-Tier Justice System for Leaks appeared first on The Intercept.

Mit allen Konsequenzen

German Foreign Policy - Di, 03/03/2015 - 00:00
(Eigener Bericht) - In Berlin werden Warnungen vor einem Totalkollaps der Ukraine und Forderungen nach einer Aufnahme des Landes in die EU, eventuell auch in die NATO laut. Wolle man verhindern, dass "in der Nachbarschaft der EU auf Dauer ein schwacher oder zerfallender Staat mit allen ... Konsequenzen" entstehe, dann komme man um "eine EU-Integration der Ukraine mit allen finanziellen und politischen" Folgen nicht herum, erklärt ein Osteuropa-Experte von der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP). Hintergrund ist neben der katastrophalen wirtschaftlichen Lage des Landes - die Währung ist abgestürzt, Armut grassiert, der Monats-Mindestlohn liegt inzwischen unter 40 Euro - auch der desolate Zustand der ukrainischen Streitkräfte, der jegliche Hoffnung auf einen militärischen Sieg im Bürgerkrieg in nächster Zukunft illusionär erscheinen lässt. Zudem scheint eine Spaltung der militärischen Kräfte nicht ausgeschlossen: Jüngst haben die Führer von 17 Freiwilligenbataillonen einen eigenen Generalstab gegründet und sich damit der Kiewer Kontrolle ein weiteres Stück entzogen.

Bush White House’s Repeated Torture Denials Led CIA Torturers to Seek Repeated Reassurances

The Intercept - Engl. - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 23:40

The Bush administration was so adamant in its public statements against torture that CIA officials repeatedly sought reassurances that the White House officials who had given them permission to torture in the first place hadn’t changed their minds.

In a July 29, 2003, White House meeting that included Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet went so far as to ask the White House “to cease stating that US Government practices were ‘humane’.” He was assured they would.

The memo describing that meeting is one of several documents that were unclassified last year but apparently escaped widespread notice until now. Georgetown Law Professor David Cole called attention to the trove of documents on the Just Security blog.

The documents were apparently posted in December at ciasavedlives.com, a website formed by a group of former senior intelligence officials to rebut the newly released Senate report that documented the horrors that CIA officers inflicted upon detainees and the lies about those tactics’ effectiveness that they told their superiors, would-be overseers and the public.

The new documents don’t actually refute any of the Senate report’s conclusions – in fact, they include some whopper-filled slides that CIA officials showed at the White House. But they do call attention to the report’s central flaw: that it didn’t address who actually gave the CIA its orders.

As Cole writes:

The overall picture that the new documents paint is not of a rogue agency, but of a rogue administration. Yes, the CIA affirmatively proposed to use patently illegal tactics — waterboarding, sleep deprivation, physical assault, and painful stress positions. But at every turn, senior officials and lawyers in the White House and the Department of Justice reassured the agency that it could — and should — go forward. The documents reveal an agency that is extremely sensitive to whether the program is legally authorized and approved by higher-ups — no doubt because it understood that what it was doing was at a minimum controversial, and very possibly illegal. The documents show that the CIA repeatedly raised questions along these lines, and even suspended the program when the OLC was temporarily unwilling to say, without further review, whether the techniques would “shock the conscience” in violation of the Fifth Amendment. But at every point where the White House and the DOJ could have and should have said no to tactics that were patently illegal, they said yes.

The documents also illustrate how CIA officials, just like journalists and members of the public, had to decide whether to take the White House’s disavowals of torture at face value. Apparently the CIA, like many others, couldn’t believe the White House was flat-out lying.

Tenet, in a July 3, 2003, letter to Rice, requested that White House officials reaffirm that waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were being done on their orders.

We request this reaffirmation because recent Administration responses to inquiries and resulting media reporting about the Administration’s position have created the impression that these techniques are not used by US personnel and are no longer approved as a policy matter.

Tenet cited, as an example, a June 2003 Washington Post story headlined U.S. Pledges Not to Torture Terror Suspects.

According to the CIA memo that documented the July 29 meeting, Cheney “asked how the press could have gotten such an impression.”

CIA general counsel Robert Muller responded to Cheney by mentioning the February 2002 memo issued under George W. Bush’s name, titled “Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees,” which directed, “As a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely, and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.”

Muller also reminded Cheney of the time in June 2003 when deputy White House press secretary Scott McClellan, on the occasion of Bush’s obligatory proclamation on United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, had told reporters that “detainees are treated humanely and consistent with our values and consistent with our laws and consistent with our treaty obligations.”

According to the memo, National Security Council legal advisor John Bellinger explained to Cheney “that the press officer had ‘gone off script’, and had mistakenly gone back to ‘old’ talking points. The DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] stated that it was important for the White House to cease stating that US Government practices were ‘humane’ as that term is easily susceptible to misinterpretation. Bellinger undertook to insure that the White House press office ceases to make statements on the subject other than that the US is complying with its obligations under US law.”

The July 3 letter from Tenet to Rice reminded her that the White House had been in on all this since the beginning: “The Vice President, National Security Advisor, Deputy National Security Advisor, Counsel to the President, Counsel to the National Security Adviser, and the Attorney General were consulted in August 2002 in advance of implementing use of the techniques with a particular detainee and concurred in its implementation as a matter of law and policy.”

At the July 29 meeting, Muller distributed a set of briefing slides that included details about waterboarding. Cheney and Rice both took special note of the slide on waterboarding, which showed that detainee Khalid Sheik Muhammed had been waterboarded 119 times.

The memo states: “The DCI stated that it was important for CIA to know that it was executing administration policy and not merely acting lawfully. The Vice President stated, and Dr. Rice and the attorney general agreed, that this was the case.

But the slides also contained precisely the kind of statement that the Senate report showed were inaccurate:

According to another memo, at a previous White House meeting in January 2003, Muller had “pointed out… that there was an arguable inconsistency between what the CIA was authorized to do and what at least some in the international community might expect in light of the Administration’s public statements.” The memo says that “[e]veryone in the room” – including Rice, Cheney (by video conference), secretary of state Colin Powell and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “evinced understanding of the issue. CIA’s past and ongoing use of enhanced techniques was reaffirmed and in no way drawn into question.”

Some of the documents in the collection have been public for years. Others have been described before, but not published. The author of the collection’s overview is unknown.

Photo: White House/Eric Draper

The post Bush White House’s Repeated Torture Denials Led CIA Torturers to Seek Repeated Reassurances appeared first on The Intercept.

Revealed: Democratic Super PAC Architect Moonlights for Walmart, Cable Lobby

The Intercept - Engl. - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 23:10

According to a disclosure document obtained by The InterceptSusan McCue — Sen. Harry Reid’s chief of staff from 1999–2006 and now co-founder and president of Senate Majority PAC, which claims to “fight to elect Democratic senators who will put working Americans ahead of the Kochs and their corporate interests” — has also consulted for numerous corporate clients. (McCue’s central role in the creation of Senate Majority PAC was first reported by the Huffington Post.)

McCue, through her public affairs company Message Global LLC, provided consulting services for the Motion Picture Association of America, the American Gaming Association, the National Business Aviation Association, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and Walmart, among other clients. None of these clients are mentioned anywhere on the Message Global website, which instead highlights its work for Bono’s One campaign and Humanity United. (Humanity United was established by Pierre Omidyar, founder of The Intercept‘s parent company First Look Media.)

McCue’s corporate clients are among the most politically active lobbying interests inside the Beltway. The Motion Picture Association of America has pushed hard for new copyright-related legislation such as the notorious Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has been engaged in a pitched battle in opposition to so-called “net neutrality” regulations. And Walmart is known for its engagement on an enormous range of issues including its successful effort to kill the Employee Free Choice Act, a top priority of labor which would have made union organizing easier.

In the Citizens United era Beltway operators like McCue are ubiquitous, simultaneously raising unlimited quantities of cash for Super PACs like Senate Majority and helping corporate interests pressure the government to enact their preferred policies. Corporate representatives and professional influence peddlers control most of the Republican-oriented Super PAC and dark money campaign entities. In the 2014 midterm elections the GOP cruised to victory in large part due to the spending by loosely-regulated campaign vehicles such as Crossroads G.P.S. and American Crossroads. As the Huffington Post noted, Crossroads G.P.S. leadership includes Mike Duncan, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who now simultaneously leads a major arm of the coal, utility and railroad industry lobby. Sally Vastola, another G.P.S. board member, is a lobbyist for Sallie Mae, among other clients.

Such relationships demonstrate the degree to which the policymaking and political system has become a club for a small number of elites — akin to what Thomas Jefferson warned of in 1825 shortly before his death: “a single and splendid government of an Aristocracy, founded on banking institutions and monied in corporations…riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry.” Lobbyists get politicians elected; politicians then appoint lobbyists to run their congressional and committee affairs; and finally, politicians retire and are paid millions of dollars to become lobbyists

Photo: Tony Powell/Flickr

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The post Revealed: Democratic Super PAC Architect Moonlights for Walmart, Cable Lobby appeared first on The Intercept.

[Kolumbien] Über das Sucumbíos-Massaker

Indymedia antimil - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 21:56
von: Koumbien Info am: 02.03.2015 - 21:56

Am 1. März 2008 führte die kolumbianischen Armee und Polizei einen militärischen Angriff in Ecuador durch, um den FARC-Kommandierenden Raúl Reyes zu ermorden. 25 Personen wurden getötet, als sie schliefen, einschließlich eines ekuadorianischen Zivilisten und vier mexikanischen Studenten.

UK Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views”

The Intercept - Engl. - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 20:55

In 2001, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II used the occasion of the annual “Queen’s Speech” to unveil a new statutory proposal to regulate all media operating in her realm, one provision of which was the creation of the “Office of Communications” (Ofcom) to monitor and punish television outlets which exhibit “bias.” In 2008, the BBC heralded the Queen’s Speech as “one of the high points of the parliamentary calendar, unrivalled in its spectacle and tradition,” as the monarch “delivers the speech from the grand throne in the House of Lords.” The press monitor’s Twitter account boasts: “We keep an eye on the UK’s telecoms, television, radio and postal industries to make sure they’re doing the best for all of us.”

Ofcom has rarely punished establishment British media outlets for “bias” even though the British media is notoriously and slavishly loyal to the state and other British political and financial elites. Just last week, Guardian editor Seumus Milne noted: “as one academic study after another has demonstrated . . . . from the coverage of wars to economics, [the BBC] has a pro-government, elite and corporate anchor. The BBC is full of Conservatives and former New Labour apparatchiks with almost identical views about politics, business and the world.” Indeed, of all the countless media outlets around the world covering NSA reporting over the last 18 months, the BBC has easily been the worst: the most overtly biased in favor of mass surveillance and official claims. Ofcom’s authority over BBC is limited, but plenty of British media outlets – certainly most of its largest ones – are driven by these same biases.

During my first week writing at the Guardian, a long-time observer (and one-time member) of the British media warned me about the extreme group think bias of UK journalists, and I quoted that warning in the context of describing their extreme and deeply personal animus toward WikiLeaks: “Nothing delights British former lefties more than an opportunity to defend power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle.” Needless to say, none of that extreme, power-serving media bias – including the avalanche of deceit and lies much of the British media peddled to sell Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq – has ever provoked any punishment from Ofcom.

By rather stark contrast, Ofcom has repeatedly threatened the Russian-state television outlet RT with revocation of its license. Last November, that outlet launched a British-specific, London-based version of its network, but previously had been broadcasting its standard English-speaking programming in the UK. At the time of its launch, the Guardian noted that RT “is facing six separate investigations by media regulator Ofcom.”

That investigative history included a finding last fall whereby the network was “threatened with statutory sanctions by [] Ofcom after the Kremlin-backed news channel breached broadcasting regulations on impartiality with its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.” RT executives were “summoned to a meeting with Ofcom after it was found guilty of breaching the code governing UK broadcasters” and told they could face revocation of their license if these breaches of “impartiality rules” continued.

Today, Ofcom announced a new “bias” investigation into RT. The offense this time, according to the Guardian, is the broadcasting of “anti-western comments in a late-night discussion on Ukraine.” Specifically, “the programme is understood to have featured a number of anti-western views in the discussion between the presenter and three studio guests.”

Unfortunately, RT told the Intercept this morning that it was barred by Ofcom regulations even from commenting on this new investigation. Not only are they being threatened for the crime of airing “anti-western views,” but they are prohibited by law from publicly discussing these threats.

That RT is “biased” is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far at all. It is expressly funded by the Russian government to present a Russian viewpoint of the world. But all media outlets composed of and run by human beings are “biased,” and that certainly includes the leading British outlets, which rail against Russia (and every other perceived adversary of the west) at least as much as RT defends it.

All of this underscores the propagandistic purpose of touting “media objectivity” versus “bias.” The former simply does not exist. Revealingly, it is British journalists themselves who are most vocal in demanding that Her Majesty’s Government bar RT from broadcasting on “bias” grounds: fathom how authoritarian a society must be if it gets its journalists to play the leading role in demanding that the state ban (or imprison) journalists it dislikes. So notably, the most vocal among the anti-RT crowd on the ground that it spreads lies and propaganda – such as Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm – were also the most aggressive peddlers of the pro-UK-government conspiracy theories and lies that led to the Iraq War.

That people like this, with their histories of pro-government propaganda, are the ones demanding punishment of RT for “bias” tells you all you need to know about what is really at play here. What’s really driving this is illustrated by the edict issued today by one of the High Priests of U.S. Foreign Policy, Brookings President and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott:

This is about nothing more than ensuring that western citizens are not exposed to the side of The Enemy. Notably, Ofcom previously revoked the license of PressTV, the state-run television agency of Iran, after first fining it £100,000 for an interview with an imprisoned journalist which was said to be coerced. Western countries love to depict citizens of their long list of adversaries as being propagandized – whether it be China, Iran, Russia, North Korea, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Syria, Venezuela, Ecuador, etc. etc. – even as they themselves work in all sorts of ways to ban their own citizens from exposure to those adversaries’ views, such as when a U.S. court imprisoned a Muslim American for years for the “crime” of including a Hezbollah channel in the cable TV package he sold in Brooklyn (of course, these purported concerns about propaganda and a free press magically and tellingly disappear when the suppression is done by regimes compliant with the U.S. and its allies).

Purporting to compel media “objectivity” is always about imposing a very specific and subjective agenda masquerading as impartiality. The chair of Ofcom is Colette Bowe, who was previously the chief information officer at the Department of Trade and Industry as well as a board member of Morgan Stanley and Electra Private Equity. She is also “a former executive chairman of Fleming Fund Management, chief executive of the Personal Investment Authority, and a director of the Securities and Investment Board.” Does anyone belief her concept of “objectivity” and “impartiality” will be anything other than the prevailing conventional wisdom and orthodoxies of the British elite?

The UK Government loves to lecture the world about infringements of liberty generally and press freedom specifically. It does so as it threatens to revoke the broadcasting license of a media outlet for broadcasting “anti-western” views and other perspectives at odds with the UK Government, all while shielding (and venerating) the equally virulent biases from pro-state television in the UK. That is the classic hallmark of how a government propagandizes its citizens: ensuring that they hear only those views of which the government approves and which serves its interests and agenda.

Photo: Shutterstock

The post UK Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views” appeared first on The Intercept.

Nemzow-Mord und Ukraine-Krise überschattet UN-Sitzung

Hintergrund.de - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 20:12

Von Redaktion, 2. März 2015 -

Die Ukraine-Krise und der Mord an dem russischen Oppositionspolitiker Boris Nemzow haben am Montag den Auftakt der Frühjahrssitzung des UN-Menschenrechtsrates überschattet. Russlands Außenminister Sergej Lawrow warnte vor dem UN-Gremium in Genf, den Mord an Nemzow für politische Ziele zu benutzen. Solche Versuche seien „verachtenswert“, sagte er. Zuvor hatten Politiker in den USA und Europa Moskau aufgerufen, die Ermordung Nemzows am Freitag rasch und transparent aufzuklären.

Lawrow verwies darauf, dass Russlands Präsident Wladimir Putin persönlich die Ermittlungen überwache und die russische Justiz alles tue, um die Täter vor Gericht zu stellen. Zugleich kritisierte er Versuche, „die noblen

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„Wir werden uns nicht provozieren lassen“

Hintergrund.de - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 20:12

Obamas „Kuba-Offerte“ ist nichts anderes als die Fortsetzung bisheriger US-amerikanischer Lateinamerikapolitik: Ein schmutziger Trick zur Destabilisierung -

Von WOLF GAUER, São Paulo, 2. März 2015 - 

Diplomatische Beziehungen zwischen Kuba und den USA! Zwischen einer kleinen Nation (11,2 Millionen Einwohner), die mittlerweile zwei Generationen sozialistisch erzogen und kostenlos ausgebildet hat, deren Lehrer und Ärzte in vierzig Ländern tätig sind, und einer übermächtigen, kapitalgesteuerten Klassengesellschaft (318 Millionen Einwohner), die in 74 Ländern Krieg führt, weltweit rund 1.100 Militärbasen unterhält und unseren Planeten als ihren rechtens zustehenden Zulieferer betrachtet.

Zuerst hatten wir uns in São Paulo richtig gefreut, mit den Kubanern in Brasilien, mit

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Spannungen zwischen Nord- und Südkorea nehmen wieder zu

Hintergrund.de - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 20:12

(02.03.2015/hg/dpa)

Als Reaktion auf gemeinsame Frühjahrsmanöver der Streitkräfte Südkoreas und der USA lässt Nordkorea die Muskeln spielen. Das nordkoreanische Militär feuerte am Montag nach südkoreanischen Angaben zwei Kurzstreckenraketen in Richtung offenes Meer ab. Zudem drohte die Volksarmee mit „erbarmungslosen Schlägen“. Beide koreanischen Staaten warfen sich gegenseitig Provokation vor.

Zwei Raketen seien von der Westküste Nordkoreas aus über das Festland in Richtung Japanisches Meer (Ostmeer) geflogen, teilte der Generalstab der südkoreanischen Armee am Montag mit. Die Raketen hätten eine Reichweite von etwa 500 Kilometern gehabt. Es habe sich vermutlich um Raketen des Typs Scud C gehandelt.

Südkorea und Japan beschuldigten das Regime in Pjöngjang,

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America Abandoned One of Its Own in Yemen — and Now He May Die

The Intercept - Engl. - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 19:13

As more and more of Yemen is taken over by the country’s Houthi Shiite minority, combat has apparently begun to encroach on Sharif Mobley, an American being held under mysterious circumstances in Yemen.

Mobley can hear fighting between Houthi militias and Hadi’s forces from within the facility in which he is detained, according to his partner, Nzinga Islam, who lives in New Jersey. His psychological condition and his treatment by those holding him have both declined since the start of the year, she said. Mobley, who has been held in Yemen since 2010, fears he might be killed as the fighting intensifies.

It is not known where Mobley is being held. After abandoning the capital, Sanaa, the retreating regime of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has regrouped in the south of the country, setting up a new capital in Aden. The Houthis hail from Yemen’s remote northern highlands.

Born in New Jersey, Mobley and his four older siblings were raised by parents who were members of the Nation of Islam. The family lived in the small town of Buena, about an hour east of Philadelphia. As his devotion to his Muslim faith grew, Mosley met Islam in 2005 and married her three months later. Their first child, a daughter, was born soon after. The couple moved to Delaware in 2007 and began contemplating a move to the Middle East to strengthen their faith and learn Arabic. After striking up a friendship with a family from Yemen at a mosque they attended, Mobley and his wife decided to move with their newborn daughter to the country in 2008.

U.S. officials alleged at the time that Mosley appeared taking steps to become a terrorist after being in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the former Al-Qaeda recruiter born in America and killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike. The officials alleged that Mosley was helping Al-Qaeda by moving members of the group throughout the country. But according to a Washington Post interview in 2010, Islam said that Mosley, who emailed the then-popular preacher after hearing his religious teachings on CDs, only talked to Awlaki about what to do with her after she became pregnant again and needed surgery.

After fearing how dangerous conditions were getting in Yemen, including feeling they were under surveillance, Islam claimed that she and Mosley had planned to return to America as soon as possible. Islam would turn out to be the only one who ended up back home to New Jersey, as Mobley and his lawyers say that he was detained by a group of men in the middle of the night and shot in the leg on January 26, 2010.

It’s a startling tale that has received its share of coverage, but is still unknown to most Americans.

Now, with Yemen in the midst of a civil war, Nzinga Mobley spoke with The Intercept about the increasingly precarious position her husband is in. She said the conditions of Mosley’s imprisonment are deteriorating.

“Since the start of the new year, he never ever said that the treatment has gotten better,” Islam said in a phone conversation. “He, if anything, has said the treatment has gotten worse.”

Islam said the battle for control of Yemen has added to her husband’s stress.

“Mostly what I hear from him, on a psychological level, is that he hears the fighting going on outside between the Houthi group and the government soldiers,” she said. “He hears the fighting, it’s very close by. He has a feeling that they took the prison or the military base, which he’s on.  He fears for his life, he doesn’t know what they are capable of.  It has gotten worse for him psychologically because not only does he not know what’s going on with his own case, but now he even fears, from day to day, his life.”

Mobley’s lawyers from the U.K. non-profit organization Reprieve claim that, after his arrest, he was shackled to his bed for 24 hours a day and beaten regularly. They also say he was interrogated by two U.S. agents who identified themselves as “Khan from DOD (Department of Defense) and Matt from FBI.” His account was supported by a FOIA request made by Reprieve lawyer Cori Crider that revealed an FBI document describing a conversation with Islam during the first few days of his incarceration. 

The FBI and the Department of Defense have yet to respond to The Intercept’s request for comment on the incident.

According to his lawyers, Mobley was taken to the hospital for treatment to his damaged leg and endured more questioning from the same U.S. officials on his reasons for moving to Yemen. The lawyers also described an account in which the same officials threatened Mobley on the condition that, if he failed to answer their questions about Awlaki, his wife and children would suffer and he would never seen them again.

Then, on March 7, 2010, Yemeni officials claim that Mobley shot and killed a guard in a failed escape attempt from the hospital. Mobley’s lawyer said they’ve never been told the charges he faces from that incident and also say they haven’t seen him since February 2014.  In addition, his lawyers have said that their client has been sprayed with mace whenever he requested to speak to the  U.S. Embassy, which no longer exists after officially closing a few weeks ago. Islam had been very critical of the embassy in failing to facilitate her attempts to reconnect with her husband.

“I remember there was a time when I was in Yemen and they were suggesting when Americans go home,” she told The Intercept. “They pick up the phone and called my family back here in America to reach out to me and tell me if I got home. So I know they are capable of doing so. But no one has ever called me or emailed me or reached out to any of the family about the current situation, given us some type of reassurance or anything. Anytime I ever had contact with the embassy or State Department was through my initiation, me asking them, ‘What is your plan now for Sharif, now that the situation has completely turned around and there is no government?’ And I get either no response or a weak response when I ask about the evacuation. ‘Oh, there is no evacuation.’”

Crider echoed Islam’s sentiments about U.S. officials not showing the level of concern or urgency that they would expect from those tasked with making sure the status of Americans is constantly updated to their families and close ones.

“Poor Nzinga has been chasing them again and again, just as I have,” Crider said. “And it’s not just that they don’t initiate contact. They have affirmatively withheld information that is critical to their own citizen, trying to get a fair trial. Even if the Embassy was doing everything they could, as a person who has sat through several hearings in that criminal court process, it makes some of the Guantánamo things that some of my clients go through look like a model of due process apparentness. So, no, they don’t call. It’s kind of a ‘We’ll call you’ kind of a thing.”

Crider emphatically believes that the U.S. officials are fully cognizant of Mobley’s location and condition.

“They have been to see him,” she said. “They know where he is. And when she asks where is my husband, they just say, ‘We can’t tell you for security reasons.’ The idea that the government of the United States, a massive funder of the Yemeni government is just going to permit that state to disappear one of its own citizens kind of tells you what you need to know about where poor Sharif is on the pecking order.”

“They know full well this man was shot in the middle of the street on January 26, 2010. They know full well that he was held in secret for weeks and weeks and weeks. And they know that he now faces capital charges.”

The U.S. State Department declined to comment on Mobley’s whereabouts for  “privacy reasons” and added that “consular officials strive to assist U.S. citizens detained abroad whenever possible.”

The lack of urgency to help Mobley from American officials has prompted Islam to believe that her husband would receive more attention and help if he were white.

“It’s sad and it’s unfortunate, but I feeling that if he was a white American, more effort would have been made to get him out of the situation,” said Islam, who has made similar comments to NBC News. “Now, I believe it’s very difficult to remove him from the situation. But before it has gotten this bad, I believe that if he was a white American, that they would have put forth enough effort and wouldn’t have even gotten this far, it would have been five years, he wouldn’t have to experience the civil war that’s happening now. I still have that feeling.”

Mobley, now 31, had advised his wife to take their children and herself out of Yemen and return to America.

“It’s not a day that goes by that they don’t ask about their father,” Islam said, who has two sons and a daughter with Mosley.  “I always relate Sharif in our daily activities. I definitely keep his memory and his presence alive in the house by telling them stories about what their father used to like, what type of cartoons. For example, we’re going to Chuck E. Cheese and Sharif was always scared of the big mouse and character, and that’s something I would tell them about. Every day my daughter or my son, even the younger son we have who has never seen his father, I show him pictures and he points to his daddy. So they are very aware of their father and his circumstances.”

Photo: Hani Mohammed/AP

The post America Abandoned One of Its Own in Yemen — and Now He May Die appeared first on The Intercept.

You Should Really Consider Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone

The Intercept - Engl. - Mo, 02/03/2015 - 19:04

In the age of ubiquitous government surveillance, the only way citizens can fully protect their privacy online is through encryption. Historically, this has been extremely difficult for mere mortals; just watch the video Edward Snowden made to teach Glenn Greenwald how to encrypt his emails to see how confusing it gets. But all of this is quickly changing as high-quality, user-friendly encryption software becomes available.

App maker Open Whisper Systems took an important step in this direction today with the release of a major new version of its Signal encrypted calling app for iPhones and iPads. The new version, Signal 2.0, folds in support for encrypted text messages using a protocol called TextSecure, meaning users can communicate using voice and text while remaining confident nothing can be intercepted in transit over the internet.

That may not sound like a particularly big deal, given that other encrypted communication apps are available for iOS, but Signal 2.0 offers something tremendously useful: peace of mind.

Unlike other text messaging products, Signal’s code is open source, meaning it can be inspected by experts, and the app also supports forward secrecy, so if an attacker steals your encryption key, they cannot go back and decrypt messages they may have collected in the past.

Signal is also one special place on the iPhone where users can be confident all their communications are always fully scrambled. Other apps with encryption tend to enter insecure modes at unpredictable times — unpredictable for many users, at least. Apple’s iMessage, for example, employs strong encryption, but only when communicating between two Apple devices and only when there is a proper data connection. Otherwise, iMessage falls back on insecure SMS messaging. iMessage also lacks forward secrecy and inspectable source code.

Signal also offers the ability for power users to verify the identity of the people they’re talking to, confirming that the encryption isn’t under attack. With iMessage, you just have to take Apple’s word for it.

Strong, reliable, predictably-applied encryption is especially important at a time when the world just found out, via a report by The Intercept, that American and British spies hacked into the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer and stole the encryption keys that are used to protect communication between handsets and cell phone towers. With these keys, spies can eavesdrop on phone calls and texts just by passively listening to the airwaves.

Signal development is also noteworthy because its makers, Open Whisper Systems and that company’s founder Moxie Marlinspike, are gaining a reputation for combining trustworthy encryption with ease of use and mobile convenience. Open Whisper Systems recently partnered with the makers of the messaging app WhatsApp to add encryption to that popular product (WhatsApp is not yet fully encrypted across all platforms and media types).

“We want to make private communication simple,” says Marlinspike, who designed the encryption protocols that power his company’s apps. “Our objective is to do new cryptographic research and development that advances the state of the art while simultaneously making it frictionless and accessible for anyone.”

iPhone users can find Signal here. For Android users, the product is, at the moment, split into two apps: TextSecure for private texting and RedPhone for private voice calls. “We’re working towards a single unified Signal app for Android, iPhone and the desktop,” says Marlinspike.

It’s important to keep in mind that no technology is 100 percent secure, and an encrypted messaging app can only be as secure as the device you install it on. Intelligence agencies and other hackers can still exploit security bugs that have not been fixed, known as zero day exploits, to take over smartphones and bypass the encryption that privacy apps employ. But apps like Signal go a long way to making mass surveillance of billions of innocent people infeasible.

The post You Should Really Consider Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone appeared first on The Intercept.

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