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Die Kampagne „Stopp Ramstein“ lädt ein zur

No to NATO - Vie, 12/02/2016 - 23:29


Die Air Base Ramstein

Wann: 29.02.2016 | 18.00 bis 20.30 Uhr

Wo: Gemeindesaal in der Versöhnungskirche Kaiserslautern | Leipziger Straße 1 | 67663 Kaiserslautern

Wir bitten um Anmeldung: *protected email*, Betreff: Air Base Ramstein

Bekannt ist, dass der US-Militärstützpunkt Ramstein ein zentrales Drehkreuz für die Vorbereitung und Durchführung völkerrechtswidriger Angriffskriege ist. Aber was sind die neuesten Entwicklungen, die Aus- und Umbaupläne?

Welche Rolle spielt die Air Base im Syrienkrieg und bei den Einsatzplanungen der Bundeswehr?

US-Drohnenpilot_innen auf verschiedensten Militärbasen nutzen Ramstein für die Steuerung der Killerdrohnen in weltweiten und illegalen Kriegseinsätzen. In Ramstein analysieren und aktualisieren ca. 650 Mitarbeiter_innen ständig die Überwachungsdaten der vermeintlichen Zielpersonen und leiten ihre Daten dann weiter. Was sind die neuesten Entwicklungen im Drohnenkrieg national und international? Welche Drohnen bekommt die Bundeswehr? Geht der Drohnenkrieg trotz vieler Proteste einfach so weiter?

Die Klage gegen die Air Base wird beim Bundesverwaltungsgericht verhandelt werden. Wie sind die Aussichten in diesem Prozess? Was ist völkerrechtswidrig und warum?

Wie können Erfahrungen mit 25 Jahren Konversionspraxis in Deutschland und Europa genutzt werden, um die nächste Etappe zivilen Umbaus in der Westpfalz zu einer Erfolgsstory zu machen?

Wie geht es weiter mit den Protesten gegen die Air Base? Nach der Demonstration der 1500 Teilnehmer_innen ist eine große Menschenkette am 11.06.2016 geplant. Was soll dort genau geschehen?

Alte und neue Fragen für die Informationsveranstaltung mit kompetenten Referierenden.

Weitere Infos auf:




Fee Strieffler, Ramsteiner Appell, Luftpost
Aktuelle Entwicklungen in und um Ramstein

Alexander Ulrich, MdB, DIE LINKE
Ramstein und die Interventionskriege

Claudia Haydt, Informationsstelle Militarisierung (IMI)
Drohnen in Ramstein, in Deutschland und international

Dr. Peter Becker, IALANA
Ramstein(-klage) und das Völkerrecht

Roland Vogt, vormals MdB DIE GRÜNEN, Konversionsexperte
Regionale Konversion – eine Militärregion erfolgreich
zivil umgestalten

Reiner Braun,
Kampagne „Stopp Ramstein“, Geschäftsführer IALANA

The Obama Administration Has Just Recklessly Escalated Its Military Confrontation With Russia

No to NATO - Vie, 12/02/2016 - 23:07
The Pentagon’s announcement that it will quadruple US-NATO military forces in countries on or near Russia’s borders pushes the new Cold War toward actual war, possibly even a nuclear one. By Stephen F. Cohen

February 3, 2016

Die Obama-Regierung lässt die militärische Konfrontation mit Russland waghalsig eskalieren

No to NATO - Vie, 12/02/2016 - 23:05

Neuer Beitrag auf NachDenkSeiten – Die kritische Website

by Albrecht Müller

Die Ankündigung des Verteidigungsministeriums, die US-NATO-Streitkräfte an den russischen Grenzen zu vervierfachen, macht es wahrscheinlicher, dass aus dem neuen Kalten Krieg ein tatsächlicher Krieg wird, womöglich ein nuklearer.
Unter dieser Überschrift fasst Stephen F. Cohen in The Nation seine wöchentliche Diskussion mit John Batchelor über den neuen Kalten Krieg zwischen den USA und Russland zusammen. Das Gespräch der beiden Journalisten finden Sie im Original hier.
Mehr von diesem Beitrag lesen

Watch Carrier Workers Find Out Their Jobs Are Moving to Mexico

The Intercept - Engl. - Vie, 12/02/2016 - 20:48

Workers at a Carrier Air Conditioner plant in Indianapolis were summoned to a group assembly this week to be told their jobs would soon be moving to Monterrey, Mexico. In all, 1,400 jobs are expected to be lost.

The moment was caught on video:

“I want to be clear, this is strictly a business decision,” says the speaker, Carrier general manager Chris Nelson, as the crowd erupts in anger. “This was an extremely difficult decision.… It was most difficult because as I understand it will have an impact on all of you, your families, and the community.” Carrier is owned by United Technologies.

Also this week, Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly confronted Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen about the move. He noted that United Technologies Electronic Controls will move 700 jobs at another Indiana operation to Mexico as well.

“Now the promise of America has always been you work hard, you do your job, you help your company be profitable and then in return, you hope to have a decent retirement,” he said. “So how do we tell workers who have put their whole heart and soul into a company, who have provided them with over $6.1 billion in sales, that it is not enough? I mean, the reason folks are here is because there has always been a promise: if you work hard, the company in return will stand up and do right by you. So, how is doing right having $6.1 billion dollars in earnings and shipping 2,100 Indiana jobs off to Mexico?”

Yellen, who has come under fire for rate hikes many fear will undermine the unemployment situation, replied: “This is a miserable and burdensome situation that many households have faced.”



The post Watch Carrier Workers Find Out Their Jobs Are Moving to Mexico appeared first on The Intercept.

Henry Kissinger’s War Crimes Are Central to the Divide Between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

The Intercept - Engl. - Vie, 12/02/2016 - 19:16

The sparring during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over whether Henry Kissinger is an elder statesman or a pariah has laid bare a major foreign policy divide within the Democratic Party.

Clinton and Sanders stand on opposite sides of that divide. One represents the hawkish Washington foreign policy establishment, which reveres and in some cases actually works for Kissinger. The other represents the marginalized non-interventionists, who can’t possibly forgive someone with the blood of millions of brown people on his hands.

Kissinger is an amazing and appropriate lens through which to see what’s at stake in the choice between Clinton and Sanders. But that only works, of course, if you understand who Kissinger is — which surely many of today’s voters don’t.

Some may only dimly recall that Kissinger won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Vietnam War (comedian Tom Lehrer famously said the award made political satire obsolete) and that he played a central role in President Nixon’s opening of relations with China.

But Kissinger is reviled by many left-leaning observers of foreign policy. They consider him an amoral egotist who enabled dictators, extended the Vietnam War, laid the path to the Khmer Rouge killing fields, stage-managed a genocide in East Timor, overthrew the democratically-elected left-wing government in Chile, and encouraged Nixon to wiretap his political adversaries.

First, let’s review what happened at the debate. Here’s the video, followed by the transcript:

SANDERS: Where the secretary and I have a very profound difference, in the last debate — and I believe in her book — very good book, by the way — in her book and in this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.


I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.


IFILL: Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy, and we have yet to know who that is.

SANDERS: Well, it ain’t Henry Kissinger. That’s for sure.

CLINTON: That’s fine. That’s fine.


You know, I listen to a wide variety of voices that have expertise in various areas. I think it is fair to say, whatever the complaints that you want to make about him are, that with respect to China, one of the most challenging relationships we have, his opening up China and his ongoing relationships with the leaders of China is an incredibly useful relationship for the United States of America.


So if we want to pick and choose — and I certainly do — people I listen to, people I don’t listen to, people I listen to for certain areas, then I think we have to be fair and look at the entire world, because it’s a big, complicated world out there.


CLINTON: And, yes, people we may disagree with on a number of things may have some insight, may have some relationships that are important for the president to understand in order to best protect the United States.


SANDERS: I find — I mean, it’s just a very different, you know, historical perspective here. Kissinger was one of those people during the Vietnam era who talked about the domino theory. Not everybody remembers that. You do. I do. The domino theory, you know, if Vietnam goes, China, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. That’s what he talked about, the great threat of China.

And then, after the war, this is the guy who, in fact, yes, you’re right, he opened up relations with China, and now pushed various type of trade agreements, resulting in American workers losing their jobs as corporations moved to China. The terrible, authoritarian, Communist dictatorship he warned us about, now he’s urging companies to shut down and move to China. Not my kind of guy.


And now, some background about Kissinger.

Greg Grandin, a history professor at New York University, just published a timely book called Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. In an article in the Nation last week, “Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton’s Tutor in War and Peace,” he offered this pithy summary:

Let’s consider some of Kissinger’s achievements during his tenure as Richard Nixon’s top foreign policy–maker. He (1) prolonged the Vietnam War for five pointless years; (2) illegally bombed Cambodia and Laos; (3) goaded Nixon to wiretap staffers and journalists; (4) bore responsibility for three genocides in Cambodia, East Timor, and Bangladesh; (5) urged Nixon to go after Daniel Ellsberg for having released the Pentagon Papers, which set off a chain of events that brought down the Nixon White House; (6) pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan; (7) began the U.S.’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran; (8) accelerated needless civil wars in southern Africa that, in the name of supporting white supremacy, left millions dead; (9) supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America; and (10) ingratiated himself with the first-generation neocons, such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, who would take American militarism to its next calamitous level. Read all about it in Kissinger’s Shadow!

A full tally hasn’t been done, but a back-of-the-envelope count would attribute 3, maybe 4 million deaths to Kissinger’s actions, but that number probably undercounts his victims in southern Africa. Pull but one string from the current tangle of today’s multiple foreign policy crises, and odds are it will lead back to something Kissinger did between 1968 and 1977. Over-reliance on Saudi oil? That’s Kissinger. Blowback from the instrumental use of radical Islam to destabilize Soviet allies? Again, Kissinger. An unstable arms race in the Middle East? Check, Kissinger. Sunni-Shia rivalry? Yup, Kissinger. The impasse in Israel-Palestine? Kissinger. Radicalization of Iran?  “An act of folly” was how veteran diplomat George Ball described Kissinger’s relationship to the Shah. Militarization of the Persian Gulf?  Kissinger, Kissinger, Kissinger.

The late essayist Christopher Hitchins examined Kissinger’s war crimes in his 2001 book, “The Trial of Henry Kissinger.” He listed the key elements of his case:

1. The deliberate mass killing of civilian populations in Indochina.
2. Deliberate collusion in mass murder, and later in assassination, in Bangladesh.
3. The personal suborning and planning of murder, of a senior constitutional officer in a democratic nation — Chile — with which the United States was not at war.
4. Personal involvement in a plan to murder the head of state in the democratic nation of Cyprus.
5. The incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor
6. Personal involvement in a plan to kidnap and murder a journalist living in Washington, D.C.

Kissinger’s role in the genocide that took place in East Timor is less well known than the one he enabled in Indochina. Author Charles Glass wrote about that episode in 2011:

On December 6, 1975, Kissinger and Gerald Ford met President Suharto in Indonesia and promised to increase arms supplies to sustain Indonesian suppression of the former Portuguese colony. Kissinger, quoted verbatim in US Embassy cables of that war council, insisted that American weapons for the Indonesian Army’s invasion could be finessed: “It depends on how we construe it; whether it is in self-defense or is a foreign operation.”

Since no one in East Timor had attacked or intended to attack Indonesia, Suharto could hardly plead self-defense. But Kissinger would make the case for him. All he asked was that Suharto delay the invasion a few hours until he and Ford had left Jakarta. He presumably relied on the American public’s inability to connect the Jakarta conference with the invasion so long as he and Ford were back in Washington when the killing began. As far as the American media went, he was right. The Indonesian Army invaded on the anniversary of a previous day of infamy, December 7, massacring about a third of the population. The press, apart from five Australian journalists whom the Indonesian Army slaughtered, ignored the invasion and subsequent occupation. Well done, Henry.

By the time Suharto was overthrown in 1998, Kissinger had gone private—charging vast fees to advise people like Suharto on methods for marketing their crimes. He also kept posing as an elder statesman whose views were sought (and often paid for) by a media that enabled his penchant for self-publicity. He was a patriot whose love of country stopped short of taking part in the 9/11 Commission if it meant disclosing how much the Saudi royal family paid him for his counsel.

The continuing role Kissinger plays in modern foreign policy is perfectly illustrated by Hillary Clinton, his long-time fan and friend. Just recently, in November, she reviewed Kissinger’s latest book, “World Order,” for the Washington Post. There’s a summary of that here.

Clinton called it “vintage Kissinger, with his singular combination of breadth and acuity along with his knack for connecting headlines to trend lines.” She wrote that “his analysis, despite some differences over specific policies, largely fits with the broad strategy behind the Obama administration’s effort over the past six years to build a global architecture of security and cooperation for the 21st century.”

And she said he came off as “surprisingly idealistic. Even when there are tensions between our values and other objectives, America, he reminds us, succeeds by standing up for our values, not shirking them, and leads by engaging peoples and societies, the source of legitimacy, not governments alone.”

A key passage:

Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels. Though we have often seen the world and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated different responses now and in the past, what comes through clearly in this new book is a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.

The difference between the two views of Kissinger is not simply of academic or historical interest. How a presidential candidate feels about him is a clear sign of her or his worldview and indicates the kind of decisions she or he will make in office – and, perhaps even more importantly, suggests the kind of staffers she or he will appoint to key positions of authority in areas of diplomacy, defense, national security, and intelligence.

Sanders has not made clear who he is turning to for foreign policy advice, if anyone. (What’s your dream foreign policy team? Email me at

But Clinton is clearly picking from the usual suspects — the “securocrats in waiting” who make up the Washington D.C. foreign policy establishment.

They work at places like Albright Stoneridge, the powerhouse global consulting firm led by former secretary of state Madeline Albright, a staunch Clinton backer. They work at places like Beacon Global Strategies, which is providing high-profile foreign policy guidance to Clinton — as well as to Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. And they work at places like Kissinger Associates. In fact, Bob Hormats, who was a Goldman Sachs vice chairman before serving as Clinton’s under secretary of state, is now advising Clinton’s campaign even while serving as the vice chairman of Kissinger Associates.

Despite the wildly bellicose and human-rights-averse rhetoric from the leading Republican presidential candidates, they’re picking from essentially the same pool as well.

A few weeks ago, I talked to Chas Freeman, the former diplomat I once called a “one-man destroyer of groupthink,” whose non-interventionism and even-handed approach to the Middle East was so un-Kissingeresque that his surprising appointment to President Obama’s National Intelligence Council in 2009 lasted all of a few days.

He marveled at the lack of any “honest brokers” in the D.C. foreign policy establishment. “We have a foreign policy elite in this country that’s off its meds, basically,” he said.

“There’s no debate because everybody’s interventionist, everybody’s militaristic.” They all are pretty much in the thrall of neoconservatism, he said. You can see them “speckled all over the Republican side” and “also in the Clinton group.”

Henry Kissinger is thus a litmus test for foreign policy. But don’t count on the mainstream media to help you understand that.

Imagine two types of people: Those who would schmooze with Kissinger at a cocktail party, and those who would spit in his eye. The elite Washington media is almost without exception in that first category. In fact, they’d probably have anyone who spit in Kissinger’s eye arrested.

Since they only see one side, they don’t want to get into it. And there was a little indicator at Thursday night’s debate, hosted by PBS, of just how eagerly the elite political media welcomes an honest exploration of the subject.

Just as Sanders raised the issue of Kissinger’s legacy in Vietnam, either Gwen Ifill or Judy Woodruff — both of whom are very conventional, establishment, Washington cocktail-party celebrities, — was caught audibly muttering “Oh, God.”

Top photo:  Hillary Clinton smiles as Henry Kissinger presents her with a Distinguished Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council in Washington in May 2013. 

The post Henry Kissinger’s War Crimes Are Central to the Divide Between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders appeared first on The Intercept.

Lawyers Speak Out About Massive Hack of Prisoners’ Phone Records

The Intercept - Engl. - Vie, 12/02/2016 - 18:49

IN THE SUMMER of 2013, Missouri criminal defense attorney Jennifer Bukowsky was preparing for an evidentiary hearing in the case of a pro bono client, Jessie McKim. The stakes were high: Along with his co-defendant, James Peavler, McKim had been convicted in 1999 of killing a woman named Wendy Wagnon and was serving life without parole at a maximum security prison. At the upcoming hearing, Bukowsky planned to argue that her client was innocent — and that the murder that sent him to die in prison was never a murder at all.

McKim was convicted in part based on the testimony of a local medical examiner, who claimed that the presence of petechiae on a dead body — small spots on the skin or the whites of the eyes where capillaries have hemorrhaged — is proof that a person was suffocated. But a toxicology report — completed after Wagnon’s cause of death had already been determined as asphyxiation — revealed that Wagnon had lethal levels of methamphetamine in her system when she died. Among the witnesses Bukowsky planned to call at the hearing were five different pathologists who would testify that the state’s medical examiner was wrong when he claimed Wagnon was suffocated — and that evidence pointed to a meth overdose instead. (A sixth pathologist, retained as an expert by the state, also agreed that Wagnon died of an overdose, not of suffocation.)

“It was a really big time, and a crucial time, for his case,” Bukowsky recalls. As she prepped witnesses and decided who else should take the stand, she shared her strategy with McKim via lengthy phone calls — calls understood to be protected by attorney-client privilege. Unlike calls between prisoners and their family or acquaintances, which are routinely monitored, conversations with lawyers are not to be recorded. During these calls, says Bukowsky, “I’m telling him my concerns about calling this or that person — that is crucial information that should be private between us.”

The hearing took place in August 2013. The following spring, a circuit court judge ruled against McKim, upholding his conviction and saying that even if Wagnon was not suffocated, McKim and his co-defendant could have killed her another way — by intentionally forcing her to overdose on meth, a theory the state had never previously argued, for which there was no supporting evidence.

Bukowsky was confounded by the ruling, but remained undeterred — she is convinced of McKim’s innocence and knows from experience that in a system that favors finality, undoing an unjust conviction can be frustrating work. “It takes a lot of grit & it makes me angry,” she wrote in an email.

Last fall, Bukowsky received an unexpected phone call related to McKim’s case. The call came from The Intercept, following our November 11, 2015, report on a massive hack of Securus Technologies, a Texas-based prison telecommunications company that does business with the Missouri Department of Corrections. As we reported at the time, The Intercept received a massive database of more than 70 million call records belonging to Securus and coming from prison facilities that used the company’s so-called Secure Call Platform. Leaked via SecureDrop by a hacker who was concerned that Securus might be violating prisoners’ rights, the call records span a 2 1/2-year period beginning in late 2011 (the year Securus won its contract with the Missouri DOC) and ending in the spring of 2014.

Although Securus did not respond to repeated requests for comment for our November report, the company released a statement condemning the hack shortly after the story was published. Securus insisted there was “absolutely no evidence” that any attorney-client calls had been recorded “without the knowledge and consent” of the parties to each call.

The Intercept’s analysis, to the contrary, estimated that the hacked data included at least 14,000 records of conversations between inmates and attorneys. In the wake of the story’s publication, we informed Bukowsky that her phone number had been found among the records and provided her a spreadsheet of the calls made to her office — including the name of the client and the date, time, and duration of the calls. In turn, Bukowsky searched her case files for notes and other records, ultimately confirming that at least one call with McKim — which was prearranged with the Missouri DOC to be a private attorney call — was included in the data. The privileged call, more than 30 minutes long, was made at the height of Bukowsky’s preparations for McKim’s hearing. A unique recording URL accompanied each of Bukowsky’s calls included in the data, suggesting that audio had been recorded and stored for more than two years — and ultimately compromised by the unprecedented data breach.

The discovery was distressing. “I was in the thrust of litigating with the state attorney general’s office a very hotly disputed habeas petition, and I was acting under good faith that they were not recording,” she said. “And,” it appears, “they were.”

THE ABILITY OF COUNSEL and client to communicate confidentially is a cornerstone of the American legal system. The recording, monitoring, or storage of such legally protected communications not only chills the attorney-client relationship, but may also run afoul of constitutional protections — including the right to effective assistance of counsel and access to the courts.

The mass recording of inmate calls is itself a fairly recent practice, sold by private telecommunications companies, like Securus, to jails and prisons as a security measure — a way to thwart violent uprisings, for example, or curb the introduction of contraband into a facility. This bulk surveillance — the recording and long-term storage of millions and millions of routine communications — raises serious concerns about the privacy rights of incarcerated persons and their loved ones, says David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. And indeed, while incarceration may compromise some individual rights, a detainee’s right to confidential communication with an attorney is not one that can be trampled by the state — or a private company. In criminal cases, the attorney-client privilege bars defense attorneys from disclosing, or prosecutors from using, any case-related information obtained in confidence. It is, says Fathi, “the oldest privilege of confidentiality known in our legal system.”

After The Intercept exposed the Securus hack, numerous defense attorneys contacted us to find out whether the database contained any of their call data. As we previously reported, the data contained 1.3 million unique telephone numbers; to determine if the 70 million call records contained attorney-client calls, we did a reverse lookup of each number, finding that at least 14,000 calls were made to attorneys. But because the reverse lookup was limited to a commercial directory, and because we searched only for business listings that included the words “attorney,” “law,” or “legal,” we concluded that we were likely missing thousands of additional calls — including those made to attorney cellphone numbers, which would not necessarily be listed in a commercial directory.

The attorneys who contacted The Intercept helped advance our investigation into the data by identifying additional phone numbers as belonging to lawyers, which were not previously included in our estimate. We have now identified at least 43,000 additional records of attorney-client communications — including both attempted and completed calls — contained within the hacked data. (But again, because the subsequent searches were done only for attorneys who reached out to The Intercept, we suspect there are still many more attorney-client call records not yet identified in the data.)

Among these additional records are more than 33,000 calls that detainees placed to lawyers working for Missouri’s state public defender office, and more than 1,000 made to the Midwest Innocence Project, which handles wrongful conviction cases in Missouri and four other states. That the hack contained so many calls to the MIP is distressing to the nonprofit’s executive director, Oliver Burnette. “It really gave us pause, and I think it can really hinder how we try to do business for the most vulnerable among us, those people … who are in jail and may be innocent,” he said.

As with Bukowsky’s calls, some of these additional records correspond to phone conversations arranged with prison officials to be confidential attorney-client communications, which never should have been recorded.

After a detailed review of several specific fields contained within the hacked records, The Intercept has been able to narrow the geographical scope of the recorded calls, tracing all of the detainee call records to Missouri prison facilities. Although, as we previously reported, the database reflects calls to at least 37 states, the vast majority — 85 percent — were made to phone numbers in Missouri. An additional 5 percent were placed to numbers with Kansas and Illinois area codes — states that border Missouri’s largest cities, Kansas City and St. Louis. Each phone record includes the name of the prisoner making the call, an acronym for a location that maps to a correctional facility in Missouri, as well as an identification number that appears to correspond with Missouri DOC prisoner IDs. The records do not include the number from which each phone call originated.

For Bukowsky — who founded her eponymous firm in Columbia in 2010 — the potential for damage was vast. At the August 2013 hearing in McKim’s case, the state called to the stand a woman, Melissa McFarland, who was with Wagnon just before her death and then implicated McKim in that death, a circumstance Bukowsky would have discussed with McKim. “So for them to hear me — if they’re listening to me, which I don’t know if they did — but were they to, they would know all the different things that I’m saying to my client that I think are problems for McFarland that I’m going to cross-examine her on [and] they could then prep her accordingly.”

In an email response to The Intercept, a spokesperson for the Missouri attorney general said that its office did not have access or listen to any phone calls between Bukowsky and McKim.

Bukowsky notes that violating attorney-client confidentiality in the manner that appears to have happened — and could still be happening, whether in Missouri or any of the jurisdictions where Securus operates, which include 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Mexico — is just another way the odds are stacked in favor of the state in criminal prosecutions.

IN OUR INITIAL REPORT, the ACLU’s Fathi described the hack as potentially representing the “most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history.” Upon learning The Intercept was able to confirm that the data included prearranged, privileged communications between lawyers and their clients, Fathi was even more troubled: “It’s very disturbing that calls that were explicitly set up as attorney-client calls were also recorded,” he said. “There’s no excuse for recording attorney-client calls, and there’s certainly no excuse for indefinitely retaining those recordings.”

Securus’ first public statement following our November report characterized the breach as an inside leak. In a subsequent press release on November 13, the company dropped the language about the hack being an inside job, declaring that it was “working on multiple fronts to fully investigate … and to prevent future criminal attacks.” The company said it had hired a forensic data analysis firm to determine how the hack happened and “to confirm that it happened outside of the Securus network and systems.” Securus has not publicly released any additional information related to the breach, nor responded to our requests for additional information and comment for this story.

Securus previously contested The Intercept’s conclusions about the recording of potentially privileged calls. “While The Intercept reports that they matched call data from the stolen data with phone numbers attached to attorneys’ offices,” it said in its second release regarding the hack, “no evidence has been provided that any of these calls were actually recorded, and if so, whether any of them would actually constitute privileged communications,” In addition, Securus said that its calling systems contain “multiple safeguards to prevent attorney-client recordings from occurring,” and pointed out that “licensed attorneys are able to register their numbers or a specific call to exempt them from recording.”

Although specific procedures differ depending on the state or locality involved, it is commonly the responsibility of lawyers to verify and register their numbers with jail or prison officials — ostensibly to ensure that legal calls are not recorded or monitored.

“While it is possible that not all of these safeguards were followed by the callers in some cases,” the company continued, “we have seen no evidence to date of recorded calls that would fall under that category.”

But criminal defense lawyers in Missouri told The Intercept that, unlike other jurisdictions in which Securus provides inmate calling services, the Missouri DOC does not allow attorneys to provide individual phone numbers to the agency or to individual facilities for inclusion in a standing do-not-record list. In an email, Missouri DOC Communications Director David Owen said the DOC “respects the right of offenders to have privileged communications with their attorneys” and explained that in order to guarantee a call is private, “attorneys must demonstrate, in written form, they are a licensed attorney, and request to have a privileged telephone call with an incarcerated offender.” Once scheduled, such calls are “set to private,” he explained, adding that lawyers “must make this request every time they wish to have a privileged telephone conversation with an incarcerated offender.”

But, after reviewing call record information provided by The Intercept, five attorneys in Missouri confirmed that contained in the hacked data were calls that were prearranged with the DOC to be private communications. “How can a client feel safe sharing information with his attorney when he suspects that the opposing party is listening to the call? How can an attorney expect to share legal strategy with their client if she suspects the same?” asks Jennifer Merrigan, a defense attorney who has represented Missouri death row prisoners for more than a decade, including as a former staff attorney and director of the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic in Kansas City. “A critical foundation of trust and confidence in the process has been destroyed.”

“It’s a little bit disconcerting,” says Missouri criminal defense attorney Kent Gipson, who discovered three calls made to him by three different clients that he could confirm were set up in advance, through prison authorities, as privileged calls that were not to be recorded. Each call record he identified also contained a unique recording URL. At the same time, Gipson notes, the allegation that all calls, including attorney calls, are routinely recorded or monitored is not a new one among attorneys or inmates. “Nothing much surprises me anymore,” he said. 

AFTER REVIEWING RECORDS found in the hacked data for calls made to public defender offices across Missouri, Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri State Public Defender System, said in an email that his office’s “initial finding” did not reveal any call records that match up with calls known to have been prearranged by system attorneys. “Not to say it didn’t happen,” he wrote, “just that we cannot identify a prearranged call that was recorded.”

But Barrett is among those The Intercept interviewed who suggest that the recording of any attorney-client communications can hinder the effectiveness of counsel. “Confidentiality is at the heart of what we do, and if a client feels as if what they say is being compromised, to whatever degree, he or she may not be sufficiently forthcoming with counsel so that the most effective defense can be presented on their behalf,” Barrett wrote. The best approach, he suggests, is to have a policy of never recording phone calls between lawyers and their clients. This would also mean “the risk of confidential information being leaked is zero.”

The MIP’s Burnette agrees, noting that there is no reason for clients to call except to talk about their cases — and any call in which representation is discussed should be considered privileged and thus not recorded, monitored, logged, or stored. “I think that any time someone calls our office, it’s a legal call,” he says. “I mean, we’re not talking about the [Kansas City] Chiefs game.” That is “not their concern when they call us. They’re trying to go into issues on their case.”

Tricia Bushnell, the MIP’s legal director, said that while review of the call data is not yet complete, so far she has been able to locate within the records The Intercept provided three calls that were prearranged in the manner the Missouri DOC has said is required.

Still, that may not necessarily reflect the true number of calls within the data that were intended to be privileged — indeed, despite the Missouri DOC’s insistence that only prearranged calls would be considered privileged, one Missouri attorney told The Intercept that policies governing how attorney-client calls are handled vary from facility to facility within the system, which makes it difficult to determine exactly how many privileged call records are contained within the leaked data.

“Every place is different,” Burnette agrees. “Perhaps that’s part of the problem, is that there’s no standardization.” But Burnette says the volume of legal calls included in the hack suggests that the Securus-Missouri DOC call system simply doesn’t work — and isn’t meeting its duty to protect prisoner rights. “Neither of those organizations are above the law afforded to everyone,” he says.

In response to a list of additional questions The Intercept emailed to the Missouri DOC, a spokesperson reiterated the agency’s initial response — that privileged calls must be prearranged — but added a caveat: “If a requested private call goes past its scheduled time that has been entered into the vendor software, the telephone software system will begin recording the call. At this time, the users will be [given] a notification that the call is being recorded.”

AFTER THE INTERCEPT reported on the Securus hack, the company said there was no evidence that any confidential attorney-client calls were actually recorded. However, the hacker had provided The Intercept with several audio files — recordings of actual conversations — that had been downloaded by clicking on the recording URLs within the call records, leading us to draw the logical inference that the other live links were also connected to audio files. Subsequently, Securus appears to have moved the more than 70 million calls in question to a new server, severing further access to the audio files through the links in the data.

Even if an audio file was not available for each of the calls identified by lawyers as confidential, the collection of metadata on those calls is a problem, says the ACLU’s Fathi. The database includes names and locations for individual detainees, the date, time, and duration of their calls, as well as the number called and data that appears to indicate how the call was paid for. “You can imagine all kinds of cases where the metadata would itself reveal confidential information,” says Fathi.

Burnette agrees that even collecting metadata on attorney-client calls is concerning. “We’ve talked about this on calls for private citizens — we know what they can glean from metadata,” he said. “We know the danger of it — and the value of it. If it wasn’t a valuable resource, there wouldn’t be Google, right? [With] metadata they know a lot about us.”

Take, for example, calls made by detainees to prosecutors — of which we found numerous examples within the data, including calls placed to a U.S. attorney’s office in Missouri. “The disclosure that a prisoner called a prosecutor’s office could potentially put that prisoner in very great danger,” Fathi points out. “If the prisoner were to be, rightly or wrongly, labeled a snitch or informant that could have very serious, and indeed, lethal consequences for the prisoner.”

Among prisoners, it is an open secret in Missouri (and, indeed, throughout the criminal justice system) that calls intended to be confidential are monitored and/or recorded by the state. Defense attorney Gipson says that “a lot” of his clients suspect that all of their calls are monitored and/or recorded — despite official assurances to the contrary. “They think that even though it’s supposed to be a confidential call, they put [attorney calls] on a line that can be monitored — and then do, I think.”

One woman whose husband is housed in a Missouri prison told The Intercept that he and his fellow inmates consider it common knowledge that all calls — including privileged communications — are monitored and recorded. According to her husband, she said, at least one fellow inmate related that, while in a court proceeding, prosecutors demonstrated knowledge of information they couldn’t possibly have obtained without being privy to communications between the man and his attorney.

This isn’t an isolated allegation: In Austin, Texas, a federal lawsuit alleging that privileged calls have been recorded by Securus in the county’s jail facilities is currently pending against the company. The lawsuit claims that lawyers there have received copies of their privileged conversations from prosecutors during the evidence discovery process.

The Missouri prisoner’s wife also said that it wasn’t until December 14, 2015 — more than a month after our initial story was published, but just days after we emailed the DOC a series of questions for this story — that prison officials informed her husband and other inmates of the hack, telling them only that “the system was breached and everyone needed a new PIN” in order to place calls. The Intercept obtained a copy of the letter prison officials provided to inmates, which says that the data hacked was “historical call detail records” and did not include any compromising information, such as credit card information or social security numbers. Moreover, the letter reiterated Securus’ previous press statements regarding the hack, insisting that there is “no evidence” that attorney-client calls were recorded. “The system has been verified and is working properly,” the letter reads.

THE BREACH OF Securus’ data in Missouri suggests something larger not only about the mass recording and storage of inmate calls but also about the perils of privatizing core state responsibilities — as is often the case in corrections, where health care, food service, phone service, and even some prison facilities have been privatized. “These are … services for a population that has very little political power,” said Fathi. “So there’s not really a lot of care being put into oversight and monitoring and making sure that this service is being provided correctly,” he continued. “It continues to be incredible [to me] the sheer scale of what has happened here … and I think it shows what happens when technological advances and lax oversight come together to produce a bad result of very large proportions.”

In fact, the scale of recording and storage of inmate calls by Securus — as well as by its competitors, including industry leader Global Tel*Link — is infinitely larger than represented by the hacked data leaked to The Intercept. As of 2012, Securus alone was processing more than 1 million calls per day, from 1,700 facilities serving 850,000 detainees. According to company data provided to International Business Times, which ran a friendly profile of Securus CEO Rick Smith last month, the company has now grown to serve more than 1.2 million inmates in 3,450 facilities. The article did not include data on how many calls are currently processed each day, though logic would dictate that the call volume has increased in proportion to the company’s expanded reach, from significantly less than 1 million detainees in fewer than 2,000 facilities three years ago to 1.2 million across 3,450 facilities today.

And there is no reason to think that thousands of attorney-client calls, including clearly privileged communications, were improperly recorded only in Missouri and only over a 2 1/2-year period. “Absolutely,” says Fathi. “I am 100 percent certain that this is just the tip of the iceberg.”


Research: Joshua Thayer

The post Lawyers Speak Out About Massive Hack of Prisoners’ Phone Records appeared first on The Intercept.

NATO steigt in Syrienkrieg ein

IMI Tübingen - Vie, 12/02/2016 - 15:14
Unmittelbar vor Beginn der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz tagten in Brüssel die Verteidigungsminister_innen der NATO. Am meisten öffentliche Aufmerksamkeit zog der Beschluss auf sich, das sich der Marineverband Standing Maritime Group 2 unter Führung des deutschen Einsatzgruppenversorgers „Bonn“ am „Einsatz gegen Schlepper“ (…)

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Die großen Mächte und ihre Kriege (II)

German Foreign Policy - Vie, 12/02/2016 - 00:00
(Eigener Bericht) - Die Zahl der weltweiten Kriege und ihrer Opfer wird dieses Jahr weiter steigen. Dies sagt ein einflussreicher Diplomat in der führenden deutschen Außenpolitik-Zeitschrift voraus. Demnach nehme schon seit fünf Jahren "weltweit die Zahl der Konflikte und damit der Opfer und der Flüchtlinge" zu; diese Entwicklung werde sich "wohl auch in diesem Jahr fortsetzen". Die Zeitschrift "Internationale Politik" untermauert diese Vermutung mit einem Überblick über die aktuellen Kriege. Tatsächlich sind die blutigsten Kriege der Gegenwart - im Irak, in Syrien, Libyen, Afghanistan oder im Südsudan - ein direktes oder indirektes Ergebnis westlicher Machtpolitik, die mit Militärinterventionen oder der subversiven Unterstützung für Aufständische darauf zielte, prowestliche Umstürze herbeizuführen oder nicht kooperationswillige Staaten zu schwächen. Für die Zukunft nimmt die "Internationale Politik" mögliche Konflikte im Umfeld Chinas in den Blick. Ist es den westlichen Mächten in den Jahren des chinesischen Aufstiegs nicht gelungen, die rohstoffreiche arabische Welt für die Zeit des bevorstehenden Machtkampfs gegen die Volksrepublik fest an sich zu binden, so zeichnet sich dieser Machtkampf inzwischen deutlich ab.

Lawsuit Demands Information on Shadowy “Countering Violent Extremism” Programs in U.S.

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 11/02/2016 - 23:30

Last February, the White House held a three-day summit on the topic of “Countering Violent Extremism.” At the summit, government officials announced the launch of pilot programs in Boston, Los Angeles, and Minnesota to explore “the preventative aspects of counterterrorism as well as interventions to undermine the attraction of extremist movements.”

One year later, it’s still unclear what that entails, exactly. The government has provided few details on how it actually intends to “counter extremism” in the U.S., despite calling CVE an “administration priority” in the 2017 fiscal budget and allocating tens of millions of dollars in spending. In an indication of how these efforts are ramping up, this week a Senate subcommittee on Homeland Security approved a bill to create of an “Office for Partnerships Against Violent Extremism,” which will soon head to the full Senate for approval. A 2017 budget submission for the Office of Justice Programs also mentions “$69 million for CVE programs” proposed for the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

Hoping to shed light on the situation, the American Civil Liberties Union yesterday filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act against the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Education, and other federal agencies demanding the release of information about their CVE initiatives.

“Countering violent extremism programs have been identified by the government as top national security priority, but the public knows appallingly little about them,” says Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “We’re suing because government agencies have repeatedly failed to provide us information that we’ve requested about the nature of their CVE initiatives.”

In a briefing paper released with their lawsuit, the ACLU said that CVE programs often target “people for monitoring based on their beliefs or ideologies,” thus potentially criminalizing speech protected under the First Amendment. It also highlighted past abuses of CVE programs, including instances in which young people who refused to take part were characterized as radicals and where community leaders were told they would have to identity and discuss cases of specific youths with law enforcement.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation. The Department of Justice did not respond to request for comment.

Government-led CVE efforts in the United States are inspired in large part by programs rolled out in past years in the United Kingdom. Broadly speaking, CVE programs seek to expand counterterrorism efforts beyond law enforcement to involve other government workers, like teachers and social workers, as well as community leaders outside of government, like clergy. They can involve propaganda and other communication strategies as well as monitoring and questioning.

Those programs have been deeply controversial in the UK, where civil society activists have blamed them for exacerbating ethnic tensions within British society while failing to meaningfully fight extremism. In recent months, the UK government has also rolled out anti-radicalization programs in schools, which have led to instances in which Muslim schoolchildren have been stigmatized by teachers as potential terrorists.

In the U.S., some of the most controversial CVE initiatives are those that focus on children. Leaked documents from the National Counterterrorism Center, published by The Intercept last year, showed that the government had developed a questionnaire to evaluate young people for their risk of future extremism, evidently for use by social workers, healthcare practitioners and teachers, among others. A controversial online counter-extremism game called “Don’t Be a Puppet” was also launched by the FBI this week, ostensibly targeted at the same young demographic.

“The apparent focus on young people as a target of government counter-extremism initiatives should be troubling to everyone,” says Shamsi. “It would be very unfortunate to see teachers or social workers potentially reporting kids to law enforcement as possible extremists, particularly when many of the designated ‘warning signs’ for extremism correspond with ordinary behaviors often exhibited by adolescents and teenagers.”

Critics have also questioned whether there is any credible empirical or scientific basis behind CVE initiatives.

The ACLU, alongside many Muslim-American civil society groups, fear that U.S. government CVE efforts will similarly undermine the position of Muslims living here. “Our country’s history shows that policies and programs that stigmatize one group always inevitably spread to other groups,” Shamsi says. “The government’s focus should be on policing crimes, not thoughts and beliefs.”

Photo: Screengrab from FBI Countering-Violent Extremism game, “Don’t Be a Puppet”

The post Lawsuit Demands Information on Shadowy “Countering Violent Extremism” Programs in U.S. appeared first on The Intercept.

New York Police Have Used Stingrays Widely, New Documents Show

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 11/02/2016 - 21:23

The NYPD has used cell-site simulators, commonly known as Stingrays, more than 1,000 times since 2008, according to documents turned over to the New York Civil Liberties Union. The documents represent the first time the department has acknowledged using the devices.

The NYPD also disclosed that it does not get a warrant before using a Stingray, which sweeps up massive amounts of data. Instead, the police obtain a “pen register order” from a court, more typically used to collect call data for a specific phone. Those orders do not require the police to establish probable cause. Additionally, the NYPD has no written policy guidelines on the use of Stingrays.

Stingrays work by imitating cellphone towers. They force all nearby phones to connect to them, revealing the owners’ locations. That means they collect data on potentially hundreds of people. They are small enough to fit in a suitcase, or be mounted on a plane.

When they were originally developed in 2003, Stingrays were designed for military use. But in the past decade, they have increasingly been purchased by law enforcement agencies. According to the ACLU, Stingrays are used by at least 59 police departments in 23 states, and at least 13 federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, and the IRS. Because most departments withhold information about Stingrays, these numbers likely underrepresent the total.

In December, The Intercept published a secret U.S. government catalogue of cellphone surveillance technology, including Stingrays and “dirt-boxes.” The advertisements boast that many of the items can spy on “up to 10,000 targets.”

Stingrays have long been a topic of concern for privacy activists. “Cell-site simulators are powerful surveillance devices that can track people, including in their homes, and collect information on innocent bystanders,” said Mariko Hirose, a senior staff attorney at the NYCLU.  “If they are going to be used in communities the police should at minimum obtain a warrant and follow written policies.”

Instead, law enforcement agencies have fought to keep Stingrays secret, even dropping criminal cases to avoid disclosing anything about them. The FBI has forced local police agencies to sign Stingray-related non-disclosure agreements, claiming that criminals and terrorists who know about Stingrays could take countermeasures against them.

The increasing use of Stingrays, coupled with the lack of transparency, has alarmed civil liberties groups. “I think it’s critical to have transparency about the use of technology like Stingrays,” said Faiza Patel, an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice. “That’s what allows courts, the public, and our elected officials to weigh in on the proper rules.”

In September, the Department of Justice issued guidelines requiring its officers to seek probable cause warrants before using a Stingray. But the guidelines only applied to federal law enforcement agencies, not to state and local police, who have fought such a change. In one ongoing court case, the state of Maryland has argued that anyone who turns on their phone consents to having his or her location tracked.

In November, Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced the GPS Act, a bill that would extend the Department of Justice’s guidelines to all law enforcement agencies. “Buying a smartphone shouldn’t be interpreted as giving the government a free pass to track your movements,” Wyden said.

See the government catalogue here:

Top photo: “nypd” by Nick Allen, used under CC BY 2.0/ cropped and color corrected from original.

The post New York Police Have Used Stingrays Widely, New Documents Show appeared first on The Intercept.

How Police Use A Dangerous Anti-Terrorism Tactic to End Pursuits

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 11/02/2016 - 20:29

THANQUARIUS CALHOUN liked to run from cops. In 2010, he fled from police in Georgia twice and was arrested for it each time. The next year he fled and was arrested again. On May 3, 2013, he did it again. Then, 11 days later, he ran from the cops for the very last time.

On that Tuesday afternoon, Calhoun, who was born and raised in Henry County, Georgia, was caught speeding on I-85, heading north, when a Banks County sheriff’s deputy put on his lights to pull the gray Toyota Corolla over for a traffic stop. Calhoun decided to hit the gas instead of the brakes and make a run for it, as he had so many times in the past. Police officers from Banks County, Franklin County, and eventually the Georgia State Patrol chased him at speeds exceeding 120 mph, with Calhoun and his pursuers weaving around cars on the highway.

At 2:03 p.m., after 14 minutes and 21 miles of pursuit, Trooper Donnie O’Neal Saddler decided that Calhoun had to be stopped to protect the lives of innocent people on the highway. Saddler pulled his car alongside Calhoun’s and performed, at 111 mph, what is called a Precision Immobilization Technique, or PIT maneuver, making contact with the back of Calhoun’s car and causing it to spin clockwise and careen off the side of the highway across the rumble strips and into a small embankment, eventually striking a tree. Calhoun was completely ejected from the car and sustained major injuries, but somehow survived.

Thanquarius Calhoun

Photo: Courtesy of Calhoun family

If Calhoun had been alone in the car, he might have received little or no prison time, as he had with all his previous arrests for minor crimes. He was driving with a suspended license — and some counterfeit currency was later found in the wreckage — but his most serious offense was running from the police. That Tuesday, however, he had two friends as passengers, 20-year-old Relpheal Morton and 19-year-old Marion Shore. In court, Trooper Saddler described seeing Morton at the scene. “He was still in the back seat,” Saddler said. “He was kind of just looking around … I will never forget it. He just kept looking around.”

Morton, whom I was not able to interview for this article, must have been stunned to be alive and relatively unharmed. The crash was so violent that the car’s roof was ripped completely off. The car looked flattened, like a tank had ridden over it. In one of the police dashcam videos that shows the crash, pieces of the car fly dozens of feet in the air toward the camera. According to a report by the Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team, “The damage to the Toyota Corolla was too extensive to describe all the damage.” It seems almost impossible that two people survived.

Marion Shore was not so lucky. She was sitting in the passenger seat, wearing her seatbelt, but the force of the crash was so strong that she was partially ejected from the car while it was flipping and rolling. Shore, the mother of a 3-year-old boy, was trapped halfway inside the car, in an in-between place where death was certain. The car rolled over her several times. The chief medical examiner for the state of Georgia examined Shore’s body and said in court that, as the car was rolling, the forces propelling it “literally bent her body almost in half.”

From dashcam videos of the May 3, 2013, pursuit of Thanquarius Calhoun by the Georgia State Patrol.

THE PIT MANEUVER is a modified version of an anti-terrorist driving tactic that has been taught for four decades by BSR, a private training facility in West Virginia that works with U.S. military and law enforcement personnel. According to BSR, the technique was originally developed by Germany’s federal police to give security details the ability to take out a car that was threatening a convoy. In 1985, the maneuver was developed by the Fairfax County, Virginia, police department in order to end pursuits with little danger to police or the general public.

This is how it is supposed to work: An officer pulls alongside a fleeing vehicle so that the officer’s front bumper is just ahead of the other vehicle’s back bumper. The officer matches the fleeing driver’s speed, gently touches — not rams — the other vehicle, and then makes a quick quarter turn of the wheel toward it. The other car then spins out safely to a stop. According to California Highway Patrol instructions, “The key to proper execution of the PIT is finesse. Ideally, the initial contact with the subject vehicle should be so gentle the operator of the subject vehicle is not aware that contact has been made.” It’s a difficult maneuver to learn, even for seasoned police officers, because the training goes up against a lifetime of being told not to touch things with your moving vehicle, especially other cars. Officers are generally trained on closed roadways at speeds between 25 and 40 mph. The PIT is now used by agencies throughout the U.S., and if used correctly at slow speeds and in the right circumstances — little traffic, no bystanders, open road — it can be an effective and predictable method to cut short pursuits and save lives. At high speeds, it becomes a deadly force technique, a way to stop a driver at all costs. As one expert put it, the PIT would only be predictable at high speeds if performed “on an airport runway.”

One state agency in particular, the Georgia State Patrol, empowered by its vague, unrestrictive PIT maneuver policy, has been using the PIT at high speeds. Yet responsibility for the deaths of innocent passengers has been placed completely on the drivers whose cars were “pitted.” Thanquarius Calhoun, just 21 years old when he was caught speeding and decided to flee, received a life sentence for the death of his friend Marion Shore.

No comprehensive or reliable data has been collected on the PIT maneuver’s use nationwide, and no true empirical studies have been done on its effectiveness or safety. What little is known can be found only piecemeal, hidden within notoriously incomplete data on police pursuits in general.

Map: The Intercept

Just over half of state law enforcement agencies train their officers in the PIT maneuver. Some call it “tactical vehicle interception,” or TVI, and in Kentucky they call it “legal intervention,” but it’s the same technique. You can get pitted on highways running the entire West Coast and in the Southeast from Florida to Virginia. You can get pitted driving from Michigan all the way to California, unless you go through North Dakota, Wyoming, or Montana. The Northeast is mostly PIT-free, with the exceptions of Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. You can get pitted in Arkansas, Indiana, and Iowa. Texas’ Highway Patrol, with more than 2,000 troopers, is now piloting the PIT maneuver, and the Highway Patrol in South Carolina began using it in April 2015. Those are just the state agencies, and don’t include the roughly 18,000 city, county, and local agencies nationwide, each with its own ever-evolving policy on pursuits.

Although some state police agencies refused to reveal the details of their PIT maneuver policies (and in the case of Missouri, whether or not the PIT is used), the policies I have seen vary greatly. Most state that you should never pit a motorcycle or vehicles carrying hazardous materials. Some emphasize that you should take into account the condition of the road, visibility, pedestrians, traffic volume, and if there are other occupants in the car. The Florida Highway Patrol’s PIT policy, for example, tells officers to consider their proximity to blind curves, highway grades, bridges, guardrails, barriers, other traffic, freeway ramps, and roadside obstacles such as rocks, trees, deep ditches, signs, utility posts, traffic islands, and curbs.

Some agencies do not specify the type of eluder who can be pitted, whereas some make clear it must be someone who has committed, or is suspected of having committed, a felony. The Nevada Highway Patrol’s policy states that a PIT cannot be performed unless “the suspect is an actual or suspected felon who reasonably appears to represent a serious threat to society if not apprehended.” Some agencies require supervisory approval before an officer can pit; others prefer that the officer simply use good judgment.

Where the biggest differences lie is in perhaps the most important aspect: speed. Some agencies have very strict caps on the maximum speed at which a PIT maneuver can be performed, some have speed recommendations, and some omit any mention of speed whatsoever. The California Highway Patrol sets a hard cap of 35 mph, as recommended by the department that developed the technique in Fairfax County, Virginia. According to Don Gotthardt, a spokesperson for the Fairfax police department, “We know with great certainty where a violator will end up at speeds 45 mph or lower.” Indiana State Police sets the cap at 50 mph, Michigan State Police and New Hampshire State Police cap it at 40 mph, and Iowa State Patrol caps it at 35 mph. In Virginia and Washington, state agencies require supervisory approval if an officer is going to pit at more than 40 mph, and in Oregon and Wisconsin, the PIT is considered use of deadly force if performed above 35 mph, so officers better have a damn good reason to use it.

THE GEORGIA STATE PATROL’S PIT policy states that “if the trooper or troopers in the pursuit determine that the fleeing vehicle must be stopped immediately to safeguard life and preserve public safety, the PIT maneuver may be used.” The policy does not specify a maximum speed, and Georgia appears to be by far the most aggressive of all state agencies when it comes to using the technique. While several agencies have policies without speed caps, the information I gathered shows a huge discrepancy in total maneuvers performed, and injuries and deaths resulting from them, between the Georgia State Patrol and other state agencies that use the PIT.

Since Georgia began using the PIT maneuver in 1998, at least 28 people have been killed and 296 injured in PIT-related pursuits, the vast majority of them riding in the fleeing vehicle. That number certainly understates the problem because data is either partially or entirely missing for eight of those years. The data I was able to collect was pieced together from open records requests, courts exhibits and depositions, and Georgia State Patrol reports. As far as I can determine, the agency has performed more than 1,100 PIT maneuvers since 1998, and 2015 had the largest annual number yet, with 155 performed. Roughly 20 percent of Georgia State Patrol pursuits involve a PIT maneuver, and the agency has never punished an officer for using it inappropriately.

In comparison, California’s Highway Patrol, which collects statistics from its own officers as well as from other California law enforcement agencies, listed 967 pursuits terminated with a PIT maneuver since 2002, about 1 percent of total pursuits, with only one death and 83 injuries. Minnesota’s State Patrol recorded 225 PITs since 2008, with no deaths and five minor injuries. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol reported 303 PIT maneuvers, with no deaths, since 2007. (North Carolina does not record injuries.) Maine’s State Police reported 17 PITs since 2012, with no injuries or deaths. Nebraska’s State Patrol reported 25 PITs, with two injuries and no deaths, since 2013. Indiana reported only five PIT maneuvers performed since 2009 and no injuries or deaths. Virginia State Police has trained officers in the PIT since January 2015, but none have performed the maneuver on duty.

There have also been fatalities in Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington, but when you Google “PIT maneuver” and “death,” most of the hits point you to Georgia, specifically the Georgia State Patrol. Thanquarius Calhoun’s case provides some recent insight into what’s happening in Georgia, but an incident from more than 10 years ago reveals more details: the crash that resulted in the deaths of Katie Sharp and Garrett Gabe.

A Georgia State Patrol trooper vehicle.

Photo: Shaun Raviv

ON THE MORNING of August 17, 2004, 21-year-old Katie Sharp was driving her parents’ Nissan Pathfinder from Pennsylvania to her home in Holly Hill, Florida. In the car with Sharp was her boyfriend, 17-year-old Garrett Gabe. They were heading southbound on I-95 in South Carolina when she was caught speeding by Colleton County sheriff’s deputies. Sharp was doing 86 in a 70-mph zone. Perhaps because she had initially taken the car without her parents’ permission, or perhaps because she had run out of gas earlier that morning and had been chewed out by a police officer who saw her on the side of the road, or perhaps because her license had recently been suspended due to traffic violations, Sharp failed to stop when the sirens came on. Instead, she sped forward toward home, where her parents and young child were waiting for her.

Nobody will ever know exactly what was going through her head when she decided to try to outrun the cops — a terrible idea in almost any circumstances — because after leading officers on a high-speed chase for 50 miles in South Carolina, Sharp’s car entered Georgia. “They won’t get past my two, trust me,” a Georgia State Patrol dispatcher told a South Carolina dispatcher as the chase crossed state lines. They didn’t. Georgia took over the chase, and the 75-mile pursuit ended just 53 seconds after Trooper William Scott Fisher joined it.

Fisher saw Sharp driving erratically and dangerously at very high speeds. Hoping to save innocent bystanders, he later said, he pitted her SUV, which was traveling at 107 mph. The vehicle spun off the highway, clockwise, hurtling 400 feet over an embankment and into a tree. Both Katie Sharp and Garrett Gabe were killed. “The trooper executed his training. He acted properly,” said a Georgia State Patrol spokesperson. “It was a long, dangerous chase, and we felt we needed to stop it before some innocent bystander got killed.” Of course, an innocent bystander named Garrett Gabe did get killed. He just happened to be inside the car.

Katie Sharp

Photo: Good Morning America

Sharp’s parents filed a lawuit against Fisher and other members of the Georgia State Patrol, and the case went to the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit. According to a statement of material facts submitted to the court in 2007 on behalf of Fisher and his colleagues, “Fisher has no recollection of ever being told a specific speed that should be used before applying a PIT maneuver, just to use his judgment depending on the situation, to use his discretion as to whether other individuals were being placed at risk of death or serious bodily injury as a result of the actions of the person being pursued.”

Trooper Fisher didn’t even know why he was chasing Sharp. In a deposition, he said he assumed she had committed some serious crime or felony because she was being chased across state lines. In reality, the crime that started the chase was a simple moving violation. Fisher said, “I absolutely wanted to end the pursuit to save innocent people on the road that day. The way she was driving with total disregard, the way she was traveling, I thought she was going to kill somebody. I thought there was a certain death fixing to occur.” Instead, it was Fisher’s PIT maneuver that resulted in the deaths of two people, one of whom was utterly innocent. The other was guilty of speeding. “I just don’t think it’s right,” Charles Sharp, Katie’s father and a former police officer, told me. “He was judge, jury, and executioner in less than two miles.”

THE MOST STRIKING statements in the Sharp case came from Soffie Thigpen, the first female captain in the history of the Georgia State Patrol. Thigpen, who initially brought the PIT maneuver to Georgia, was a lieutenant at the time. In her 2006 deposition, Thigpen called the PIT maneuver that killed Katie Sharp and her boyfriend a “picture perfect” example and said that it would be perfectly reasonable to perform the maneuver at speeds most vehicles can’t even reach. “It’s okay to do a PIT from zero to whatever the car will run,” said Thigpen, “whether it be a hundred, 150 or 190, or 30.”

Geoffrey Alpert, an expert on high-risk police activities at the University of South Carolina, who was a paid consultant on the Sharp case, called Thigpen’s words “a shocking statement from someone who’s in a decision-making status in that department and training officers to conduct the PIT.” He said, “She’ll pit anything at any speed.”

When I reached Thigpen, now retired, on the phone, she reiterated her support for the maneuver. “The PIT’s probably the greatest technique that we’ve been doing in Georgia. It’s sending out a message that we won’t tolerate bad people running over folks. If you don’t stop, we’re going to stop you. It’s just that simple.” Her take is that the PIT has saved lives by stopping chases before they go on too long. “I never did understand why anybody thought there should be a speed limit on it. I never could get that,” she said in her deposition. At the time, 12 people had died as a result of PIT maneuvers in Georgia. “On paper, 12 fatalities is a large number, but when you look at the number of PITs and the possible lives that have been saved, the number is small in comparison.”

It’s certainly possible that lives have been saved as a result of PIT maneuvers, but the cars driven by Katie Sharp and Thanquarius Calhoun, which each held passengers as innocent as any bystander on the street, were purposefully pitted at extreme speeds. Counterfeit money was found at the scene of Calhoun’s wreck, but police didn’t know about it at the time of the pursuit, and no one was charged with possessing it. Both cars had been identified by their license plates well before the PIT maneuver was performed, and it would not have been difficult to track the drivers down and put them in jail at a later time if they truly were never going to stop.

At the time of Sharp’s death, the Georgia State Patrol’s PIT maneuver policy consisted of two sentences. It said merely that officers must use the PIT in accordance with training and “at reasonable speeds and in locations where it is reasonable to expect that the maneuver can be safely accomplished.” The policy has since been revised, but still allows officers plenty of leeway in determining a “reasonable speed” when performing the PIT in a given situation. The factors they must now consider are:

a) Whether the violator is showing total disregard for public safety

b) Whether the violator is slowing but not stopping for stop signs or other traffic control devices

c) Whether the violator is darting at other vehicles

d) Whether the violator is driving on the wrong side of the road

e) Whether the violator is running other motorists off the road

Trooper Fisher admitted that he didn’t know how fast he was going when he pitted Sharp’s car. One expert brought in from Oklahoma said, “You can’t look at your speedometer and try to position yourself to the back of the vehicle and know what is ahead of you. You can’t do all that.” The Georgia State Patrol was comfortable with an officer performing a PIT maneuver on Sharp with no knowledge of his own speed — which happened to be 107 mph — while working under a policy in which “reasonable speed” was a key determinant. According to an internal affairs document, Trooper Fisher “acted in accordance with his training and within departmental policy.”

The 11th Circuit threw out the lawsuit, mostly based on a precedent set by another pursuit gone bad in Georgia. In 2001, 19-year-old Victor Harris fled Coweta County troopers who caught him doing 73 in a 55-mph zone. His car was eventually rammed (not pitted), and, as a result of his injuries, Harris was left a quadriplegic. He sued and his case made it to the Supreme Court. In the end, eight out of nine justices found that Harris’ driving was so dangerous that he posed a threat great enough to justify deadly force. The 11th Circuit judge in the Sharp case came to the same conclusion, though the presence of passenger Garrett Gabe was not mentioned as a factor and his name did not make it into the decision, essentially allowing the court to sidestep the fact that a second, innocent, person was in the car.

In 2006, the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police commissioned a white paper on pursuits and pursuit policy in the state, with a heavy focus on use of the PIT maneuver. The committee in charge asked the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology to study the technique’s safety. Four undergraduate engineering students executed the study, simulating a PIT maneuver in a computer engineering program, and determined that it was safe at both high and low speeds, in both wet and dry conditions. The simulation specified a car with a low center of gravity and wide tires. The study failed even to suggest anything that would happen on a real road with grass, bystanders, trees, and embankments, in any car but a simulated high-performance sports car that few people drive. Nevertheless, the Georgia committee relied on the students’ research in reaching its conclusion, writing, “It is the Committee’s opinion that the PIT maneuver is not deadly force because death or serious injury is not a likely consequence of using the PIT maneuver in accordance with proper training and policy.”

While the courts have said that using deadly force to stop a recklessly speeding fugitive is acceptable, Georgia’s police chiefs took a more radical position: that not withstanding the dozens of deaths it has caused, the PIT maneuver does not constitute deadly force at any speed.

A vehicle used for PIT maneuver training in LaGrange, Georgia.

Photo: Shaun Raviv

IN SEPTEMBER, the police department in LaGrange, Georgia, invited me to a PIT-training exercise at a closed-off roadway in Monroe County. About a dozen police officers attended that morning to perform the PIT maneuver on one another. After some practice, each would have to perform four out of five PITs correctly — matching the pursued vehicle’s speed, touching it a single time without ramming, making a quarter turn of the steering wheel, and pitting it to a stop in a designated area — in order to be allowed to perform the PIT in a real-life situation.

I rode in both the cars performing the PITs and the target vehicles, all of which were driven at about 30 mph, the preferred speed for training. By the time the training had been underway for an hour, screeches could be heard from all sides of the track and there was a strong smell of burnt rubber in the air. The cars used at the training center were old beaters, one step away from the dump, but fitted with metals bars on both sides and roll bars in case something went wrong. The side mirrors were missing or hanging on wire threads, the windows didn’t roll up or down, and the bodies were covered in dents, bruises, and scratches. Without the metal bars, one of the instructors said, they’d be destroyed in a day.

“If you can’t [pit] in training, I don’t have a lot of confidence that you can do it on the road,” Lt. Mark Kostial, one of four LaGrange PD PIT instructors, told me. “Remember, this is a thinking man’s game.” All involved wore helmets and heavy restraints.

As a passenger on both sides of the PIT, I found the force of the maneuver to be quite strong at 30 mph. It strained the neck to be in the pitted car, and was disconcerting to be spun off the roadway onto the grass. At 30 mph, the maneuver felt fairly controlled, and most, but not all, of the officers who trained that day passed. But they will rarely use the maneuver on the road. LaGrange’s police department, whose policy requires supervisory approval when a PIT is performed at more than 60 mph, has been training the PIT for about a dozen years, and the department has never had an injury that Chief Louis Dekmar can remember. Dekmar told me LaGrange will perform about two PITs in a typical year. Of course, LaGrange is a relatively small agency with only 80 or so people on the payroll.

One thing heavily emphasized by Lt. Kostial during the training was picking a location where a PIT maneuver may be safely performed. “If you’re going to spin someone out, it’s gotta be in the appropriate area. There’s a lot of responsibility in that,” Lt. Kostial told his trainees. Another instructor said, “There can be a speed that the PIT won’t work. The risks are too high. It’s not the be-all, end-all. … Just like we carry the belt and have a Taser and baton and gun, with the pursuit we have options.” LaGrange’s officers must be re-certified in the PIT every year.

A LaGrange, Georgia, police department training slide on the PIT maneuver.

Photo: LaGrange Georgia Police Department

WHEN I ASKED the Georgia State Patrol why there was no speed restriction in its PIT policy, Capt. Mark Perry replied that, “A vehicle pursuit is not a static event, it is very fluid, dynamic and rapidly evolving evolution.” The Georgia Department of Public Safety, he said, “doesn’t feel it is prudent to constrict a decision to one factor such as a minimum or maximum speed. It has to be a totality of the circumstances.”

I also spoke to officers from agencies with more restrictive PIT policies about their speed caps, and the consensus was that PIT maneuvers are unsafe at high speeds. “At really high speeds,” Trooper Dallas Greer of Kentucky State Police told me, “it’s not something you can use safely.” Major Russell Conte of New Hampshire State Police agreed. “It’s a dangerous maneuver any way you look at it,” he said. “It’s dangerous for the public, it’s dangerous for the perpetrators, it’s dangerous for the troopers.”

Officer David Northway of the Tallahassee Police Department, just across the border from Georgia, told me that his department trains its officers to use the PIT judiciously, with a cap of 45 mph. “We do not want it to be used on a day-to-day basis because of its inherent dangers to officers, to drivers, innocent bystanders, and the general public,” Northway said. “Above 45, the speed is too high so it is unsafe, and there is the possibility of collision.” He also said that his officers must have supervisory permission before any PIT. “It’s not something that you can just go ahead and do.” Northway could not recall any injuries from PITs in the past five years.

For an international perspective, I reached out to Peter Hosking, formerly the police inspector in charge of the reform program dealing with high-speed police pursuits in Queensland, Australia. After 29 years working for the Queensland Police Service, Hosking is now researching high-speed police pursuits and police use of force at Griffith University. “PIT maneuvers are not permitted in any Australian jurisdiction,” he wrote in an email. “In this country we are very risk averse. We tend to see PIT maneuvers as very risky behavior. In effect, it is a form of dangerous driving, the very behavior we are trying to eliminate through enforcement.”

Geoffrey Alpert, the criminology professor at USC, can be found quoted in just about any academic or journalistic article written on pursuits. Alpert told me that nobody knows how many agencies use the PIT. He said that above 35 mph, the PIT “becomes a deadly force technique.” When I asked why some agencies don’t have a cap, he said, “They’re not familiar with the risks and the liabilities.”

“Like any other piece of equipment, any other new technology,” Alpert told me, “when it’s used properly, it’s a very good technique. It’s just you gotta understand its limitations.”

In 2008, Ford Motor Company commissioned a paper on the PIT maneuver by three engineers, two from the University of Michigan and one from Ford. The authors created simulations in order to “provide guidelines for the effective execution of the maneuver.” Their intent was not to determine safety protocols for law enforcement agencies, but among their conclusions, the authors wrote, “PIT involves high risks, especially at elevated speed. The authors do not endorse the use of PIT maneuver at high-speed situations.”

“At higher speeds, the combined effects of spinning and skidding after the maneuver is more pronounced,” the authors wrote. “Although it destabilizes the pursued vehicle to a larger extent, it is more likely to induce unintended injuries since the pursued vehicle skids more at higher speeds. Because the ultimate purpose of PIT maneuver is to prevent the pursued from proceeding forward, instead of throwing it into complete instability, the execution of PIT maneuvers should be limited to relatively low speeds.”

“ICAN’T HELP BUT FEEL like the GSP officer who executed the PIT maneuver should be on trial with him,” wrote Patti Shore, Marion’s mother, when Thanquarius Calhoun was arrested in 2014. “His whole way of thinking was, it wasn’t his fault,” Shore said of Calhoun. “He didn’t do it. The Georgia State Patrol officer did it. And this is where I agree.”

Marion Shore

Photo: Courtesy of Shore family

Patti Shore is mad at Calhoun, and has been since the day Marion died, but when I spoke to her, it was clear she was equally angry at Trooper Saddler and the Georgia State Patrol. During the one-day trial in March 2015, Shore passed a note to Calhoun, which Calhoun’s mother now keeps in her records. It reads, “Thanquarius, I just want you to know I forgive you. I miss my baby. She was my best friend. But I do forgive you & I know in part that fucken officer was at fault.”

I asked Shore why she felt the need to send Calhoun this message, and she said, “Because I felt like that was something my daughter would have wanted. She wouldn’t have wanted me to hate him, and in order for me to progress and get past this, I had to forgive him. But I haven’t forgiven that Georgia State Patrol officer. I can’t.”

One witness in the Sharp trial referred to an agency’s chosen pursuit policy as “a philosophical decision.” The decision to perform a PIT maneuver at high speeds can thus be seen as a choice to protect hypothetical people, victims who may or may not exist farther down the road. Patti Shore put it best when telling me about the district attorney who prosecuted Calhoun, but failed to place any blame on the officer who performed the PIT or the agency that allowed him to do so: “He made it all about the people that could have lost their lives,” she said. “Not the one that did.”

A clearer, more restrictive policy might help the Georgia State Patrol save more real lives rather than hypothetical ones. It might bring the numbers closer to those in California, where the PIT is practiced more safely. Georgia State Patrol officers wouldn’t have to “just go on their own feelings,” as Patti Shore put it. At the very least, the agency should be dissatisfied with a policy that depends on almost no science and very little data, except the numbers that show the Georgia State Patrol kills many more people with the PIT maneuver than other agencies do.

Causation was often discussed in the Sharp and Calhoun cases. What caused the cars to leave the road? What caused the young adults to run from the police? In the closing argument for Calhoun’s prosecution, Assistant District Attorney Brian Atkinson said, “If Thanquarius Calhoun had not committed that felonious act, Marion Shore would be alive today; therefore, Thanquarius Calhoun caused her death. Causation is as simple as that.”

Calhoun’s lawyer retorted, in his closing argument, that Marion Shore “is part of the public that this law enforcement was supposed to protect and serve. They did not do that. Was there another option other than that PIT maneuver? I don’t know. I don’t know if there was another option. Maybe. Maybe law enforcement should have backed off and just let that vehicle go. At some point they may have slowed down. But we know one thing, Marion Shore is dead because of Trooper Saddler.”

When I spoke to Calhoun’s mother, Rosie, in her home in McDonough, she offered an alternative solution, one that was pure fantasy but pointed toward a gentler idea of law enforcement more in line with that of policy expert Geoffrey Alpert, who believes pursuits should not occur unless a violent crime has been committed; the dangers do not outweigh the benefits. Rosie said she wished the police could have just put her in front of her son as he sped down the road, to show him that she was there waiting on the other end. Instead of police barricades and flashing lights, he would have seen Rosie, his mama. “And knowing my child,” she told me, “he would have slowed down.”

In a letter sent from Autry State Prison, Calhoun, who is now 24, told me that when he was fleeing from the cops that day, he was doing everything he could to avoid crashing: “In my eyes, I was driving good and trying not to wreck. Just trying to get us back home safe and not go to jail.” He doesn’t think the police should be able to perform a PIT at such high speeds for a speeding violation. “It’s too dangerous even for the officer,” he wrote. “They can get hurt behind it as well.”

In his letter, Calhoun said he hasn’t been the same mentally or physically since the PIT maneuver. He’s off balance when he walks, his reflexes are slower, and he dreams about Marion and the chase. He regrets running from the cops that day and regrets putting innocent people, including the police, in harm’s way. He regrets making that decision because now he’s away from his little girl, his mother, and everyone he loves, including his friend Marion Shore. He wishes he could go back and pull over that afternoon, but he doesn’t believe he deserves a life sentence for her death — the same sentence a serial murderer might receive in many states — or that he was the only one at fault. “I almost died the day of that crash, and then they gone try to take my life away again,” he wrote. “How much more they gone keep hurting me.”

This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, with support from the Puffin Foundation.

The post How Police Use A Dangerous Anti-Terrorism Tactic to End Pursuits appeared first on The Intercept.

Hillary Clinton’s Congressional Black Caucus PAC Endorsement Approved By Board Awash in Lobbyists

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 11/02/2016 - 19:23

The Congressional Black Caucus PAC announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign on Thursday, a move that is being widely interpreted as a sign of her deep support from the African American community. As they made their announcement, CBC PAC officials downplayed Bernie Sanders’s proposals for poverty reduction and tuition-free college as unrealistic, while touting Clinton as a bold leader.

Some of the members who spoke at the event, held at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, anticipated the same kind of criticism that the Sanders campaign has made of some other Washington-based leadership groups that have endorsed Clinton. “We are not from the establishment, we are from the streets,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.

But the Congressional Black Caucus PAC is not the same thing as the Congressional Black Caucus, which is made up of 46 members of Congress. Indeed, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders supporter, made that point on Twitter:

Cong'l Black Caucus (CBC) has NOT endorsed in presidential. Separate CBCPAC endorsed withOUT input from CBC membership, including me.

— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) February 11, 2016

Ellison then said in another tweet that “endorsements should be the product of a fair open process. Didn’t happen.”

Ben Branch, the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC told The Intercept that his group made the decision after a vote from its 20-member board. The board includes 11 lobbyists, seven elected officials, and two officials who work for the PAC. Branch confirmed that the lobbyists were involved in the endorsement, but would not go into detail about the process.

Members of the CBC PAC board include Daron Watts, a lobbyist for Purdue Pharma, the makers of highly addictive opioid OxyContin; Mike Mckay and Chaka Burgess, both lobbyists for Navient, the student loan giant that was spun off of Sallie Mae; former Rep. Al Wynn, D-Md., a lobbyist who represents a range of clients, including work last year on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco, the makers of Newport cigarettes; and William A. Kirk, who lobbies for a cigar industry trade group on a range of tobacco regulations.

And a significant percentage of the $7,000 raised this cycle by the CBC PAC was donated by white lobbyists, including Vic Fazio, who represents Philip Morris and served for years as a lobbyist to Corrections Corporation of America, and David Adams, a former Clinton aide who now lobbies for Wal-Mart, the largest gun distributor in America.

The caucus itself, while presenting itself as champions of progressive causes, has a mixed legislative record. As some reporters have noted, Wall Street and corporate money has flowed to the CBC, through its PAC and nonprofit arms, while a number of CBC members have taken a leading role working with Republicans to chip away at the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The CBC PAC endorsement comes as the Clinton is working furiously to demonstrate that the African American community stands solidly behind her campaign. Shortly after her crushing defeat in the New Hampshire primary, her campaign hosted a conference call with surrogates who dismissed Sanders as being “absent” on issues important to African Americans, and belittled his role in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington as insignificant. Hazel Dukes, the New York state NAACP leader who disparaged Sanders’s role in the civil rights movement, previously helped Wal-Mart in its bid to open stores in New York City after her group received donations from the company.

Not all CBC members have embraced the Clinton endorsement. Speaking this morning on Democracy Now, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a CBC member, said she has not endorsed in Democratic primary, and reminded viewers that the CBC “has nothing to do with the” CBC PAC, which is a legally distinct entity. NBC Capitol Hill producer Frank Thorp tweeted that Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., was one of two abstentions on the CBC PAC board.

Top photo: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., speaks about Hillary Clinton during a news conference at the DNC headquarters on Capitol Hill, February 11, 2016 .

The post Hillary Clinton’s Congressional Black Caucus PAC Endorsement Approved By Board Awash in Lobbyists appeared first on The Intercept.

Elizabeth Warren Catches Investment Advisors Fibbing

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 11/02/2016 - 18:17

Companies that provide investment advice have been vigorously fighting a proposed Department of Labor rule that would formally require investment advisors for retirement plans to operate in the best interest of their clients — instead of ripping them off with products that earn them bigger profits.

Investment advisors have claimed this would be disastrous for their businesses and would leave retail investors with no assistance in navigating the financial markets.

But behind the scenes, in earnings calls with their own shareholders, these same companies are downplaying the impact of the rule, reassuring that they could easily handle the changes.

This contradiction was revealed in a letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Elijah Cummings made public Thursday. The letter highlights four companies with investment advisory units, contrasting their public and private statements, and implicitly raising the question: Are they lying to the Department of Labor, or to their shareholders?

For example, in a letter to the Labor Department last July, Jackson National Life Insurance Company president James Sopha called the proposal “bad for investors and for America,” and said that “it will be very difficult, if not impossible for financial professionals and firms to comply with the requirements.”

But in a call with shareholders, the CEO of Jackson’s parent company, Prudential U.K., said that the company would “build whatever product is appropriate… and adapt faster and more effectively than competitors.”

The lawmakers note in their letter that public companies are required by law to accurately report material information to shareholders. The Securities and Exchange Commission routinely charges companies with delivering misleading information on earnings calls. Pharmacy chain CVS Caremark, for example, paid $20 million for doing so in 2014. Citigroup paid $75 million for the offense in 2010.

Here’s another example: Dennis Glass, CEO of Lincoln National, told the Labor Department in a comment letter that their rule was “so burdensome and unworkable that financial advisors and firms would not be able to use it.”

But he told shareholders that “Lincoln, because of our scale, broad set of product offerings and strong and diverse distribution franchises with a proven ability to pivot in response to market or regulated changes… will therefore be able to navigate through whatever comes down the road.” He added, “we don’t see this as a significant hurdle for continuing to grow our business.”

Glass’s company and other are pouring millions of lobbying dollars into opposing the rule. President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers estimates that “conflicted” advice costs individual investors $17 billion a year in retirement savings.

Warren and Cummings also include contradictory comments from the leaders of Prudential Financial and Transamerica Corporation.

Despite warning the Labor Department of the “significant challenge posed by the rule” which would “significantly increase” Prudential’s expenses, on an earnings call the company said it would “work with our partners to achieve the very important goal of ensuring that their clients have continued access to high-quality retirement income options… and that we’ll be able to make these offerings available on terms that work for everybody.”

Kent Callahan, President and CEO of Transamerica, argued to Labor that the proposed rule was “unworkable” and would have a “harmful impact.” But the CEO of Transamerica’s parent company, Aegon N.V., advised shareholders of the company’s “track record of being able to adjust” to new regulations, and that he expected Transamerica to “remain very strongly positioned in a market that is providing products that millions of customers in the U.S. continue to need.”

In late January, Labor sent the Conflict of Interest rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review. OMB has 90 days to complete the process. Warren and Cummings, in their letter to Labor and OMB, concluded, “We hope that you will make careful note of these statements.”

The post Elizabeth Warren Catches Investment Advisors Fibbing appeared first on The Intercept.


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