ARE YOU THE SOCRATES of the National Security Agency?
That was the question the NSA asked its workforce in a memo soliciting applications for an in-house ethicist who would write a philosophically minded column about signals intelligence. The column, which would be posted on a classified network at the NSA, should be absorbing and original, the memo said, asking applicants to submit a sample to show they had what it takes to be the “Socrates of SIGINT.”
In 2012, the column was given to an analyst in the Signals Intelligence Directorate who wrote that initially he opposed the government watching everyone but came around to total surveillance after a polygraph exam did not go well. In a turn of events that was half-Sartre and half-Blade Runner, he explained that he was sure he failed the polygraph because the examiner did not know enough about his life to understand why at times the needle jumped.
“One of the many thoughts that continually went through my mind was that if I had to reveal part of my personal life to my employer, I’d really rather reveal all of it,” he wrote. “Partial revelation, such as the fact that answering question X made my pulse quicken, led to misunderstandings.”
He was fully aware of his statement’s implications.
“I found myself wishing that my life would be constantly and completely monitored,” he continued. “It might seem odd that a self-professed libertarian would wish an Orwellian dystopia on himself, but here was my rationale: If people knew a few things about me, I might seem suspicious. But if people knew everything about me, they’d see they had nothing to fear. This is the attitude I have brought to SIGINT work since then.”
When intelligence officials justify surveillance, they tend to use the stilted language of national security, and we typically hear only from senior officials who stick to their platitudes. It is rare for mid-level experts — the ones conducting the actual surveillance — to frankly explain what they do and why. And in this case, the candid confessions come from the NSA’s own surveillance philosopher. The columns answer a sociological curiosity: How does working at an intelligence agency turn a privacy hawk into a prophet of eavesdropping?
Not long after joining the NSA, Socrates was assigned a diplomatic target. He knew the saying by Henry Stimson that “gentlemen do not read each other’s mail,” and he felt uncomfortable doing the digital equivalent of it. As he wrote, “If there were any place in the world that idealism should rule and we should show voluntary restraint in our intelligence work, diplomacy was that place. Terrorists who meant harm to children and puppies were one thing, but civil servants talking about work while schlepping their kids to soccer practice seemed a little too close to home.”
His polygraph was an epiphany, however.
“We tend to mistrust what we do not understand well,” he noted. “A target that has no ill will to the U.S., but which is being monitored, needs better and more monitoring, not less. So if we’re in for a penny, we need to be in for a pound.”
I wanted to know more about Socrates, but one of the asymmetric oddities of the NSA is that the agency permits itself to know whatever it wants to know about any of us, yet does everything it can to prevent us from knowing anything about the men and women who surveil us, aside from a handful of senior officials who function as the agency’s public face. An NSA spokesperson refused to confirm that Socrates even worked there. “I don’t have anything to provide for your research,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.Socrates lives in the age of Google and data-mining. Like the rest of us, he cannot remain invisible.
The “SIGINT Philosopher” columns, provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, gave me the opportunity to learn more without the agency’s assistance, because they included his name. Heading down the path of collecting information about Socrates (whose name we are not publishing — more on that later), I was in the odd position of conducting surveillance on a proponent of surveillance, so I had a get-out-of-guilt-free card.
Unlike the paranoid eavesdropper played by Gene Hackman in The Conversation, or the quiet Stasi agent at the center of The Lives of Others, Socrates lives in the age of Google and data-mining. Like the rest of us, he cannot remain invisible. Socrates was an evangelical Christian for seven years, got married at 19, divorced at 27 and remarried not long after. He is now a registered Democrat and lives in a Maryland suburb with his son and wife, a public school teacher. I’ve seen the inside of their house, thanks to a real estate listing; the home, on a cul de sac, has four bedrooms, is more than 2,000 square feet, and has a nice wooden deck. I’ve also seen pictures of their son, because Socrates and his wife posted family snapshots on their Facebook accounts. His wife was on Twitter.
Conducting surveillance can be a creepily invasive procedure, as Socrates discovered while peering into the digital life of his first diplomatic target, and as I discovered while collecting information about him. In the abstract, surveillance might seem an antiseptic activity — just a matter of figuring out whether a valid security reason exists to surveil a target and then executing a computer command and letting the algorithms do the rest. But it’s not always that clinical. Sheelagh McNeill, the research editor with whom I worked on this story, was able to find Socrates’ phone number, and although he did not respond to voicemails, he eventually got on the line when I called at night.
His young son answered and fetched his father. Socrates was not pleased. He asked that I not disclose his identity, which was ironic because his columns praised the virtues of total transparency as a way to build trust. Why shouldn’t the public know about him? What’s wrong with a bit of well-intentioned surveillance among fellow Americans? I was not able to ask these questions, however.
“I can’t say anything,” he said, not long before he hung up. “You can’t use my name.”
HOW DO YOU TRACK A TRACKER?
The name on Socrates’ columns was not, it turned out, his full legal name; he used an abbreviated form of his first name. His last name is an ordinary one that yields a large number of search results. McNeill and I had a bit of luck, though — his columns included a user ID with his middle initial. McNeill needed a day to comb the web and examine public as well as proprietary databases before finding a person she believed was Socrates. He resided in the Washington area, was married to a woman who had worked in Korea (Socrates is a Korean language analyst), and he had lived in a variety of places that correlated with biographical hints in the columns.
But there wasn’t a lot of flesh on the digital bones we had found; Socrates was correct when he said it’s easy to misunderstand someone if you know only a bit. McNeill and I, though fairly certain that we had located the right person, still didn’t know much about his life or who, in an existential sense, he was. That changed when McNeill typed his name into Google and the name of a world event that one of his columns had mentioned.
She walked to my desk with her laptop open and pointed to a blog on her screen.
“This is him,” she said.
The blog consists of more than 20,000 words Socrates wrote about his failed effort, before joining the NSA, to earn a living as a writer. As he explained in often bitter and personal detail, he reluctantly went from starving writer to salaried spy. Instead of creating fictional characters, he spied on real ones. It dawned on me: coming from the world of books and words rather than technology and code, Socrates represented a post-modern version of the literary eavesdropper.
In his twenties, according to his blog, he wrote a personal mission statement, in the style of Jerry Maguire, in which he described the creation of literature as a higher calling than raising a child, proclaiming it nobler to live as a penniless writer than a parent. He took subsistence jobs to pay the bills and relied on financial support from family members as he tried to become the next Jonathan Franzen. He loved the great authors he read and studied — Melville, Cervantes, Borges, Vonnegut, and others. He wanted to produce great works that would persuade people to love and care about the world as much as he did.
It didn’t work out, and ironically the turning point was a graduate writing program he enrolled in at a Midwestern university in 2002. The program used the workshop method of putting students into a group and having them read and critique one another’s work. His experience amounted to a year and a half of getting bad advice from bad writers working part-time jobs to put themselves through a middling school. Nearly every professor was a dick, he wrote, and he mused that writing had turned them into dicks.He was so angry with himself and his writing that he deleted everything he had written, even throwing away hard copies of his stories.
The worst part of the experience was the financial side, because he went into debt (annual tuition and living costs at his university can exceed $25,000). Tired of asking for handouts and getting rejection letters, he wrote in his blog that the nobility of writing was a lie. He was so angry with himself and his writing that he deleted everything he had written, even throwing away hard copies of his stories, and stopped reading literature altogether. He decided to look for real work.
Socrates was able to land a job at the NSA. He had a background in Korean, which is of great interest in the intelligence world. He worked hard, had a son, owned a house, did volunteer work with refugees. He was living the American dream. In 2012, he began the “SIGINT Philosopher” columns, and this seems to have reminded him of the joys and rewards of writing for an audience. The next year, according to his blog, he thought he might lose his day job and this crisis made him ask what he most wanted to do in life. The answer surprised him: He wanted to write.
He was having, as he frankly admitted, a mid-life crisis that turned into a writing experiment. After 10 years of ignoring literature, he set a goal — he would write a collection of stories for an annual competition organized by the University of Iowa Press. He had a bit less than a year to write the stories, while keeping his position at the NSA. In the summer of 2014, a month before the Iowa deadline and just before one of his stories was published in a small literary review, he started blogging, without mentioning that he was a spy.
The surveillance archetypes that dominate popular culture are different from Socrates because they eventually see evil in the systems of surveillance that employ them. There is Winston Smith in 1984, who works at the Ministry of Truth and despises everything it does. Gerd Wiesler in The Lives of Others turns insubordinate after he receives an assignment to surveil a well-known writer and his girlfriend. And Harry Caul in The Conversation comes to fear that he is being played by the business executive who hired him.
Socrates, on the other hand, is loyal to a fault. One of his columns made a point of saying that even if an NSA employee disagrees with a policy, and even if the policy is wrong, she should stay the course. “We probably all have something we know a lot about that is being handled at a higher level in a manner we’re not entirely happy about,” he wrote. “This can cause great cognitive dissonance for us, because we may feel our work is being used to help the government follow a policy we feel is bad.” Socrates advised modesty. Maybe the policy is actually correct — or perhaps it is wrong but will work out in the end. “I try,” he explained, “to be a good lieutenant and good civil servant of even the policies I think are misguided.”
Socrates does not have a quiet psyche, however. While his blog and columns do not question the NSA, he struggled to live meaningfully. He returned to creative writing to make a lasting and worthwhile mark, so that his time on earth would not be wasted. Unfortunately, his second effort to become a successful writer did not turn out any better than the first. He reached out to two writing groups but never heard back. He paid for an editor to review one of his stories, disagreed with the editor’s comments, and accused the editor of trying to drum up additional fees for more work — and blogged about all of this in excruciating detail. The story, about a man whose ex-girlfriend gives him herpes, was called “Infection.”
Socrates sent his stories to literary reviews and got rejection after rejection. Late last year, he wrote that he felt empty and low. His blogging platform allows for tags for each post, and the tags he used included “rejection,” “rejection notes,” “giving up” and “why write?” Even worse was the silence that greeted the one story he had gotten published after he started blogging. He heard nothing from readers, and he wondered whether anyone other than family members and friends were aware of it.
THE INTERCEPT HAS A POLICY of not publishing the names of non-public intelligence officials unless there is a compelling reason, as with our naming of Alfreda Bikowsky, who oversaw key aspects of the CIA’s torture program. Withholding Socrates’ identity presents certain problems in the age of Google, however. If I quote from his blog, or give its name, or provide other search-enhancing morsels, like the name or location of his graduate writing program or where he was born, I might provide the sort of data that could instantly reveal his name with a few keystrokes.
So I am more or less trying to do what the NSA and a large number of agencies and corporations do with the personal data they possess — stripping away names and other identifying information to “anonymize” the data before sharing it. The beauty of anonymizing data, according to the (very many) entities that do it, is that nobody can be identified — citizens and consumers do not have to worry that their privacy is violated when petabytes of data are collected about what they do, where they go, what they read, where they eat and what they buy, because their names are not attached to it. The conceit is that our data does not betray us.You don’t need to code if you want to hack into someone’s life. We are all hackers now.
Anonymization is problematic, however, because it doesn’t always work. It is entirely possible that a reader of this story could make a few lucky or smart guesses and data-mine their way to Socrates’ name. There is a whole area of data research that’s known as re-identification, which consists of matching anonymized data with actual names. Even if anonymization did work, there’s a creepiness to knowing everything about a person even if you don’t know their name. Look at this story — it’s invasive without disclosing Socrates’ name, isn’t it? I could dial up the invasiveness, too. Would you like to know the asking price of the house he lives in? Would you like to know the names of the schools where his wife has worked? Would you like to see the pictures of their son or their house? Know the name of their dog? Their dates of birth? The branch of the military Socrates served in and his dates of service? There is so much I can tell you about Socrates without telling you his name. You don’t need to code if you want to hack into someone’s life. We are all hackers now.
If the original Socrates of ancient Greece were still around, he would probably suggest that it is morally compromising to conduct surveillance on people who have done no harm — no matter whether the surveillance is carried out by a philosopher in a robe, a journalist with a laptop, or an intelligence agency with a $10 billion budget. Surveillance, as a word, is a cleaned-up version of voyeurism, and whether state-sponsored or editor-approved, it’s creepy to carry out, and probably futile in most cases. Socrates (the columnist) insisted that total surveillance would allow the NSA to understand us and not mistake our intentions. His inaugural column even suggested that the NSA’s slogan could be “building informed decision makers — so that targets do not suffer our nation’s wrath unless they really deserve it — by exercising deity-like monitoring of the target.” Yet Socrates probably knows, as most writers do, that what we say does not necessarily reflect what is in our minds.
Here’s an example. I told Socrates, in our phone call, that I had read his blog. I assumed that once our conversation was finished he would go online and take down the blog, scrupulously doing what a smart surveiller would do once he realized he was the target rather than targeter — try to scrub the public domain of his existence to inhibit surveillance of him.
Yet the blog stayed up. In fact, he continued posting — once about a blockbuster movie series he disliked, another time about a short story he generally liked. I asked McNeill, the research editor, what she made of this, and she was surprised, too. Although I could not spy on Socrates in the way the NSA spies on its targets, I had done a lot and thought I understood him. In addition to the biographical and financial data I had mined, Socrates and I have an intellectual kinship as writers. After all, editors have killed stories I have written. I have friends who have gone through graduate writing programs. I have taught in one. I have the same hope (probably futile) that my writing will do some good in this world and somebody in Hollywood will make a movie.
Yet I had misunderstood him. I’m not sure I can ever understand him, even if he were strapped into a polygraph and had all the time in the world to answer my questions. If it is true that we are mysteries even to ourselves — as the original Socrates suggested — the eavesdroppers at the NSA invade our privacy without learning who we really are.
- Are You the SIGINT Philosopher?
- SIGINT Philosopher Is Back — With a New Face!
- Lessons for Civil Servants from the American Civil War
- Unlike All My Terrible Teammates, I Am a Wonderful Teammate
- In Praise of Not Knowing
- When Brevity Is Just the Soul of “Huh”?
- Descartes Would Have Been a Lousy SIGINT Reporter
- Are Obscure Languages Still … Obscure?
Research by Sheelagh McNeill.
The post What Happens When a Failed Writer Becomes a Loyal Spy? appeared first on The Intercept.
If you don’t think it’s fair that billionaires like Donald Trump can run their own self-funded campaigns for president, don’t blame the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Blame the 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo instead.
Citizens United lets billionaires give unlimited money to Super PACs trying to elect other people, but billionaires have been able to give as much money as they wanted to their own campaigns since Buckley.
Buckley v. Valeo struck down many provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, which was first passed in 1971 and then amended in 1974 after Watergate revealed Richard Nixon’s straightforward corruption. (The quid and the quo were not remotely subtle: The bill of particulars supporting Nixon’s articles of impeachment cited his campaign taking $200,000 from the chairman of McDonald’s, in return for which McDonald’s was allowed to raise the price of a quarter pounder cheeseburger.)
Among the ’70s-era reforms was a $50,000 per calendar year limit on how much of their own money presidential candidates could spend on their campaigns. But since Buckley it’s perfectly fine for candidates to spend as much of their own money as they want. Trump is by no means the first to take advantage of this: Ross Perot spent about $60 million of his own money in his 1992 run for president.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court’s Buckley decision made points that Trump paraphrases today, like this: “The use of personal funds reduces the candidate’s dependence on outside contributions and thereby counteracts the coercive pressures and attendant risks of abuse” of contributions from others.
Trump’s latest filings with the Federal Election Commission show that through this June he’s loaned his campaign $1,804,747.
The Buckley ruling also claimed that rich candidates could be at a disadvantage if they couldn’t spend their own money, because “a candidate’s personal wealth may impede his efforts to persuade others that he needs their financial contributions.” This appears to be the case with Trump, who — despite doing far better in polls than any other Republican candidate — has only received $92,249 in contributions from others through June 30.
While most of the sound and fury about campaign finance laws has focused on Citizens United, reformers recognize the importance of Buckley as well. Twelve major U.S. public interest organizations have released a common campaign finance agenda demanding that the next president appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn not just Citizens United but also Buckley, and Hillary Clinton recently said, “We have to reverse the effects, not just of Citizens United, but of the Buckley case.”
Correction: August 10, 2015
A previous version of this article incorrectly said that one of Nixon’s articles of impeachment cited bribery involving the price of McDonald’s quarter pounder cheeseburgers; in fact, the bribery was cited as part of the bill of particulars supporting all of the articles of impeachment.
The post Don’t Blame Citizens United for Donald Trump; Blame 1976’s Buckley v. Valeo Decision appeared first on The Intercept.
Über zwei Jahre sind vergangen, seit Til Schweiger über Umwege die Abschaltung von directactionde.ucrony.net erwirkte. Seither war es schwieriger einen Überblick zu erlangen – und vielleicht etwas Mut zu schöpfen. Indymedia Linksunten wird von vielen als Plattform genutzt und geschätzt, doch verschwinden auch dort Texte nach einigen Tagen im Datennirvana auf den hinteren Seiten. Einen Überblick schaffen von Zeit zu Zeit Chroniken in ‘Untergrundheftchen’ oder themenbezogene Auflistungen. Vieles bleibt unbeachtet, ohne Schreiben im Nachgang erst recht. Und dass sich im Hinterland was rührt, bekommt der Großstädter kaum mit, gehen an ihm schon viele Sachen in der eigenen Umgebung vorbei, wenn er nicht allmorgendlich die Boulevardpresse und den Bullenticker studiert.
Von REDAKTION, 10. August 2015 -
Die Finanzminister der Euro-Staaten könnten Ende der Woche zusammenkommen, um den Weg für ein neues „Hilfspaket“ für Griechenland zu bereiten. Ein Treffen der Eurogruppe am Freitag in Brüssel gilt als wahrscheinlich, wie die Deutsche Presse-Agentur am Montag erfuhr. Auch das griechische Parlament, der Bundestag und einige andere Volksvertretungen müssten zustimmen.
Die Unterhändler arbeiteten „Tag und Nacht“, um eine Übereinkunft zu erzielen, sagte eine Sprecherin der Brüsseler EU-Kommission. Geld soll Athen wie schon in der Vergangenheit nur gegen konkrete Spar- und Reformzusagen erhalten. Die Vertreter der Geldgeber arbeiteten „Hand in Hand“ mit den griechischen Behörden. „Wir erwarten
Bei einem Bombenanschlag und einem anschließenden Angriff auf eine Polizeiwache in der türkischen Millionenmetropole Istanbul sind mindestens vier Menschen getötet worden. Bei den Toten handele es sich um einen Polizisten und drei der Angreifer, teilte Istanbuls Gouverneur Vasip Sahin mit.
Auch das US-Konsulat in Istanbul wurde am Montag angegriffen. Zwei Terroristinnen hätten das Feuer auf die diplomatische Vertretung eröffnet, teilte der Gouverneur mit. Eine der Frauen sei verletzt festgenommen worden. Ansonsten wurden bei dem Angriff keine Verletzten gemeldet. Das US-Konsulat liegt rund 35 Kilometer Luftlinie von der angegriffenen Polizeiwache entfernt.
Bei einem weiteren Sprengstoffanschlag in der südosttürkischen Provinz Sirnak wurden am
Erstmals seit der Atomkatastrophe von Fukushima vor gut vier Jahren erzeugt Japan wieder Atomstrom. Gegen breiten Widerstand in der Bevölkerung kündigte der Betreiberkonzern Kyushu Electric Power am Montag an, den ersten Block des Atomkraftwerks Sendai in der südwestlichen Provinz Kagoshima am Dienstag wieder anzuschalten. Block 1 wird dann am Freitag wieder Strom produzieren und Anfang September den kommerziellen Betrieb voll aufnehmen.
Bis zuletzt hatten Bürger vor Gericht versucht, dies zu stoppen. Als Konsequenz der Atomkatastrophe in Fukushima vom 11. März 2011 stehen seit rund zwei Jahren alle 48 Reaktoren in Japan still. Das Wiederanfahren des Sendai-Reaktors ist ein Erfolg für
On October 28, 2009, dozens of heavily armed FBI agents swarmed a warehouse in Dearborn, Michigan, to execute an arrest warrant against Luqman Ameen Abdullah, 53, and several other men, who had been accused of fencing stolen merchandise. What exactly happened next remains in dispute, but the raid resulted in Abdullah being shot more than 20 times and dying on the scene.
An FBI press release issued later that day said that Abdullah, an imam at a mosque on Detroit’s West Side, “did not surrender and fired [a] weapon. An exchange of gun fire followed and Abdullah was killed.”
This version of events has been fiercely contested by Abdullah’s lawyers and family, as well as an eyewitness to the shooting. Now, representatives of Abdullah’s estate are attempting to take his case to the Supreme Court, arguing that he was unlawfully killed during the 2009 encounter, and that the FBI and local law enforcement staged a cover-up.
“We hope to finally see justice in this case after nearly six years of denial and obfuscation,” Lena Masri, an attorney with CAIR-Michigan who helped file the lawsuit last month, told The Intercept.
Previous court challenges related to Abdullah’s case have been dismissed on technical grounds, and a Department of Justice investigation into the shooting cleared the FBI of wrongdoing. Despite this, Abdullah’s family and the local community remain skeptical of the official narrative of his death.
Abdullah’s autopsy results — which showed not just bullet wounds, but also injuries inflicted by an FBI K-9 dog — and inflammatory comments made by FBI agents following his death, have contributed to continued outrage over Abdullah’s case and allegations that his death was an unjustified killing.
The investigation into Abdullah and his Detroit-area mosque lasted over four years and involved the use of multiple government informants who infiltrated the local community to gather information on Abdullah and other mosque patrons. After his death, Abdullah was described by the FBI in a criminal affidavit as being the leader of a “radical, fundamentalist” African-American Muslim group seeking to impose Sharia law across the United States.
However, despite years of intense government surveillance, Abdullah was never actually accused of any terrorism offenses. On the day of his death, the FBI had instead executed a warrant against him for conspiracy to sell stolen goods, firearms violations, and for altering motor vehicle identification numbers. In an interview about the case in the book The Muslims are Coming, by New York University professor Arun Kundnani, the FBI agent in charge of the raid, Andrew Arena, described Abdullah as “the leader of a domestic terrorist group,” while stating that no terrorism charges were brought because “where we don’t charge a person with terrorism, [we] charge them with whatever we can, to get them off the streets.”
During the arrest raid, Abdullah suffered severe lacerations to his face and a broken jaw after he was mauled by a police dog. He was hit with over 20 bullets, and died at the scene. After the shooting, the lawsuit alleges, FBI agents sealed off the warehouse, preventing local law enforcement from entering the premises for at least an hour. The lawsuit further alleges that Abdullah was denied medical treatment, while the FBI K-9 that mauled him was airlifted to a local hospital to receive treatment for gunshot wounds.
The government later stated that the K-9 had been killed by shots fired from a gun by Abdullah, a claim disputed in the lawsuit, as well as by an eyewitness to the shooting, who has stated that Abdullah was unarmed. The witness, who was also arrested in the raid, states in the lawsuit that Abdullah was shot by FBI agents while he was laying prone and attempting to defend himself from the police dog.
For many in the Detroit community who knew Abdullah, the circumstances of his death and the intensity of the government effort that targeted him beforehand remain deeply troubling. A government informant who had infiltrated the community, and went by the name “Jibril,” was present on the day of the raid but has not been seen by congregants of Abdullah’s mosque since. Several other informants involved in the case, whose identities remain unknown, are widely believed to still be present in the Detroit area.
The criminal complaint against Abdullah alleged that he was connected to former black nationalist Jamil al-Amin, also known as H. Rap Brown. Amin, who was a prominent 1960s radical with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers, is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of shooting a police officer in 2002. According to informants in Abdullah’s case, Abdullah was deeply aggrieved about Amin’s imprisonment and angry at the U.S. government for what he viewed to be a fraudulent case against Amin.
Abdullah’s son, actor and comedian Omar Regan, has described his father’s killing as “unfinished business from COINTELPRO,” the federal government’s 1960s campaign that targeted radical movements.
While the government and national media have generally portrayed Abdullah as the leader of a violent extremist gang, and highlighted numerous anti-government statements he made in the presence of covert informants, local activists have painted a more complex picture of him, saying that he was widely admired in Detroit for funding social programs and combating local drug dealers.
Dawud Walid, who knew Abdullah for many years and now serves as executive director of CAIR-Michigan, told The Intercept that despite Abdullah’s often-incendiary criticism of the U.S. government, he was viewed as a positive force among the residents of his impoverished Detroit neighborhood, organizing soup kitchens and housing for the poor through the auspices of his mosque. “I knew him for a long time, and he was an essential part of that West Side Detroit community, among both Muslims and non-Muslims,” Walid said.
For many in that community, the suspicion that Abdullah was killed while unarmed continues to linger. “The government never conducted any gunshot residue tests nor did they produce any physical evidence tying Abdullah to the gun that they later alleged was his,” Walid said. “The entire investigation and subsequent killing of Imam Abdullah was nothing less than a cover-up, and a fraud engineered on the part of the government.”
The FBI declined to comment, citing pending litigation, but said that its own internal investigation had found the shooting to have been justified.
Caption: Akil Fahd, right, protests with others outside the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009.
The post Killing of Detroit Imam in 2009 Described As “Nothing Less Than a Cover-Up” appeared first on The Intercept.
It turns out Kim Kardashian isn’t as politically sophisticated as I’d hoped.
Kardashian’s father Robert was Armenian, and I was impressed when she traveled to Armenia with Kanye West in a blaze of publicity this past April 24 to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide. At the same time she wrote a piece for Time describing her father’s family’s escape from Armenia and her deep disappointment that Obama had broken his iron-clad promise to call what happened there genocide.
There aren’t many celebrities who’ll stick their necks out on anything at all, so this was brave, even though it’s unlikely that talking about the Armenian Genocide will screw up your endorsement deal with Carl’s Jr.
So I’m bummed out to see Kardashian kvelling about her selfie with Hillary Clinton at a Hollywood fundraiser Thursday night. Just like President Obama, Clinton has cynically abused the trust of Armenian Americans by calling it genocide when she was looking for votes, but not when it mattered.
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) August 7, 2015
While she was senator from New York, Clinton was a co-sponsor of a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. And when she ran for president in 2008 she issued this statement:
I believe the horrible events perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians constitute a clear case of genocide. … Our common morality and our nation’s credibility as a voice for human rights challenge us to ensure that the Armenian Genocide be recognized and remembered by the Congress and the President of the United States.
So Clinton knows exactly what happened. But once she became Secretary of State she turned on a dime, explaining in 2010 that she was “working very hard” to stop Congress from recognizing the genocide. She also said things like this in response to a question from her own employee at the State Department:
Q: Regarding the atrocities that happened in the beginning of the 20th century that some would label the Armenian genocide, I am wondering why it is that we do not recognize it as such … ?
CLINTON: [T]his has always been viewed, and I think properly so, as a matter of historical debate and conclusions rather than political. … [T]o try to use government power to resolve historical issues, I think, opens a door that is a very dangerous one to go through.
Clinton didn’t actually say that it was not genocide, but calling it an open question is tantamount to complicity with Turkey’s genocide denial.
Kardashian reportedly paid $2,700 to go to the Clinton fundraiser at the house of Justin Bieber’s manager. She hasn’t said anything on social media about challenging Clinton when she met her.
So this is very disappointing.
Now all my hopes rest on Honey Boo Boo.
- What Obama’s Refusal to Acknowledge the Armenian Genocide Tells Us About the U.S. — and the Rest of the World
The post Kim Kardashian Tweets Selfie With Armenian Genocide Flip-Flopper Hillary Clinton appeared first on The Intercept.
Last week’s surprise bid by a group of House Republicans to oust Speaker John Boehner wasn’t about Boehner’s ideology, two members of the would-be rebellion said in a radio interview Thursday. It was about how Boehner uses congressional power to raise money over the interests of individual legislators.
“He’s not a policy leader. He’s a political leader. He knows how to raise money,” Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., told North Carolina radio host Tyler Cralle. “We have allowed the money to control policy in Washington, D.C.”
“The lobbyists in Washington, D.C. are not ideologues. They have no ideology,” Massie said with a laugh. Cralle suggested that lobbyists do believe in making money. “Well, that’s their god, too, that’s what they pray to, the money,” Massie said.
The fundamental issue, Massie continued, is about who has the power in Congress. Massie argued that the Founding Fathers never intended for the American people to be “represented by the monied class in Washington, D.C.”
Listen to Massie and Jones explain their opposition to Boehner on the Tyler Cralle show below:
When Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., offered a controversial resolution on July 28 that condemned Speaker Boehner for seeking to “consolidate power and centralize decisionmaking, bypassing the majority,” it came as a surprise, and many members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus were quick to ridicule it as a waste of time. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., a member of the caucus, called it the “dumbest idea I’ve seen here.”
The resolution did attract support from a handful of legislators, including Massie, Jones, and Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.
Earlier this year, Massie alleged that GOP leaders had distributed a “do not give list” to lobbyists in order to choke off campaign funding to lawmakers perceived as disloyal to Speaker Boehner.
Massie, who voted against electing Boehner as speaker in January, has also upset party leaders with his push to end surveillance programs. Massie joined with fellow civil libertarian Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., to stand guard in the House of Representatives to ensure that provisions of the Patriot Act expired on June 1. They promised to object to any short-term extension of the program.
Jones is one of the few Republican lawmakers in office who has consistently voted in favor of greater campaign finance disclosure and stronger regulations for the financial industry, and the only House GOP member to vote this year to support publicly financed elections. Jones is known for his sharp criticism of foreign wars and the influence of money in politics.
Last year, GOP leaders backed a campaign by a Wall Street consultant named Taylor Griffin to run against Jones in the Republican primary. Though over $1 million in Super PAC and dark money campaign funds flooded the district in support of Griffin, Jones prevailed. Jones is expected to face another establishment-backed candidate next year.
The post “They Pray to the Money”; House Republicans Decry Speaker John Boehner’s Lobbyist-Friendly Congress appeared first on The Intercept.
A British psychologist is receiving sharp criticism from some professional peers for providing expert advice to help the U.K. surveillance agency GCHQ manipulate people online.
The debate brings into focus the question of how or whether psychologists should offer their expertise to spy agencies engaged in deception and propaganda.
Dr. Mandeep K. Dhami, in a 2011 paper, provided the controversial GCHQ spy unit JTRIG with advice, research pointers, training recommendations, and thoughts on psychological issues, with the goal of improving the unit’s performance and effectiveness. JTRIG’s operations have been referred to as “dirty tricks,” and Dhami’s paper notes that the unit’s own staff characterize their work using “terms such as ‘discredit,’ promote ‘distrust,’ ‘dissuade,’ ‘deceive,’ ‘disrupt,’ ‘delay,’ ‘deny,’ ‘denigrate/degrade,’ and ‘deter.’” The unit’s targets go beyond terrorists and foreign militaries and include groups considered “domestic extremist[s],” criminals, online “hacktivists,” and even “entire countries.”
After publishing Dhami’s paper for the first time in June, The Intercept reached out to several of her fellow psychologists, including some whose work was referenced in the paper, about the document’s ethical implications.
One of the psychologists cited in the report criticized the paper and GCHQ’s ethics. Another psychologist condemned Dhami’s recommendations as “grossly unethical” and another called them an “egregious violation” of psychological ethics. But two other psychologists cited in the report did not express concern when contacted for reaction, and another psychologist, along with Dhami’s current employer, defended her work and her ethical standards.
A British law firm hired to represent Dhami maintained that any allegations of unethical conduct are “grossly defamatory and totally untrue.”
The divergent views on the paper highlight how the profession of psychology has yet to resolve key ethical concerns around consulting for government intelligence agencies. These issues take on added resonance in the context of the uproar currently roiling the American Psychological Association over the key role it played in the CIA torture program during the Bush administration. The APA’s Council of Representatives voted Friday to bar psychologists from taking part in national security interrogations or to advise on confinement conditions. Dhami’s consultation with JTRIG and the APA’s role in support of the CIA torture program are disparate — there is no suggestion that Dhami advised on interrogations involving torture nor that her paper was part of an ongoing relationship with JTRIG — but Dhami’s GCHQ work, like the APA scandal, provokes heated disagreement and criticism.Psychologists respond strongly to ethical issues
Some peers are outspoken against Dhami’s paper. They do not believe it is possible to engage ethically with the deceitful activities of a unit like JTRIG at any level. Arguments in defense of assisting psychological operations, meanwhile, include the notion that doing so helps ensure they are conducted in a responsible fashion and can help obviate the need for operations that are violent.
Soldz condemned the “deeply disturbing and grossly unethical recommendations” in Dhami’s JTRIG report. He added that “the psychology profession and the public must grapple with developing proper ethical constraints on the activities of operational psychologists.”
For Dr. Bradley Olson, who is past president of APA Division 48, which studies peace, conflict, and violence, using one’s training to assist in a mission like JTRIG’s, which involves the deception and manipulation of unsuspecting targets, is inherently problematic. Using one’s “expertise, research, or consultation to guide deceptive statements, even the statements of others, when the deceptive intentions are clearly documented … that is against psychological ethics,” according to Olson, who has collaborated with Soldz, including as a co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. “This is a terrible, terrible violation of psychological ethics” and a violation of the APA’s ethical standards, he added.
Dhami is not currently a member of the APA, but was a member of an APA Division at the time the report was written. According to APA bylaws, “Divisions must comply with all APA Bylaws, Association Rules and current policies.” Her online profile at Middlesex University, where Dhami is a professor, currently lists her as a member of APA Division 41 and a fellow of Division 9. A representative of APA Division 9, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, said that Dhami stopped paying dues in 2013 and is therefore no longer a member. The APA and an officer of Division 41, the American Psychology-Law Society, acknowledged receiving but did not respond to questions from The Intercept.
Dr. Christian Crandall, a professor in the University of Kansas’ social psychology program, disagrees with Dhami’s critics. “In my perusal, it seemed that she was writing a brief that would lead to research opportunities, consulting opportunities, and the like,” he said. “Because this brief was commissioned and written prior to the Snowden revelations … we might give Prof. Dhami the benefit of the doubt, that she might not [have] know[n] or anticipate[d] the extent of misconduct in the intelligence agencies.”
Crandall is also a council member at SPSSI, the APA division that honored Dhami as a fellow in 2007, and, emailing in that capacity, said he sees nothing unethical about Dhami’s report for JTRIG. After a “fairly quick look at the document,” he said the report did not merit an investigation. “What should SPSSI do? Nothing. Nothing at all, until evidence of actual unethical conduct appears. And we have not seen it.”
“It is certainly possible that JTRIG acts badly, spies on domestic (or American) targets, or even breaks international law. It is a stretch to hold Prof. Dhami responsible for this,” Crandall wrote. “[The report is] quite a bit like what the U.S. Army teaches their strategic communication officers. It’s less offensive than the behaviors of Karl Rove. It’s not benign. But Dhami specifies two relevant ethical codes … and two relevant UK laws … and recommends that JTRIG follow the relevant laws.”“I do not think that JTRIG requires a set of ethical guidelines that is different from those that are relevant to the rest of humanity.”
Dhami was contacted for this article and responded to questions from The Intercept through Schillings, a British law firm, and Culhane Meadows, a U.S. firm. A letter from Schillings said that Dhami had “upheld the highest ethical standards” throughout her academic career and had never sought to hide her association with GCHQ. “The work undertaken by our client has been focused on helping GCHQ to accurately understand and responsibly apply psychological science,” the letter stated. “In working with the government our client typically provides advice on how to improve specific aspects of their work” and is “not therefore actively engaged in the day-to-day business of these departments, but rather an independent observer/commentator” with a “strong track record of publishing critiques of existing Government policies.”
Schillings also said Dhami was “legally restricted in terms of the responses that she is able to give” to The Intercept’s questions “by virtue of the government agency involved,” adding that no “adverse inferences” should be drawn from this. Asked about Dhami’s report, GCHQ said in a statement that the agency is “aware of the responsibility that comes with the nature of its work and in addition to the legal accountability we also take the ethical considerations surrounding our mission seriously.”
Middlesex University defended Dhami’s work, writing: “Middlesex University has robust ethical procedures and is committed to operating in an ethical way to ensure the highest possible standards of decision-making and accountability. Professor Dhami’s work for Middlesex University is carried out in strict accordance with the ethical codes of the organisation, which in turn conform to the standards laid down by the British Psychological Society.”Psychological advice for covert propaganda unit
Dhami appears to have been a senior lecturer in criminology at Cambridge University when she wrote the report, as well as a social psychologist with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, an agency sponsored by the U.K. Ministry of Defence. During this period, she was temporarily transferred, or “seconded” to GCHQ, according to a version of Dhami’s CV posted online.
The top-secret document, titled “Behavioural Science Support for JTRIG’s (Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group’s) Effects and Online HUMINT Operations,” appears to have been written during this stint at the spy agency. (The term “HUMINT” commonly refers to human intelligence.) It was based on interviews with 22 JTRIG staffers and seven support staff from GCHQ. In it, Dhami provides advice on how JTRIG can improve its approach and attain desired outcomes, for example, by applying theories and research around persuasive communication, compliance, obedience, conformity, and the creation of trust and distrust.
“Compliance can be achieved through various techniques,” reads the “obedience” section of Dhami’s report, “including: Engaging the norm of reciprocity; engendering liking (e.g., via ingratiation or attractiveness); stressing the importance of social validation (e.g., via highlighting that others have also complied); instilling a sense of scarcity or secrecy; getting the ‘foot-in-the-door’ (i.e., getting compliance to a small request/issue first); and applying the ‘door-in-the-face’ or ‘low-ball’ tactics (i.e., asking for compliance on a large request/issue first and having hidden aspects to a request/issue that someone has already complied with, respectively).”
In other cases, Dhami presents a menu of possible effective approaches grounded in specific psychological research that is formally cited throughout the body of the paper, in a “recommended reading list,” and in a “list of training requirements for JTRIG staff.”
“Propaganda techniques include,” Dhami writes, “Using stereotypes; substituting names/labels for neutral ones; censorship or systematic selection of information; repetition; assertions without arguments; and presenting a message for and against a subject.”
Dhami’s 42-page report came nearly three years before the world became aware of JTRIG and of its methods of deception, dissemination of online propaganda, and acquisition of human intelligence. The unit’s existence was first revealed through leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by NBC News and The Intercept. JTRIG’s tactics include seeding propaganda on social media, impersonating people online, and creating false blog posts to discredit targets.
Dhami recommends that staff be trained on the various specific techniques she outlines, that a social influence research program be developed, that the possibility of compiling psychological profiles for exploitation in intelligence operations be explored, that a catalog of online crime prevention techniques be developed, that processes for assessment of risk and effectiveness be established, and that JTRIG develop guidelines for operational best practices.‘JTRIG has now acquired this material’
Some of the psychology research texts Dhami recommends are marked with an asterisk indicating “JTRIG has now acquired this material.” The Intercept attempted to contact the authors of materials that had been “acquired” by JTRIG.
One of those authors, Peter Smith, emeritus professor of psychology at University of Sussex near Brighton, England, raised questions about Dhami’s paper.
“Some of the reported actions of JTRIG are clearly contrary to the ethical guidelines of the British Psychological Society,” Smith wrote in an email. “The descriptions that [s]he provides of the social psychology of influence are broadly accurate, but the use of this knowledge to deceive people or distort the information that they receive is not advocated in any of the sources that [s]he cites.” He added: “I am certainly not comfortable with the ways in which Dr. Dhami has used [her] knowledge of social psychology.”
Dhami’s profile at Middlesex University does not list the British Psychological Society among her current professional affiliations.
Other psychologists cited by Dhami did not criticize her paper but rather disclaimed any control over her use of their material. Susan Fiske, a Princeton psychologist and fellow of six APA divisions, also had her work acquired by JTRIG. She told The Intercept by email, “Anyone can buy my book. When you write a textbook, it’s in the public domain, and anyone can use it. I have no control over what happens after it is published.”
Joseph Forgas, a psychology professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, had his work on the list as well. He responded: “This is published research that is in the public sphere and is openly available to anyone. So, I have no further control over its use, and I see [no] problem at all with anyone using it. If there are indeed any ethical issues here, it is the responsibility of democratic governments to supervise such activity. I am not aware of any abuse, and on the whole, I don’t see any real issues here.”
Eleven other psychologists whose work was cited by Dhami did not respond to emails from The Intercept.A ‘bespoke’ code of ethics
Dhami does directly address ethical concerns in part of her report. But her treatment of ethics is brief. JTRIG, she writes, operates under “no specific guidelines on ethical practice.” She notes that professional codes of conduct exist, such as those of the British Society of Criminology and the British Psychological Society, but determines that “clearly, not all of the aspects of the above codes will be relevant or applicable to JTRIG’s operations” and the codes “do not identify best practice in all of the types of online interactions that JTRIG staff might be involved in.” “Thus,” she concludes, “JTRIG may need to develop a bespoke code” that complies with the U.K. legislation governing intelligence agencies.
Smith, the University of Sussex psychologist whose work was acquired by JTRIG, views the issue differently. “Dr. Dhami neither condemns nor directly endorses the reported actions of JTRIG, but suggests that their actions may need to be guided by a ‘different’ ethical code,” he wrote. “I do not think that JTRIG requires a set of ethical guidelines that is different from those that are relevant to the rest of humanity.”
The very idea of a “bespoke code” that “complies” with the law but merely considers established ethics codes “that may be pertinent,” without being bound by them, is controversial, but not novel. It’s far from clear that there is an ethically correct way to engage in acts to discredit, deceive, denigrate, and degrade unsuspecting targets, and it’s decidedly possible that developing guidelines that purport to do so will only lend legitimacy to unsavory behavior.
A change to the APA’s Ethics Code, adopted in August 2002, allowed psychologists, for the first time, to “adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority” in cases where those regulations could not be squared with ethical standards.
That same month, the Bush Justice Department issued one of the key, then-secret “torture memos,” which suggested that interrogators could avoid prosecution for torture if they believed in “good faith” their actions would not result in “prolonged mental harm”; demonstration of such “good faith” included “consulting with experts.”
Three years later, after images of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal had shocked the world, the APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security affirmed the organization’s support for psychologists’ participation in government interrogations. “The Task Force believes that a central role for psychologists working in the area of national security-related investigations is to assist in ensuring that processes are safe, legal, and ethical for all participants,” it stipulated.
This institutional posture gave psychologists the ethical cover to participate in interrogations, which in turn provided interrogators with the legal cover, in accordance with the DoJ memos, to engage in “enhanced interrogation tactics.”
In 2010, the APA removed the clause added to the Ethics Code in 2002, which could open the door to the so-called “Nuremberg Defense.” The 2005 PENS report was retracted in 2013.‘Propaganda for democracy’
Social scientists and medical professionals have long struggled with the moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in operational work on behalf of militaries and intelligence agencies. Proponents of such work posit that so-called psychological operations can limit conflict and save lives — particularly when used tactically, for limited applications within a battlefield, as opposed to strategically around the world.
Critics maintain that because the potential for abuse is inherent, scholars have an obligation to combat, rather than enable, psychological operations.
Dr. Sara B. King, chair of the psychology department at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania, summarizes the argument in her study of military social influence. Some propaganda critics, she writes, “have argued that ‘propaganda for democracy’ is simply a contradiction in terms, because pervasive propaganda inevitably shapes totalitarian, rather than democratic, psychological process.” In describing strategic psychological operations “planned and executed at the national level,” King explains: “These broad-based military perception management initiatives, argue some, have the potential to endanger both science and democracy.”
According to King, this debate was most fervent in the period between the two world wars, was largely quashed during the anti-Communist McCarthy era, and became a relative whisper in the post-9/11 era, when the APA changed its ethical posture to enable psychologists to participate in interrogations.
In a published response to King, Dhami argued in March 2011, the same month the JTRIG report was issued, that military use of psychology is inevitable, and therefore civilian psychologists have a responsibility to monitor its application in order to prevent misuse.
“The integrity of our psychological science is threatened by the great potential for its misinterpretation and misapplication in military social influence campaigns,” Dhami wrote. “The harm that may be caused by remaining detached from such campaigns, perhaps because of the element of deception and invasion of privacy involved, may far outweigh the benefits of striving for the welfare and rights of the campaign targets.”
Even in the wake of today’s APA vote, the debate over Dhami’s paper shows the profession of psychology is still grappling with questions over the ethical limits of involvement in government intelligence programs.
“Psychologists should use their unique insights into human behavior to promote human welfare and dignity, not undermine or harm individuals,” Sarah Dougherty, a lawyer and senior fellow of the U.S. Anti-Torture Program at Physicians for Human Rights, told The Intercept. “The JTRIG allegations merit further investigation.”
The post Psychologist’s Work for GCHQ Deception Unit Inflames Debate Among Peers appeared first on The Intercept.
Donald Trump bragged Thursday night that he could buy politicians — even the ones sharing the stage with him at a Republican presidential debate.
Trump was asked about something he said in a previous interview: “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”
“You’d better believe it,” Trump said. “If I ask them, if I need them, you know, most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money.”
The only complaints came from two candidates who yelled that they had received no Trump money. As Trump continued to talk, he was interrupted by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., complaining that Trump instead gave campaign contributions to Rubio’s Democratic opponent.
“I hope you will give to me,” said Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.
“Sounds good. Sounds good to me, governor,” said Trump.
Without missing a beat, the real estate tycoon continued: “I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.” He added, “And that’s a broken system.”
Repeatedly asked what he got in return for his donations, Trump said: “With Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good.”
Though it surely wasn’t his intention, Trump was illustrating the key problem with the current campaign finance system. Campaign contributions are legally considered bribes only when there is an explicit quid-pro-quo. But as Trump explained, giving money to politicians bought him access and relationships, which he could leverage down the road in the form of favors. Such conflicts of interest are inherent in privately-funded election systems.
No one on stage disputed Trump’s depiction of the American political system. In fact, it was taken as a given.
Earlier in the debate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had stated that Trump “buys and sells politicians of all stripes.” He wasn’t so much complaining that big donors like Trump can buy and sell politicians as grumbling that Trump should only purchase Republicans. (Trump, indicating toward Paul, responded: “Well, I’ve given him plenty of money.”)
Trump has indeed made a considerable number of political donations, as recorded by OpenSecrets.org. But those records don’t show a contribution to Paul.
At another point, Trump said that the U.S. healthcare system is badly-designed because “the insurance companies … have total control of the politicians” with which they’re “making a fortune.”
Other candidates also referenced the corrupting influence of money in politics. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee stated that “the problem is we have a Wall Street-to-Washington access of power that has controlled the political climate.” He continued: “The donor class feeds the political class who does the dance that the donor class wants. And the result is federal government keeps getting bigger.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that there are many “career politicians in both parties who get in bed with the lobbyists and special interests.”
Last weekend, GOP contenders Cruz, Rubio, Walker, Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina attended a private meeting of elite campaign donors at a retreat in Southern California organized by Koch Industries chief executive Charles Koch. At the time Trump tweeted: “I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?”
The post Donald Trump Says He Can Buy Politicians, None of His Rivals Disagree appeared first on The Intercept.