A United Nations panel ruled on Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being “arbitrarily detained,” but British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond rejected what he called “a ridiculous finding.”
Although he claimed “sweet” vindication, Assange nevertheless remains confined in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has lived since 2012.
Assange has been fighting extradition by British authorities to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning concerning accusations of rape and molestation. He has never been charged with a crime.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the U.K. and Sweden “to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation.”
The working group, which was established in 1991, has previously demanded the release of prominent political prisoners. In 2015, it demanded the release of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was released last month by the government of Iran. It also ruled in favor of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released in 2010, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who is still held in Cairo after a military coup.
Assange’s legal trouble began in 2010, several weeks after WikiLeaks released 90,000 U.S. intelligence reports on the Afghanistan War. Swedish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Assange, demanding that he be extradited to Stockholm to face questioning on accusations of sexual assault. Assange was arrested in London, but fought his extradition, claiming that he was at risk of being extradited again to the Untied States, where he was facing detention and a potential indictment under draconian espionage laws.
In 2012, after exhausting his appeals, Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador. But the British government refused to allow him to board a plane, resulting in three years of confinement and legal limbo inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
The Swedish government repeatedly declined to send investigators to question Assange in London. In 2014, a Swedish appeals court scolded prosecutors for failing “to examine alternative avenues … to move the preliminary investigation forward.”
Until October 2015, Scotland Yard kept the embassy under 24-hour surveillance, spending nearly £11.1 million of taxpayer money. Surveillance was scaled back after a local radio station obtained the financial records under the Freedom of Information Act.
Top photo: On the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a report of the judgment of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on his case.
The post Julian Assange Remains “Deprived of Liberty” After U.K. Rejects U.N. Ruling appeared first on The Intercept.
The Pentagon today released 198 photos related to its investigations into abuse of detainees by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The photos are mainly close-up shots of arms, feet, heads, hands, or joints, sometimes showing bruises or scabs. Faces are redacted with black bars. It’s not always clear where each of the photos was taken, but they come from internal military investigations and have dates ranging from 2003 to 2006. Sometimes the marks on the prisoners’ skin are labeled with tape measuring the size of the wound, or a coin or pen for comparison.long maintained that the photos, if released, could cause grievous harm to national security because they could be used for propaganda by groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The legal case has stretched on for more than a decade, since 2004, when the American Civil Liberties Union first sued to obtain photos beyond the notorious images that had been leaked from the prison at Abu Ghraib.
It has been reported that some of the 2,000 images show soldiers posing with dead bodies, kicking and punching detainees or posing them stripped naked next to female guards. The 198 photos that were released today do not show any of this.
“These are only about 10 percent, and presumably the least graphic 10 percent, of the larger set the ACLU sued for,” said Katherine Hawkins, senior counsel at the Constitution Project and a longtime investigator into the United States’ treatment of detainees. “For the most part, it is very difficult to understand exactly what we’re seeing. But some of them are still pretty ugly.”
President Barack Obama planned to release all of the images in 2009, but reversed course after objections from the top U.S. commander in Iraq, as well as then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Congress then created an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act that allowed the secretary of defense to certify that releasing the photos would put American lives at risk. That certification would have to be renewed every three years, and this time around, in November, Defense Secretary Ash Carter decided that these 198 pictures no longer needed to be kept hidden.
The ACLU is still fighting in court for the rest of the photos, arguing that the government’s process doesn’t go far enough in individually considering whether each image truly deserves to stay secret.
“Today’s release illustrates just a small portion of the real-life horror story that was the U.S. government’s practice of torture,” said Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, in a statement.
The post Pentagon Releases Photos of Detainee Abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan appeared first on The Intercept.
Twitter announced on Friday that it has shut down over 125,000 user accounts for promoting violent threats or terrorist acts, mostly having to do with ISIS, in less than a year.
At the same time, the company made it clear that there is no automated way of distinguishing between protected speech and what it considers violations of its rules.
“As many experts and other companies have noted, there is no ‘magic algorithm’ for identifying terrorist content on the internet, so global online platforms are forced to make challenging judgment calls based on very limited information and guidance,” the company said.
“As an open platform for expression, we have always sought to strike a balance between the enforcement of our own Twitter Rules covering prohibited behaviors, the legitimate needs of law enforcement, and the ability of users to share their views freely — including views that some people may disagree with or find offensive,” the company said.
Just last month, top national security officials parachuted into Silicon Valley to meet with technology executives and ask for technology “that could make it harder for terrorists to use the internet … or easier for us to find them when they do.”
Scientists tend to agree that this is impossible, based on the rarity of terrorist attacks and the unique, unpredictable circumstances surrounding them — though it hasn’t stopped companies like CIA-funded Palantir from trying. These efforts have been criticized because they generate too many false positives, and cast suspicion on far more innocent people than true terrorists lurking in their midst.
Algorithms are better for exerting social control or monitoring political views than they are for predicting large-scale violence.
Twitter’s new policy instead stresses the importance of human monitoring, reports from users, and delicate decision making.
Twitter’s system doesn’t sound all that different from what Facebook does. Facebook reportedly has a team dedicated to responding to user complaints, which then will look for similar content in the network of the offending accounts.
Silicon Valley has pushed back on efforts made by high-ranking Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., to essentially delegate to them the task of reporting signs of possible terrorist activity.
The post Twitter Says There’s No “Magical Algorithm” to Find Terrorists appeared first on The Intercept.
So what exactly does Hillary Clinton ask for when she gives a paid speech, like the ones she gave at Goldman Sachs? A contract for a speech she gave at the University of Nevada Las Vegas provides some answers. The contract was obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in August, through the state public records law.
For that speech in October 2014, Clinton requested two payments of $112,500: The contract reveals that the speeches are tightly-controlled, including prior approval of who introduces Clinton and who moderates any question and answer session: The contract also makes clear that the speech itself is the intellectual property of Clinton:
Clinton laughed off a request to release the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches two weeks ago. During the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday she was once again asked about the transcripts and replied that she would “look into” it.
The UNLV contract is not necessarily the same Clinton uses for all of her speaking arrangements. But of course Clinton could release those contracts, too, if she chose to.
- Hillary Clinton Won’t Say if She’ll Release Transcripts of Goldman Sachs Speeches
- Top Hillary Clinton PAC Donation Amounts to 222,000 Bernie Sanders Donations
- Hillary Clinton Laughs When Asked if She Will Release Transcripts of Her Goldman Sachs Speeches
- Hillary Clinton Made More in 12 Speeches to Big Banks Than Most of Us Earn in a Lifetime
- Hillary Clinton’s Single-Payer Pivot Greased by Millions in Industry Speech Fees
The post Here’s What Hillary Clinton’s Paid Speaking Contract Looks Like appeared first on The Intercept.
Taken at face value, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s latest fund-raising pitch to supporters is either impossible, illegal, or a scam.
In an email his campaign blasted out on Tuesday, Cruz wrote: “I just got off the phone with a few very generous supporters who — after our big win in Iowa last night — have pledged huge support for my campaign.”
The donors “have agreed to match all online donations to my campaign made through the links below,” he said. The page he linked to allowed supporters to give up to $5,400 ($2,700 for the primary election; $2,700 for the general election) and, for a 48-hour period, have their donations matched dollar for dollar.
The email did not say exactly how that would work.
Campaign finance experts, however, say there’s no way Cruz could be doing exactly what he promised without violating the law. That’s because there’s no way “a few very generous supporters” could legally be matching a large number of contributions to the campaign.
The operative rule is that individual donations to campaigns are legally capped. “If this money is going to his campaign, any one of those donors can only give a maximum of $2,700 [per cycle] including any money they have given before,” said Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance expert at Democracy 21.
Many of Cruz’s most “generous donors” have presumably already hit that limit, which is called “maxing out.”
“I don’t know what he’s doing or how he’s doing it, but the only way that I could imagine he could be doing it that’s legal is if he’s got a bunch of not maxed-out donors who are willing to match the contributions of others until they themselves max out at $2,700,” said Paul Seamus Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center.
Richard Skinner, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation, speculated that the Cruz campaign could perhaps have lined up a conference call with “like a hundred contributors who have not maxed out.” In that scenario, if each one could still give $1,000 and remain below the cap, they could match $100,000 in donations — but that would be all, and Cruz didn’t say there was a limit beyond which donations would no longer be matched.
Rick Tyler, a Cruz campaign spokesman, said he was only “vaguely familiar” with the program but said that “you have to get multiple people to agree to do it.”
He then emailed me the following statement: “I am not going to get into specifics about the performance of our match program. Suffice is to say it meets compliance standards for reporting. We have enough donors to match new contributions under the program. This program has been widely used successfully by many campaigns.” He pointed me toward similar email campaigns, including one just the other day from fellow Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee actually offers a triple match.
But if Cruz is telling the truth about the match being covered with only “a few very generous donors” he spoke to on the phone, the only way that could work would be if his campaign is either ignoring the campaign donation limit — or the donors are giving the “matching funds” money to a Cruz-affiliated super PAC.
Neither of those would be remotely legal.
After recent Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United and SpeechNow — and with the Federal Election Commission almost totally paralyzed by its three Republican members — there isn’t much operative campaign finance law left on the books. Super PACs, for instance, are allowed to accept unlimited contributions as long as they don’t coordinate directly with campaigns. But it seems that every campaign, with the exception of Bernie Sanders’s, is constantly finding new ways to weasel around that restriction.
One of the few rules still standing, however, is that $2,700 limit to campaign giving. Another is that federal candidates are not allowed to solicit more than $5,000 in super PAC contributions from any one person.
“If it is not a large pool of donors, if it is truly just a few generous supporters, it does appear that taking him at his word that his strategy runs afoul of the law one way or the other,” Krumholtz said.
The rule about solicitation is outlined in an FEC advisory opinion from 2011. According to the federal statute in question, which dates back to the McCain-Feingold soft money ban of 2002, “a candidate, individual holding Federal office, agent of a candidate or an individual holding Federal office … shall not … solicit, receive, direct, transfer, or spend funds in connection with an election for Federal office, including funds for any Federal election activity, unless the funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of this Act.”
And there’s no wiggle room. “To direct,” according to federal regulations, “means to guide, directly or indirectly, a person who has expressed an intent to make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value, by identifying a candidate, political committee or organization, for the receipt of such funds, or things of value.”
To solicit “means to ask, request, or recommend, explicitly or implicitly, that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value.”
According to Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, “If the matching contributions by Senator Cruz’s ‘very generous supporters’ are going to a super PAC and exceed $5,000 by any one supporter, Cruz is violating the federal law that prohibits candidates from soliciting or directing soft money to super PACs.”
And it’s hard to imagine Cruz denying he played a part. “The problem there would be that he was on the phone call, strategically planning this campaign,” said Krumholtz. “How do you walk that back?”
Cruz could be counting on the fact that the FEC won’t rouse itself even for such a blatant violation.
“There’s no enforcement of the campaign finance laws — all the campaigns and political operatives know that,” said Wertheimer. “There are three Republican commissioners at the FEC who block enforcement of the laws. So it’s the Wild West without a sheriff.
“As long as you think there is going to be no enforcement of the law, it’s just up to each political operative or campaign to decide what they want to do,” Wertheimer said. “It’s a voluntary system, the way the FEC treats it.”
Of course there’s one other possibility: That the whole thing is just a fake marketing gimmick, a scam.
Cruz ended the email with a definite whopper. He told his email subscribers that he will “never get — nor do I want — money from the D.C. lobbyists or the special interest billionaires.”
That would be news to billionaire Robert Mercer, the New York hedge funder who originally met Cruz at a meeting of the Club for Growth, a prominent D.C. special interest group, then gave $11 million to Keep The Promise, a Cruz super PAC.
Another billionaire, energy investor Toby Negegebauer, gave $10 million to one of Cruz’s super PACs. Farris and Dan Wilks, two billionaire brothers who were enriched by the Texas fracking industry, gave $15 million to a Cruz super PAC.
As for Cruz’s pledge that he has never received money from D.C. lobbyists, that’s also demonstrably false. A number of lobbyists have given to his campaign for a total of $5,700, according to Opensecrets.org.
They include James Hyland, the president of the Pennsylvania Avenue Group, which instructs visitors to its website: “Even if you are unsure if you need our lobbying assistance, make an appointment to discuss your options.”
There’s also Ed Rogers, chairman of the lobbying powerhouse BGR Group; Andrew Biar, the founder of Strategic Public Affairs; Jewell Patek, owner of Patek & Associates; and Joseph Mondello, principal of the Mondello Group, who was recently arrested after a worker who failed to fix his computer told police that Mondello became enraged, told him, “You’re not leaving until you fix this,” then pulled out a gun and said, “I’m going to kill you slowly.”
Overall, however, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has received far and away the most donations from lobbyists, with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio her nearest competitors.
The post Ted Cruz’s Promise That Big Donors Will Match Campaign Donations Could Break Rules appeared first on The Intercept.
BEFORE EVERY PHONE CALL that Fatuma Hashi has with her brother Mahdi, FBI agents come on the line to tell her what she is not permitted to talk about. “You’re not allowed to speak about political issues. Or whatever’s happening in the outside world. Or his case,” she told The Intercept.
Mahdi Hashi, a young man of Somali origin who grew up in London, had never been to the United States before he was imprisoned in the 10-South wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan in November 2012, when he was 23. For over three years, he has been confined to a small cell 23 hours a day without natural light, with an hour alone in a slightly larger indoor cage. He has had no physical contact with anyone. Apart from occasional visits by his lawyer, his human interaction has been limited to brief, transactional exchanges with guards and a monthly 30-minute phone call with his family.
Yet most of Hashi’s time in solitary confinement occurred before he had been deemed guilty by the justice system. Prolonged isolation prior to or in the absence of trial, sensory deprivation, and a lack of independent monitoring are normally associated with the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and CIA black sites overseas. But the MCC’s 10-South wing, which houses terrorism suspects, is no different in these respects. A former MCC prisoner and a psychologist specializing in trauma told The Intercept that the kind of extreme isolation imposed on defendants there can pressure them to accept a guilty plea, irrespective of actual guilt.
For Hashi, who worked at a community youth organization in London, everything changed when he was approached by MI5, the U.K.’s domestic intelligence agency. He was pressured to become an informant, according to accounts he gave to rights groups and local authorities, but refused, despite being warned that doing so would make his life difficult.
In 2012, while Hashi was visiting Somalia, the British government used special powers to strip him of his citizenship, leaving him stateless. He crossed into neighboring Djibouti to visit the British consulate there, he claims, and appeal the decision. U.S. prosecutors allege he was traveling to Yemen to join al Qaeda.
Upon entering Djibouti, Hashi was arrested by agents of the secret police and forced to watch other prisoners gagged, blindfolded, and beaten for hours, he alleges in case filings, with the complicity of FBI agents and other unidentified Americans. According to defense attorneys, Hashi was threatened with physical abuse and rape if he did not cooperate.
In November 2012, he was transported to New York by the U.S. government to face charges of supporting al Shabaab, the Somali terrorist organization. Prosecutors say he traveled to Somalia to attend a training camp and fight with al Shabaab in Somalia’s civil war. They accept that Hashi poses no specific threat to any Americans and that he received “harsh treatment” in Djibouti.
In May 2015, after two-and-a-half years of isolation, Hashi entered a guilty plea of conspiring to provide material support to al Shabaab. Last week, on January 29, he was sentenced to nine years in prison. He will likely be incarcerated at a Supermax facility in Colorado or a high-security “communications management unit” in Illinois or Indiana, all of which mean ongoing solitary confinement.
Government prosecutors were seeking 15 years, but Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York said the case was “complicated,” and accepted, in part, Hashi’s position that he joined al Shabaab not to engage in violent attacks but because he thought the group could restore peace to war-torn Somalia. “I believe you believe this organization you joined was dramatically different than what you thought or hoped it would be,” Judge Gleeson said.
For Fatuma Hashi, the U.S. government’s approach is hard to understand. “He was in his own country,” she said. “It had nothing to do with the United States. Why does this country that has nothing to do with us have a say in his life?”
Fatuma cannot fully share with journalists what she knows about her brother’s treatment in the MCC, a gray slab of a building that goes largely unnoticed by the office workers and tourists walking the streets near the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn bridge. Government restrictions — known as “special administrative measures,” or SAMs — prevent prisoners, their attorneys, and family members from describing the conditions inside the high-security unit to the wider public, shrouding New York’s little Guantánamo in secrecy.Psychological damage
In an account to be published in a new book on solitary confinement — titled Hell Is a Very Small Place — a Pakistani prisoner, Uzair Paracha, gives one of the most detailed illustrations yet of incarceration at the MCC. He was held in isolation there for two-and-a-half years after he was arrested in 2003 at age 23.
“The windows were huge but the glass was frosted so we had a lot of light but couldn’t see a thing,” he said. “It was a shade of white during the day, blue in the evening and early morning, black at night, and yellow when it snowed, as the snow reflected the streetlights. This was one way to estimate the time since they didn’t allow any watches.”
Video cameras constantly monitored the inside of Paracha’s cell, including the shower and toilet areas. Lighting was completely controlled from the outside, so that guards could deliberately leave the lights on at night to make sleeping harder. With their metallic walls, the cells were like ovens in the summer and freezing in the winter.
The medical effects of Paracha’s imprisonment at the MCC were severe: a weakening of his eyesight, brought about by having his entire world just a few feet away; a deterioration of physical coordination that made walking on stairs harder; and breathing problems, especially while trying to sleep.
Dr. Kate Porterfield is a clinical psychologist at the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture. She has evaluated prisoners held at various sites in America’s war on terror, including at Guantánamo. “With isolation, there’s a severing of the orienting data of our lives — the stuff that makes us feel like we are on our feet,” she told The Intercept. “This can result in paranoia, disorientation, feeling confused about whether your perceptions match reality, and not being sure who to trust.”
“That’s very dangerous to someone’s psyche,” she added. “It’s not just about feeling depressed because you’re in prison. The defendant ought to be oriented enough in the realities of their life and world that they can contribute to their own defense. A sense of paranoia and suspicion hampers the defendant in trying to connect with his or her legal team so that they can discuss and investigate the case.”
If a person has experienced torture or coercive interrogation before being put in isolation, they are even more vulnerable, Dr. Porterfield said. “There is then a greater likelihood of psychological damage and even less chance for recovery in any real sense.”
Indeed, virtually every academic study has concluded that solitary confinement has serious mental health consequences. These begin after 60 days and resemble the acute reactions suffered by torture and trauma victims.
The average length of time that defendants in federal terrorism prosecutions spend in solitary confinement prior to trial is 22 months, according to a 2014 report by Human Rights Watch and the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Amnesty International has stated that pre-trial solitary confinement at the MCC amounts to “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”
At least one prisoner who has been held at both the MCC and Guantánamo has described the Manhattan jail as harsher. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who was convicted of involvement in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, told his psychiatrist that Guantánamo is “more pleasant” and “more relaxed” than the isolation section at the MCC. At Guantánamo, he said, prisoners were not strip-searched and could associate together for recreational activities.
Joshua Dratel, an attorney who has represented clients at Guantánamo as well as the MCC, has also said the New York jail is worse.A tool for prosecutors
The one advantage that prisoners at the MCC are supposed to have over their counterparts in Guantánamo is that they are subject to trial in a criminal court rather than a military tribunal. However, the use of pre-trial solitary confinement has become, in effect if not intent, a tool for prosecutors to skew the judicial process in their favor.
Experts like Dr. Porterfield emphasize how extreme isolation can induce a desire to accept a plea. “We find again and again that isolation in prisons and the experience of maltreatment have a huge impact to the point where people do almost anything to get out of the coercive situation,” she said. “If there’s one thing the last 14 years have shown us, it’s that abuse does not lead to good information gathering.”
Laura Whitehorn was held for two months in pre-trial isolation at the MCC in 1986 on allegations of passport fraud, part of a larger conspiracy case for which she was later sentenced to 23 years in prison. “The sense of isolation, even after only two months, was so intense,” she told The Intercept. “I think, at that point, one would be ready to do almost anything to be back in human contact.”
“What was particularly horrible was the constant watching and monitoring,” Whitehorn recalled. “It was like being played with by the guards, a form of psychological taunting. I felt at any moment I could have any part of my being or body violated with impunity.”
Peter Quijano has represented several clients facing federal terrorism charges at the MCC, most of whom have been held in the jail’s isolation unit.
“It just seems obvious that if anyone, regardless of the mental state they have going in, is housed and detained in such a manner for any period of time, it has to start having an effect on them,” he said. “Anecdotally, we’ve seen increased deterioration over a period of time, especially in a pre-trial situation. It seems like a punishment and it affects their ability to assist in their defense.”
Legal visits at the MCC are hampered by the extreme temperatures in the “claustrophobic” visiting room. “It’s hard to stay there for much more than two hours,” Quijano said. Attorney and client remain in separate cages during the visits, divided by a mesh grate that makes eye contact impossible.Severe restrictions on communication
Mahdi Hashi divides his monthly phone call between his parents and siblings in London and his wife in Somalia. His sister Fatuma described being “overwhelmed with emotions” on these calls after not hearing his voice for so long. “Every day I’m in pain thinking about his situation,” she said. Fatuma, who is 24, has not seen Mahdi for six years.
She says the family has sent him books that took eight months to arrive. He never receives the letters and photographs they send. But there are strict limits on what Fatuma can say publicly about his imprisonment due to the SAMs applied in his case, which prevent Mahdi Hashi from any “oral, written, or recorded communications” with another prisoner; restrict his monthly phone calls to immediate family members; and prevent his family from sharing the content of the calls with anyone else.
Nor is Hashi allowed to communicate with journalists in any way, including via his attorney. SAMs, which are issued by the attorney general, are supposed to be specific to individual prisoners who pose “a substantial risk” of communicating messages that “could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons.”
One consequence of the SAMs is that protests by prisoners remain hidden from public view. In September 2013, a blogger claimed that Hashi was on hunger strike to protest the conditions of his imprisonment. He was reportedly hospitalized with jaundice and close to liver failure. But the protest could not be verified or discussed in more detail.
“It’s a last resort when you have so few resources to defend yourself,” said Whitehorn, the former MCC prisoner, on reports of Hashi’s hunger strike.
It has not been established whether Hashi was forced to undergo the brutal force-feeding practices used at Guantánamo, although force-feeding was applied in response to the protest of another MCC prisoner. Oussama Kassir, a Swede who went on hunger strike at the MCC eight years ago, was subjected to “medical feeding,” according to his attorney.
The people best placed to shed light on Hashi’s hunger strike — his lawyers and his family — were restricted by the SAMs, and prosecutors and prison administrators declined to comment. According to the blogger, the FBI cut off a phone call from Hashi to his father — in which Hashi described the protest — after one minute, but the SAMs mean we cannot know if this actually happened.
Saghir Hussain, Hashi’s British lawyer, has spoken with his client about the conditions of his incarceration, but is prevented from sharing such information. Hashi’s American lawyer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Mahdi Hashi’s prosecution provides one model of how the U.S. government deals with Western citizens accused of fighting with jihadi organizations overseas: coercive interrogation outside of U.S. jurisdiction, transportation to the isolation unit of a federal jail in New York, solitary confinement and restricted communication in conditions of secrecy until a guilty plea is made, then a lengthy incarceration at a high-security prison.
From one perspective, this approach seems to respect the rule of law. But look a little closer and it becomes clear that there are possibilities for abuse equivalent to or worse than at Guantánamo.
Top photo: Razor wire hangs on a railing at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, June 9, 2009, in New York City.
The post The Guantánamo in New York You’re Not Allowed to Know About appeared first on The Intercept.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton had a series of momentous exchanges Thursday night over what Clinton called Sanders’s “artful smear” – the suggestion that taking massive amounts of money from corporate special interests had corrupted her.
Clinton told Sanders during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate that he would not find a single example of money changing her mind or her vote, and she attacked him for his criticism “by innuendo, by insinuation” that “anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.”
Sanders responded by citing examples of political and prosecutorial decisions in the recent past that couldn’t really be explained any other way.
Let’s talk about why, in the 1990s, Wall Street got deregulated. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street provided — spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions?
Well, some people might think, yeah, that had some influence.
Let’s ask why it is that we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and [the price of] your medicine can be doubled tomorrow, and there’s nothing that the government can do to stop it.…
Let’s talk about climate change. Do you think there’s a reason why not one Republican has the guts to recognize that climate change is real, and that we need to transform our energy system? Do you think it has anything to do with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil pouring huge amounts of money into the political system?
That is what goes on in America. I am not — I like…
… there is a reason. You know, there is a reason why these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system. And in my view, it is undermining American democracy and it is allowing Congress to represent wealthy campaign contributors and not the working families of this country.
Clinton said she herself had been the target of corporate interests:
I don’t think you could find any person in political life today who has been subjected to more attacks and had more money spent against her by special interests, among whom you have named a few, than I.
And I’m proud of that. You know, when I took on the drug companies and the insurance companies for universal health care coverage, they went after me with a vengeance.
Today, you’ve got hedge fund billionaires aligned with Karl Rove, running ads against me to try to get Democrats to vote for you. I know this game. I’m going to stop this game.
And she insisted that Wall Street was against her:
I think the best evidence that the Wall Street people at least know where I stand and where I have always stood is because they are trying to beat me in this primary. They have collected and spent as much as $6 million on these ads. Hedge fund billionaires, Karl Rove, another billionaire, jumped in.
And why are they doing that? These are guys who try to make smart investments. They know my record, they know me, they know that I say what I believe and I will do it. And I also have a pretty good understanding about how to stop them.
But as the Washington Post reported on Thursday, “donors at hedge funds, banks, insurance companies and other financial services firms had given at least $21.4 million to support Clinton’s 2016 presidential run — more than 10 percent of the $157.8 million contributed to back her bid.” In fact, the Post even noted that Hillary Clinton has now “brought in more money from the financial sector during her four federal campaigns than her husband did during his quarter-century political career.”
Sanders hasn’t directly accused Clinton of being corrupted, but his argument is essentially that no one is incorruptible – that no one could take millions of dollars in contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street and not be influenced by that.
By giving just 12 speeches to Wall Street banks, private equity firms, and other financial corporations, Clinton made $2,935,000 from 2013 to 2015 – more than many people earn in a lifetime.
More recently, Hillary Clinton’s affiliated super PAC has depended on the extraordinary largess of billionaires: George Soros gave Priorities USA $7 million last year, pro-Israel billionaire power couple Haim and Cheryl Saban each gave $2.5 million, as did financiers Donald Sussman and Herbert Sandler.
Clinton didn’t necessarily say that money has no influence on anyone, she said it has no influence on her.
But the obvious, inevitable influence of massive campaign donations in particular has been a central element of Sanders’s campaign. And he’s had extraordinary success in collecting small donations – averaging $27 – from millions of supporters, keeping him competitive with Clinton and her more deep-pocketed donors.
Clinton’s relationship with Goldman Sachs has become a particular flashpoint. Clinton was asked Thursday night if she would release the transcripts from her private, highly paid speeches there – and elsewhere. She demurred.
Sanders had a lot to say about Wall Street in general, and Goldman Sachs in particular:
Wall Street is perhaps the most powerful economic and political force in this country. You have companies like Goldman Sachs, who just recently paid a settlement fine with the federal government for $5 billion for defrauding investors.
Goldman Sachs was one of those companies whose illegal activity helped destroy our economy and ruin the lives of millions of Americans. But this is what a rigged economy and a corrupt campaign finance system and a broken criminal justice is about. These guys are so powerful that not one of the executives on Wall Street has been charged with anything after paying, in this case of Goldman Sachs, a $5 billion fine.
Kid gets caught with marijuana, that kid has a police record. A Wall Street executive destroys the economy, $5 billion settlement with the government, no criminal record. That is what power is about. That is what corruption is about. And that is what has to change in the United States of America.
The post Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Brawl Over His “Insinuation” That She’s Corrupt appeared first on The Intercept.
During the Democratic presidential debate Thursday evening, MSNBC moderator Chuck Todd picked a question offered by a viewer and pointedly asked Hillary Clinton if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to giant investment bank Goldman Sachs. Todd then broadened the question, asking: “Are you willing to release the transcripts of all your paid speeches?”
It was the second time Clinton has been asked if she would release transcripts of the paid speeches she gave behind closed doors. When I asked her in Manchester, New Hampshire two weeks ago, Clinton simply laughed and turned away.
Asked this time on network television, she said, “I will look into it. I don’t know the status, but I will certainly look into it.”
Watch the video below:
Clinton went on to say that she made money from paid speeches by talking “about issues that had to do with world affairs,” suggesting she gave a boilerplate talk. But according to accounts offered by several attendees of one of the Goldman Sachs speeches, Clinton reassured the crowd, telling them that banker-bashing was unproductive and foolish.
Clinton made $675,000 for three paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, a bank that is notorious for hiring former lawmakers and using its influence in government to win access to policymakers. In total, Clinton and her husband have made over $125 million on the paid speaking circuit since 2001.
Todd noted that “there were transcription services for all of those paid speeches.”
The post Hillary Clinton Won’t Say If She’ll Release Transcripts of Goldman Sachs Speeches appeared first on The Intercept.
Of the $54,960 total raised by the Super PAC, $50,000, or 91 percent, comes from the snowy-haired 72-year-old billionaire Robert A. Day. He is the grandson of Superior Oil founder William Myron Keck and a former investment manager. Day has also given $1 million to the pro-Bush Super PAC Right to Rise.
The twitter account of Millennials Rising describes Millennials Rising as “started and run by Millennials.” Its website calls for “limited government” and simultaneously decries both the national debt and taxes as too high.
Four other non-millennials have donated to Millennials Rising, three of whom are listed in FEC filings as “retired”:
• Harry McMahon, 61, gave $1,000. McMahon was an investment banker with Merrill Lynch for three decades until he resigned last year.
• George Thompson, 71 years old and retired, gave $300.
• Daniel Hillman, 58 years old and retired, donated $250.
• Richard Agnew, 64, donated $750. Agnew is chairman of Van Ness Feldman, a large Washington, D.C. law firm specializing in the energy sector.
The Super PAC does have three other donors who are in fact millennials:
• Remington Tonar, 28, donated $1,000.
• Harout Samra, age 33, gave $500.
• C. W. Lucas Agnew, the 22-year-old founder of Millennials Rising, has donated $230. Agnew is currently a staff assistant on the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
An ad recently released by the Super PAC attacks Donald Trump as a “reality TV star” and pulses with exactly the kind of rock soundtrack to which, we understand, the youth of today respond:
(Thank you to Dave Levinthal of Public Integrity, who pointed out on Twitter that Millennials Rising is bankrolled by Day.)
Top photo: Robert A. Day: Brian VanderBrug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The post “Millennials Rising” Super PAC Is 95% Funded by Old Men appeared first on The Intercept.
Nach dem Spionageflug über Syrien waren die Deutschen geschockt ........ Das Kommando der Luftwaffe war geschockt, als es während eines Spionageflugs über der Kriegszone der Levante „über jeden Zweifel erhabene“ Beweise für eine volle Zusammenarbeit der USA mit den Terroristen des islamischen Terrors beim Raub von irakischen und syrischen Öls feststellte und dabei die Lügen des Obama-Regimes bezüglich des WIRKLICHEN KONFLIKTs in diesem Gebiet entlarvte.
Gemäß eines Berichtes haben am 9. Januar 2016 zwei Tornado-Flugzeuge während ihres dreistündigen Fluges über den Irak und Syrien fast 1200 Benzinfahrzeuge und Lastwagen des islamischen Staates ausgemacht, die gestohlenes Öl transportierten und dann über die Grenze in die Türkei fuhren. Diese Fahrzeuge fuhren unter völliger Bewachung der Luftwaffe der USA und der Türkei, was vor Kurzem auch aus dem Weltall festgestellt worden war! ..................... http://www.nrhz.de/flyer/beitrag.php?id=22499 .................
Former Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder is prominently featured in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad running in South Carolina. “If you want to make sure Republicans don’t take us backward, help Hillary move us forward,” Holder says.
Meanwhile, in his post-public service life as a partner with white-collar defense firm Covington & Burling, Holder is upholding his Justice Department’s tradition of negotiating lower fines for corporate offenses, albeit from the other side of the negotiating table.
The Associated Press reports that Holder, whose Justice Department prosecuted no major executive for the fraud that led to the 2008 financial crisis, is representing South African telecommunications conglomerate MTN in a $3.9 billion dispute with the country of Nigeria.
MTN Nigeria did not deactivate 5.2 million unregistered cell phone SIM cards after the Nigerian Communications Commission ordered them to do so by August 2015. Extremist groups operating in Nigeria use the cards for communications in kidnappings and attacks.
The commission initially imposed a $5.2 billion fine, which MTN challenged in court and got reduced to $3.9 billion. Now, Holder “is leading MTN’s legal team” in attempting to get the fine further reduced or eliminated, according to the commission’s spokesman, Tony Ojobo. The Federal High Court in Lagos has given MTN and the commission until March 18 to negotiate a settlement. Holder is negotiating directly with Nigerian officials, the AP reported.
During his Justice Department leadership, Holder specialized in negotiating settlements with corporations. The Justice Department issued a record number of deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, allowing corporations charged with misconduct to buy their way out of trouble without jail time or clawed-back bonuses.
Covington & Burling defends corporate clients all over the world, including telecom, pharmaceutical, and financial interests. They openly promote getting bank clients off the hook in their marketing materials.
Holder defended corporations at the firm before becoming attorney general, and immediately returned there at the end of his tenure, calling it “home for me.” A year earlier, he purchased a condo that sits 300 feet from Covington & Burling’s new headquarters in Washington. The firm even held open a corner office in that new building for Holder while he was a sitting attorney general, while he negotiated settlements with Covington & Burling clients.
But Holder bristles at the suggestion that there might be a connection between his current employer and his conduct at Justice.
Lanny Breuer, head of the criminal division at DOJ under Holder, also returned to Covington & Burling after government work. In all, six former Justice Department officials now work at the firm.
- An Idiot’s Guide to Prosecuting Corporate Fraud
- Elizabeth Warren Challenges Clinton, Sanders to Prosecute Corporate Crime Better Than Obama
- Eric Holder Defends Record of Not Prosecuting Financial Fraud
- Hillary Clinton Made More in 12 Speeches to Big Banks Than Most of Us Earn in a Lifetime
The post Eric Holder Makes Ads for Hillary Clinton While Making Deals for Corporate Clients appeared first on The Intercept.
Für den Abbruch der Syrien-Friedensgespräche macht der Westen allein Damaskus und Moskau verantwortlich – die einseitige Schuldzuweisung wird den Tatsachen jedoch nicht gerecht –
Von SEBASTIAN RANGE, 4. Februar 2016 -
Nur wenige Tage nach ihrem Beginn sind die Genfer Friedensgespräche für Syrien vertagt worden. Ein neuer Anlauf soll am 25. Februar versucht werden, wie der UN-Sonderbeauftragte Staffan de Mistura am Mittwochabend mitteilte. Auf die Gespräche hatten sich die Mitglieder der Internationalen Unterstützungsgruppe für Syrien (ISSG) Anfang November auf der Wiener Konferenz geeinigt. Bei dem Treffen in der Schweiz soll über die Bildung einer Übergangsregierung und ein Ende des fünfjährigen Krieges