THE CONVICTION that invasion, bombing, and special forces benefit large swaths of the globe, while remaining consonant with a Platonic ideal of the national interest, runs deep in the American psyche. Like the poet Stevie Smith’s cat, the United States “likes to gallop about doing good.” The cat attacks and misses, sometimes injuring itself, but does not give up. It asks, as the U.S. should,
What’s the good
Of galloping about doing good
When angels stand in the path
And do not do as they should
Nothing undermines the American belief in military force. No matter how often its galloping about results in resentment and mayhem, the U.S. gets up again to do good elsewhere. Failure to improve life in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya stiffens the resolve to get it right next time. This notion prevails among politicized elements of the officer corps; much of the media, whether nominally liberal or conservative; the foreign policy elite recycled quadrennially between corporation-endowed think tanks and government; and most politicians on the national stage. For them and the public they influence, the question is less whether to deploy force than when, where, and how.
Since 1979, when the Iranians overthrew the Shah and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. has concentrated its firepower in what former U.S. Army colonel Andrew Bacevich calls the “Greater Middle East.” The region comprises most of what America’s imperial predecessors, the British, called the Near and Middle East, a vast zone from Pakistan west to Morocco. In his new book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East, Bacevich writes, “From the end of World War II until 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in that region. Within a decade, a great shift occurred. Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed anywhere except the Greater Middle East.” That observation alone might prompt a less propagandized electorate to rebel against leaders who perpetuate policies that, while killing and maiming American soldiers, devastate the societies they touch.
Bacevich describes a loyal cadre of intellectuals and pundits favoring war after war, laying the moral ground for invasions and excusing them when they go wrong. He notes that in 1975, when American imperium was collapsing in Indochina, the guardians of American exceptionalism renewed their case for preserving the U.S. as the exception to international law. An article by Robert Tucker in Commentary that year set the ball rolling with the proposition that “to insist that before using force one must exhaust all other remedies is little more than the functional equivalent of accepting chaos.” Another evangelist for military action, Miles Ignotus, wrote in Harper’s two months later that the U.S. with Israel’s help must prepare to seize Saudi Arabia’s oilfields. Miles Ignotus, Latin for “unknown soldier,” turned out to be the known civilian and Pentagon consultant Edward Luttwak. Luttwak urged a “revolution” in warfare doctrine toward “fast, light forces to penetrate the enemy’s vital centers” with Saudi Arabia a test case. The practical test would come, with results familiar to most of the world, 27 years later in Iraq.
The Pentagon, its pride and reputation wounded in Vietnam as surely as the bodies of 150,000 scarred American soldiers, was slow to take the hint. The end of compulsory military service robbed it of manpower for massive global intervention. Revelations of war crimes and political chicanery from the Senate’s Church Committee and the Pike Committee in the House added to public disenchantment with military adventures and intelligence meddling in other countries’ affairs. It would take years of effort to cure America of its “Vietnam Syndrome,” the preference for diplomatic before military solutions.
In the Middle East, President Gerald Ford saw no reason to rescind his predecessor’s policy, the Nixon Doctrine of reliance on local clients armed by the U.S. to protect Persian Gulf oil for America’s gas-hungry consumers. Nothing much happened, though, until one of the local gendarmes, the Shah of Iran, fell to a popular revolution and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.
CHANGE CAME with the Carter Doctrine, enunciated in the president’s January 1980 State of the Union address: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and as such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
Carter’s combative national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, wrote later, “The Carter Doctrine was modeled on the Truman Doctrine.” Bacevich comments that the Truman Doctrine of ostensibly containing the Soviet Union while absorbing the richer portions of the decolonizing French and British Empires “invited misinterpretation and misuse, with the Vietnam War one example of the consequences.” Carter’s doctrine, modified but not rescinded by his successors, led to similar consequences in Afghanistan and Iraq.
George W. Bush took the Carter Doctrine to fresh lengths when he made the case, prepared for him by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, for preventive war in a speech at the U.S. Military Academy on June 1, 2002: “If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.” Bacevich quotes the Nuremberg court’s view of preventive war: “To initiate a war of aggression is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” After the failures to impose order in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Barack Obama rather than abandon the policy merely moved its emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan without achieving any military or political objectives.
Bacevich, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, while conceding his “undistinguished military career,” is more willing than most journalists to question the justice and utility of expanded military operations in the Middle East and to challenge the media-hyped reputations of some of America’s favorite generals, Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell, Wesley Clark, and David Petraeus foremost. One general who comes out well in Bacevich’s assessment is British, Sir Michael Jackson, who resisted Wesley Clark’s order to block a runway at Pristina airport against Russian flights into Kosovo. His answer, worthy of Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s reply of “Nuts” to the German demand for surrender at Bastogne: “Sir, I’m not starting World War III for you.”
This tour de force of a book covers the modern history of American warfare with sharp criticism of political decisions and rigorous analysis of battlefield strategy and tactics. As such, it should be required reading at the author’s alma mater. It would not hurt for those aspiring to succeed Barack Obama as commander-in-chief to dip into it as well. None of them, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, is likely to reject the worldview that led to so many deaths around the world. Watch for more military missions. Be prepared for more assassination by drone, of which even former Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal said, “They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.” McChrystal pointed out that drone strikes are great recruiters, not for the U.S. military, but for the Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS.
Ignoring Bacevich and heeding the call of the intellectual warmongers who guided Bush, Obama’s successor, like Stevie Smith’s cat, is likely “to go on being / A cat that likes to / Gallop about doing good,” expanding rather than limiting the projection of armed might into the Greater Middle East.
Charles Glass, former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent, recently published Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring (OR Books).
The post Andrew Bacevich and America’s Long Misguided War to Control the Greater Middle East appeared first on The Intercept.
A CIVIL SUIT against the architects of the CIA’s torture program, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, will be allowed to proceed, a federal judge in Spokane decided on Friday.
District Judge Justin Quackenbush denied the pair’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit launched against them on behalf of three victims, one dead, of the brutal tactics they designed.
“This is amazing, this is unprecedented,” Steven Watt, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union representing the plaintiffs told The Intercept after the hearing. “This is the first step towards accountability.”
What’s so unprecedented is that this is the first time opponents of the program will have the chance to seek discovery evidence in the case unimpeded by the government. In every other past torture accountability lawsuit, the government has invoked its special state-secrets privileges to purportedly protect national security.
But since the extraordinarily detailed and revealing executive summary of the Senate’s torture report was published in 2014, after years of investigation, the government now says almost everything is declassified already.
The three plaintiffs are Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of Gul Rahman, who died at a CIA black site known as the “Salt Pit.” Each was kidnapped and subject to extreme physical and psychological torture and experimentation, though none was ever charged with a crime.
The two living plaintiffs were not at the hearing, but Watt said he was thrilled to text his client Abdullah Salim, now living in Tanzania, the good news. “When I first met with him, I told him the likelihood we’d get as far as we have so far was highly unlikely. To tell him that we won today—you know, it’s historic.”
Mitchell and Jessen’s proposed framework for “enhanced interrogation” involved trying to drive detainees to a point of “learned helplessness” through unbearable suffering, to the point they would be willing to totally comply. The theories behind the tactics were drawn from the psychologists’ experiments on dogs decades prior.
The defendants were not present at the hearing either, but their lawyers argued that Mitchell and Jessen were not directly involved in and therefore are not responsible for the victims’ capture and treatment. “They did not make decisions about Plaintiffs’ capture, treatment, confinement conditions, and interrogations; and they did not perform, supervise or control Plaintiffs’ interrogations,” defense attorney Christopher Tompkins argued in a brief filed in the case.
Drod Ladin, the ACLU attorney who argued in court at Friday’s hearing, argued that Mitchell and Jessen directly composed and supervised the program, and were paid to do so for years—and therefore should not escape responsibility, according to Guardian reporter Maria L La Ganga, who blogged the hearing live.
The post Judge Grants Torture Victims Their First Chance to Pursue Justice appeared first on The Intercept.
A BIPARTISAN GROUP of lawmakers is none too happy that the executive branch is asking them to reauthorize two key surveillance programs next year without answering the single most important question about them.
The programs, authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are called PRISM and Upstream. PRISM collects hundreds of millions of internet communications of “targeted individuals” from providers such as Facebook, Yahoo and Skype. Upstream takes communications straight from the major U.S. Internet backbones run by telecommunication companies such as AT&T and Verizon and harvests data that involves selectors related to foreign targets.
But both programs, though nominally targeted at foreigners overseas, inevitably sweep us massive amounts of data involving innocent Americans.
The question is: How much? The government won’t answer.
Fourteen members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on Friday asking for at least a rough estimate.
“In order that we may properly evaluate these programs, we write to ask that you provide us with a public estimate of the number of communications or transactions involving United States persons subject to Section 702 surveillance on an annual basis,” said the letter. Signatories included ranking Democrat John Conyers Jr. and a senior Republican member, James Sensenbrenner.
Sen. Ron Wyden has asked for a number since 2011; the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended in July 2014 that the government provide several. In October, more than 30 privacy groups asked for an estimate and explained how easy it would be to come up with one.
“House Judiciary Committee members have lent their voices to the growing chorus demanding hard facts about how foreign intelligence surveillance affects Americans,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty & National Security Program, in a statement. “The NSA will soon be asking Congress to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and it will repeat its past claims that any collection of Americans’ communications is merely ‘incidental.’”
But, Goitein said, “we still don’t have this basic information.”
The post Stymied by NSA, Members of Congress Ask Really Basic Question Again appeared first on The Intercept.
In einer Atmosphäre der internationalen politischen Konfrontation und der weltweiten Hochrüstung veranstaltet das Internationale Friedensbüro (International Peace Bureau, IPB) vom 30. September bis zum 2. Oktober 2016 den Weltkongress zum Thema internationale Abrüstung. Ausgetragen wird der Kongress, zu dem ca. 1000 Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer aus mehr als 40 Ländern erwartet werden, an der Technischen Universität Berlin.
Unterstützt wird der Kongress u.a. von dem Weltgewerkschaftsbund (ITUC), der UNI (Weltorganisation von ver.di), dem Friedensforschungsinstitut SIPRI, von internationalen religiösen Organisationen unterschiedlichster Glaubensrichtungen, von Vereinigungen aus dem umwelt- und entwicklungspolitischen Bereich, sowie den drei großen deutschen Stiftungen: Heinrich Böll, Friedrich Ebert und Rosa Luxemburg.
Ein Gesamtüberblick über die unterstützenden Organisationen ist auf www.ipb2016.berlin/partners/ zu finden.Wer und was ist das International Peace Bureau?
Das 1891/92 gegründete International Peace Bureau (IPB, www.ipb.org) ist das älteste globale Friedensnetzwerk und zählt mehr als 300 Mitgliedsorganisationen in über 70 Ländern. Bereits 1910 erhielt es den Friedensnobelpreis. Im Laufe der Jahre sind zudem 13 leitende IPB-Persönlichkeiten mit dem Friedensnobelpreis ausgezeichnet worden.
IPB verschreibt sich der Vision einer Welt ohne Krieg. Der Hauptfokus der Arbeit liegt auf dem Komplex „Abrüstung für Nachhaltige Entwicklung“, diesbezüglich insbesondere auf der Umverteilung von Rüstungsausgaben. Seit 6 Jahren sind wir Teil der internationalen Kampagne zur Reduzierung der Rüstungsausgaben (Global Day of Action on Military Spending GDAMS). Seit den 1980er Jahren engagiert sich IPB für die Kampagne zur atomaren Abrüstung, welche die Abschaffung aller Atomwaffen zum Ziel hat.
Nach Angaben von SIPRI betrugen die Rüstungshaushalte der Regierungen der Welt im Jahr 2015 $1,7 Milliarden. Im gleichen Jahr litten 900 Millionen Menschen an Hunger, täglich starben 10.000 Kinder an behandelbaren Krankheiten. Die sozialen Ungleichheiten nehmen unvermindert zu.
Angesichts der wachsenden sozialen Herausforderungen und der dringend benötigen Mittel zur Finanzierung des Klimawandels kann sich die Welt die Verschwendung der Rüstungsausgaben nicht mehr leisten.
Abrüstung gehört auf die internationale Agenda. Der Kongress wirbt daher für eine Friedensagenda und einen friedlichen wie auch sinnhaften Umgang mit den begrenzten Ressourcen unseres Planeten.
Im Mittelpunkt des Kongresses werden Fragen der globalen Transformation stehen. Wie kann die Welt zu einer Atmosphäre grundlegend erforderlicher Veränderungen, zu einer Atmosphäre des Dialogs, der Verhandlungen, der Kooperation und der gemeinsamen Sicherheit gelangen?
Transformation zum Frieden ist die zentrale Herausforderung des 21. Jahrhunderts. Daher ist der Kongress als internationaler Friedenskongress mit einem klaren „Nein“ zu Krieg und Konfrontation konzipiert. Partizipation der Menschen auf allen Ebenen und eine neue internationale Demokratie sind untrennbar mit dem Friedensprozess verbunden.
Menschen führen Krieg – oft werden sie dabei durch Lügen und Feindbilder verleitet. Doch gleichzeitig engagieren sich Menschen auf der ganzen Welt für den Frieden – immer wieder auch mit großen Aktionen. Ein großes Ziel des Kongresses ist es, mit Argumenten, Fakten und einem vereinbarten „Plan of Action for Peace“ zur internationalen Friedensbewegung beizutragen. Vor allem soll es darum gehen, Fakten, Argumente und deren wissenschaftliche Untermauerung mit Transformations- und Veränderungsstrategien zusammenbringen. Gleichzeitig soll der Kongress dazu ermuntern, mehr Aktionen für den Frieden zu initiieren.
Gegen die Welt des Krieges stellen die Organisatoren eine Welt des Friedens.Prominente Beteiligung an dem Kongress
Auf dem Kongress werden verschiedene prominente Gäste auftreten. So sind unter den Rednerinnen und Rednern im Plenum, in Foren und unterschiedlichen Arbeitsgruppen u.a. die Friedensnobelpreisträger Tawakkol Karman aus dem Jemen sowie Michael Gorbatschow (per Video), der Begründer des „Right Livelihood Awards“ (auch „alternativer Nobelpreis“ genannt), Jakob von Uexküll, die alternativen Nobelpreisträger Vandana Shiva und Alyn Ware, prominente Ökonomen wie James Galbraith, Noam Chomsky (per Video) und Samir Amin, der Präsident der Nobelpreisträgerorganisation Pugwash, Jayantha Dhanapala, der Präsident des Club of Rome, Ernst Ulrich von Weizäcker, die Generalsekretäre von ITUC und UNI, Sharan Burrow und Philipp Jennings, der ehemalige Vorsitzende von UNESCO, Frederico de Mayor, die ehemalige Verteidigungsministerin von Ecuador und derzeitige ständige Vertreterin ihres Landes bei den Vereinten Nationen in Genf, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, der Leiter des Büros der Vereinten Nationen in Genf, Michael Møller, und der Vorsitzende von ver.di, Frank Bsirske.
Eröffnet wird der Kongress durch den Präsidenten der Technischen Universität Berlin, Christian Thomsen, und dem Senator für Finanzen, Matthias Kollatz, für die Stadt Berlin.Programm
Das vorläufige, bereits sehr umfassende Programm ist unter ipb2016.berlin/program/program-structure/ zu finden.
Aktuelle Informationen sind auch auf Facebook: www.facebook.com/IPBcongress2016
Ein vielfältiges Programm an Kultur- und Informationsveranstaltungen, Side-Events und Ausstellungen begleitet den Kongress. Erweitert wird dieses zudem um ein eigenständiges „Youth Gathering“.
Weitere und aktuelle Informationen finden Sie unter: www.ipb2016.berlin oder erhalten Sie von Reiner Braun,
Co-Präsident des IPB (*protected email* or phone: +49 1722317475).
Pressemitteilung herunterladen: Presseankündigung April 2016 zum IPB Weltkongress Berlin.pdf
The campaign in Colorado to create the nation’s first state-based “single payer” health insurance system, providing universal coverage and replacing insurance premiums with higher taxes, has barely begun.
But business interests in Colorado are not taking anything for granted, and many of the largest lobbying groups around the country and in the state are raising funds to defeat Amendment 69, the single-payer ballot question going before voters this November.
The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, a national trade group, is mobilizing its member companies to defeat single payer in Colorado. “The council urges Coloradans to protect employer-provided insurance and oppose Proposition 69,” the CIAB warns. The group dispatched Steptoe & Johnson, a lobbying firm it retains, to analyze the bill.
Lobby groups that represent major for-profit health care interests in Colorado, including hospitals and insurance brokers, are similarly mobilizing against Amendment 69. The Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry — a trade group led in part by HCA HealthOne, a subsidiary of HCA, one of the largest private hospital chains in the country — is soliciting funds to defeat single payer. The business coalition to defeat the measure also includes the state’s largest association of health insurance brokers.
The proposal calls for the Colorado legislature to pass new laws raising $25 billion a year from a mix of employer payroll taxes, a 3 percent tax on employee gross pay, and a new tax on self-employed net income. The money would be used for a new health care system that would cover all premiums and out-of-pocket costs for health and dental care. The state would also be charged with negotiating with providers and for better drug prices. Supporters of the plan say the system would save $4.5 billion a year.
I asked Sean Duffy, a spokesperson for “Coloradans for Coloradans,” an ad-hoc coalition against the single-payer ballot measure, how the state should address high health care costs and those struggling to afford health insurance premiums.
“We are focused on sharing with Coloradans the numerous questions, ambiguities, and concerns with Amendment 69,” said Duffy. He noted that “motivations for universal coverage are shared by many in Colorado” but that making Colorado a “one-state experiment, and the cost of doubling our state budget, potentially diminishing the accessibility and quality of care and creating an unaccountable, massive bureaucracy is just not a good idea for Colorado.”
The U.S. is the only wealthy nation without a publicly financed universal health care system — and spends far more than every other industrialized nation on health care costs. America also has one of the highest infant mortality rates of countries ranked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Patients using Medicare, the single-payer program for the elderly set up by President Lyndon Johnson, consistently tell pollsters that they prefer Medicare over private insurance. But expanding the system has proven difficult over industry opposition. Profit-driven health care industries and professional medical societies have blocked cost-saving reforms for decades, and in recent years spent tens of millions of dollars to shape the outcome of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The health insurance industry in particular lobbied aggressively to shape public opinion and block proposals to expand single payer over the last decade.
As other states consider proposals to lower costs and expand coverage, health care interests keen to protect some of the largest profit margins in the economy will be sure to mobilize quickly to snuff them out.
The post Health Care Industry Moves Swiftly to Stop Colorado’s “Single Payer” Ballot Measure appeared first on The Intercept.
Para Entender a Verdade no Brasil, Veja Quem Está Sendo Implantado na Presidência — e na Chefia das Finanças
(This is a Portuguese translation of the article. For the original version in English, click here.)
Não é fácil, para quem olha de fora, compreender todas as argumentações em jogo a respeito da crise política no Brasil e os esforços para depor sua presidente, Dilma Roussef, que venceu as eleições há apenas 18 meses, com 54 milhões de votos. A melhor maneira de entender a verdadeira natureza antidemocrática do que está acontecendo, no entanto, é olhar para a pessoa que os oligarcas brasileiros e suas organizações de mídia tentam empossar como Presidente: o Vice-Presidente Michel Temer, implicado em corrupção, extremamente impopular e servo fiel dos plutocratas. Dessa forma, torna-se claro o que realmente está acontecendo e porque o mundo deveria estar profundamente angustiado.
O chefe do New York Times no Brasil, Simon Romero, entrevistou Temer esta semana, e assim começa seu excelente artigo:
RIO DE JANEIRO – Uma pesquisa recente mostrou que apenas 2% dos brasileiros votariam nele. Ele está sob suspeita por conta de um depoimento que ligou seu nome a um enorme escândalo de propina. E uma alta corte da justiça decidiu que o Congresso deve considerar a abertura de impeachment contra ele.
O Vice-Presidente do Brasil Michel Temer está se preparando para assumir o Brasil no próximo mês se o Senado decidir depor a Presidente Dilma Roussef em julgamento.
Como alguém, em pleno domínio da razão, pode acreditar que o sentimento anti-corrupção é o que move os esforços da elite para depor Dilma, quando estão empossando alguém com acusações de corrupção muito mais sérias que as da Presidente? É uma farsa evidente. Mas há algo ainda pior.
O Sr. Temer defendeu a si mesmo e seus principais aliados que estão sob uma chuva de acusações no esquema. Ele expressou apoio a Eduardo Cunha, o infame líder da Câmara que está chefiando os esforços do impeachment no Congresso, dizendo que não pediria a renúncia a Cunha. O Sr. Cunha será o próximo na linha de sucessão presidencial se Temer sair.
Isso demonstra, por si só, a farsa que está ocorrendo aqui. Como disse meu parceiro, David Miranda, hoje pela manhã em seu editorial no Guardian: “Está claro que a corrupção não é a causa dos esforços para depor a duas vezes eleita presidente; na verdade, a corrupção é um mero pretexto”. Em resposta, as elites da mídia no Brasil vão argumentar (como fez Temer) que, uma vez que Dilma seja impedida, os outros políticos corruptos serão certamente responsabilizados, mas eles sabem que isso não é verdade: e o alarmante apoio de Temer a Cunha deixa isso claro.
De fato, reportagens indicam que Temer planeja nomear, como Advogado Geral da União – cargo chave do Governo na investigação da corrupção – um político especificamente indicado por Cunha para o cargo. Como explica o editorial de Miranda, “o verdadeiro plano por trás do impeachment de Dilma é terminar com as investigações em andamento, e portanto, proteger a corrupção, não puni-la.”
Há, no entanto, mais um motivo vital na base de tudo isso. Veja quem vai herdar o controle da economia e das finanças do Brasil uma vez que a eleição de Dilma seja anulada. Duas semanas atrás, a agência Reuters reportou que a primeira escolha de Temer para chefiar o Banco Central é o presidente do Goldman Sachs no Brasil, Paulo Leme. Hoje a Reuters reportou que “Murilo Portugal, o chefe do mais poderoso lobby da indústria bancária do Brasil” – e um antigo executivo do FMI, “surgiu como um forte candidato a assumir o Ministério da Fazenda se Temer tomar o poder.” Temer também disse que vai implementar a austeridade para a população do Brasil que vem sofrendo: ele “pretende reduzir o tamanho do governo” e “cortas os gastos.”
Em uma teleconferência de resultados na sexta-feira com executivos do JP Morgan, o CEO do Banco Latinoamericano de Comércio Exterior SA, Rubens Amaral, explicitamente descreveu o impeachment de Dilma como “um primeiro passo para a normalização do Brasil” e disse que se o novo governo Temer implementar as “reformas estruturais” que a comunidade financeira deseja, então “definitivamente haverá oportunidades.” As notícias sobre os preferidos de Temer para as indicações aos cargos sugerem fortemente que o Sr. Amaral – e seus colegas plutocratas – ficarão satisfeitos.
Enquanto isso, as organizações de mídia dominantes como Globo, Abril (Veja), Estadão – profundamente discutidas no editorial de Miranda – estão virtualmente unidas no apoio ao impeachment – como em No Dissent Allowed – e têm incitado os protestos de rua desde o início. O que isso revela? Os Repórteres sem Fronteiras publicaram ontem seu Ranking de Liberdade de Imprensa de 2016, e o Brasil aparece em 103° lugar, por conta da violência contra jornalistas, mas, também, por causa deste importante fato: “A propriedade dos meios de comunicação continua muito concentrada, especialmente nas mãos de grandes famílias ligadas à indústria que são, muitas vezes, próximas da classe política”. Não é evidente o que está acontecendo aqui?
Então, em resumo: as elites financeira e midiática do Brasil fingem que a corrupção é a razão para remover a presidente eleita duas vezes, enquanto conspiram para instalar e empoderar as figuras políticas mais corruptas do país. Os oligarcas brasileiros terão êxito em tirar do poder um governo de esquerda moderada que ganhou quatro eleições consecutivas, supostamente representando os pobres do país, e estão literalmente entregando o controle da economia brasileira (a sétima maior do mundo) ao Goldman Sachs e os lobistas da indústria bancária.
A fraude que está sendo levada a cabo aqui é tão barulhenta quanto devastadora. Mas é o mesmo padrão que vem sendo repetidamente observado ao redor do mundo, particularmente na América Latina, quando uma pequena elite trava uma guerra , em seu próprio interesse e proteção, contra os fundamentos da democracia. O Brasil, quinto país mais populoso do planeta, tem sido um exemplo inspirador de como uma jovem democracia pode amadurecer e prosperar. Mas agora, essas instituições e princípios democráticos estão sendo agredidas pelas mesmas facções financeiras e midiáticas que suprimiram a democracia e impuseram a tirania neste país por décadas.
Tradução por Erick Dau
(Para ler a versão desse artigo em Português, clique aqui.)
It’s not easy for outsiders to sort through all the competing claims about Brazil’s political crisis and the ongoing effort to oust its president, Dilma Rousseff, who won re-election a mere 18 months ago with 54 million votes. But the most important means for understanding the truly anti-democratic nature of what’s taking place is to look at the person whom Brazilian oligarchs and their media organs are trying to install as president: the corruption-tainted, deeply unpopular, oligarch-serving Vice President Michel Temer (above). Doing so shines a bright light on what’s really going on, and why the world should be deeply disturbed.
The New York Times‘ Brazil bureau chief Simon Romero interviewed Temer this week, and this is how his excellent article begins:
RIO DE JANEIRO — One recent poll found that only 2 percent of Brazilians would vote for him. He is under scrutiny over testimony linking him to a colossal graft scandal. And a high court justice ruled that Congress should consider impeachment proceedings against him.
Michel Temer, Brazil’s vice president, is preparing to take the helm of Brazil next month if the Senate decides to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial.
How can anyone rational believe that anti-corruption anger is driving the elite effort to remove Dilma when they are now installing someone as president who is accused of corruption far more serious than she is? It’s an obvious farce. But there’s something even worse.got caught last year squirrelling away millions of dollars in bribes in Swiss Bank accounts, after having lied to Congress when falsely denying that he had any accounts in foreign banks. When Romero asked Temer about his posture toward Cunha once he takes power, this is how Temer responded:
Mr. Temer defended himself and top allies who are under a cloud of accusations in the scheme. He expressed support for Eduardo Cunha, the scandal-plagued speaker of the lower house who is leading the impeachment effort in Congress, saying he would not ask Mr. Cunha to resign. Mr. Cunha will be the next in line for the presidency if Mr. Temer takes over.
By itself, this demonstrates the massive scam taking place here. As my partner, David Miranda, wrote this morning in his Guardian op-ed: “It has now become clear that corruption is not the cause of the effort to oust Brazil’s twice-elected president; rather, corruption is merely the pretext.” In response, Brazil’s media elites will claim (as Temer did) that once Dilma is impeached, then the other corrupt politicians will most certainly be held accountable, but they know this is false, and Temer’s shocking support for Cunha makes that clear. Indeed, press reports show that Temer is planning to install as attorney general – the key government contact for the corruption investigation – a politician specifically urged for that position by Cunha. As Miranda’s op-ed explains, “the real plan behind Rousseff’s impeachment is to put an end to the ongoing investigation, thus protecting corruption, not punishing it.”
But there’s one more vital motive driving all of this. Look at who is going to take over Brazil’s economy and finances once Dilma’s election victory is nullified. Two weeks ago, Reuters reported that Temer’s leading choice to run the central bank is the chair of Goldman Sachs in Brazil, Paulo Leme. Today, Reuters reported that “Murilo Portugal, the head of Brazil’s most powerful banking industry lobby” – and a long-time IMF official – “has emerged as a strong candidate to become finance minister if Temer takes power.” Temer also vowed that he will embrace austerity for Brazil’s already-suffering population: he “intends to downsize the government” and “slash spending.”
In an earning calls last Friday with JP Morgan, the celebratory CEO of Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior SA, Rubens Amaral, explicitly described Dilma’s impeachment as “one of the first steps to normalization in Brazil,” and said that if Temer’s new government implements the “structural reforms” that the financial community desires, then “definitely there will be opportunities.” News of Temer’s preferred appointees strongly suggests Mr. Amaral – and his fellow plutocrats – will be pleased.
Meanwhile, the dominant Brazilian media organs of Globo, Abril (Veja), Estadão – which Miranda’s op-ed discusses at length – are virtually unified in support of impeachment – as in No Dissent Allowed – and have been inciting the street protests from the start. Why is that revealing? Reporters Without Borders just yesterday released its 2016 Press Freedom Rankings, and ranked Brazil 103 in the world because of violence against journalists but also because of this key fact: “Media ownership continues to be very concentrated, especially in the hands of big industrial families that are often close to the political class.” Is it not crystal clear what’s going on here?
So to summarize: Brazilian financial and media elites are pretending that corruption is the reason for removing the twice-elected president of the country as they conspire to install and empower the country’s most corrupted political figures. Brazilian oligarchs will have succeeded in removing from power a moderately left-wing government that won four straight elections in the name of representing the country’s poor, and are literally handing control over the Brazilian economy (the world’s seventh largest) to Goldman Sachs and bank industry lobbyists.
This fraud being perpetrated here is as blatant as it is devastating. But it’s the same pattern that has been repeatedly seen around the world, particularly in Latin America, when a tiny elite wage a self-protective, self-serving war on the fundamentals of democracy. Brazil, the world’s fifth most populous country, has been an inspiring example of how a young democracy can mature and thrive. But now, those democratic institutions and principles are being fully assaulted by the very same financial and media factions that suppressed democracy and imposed tyranny in that country for decades.
The post To See the Real Story in Brazil, Look at Who is Being Installed as President — and Finance Chiefs appeared first on The Intercept.
When President Obama announced his support last week for a Federal Communications Commission plan to open the market for cable set-top boxes — a big win for consumers, but also for Google — the cable and telecommunications giants who used to have a near-stranglehold on tech policy were furious. AT&T chief lobbyist Jim Cicconi lashed out at what he called White House intervention on behalf of “the Google proposal.”
He’s hardly the first to suggest that the Obama administration has become too close to the Silicon Valley juggernaut.
Over the past seven years, Google has created a remarkable partnership with the Obama White House, providing expertise, services, advice, and personnel for vital government projects.
Precisely how much influence this buys Google isn’t always clear. But consider that over in the European Union, Google is now facing two major antitrust charges for abusing its dominance in mobile operating systems and search. By contrast, in the U.S., a strong case to sanction Google was quashed by a presidentially appointed commission.
It’s a relationship that bears watching. “Americans know surprisingly little about what Google wants and gets from our government,” said Anne Weismann, executive director of Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog organization. Seeking to change that, Weismann’s group is spearheading a data transparency project about Google’s interactions in Washington.
The Intercept teamed up with Campaign for Accountability to present two revealing data sets from that forthcoming project: one on the number of White House meetings attended by Google representatives, and the second on the revolving door between Google and the government.
As the interactive charts accompanying this article show, Google representatives attended White House meetings more than once a week, on average, from the beginning of Obama’s presidency through October 2015. Nearly 250 people have shuttled from government service to Google employment or vice versa over the course of his administration.
No other public company approaches this degree of intimacy with government. According to an analysis of White House data, the Google lobbyist with the most White House visits, Johanna Shelton, visited 128 times, far more often than lead representatives of the other top-lobbying companies — and more than twice as often, for instance, as Microsoft’s Fred Humphries or Comcast’s David Cohen. (The accompanying chart reflects 94 Shelton visits; it excludes large gatherings such as state dinners and White House tours.)
The information, Weismann said, “will help the public learn more about the company’s influence on our government, our policies, and our lives.”
Asked to respond, Google spokesperson Riva Litman referred The Intercept to a blog post written when the Wall Street Journal raised similar questions a year ago. In that post, Google said the meetings covered a host of topics, including patent reform, STEM education, internet censorship, cloud computing, trade and investment, and smart contact lenses. The company also claimed to have counted similar numbers of visits to the White House by Microsoft and Comcast — but it did not explain its methodology for parsing the data.
Google’s dramatic rise as a lobbying force has not gone unnoticed. The company paid almost no attention to the Washington influence game prior to 2007, but ramped up steeply thereafter. It spent $16.7 million in lobbying in 2015, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and has been at or near the top of public companies in lobbying expenses since 2012.
But direct expenditures on lobbying represent only one part of the larger influence-peddling game. Google’s lobbying strategy also includes throwing lavish D.C. parties; making grants to trade groups, advocacy organizations, and think tanks; offering free services and training to campaigns, congressional offices, and journalists; and using academics as validators for the company’s public policy positions. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, was an enthusiastic supporter of both of Obama’s presidential campaigns and has been a major Democratic donor.
For its part, the Obama administration — attempting to project a brand of innovative, post-partisan problem-solving of issues that have bedeviled government for decades — has welcomed and even come to depend upon its association with one of America’s largest tech companies.
Google doesn’t just lobby the White House for favors, but collaborates with officials, effectively serving as a sort of corporate extension of government operations in the digital era.
In just the past few years, Google has provided diplomatic assistance to the administration through expanding internet access in Cuba; collaborated with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to bring Google Fiber into public housing; used Google resources to monitor droughts in real time; and even captured 360-degree views of White House interiors.
But perhaps most salient here is the fact that modern life requires so much information technology support that a sprawling operation like the White House has turned to tech companies — often in the form of ex-Google employees — when faced with pressing IT needs.
Practically every part of the government makes available some form of technology, whether it’s the public-facing website for a federal agency, a digital mechanism for people to access benefits, or a new communications tool for espionage or war.
Somebody has to build and manage those projects, and Silicon Valley firms have the expertise needed to do that. White House officials have publicly asked Silicon Valley for aid in stopping terrorists from recruiting via social media, securing the internet of things, thwarting cyberattacks, modernizing the Defense Department, and generally updating all their technology. We can reasonably expect yet more things are being asked for behind closed doors.
The disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov in October 2013 is the most obvious example. Within weeks of the site going live, Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, his top deputy Nicole Wong (a former Google deputy general counsel), and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough held meetings with Google personnel.
In Time magazine, Steven Brill detailed one of those meetings, between Park and Gabriel Burt, the chief technology officer at Eric Schmidt’s Civis Analytics. Civis was already working on Obamacare as a vendor for Enroll America, a nonprofit tasked with getting people subscribed on the insurance exchanges. Civis used reams of data to target communities with high levels of uninsured Americans so Enroll America could contact them. But now the site where they were supposed to sign up wasn’t working. So the White House turned to Civis for help with that as well.
Eventually, Mikey Dickerson, a site-reliability engineer with Google who previously worked on the Obama campaign, got hired to fix the site. Burt and Dickerson worked together to “form a rescue squad” for HealthCare.gov, according to Time. And most of the recruits came from Google. Later, Dickerson led the U.S. Digital Service, a new agency whose mission was to fix other technology problems in the federal government. Ex-Google staffers were prevalent there as well. Dickerson attended nine White House meetings with Google personnel while working for the government between 2013 and 2014.
Meetings between Google and the White House, viewed in this context, sometimes function like calls to the IT Help Desk. Only instead of working for the same company, the government is supposed to be regulating Google as a private business, not continually asking it for favors.
Much of this collaboration could be considered public-minded — it’s hard to argue with the idea that the government should seek outside technical help when it requires it. And there’s no evidence of a quid pro quo. But this arrangement doesn’t have to result in outright corruption to be troubling.
The obvious question that arises is: Can government do its job with respect to regulating Google in the public interest if it owes the company such a debt of gratitude?
Google doesn’t think its activities present an antitrust problem. It doesn’t feel constrained from holding incredible amounts of data. But should Google be in a position to make that determination itself? How much influence is too much influence?
Another potential conflict arises from the enormous amount of data that Google and the government each have stored on American citizens. Google recently acknowledged having mined the data of student users of its education apps, and has been accused repeatedly of violating user privacy in other contexts. An overly close partnership risks Google putting its data in the government’s hands or gaining access to what the government has collected.
When the federal government and a private company share the same worldview, get the same insights from the same groups of people, the policy drift can occur with nobody explicitly choosing the direction. It just seems like the right thing to do.
And there is no doubt that Google’s rise in Washington has coincided with public policy that is friendlier to the company.
Most notably, Google has faced questions for years about exercising its market power to squash rivals, infringing on its users’ privacy rights, favoring its own business affiliates in search results, and using patent law to create barriers to competition. Even Republican senators like Orrin Hatch have called out Google for its practices.
In 2012, staff at the Federal Trade Commission recommended filing antitrust charges after determining that Google was engaging in anti-competitive tactics and abusing its monopoly. A staff report that was later leaked said Google’s conduct “has resulted — and will result — in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”
The Wall Street Journal noted that Google’s White House visits increased right around that time. And in 2013, the presidentially appointed commissioners of the FTC overrode their staff, voting unanimously not to file any charges.
Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said the administration “has been a huge help” to Google both by protecting it from attempts to limit its market power and by blocking privacy legislation. “Google has been able to thwart regulatory scrutiny in terms of anti-competitive practices, and has played a key role in ensuring that the United States doesn’t protect at all the privacy of its citizens and its consumers,” Chester said.
At a congressional hearing earlier this month, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, citing the possibility of consumer harm, called on the FTC to reconsider the kind of antitrust charges against Google recently filed in Europe.
But Obama has argued that European regulators are being too aggressive toward Google out of a desire to protect companies that aren’t as capable. “In defense of Google and Facebook, sometimes the European response here is more commercially driven than anything else,” he told Re/code in February. “We have owned the internet. Our companies have created it, expanded it, perfected it, in ways they can’t compete.”
The accompanying visualization documents White House meetings involving employees from Google, Eric Schmidt’s investment vehicle Tomorrow Ventures, and Civis Analytics, a company whose sole investor is Schmidt.
Between January 2009 and October 2015, Google staffers gathered at the White House on 427 separate occasions. All told, 182 White House employees and 169 Google employees attended the meetings, with participation from almost every domestic policy and national security player in the West Wing.
The frequency of the meetings has increased practically every year, from 32 in 2009 to 97 in 2014. In the first 10 months of 2015, which is as far as the study goes, there were 85 Google meetings.
The most frequent visitor is Johanna Shelton, one of Google’s top lobbyists in Washington — officially its director of public policy. Shelton attended meetings at the White House on 94 different occasions.
The most Google-visited White House official is Todd Park, the U.S. chief technology officer from 2012 to 2014. In that short period, Park met with Google officials at the White House 22 times. Park’s replacement, current Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, was a former Google vice president. She had five White House meetings as a Google representative, then 10 Google meetings as a White House representative.
The comprehensiveness of Google’s outreach jumps out from the data. You would expect some contact between Google and top technology policymakers like Park, Smith, Aneesh Chopra, Susan Crawford, and Vivek Kundra. But Google’s presence as an economic force and a communications tool gives the company an interest in virtually every aspect of public policy.
Since 2009, Google has met with all three of Obama’s directors of the National Economic Council (Larry Summers, Gene Sperling, and Jeffrey Zients), one chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (Austan Goolsbee), and another official who would become CEA chair (Jason Furman, who was then deputy director of the NEC).
Company employees met with four Obama chiefs of staff (Rahm Emanuel, William Daley, Jack Lew, and Denis McDonough). Google also huddled with national security personnel like Michael McFaul (then at the NSC, later U.S. ambassador to Russia) and Tony Blinken (deputy national security adviser). Employees met with Heather Zichal, deputy assistant for energy and climate change, and White House science adviser John Holdren. They met with close counselors to the president like Pete Rouse, Valerie Jarrett, John Podesta, and Dan Pfeiffer. They met with then-communications director Jennifer Palmieri. And they met with the president of the United States 21 separate times — five times in the first term and 16 times in the first two-plus years of the second term. Even Jill Biden and Michelle Obama have taken meetings with Google employees.
The visitor logs only show the individuals in attendance at the meetings, not what the meetings were about. But it’s possible to make some educated guesses. The presence of Johanna Shelton at 94 meetings suggests that a significant chunk were devoted to lobbying on various Google priorities. But there are hundreds of other meetings in the logs that point to more of a consulting role.
The “revolving door” data, displayed in the above visualization, reveals 55 cases of individuals moving from positions at Google into the federal government, and 197 individuals moving from positions inside the government to jobs at Google. The data includes positions at firms that Eric Schmidt owns or controls — Civis Analytics, The Groundwork, and Tomorrow Ventures — along with two law firms and three lobbying firms that have represented Google. On the government side, staffers at Obama for America and a handful of other political campaigns were included.
The data includes individuals from Google appointed to government boards while maintaining their positions at the tech firm. Google board member John Doerr was appointed to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in February 2011. Eric Schmidt has been part of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology since 2009. He was also more recently appointed to lead the Defense Innovation Advisory Board at the Pentagon, which occurred outside the time frame of the data.
But the bulk of the moves involved job changes. Google alums work in the departments of State, Defense, Commerce, Education, Justice, and Veterans Affairs. One works at the Federal Reserve, another at the U.S. Agency for International Development. The highest number — 29 — moved from Google into the White House. The State Department had the next highest with just five. The moves from Google to government got more frequent in the later Obama years; 11 occurred in 2014 and 16 in 2015, after only 18 in the entire first term.
On the other side, former staffers from 36 different areas across the government have found a willing employer at Google since 2009. Johanna Shelton was a senior counsel on the House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee. Joshua Wright, a former commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, rotated into a top position at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, one of the law firms that has represented Google.
Nineteen researchers and scientists at NASA, senior analysts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an “information assurance expert” at the National Security Agency, and 32 separate officials with the Obama for America campaign found their way to Google.
Former employees of 12 of the 15 cabinet agencies (Energy, Justice, Defense, Education, State, Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, HHS, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs) now work at the tech company or its affiliates, led by 16 former Pentagon staffers. The exodus ramped up in the second term, hitting 41 in 2014, compared to just six in 2009.
Seven individuals made a full revolution through the revolving door, either going from Google to government and back again, or from government to Google and back again. This includes Julia Duncan, who left her job as White House personnel officer to go work in Google’s finance department in 2013, and a year later moved to the State Department’s Office of Food Security.
Nathan Parker, a staff software engineer at Google, did a stint in the U.S. Digital Service for four months before returning to Google HQ in Mountain View. Austin Lau was a planner and tech lead for Google India, then became a foreign service officer at the State Department before returning to Google to work on social impact partnerships.
A few individuals are listed twice: The aforementioned Mikey Dickerson moved from Google to the Obama campaign, back to Google, and then to the U.S. Digital Service, for example.
The government and Google shared engineers, lawyers, scientists, communications specialists, executives, and even board members. Google has achieved a kind of vertical integration with the government: a true public-private partnership.
Ex-Google staffers may not be directly involved in setting policy that affects Google, but they have access to decision-makers. They maintain ties to their former bosses. And Google employees with government experience have a network of friends and colleagues at federal agencies, House and Senate offices, the West Wing, and practically everywhere else.
The post Google’s Remarkably Close Relationship With the Obama White House, in Two Charts appeared first on The Intercept.
AS PRESIDENT OBAMA meets with Gulf State leaders in Riyadh, Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is questioning the Saudi commitment to fighting Al Qaeda and ISIS, warning that the war in Yemen is distracting Saudi Arabia from operations against extremists.
The White House has defended Saudi Arabia as an “effective national security partner.” Responding to a question about Yemen on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the “United States and Saudi Arabia have worked together to apply pressure to Al Qaeda plotters in Yemen.”
But at a Brookings Institution discussion about the U.S.-Saudi relationship on Thursday, Murphy questioned the kingdom’s commitment to combating Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS, in light of the war in Yemen.
“The result of this conflict…has been the creation of enormous space for the growth of AQAP… which grows uncontested in Yemen today, because of the refusal of the coalition to go after [them],” he said.
Murphy introduced a bill last week, along with Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would block arms transfers to Saudi Arabia unless the State Department certifies that the kingdom is “taking all necessary measures” to target AQAP and ISIS, and is minimizing civilian casualties.
Saudi Arabia launched its U.S.-backed air campaign in Yemen last March, after Houthi rebels threatened the rule of the Saudi-backed president. Throughout the campaign, the Saudi Air Force has largely refrained from engaging AQAP, who are also fighting the Houthis.
AQAP is an offshoot of Al Qaeda that has attempted multiple attacks on American soil, including by the Christmas Day “underwear bomber.” The United States has been using drones to hunt AQAP members since 2002, and has controversially killed several U.S. citizens in the process. Last month, according to a Pentagon press release, a U.S. airstrike killed “dozens” of “fighters” in AQAP territory.
As Saudi Arabia ignores the rise of Al Qaeda’s expansion, AQAP has grown into a powerhouse in Yemen – controlling extensive territory in the country’s south, including the rich port city of Mukalla. AQAP makes between $2 to $5 million a day from duties on imported goods, according to an investigation by Reuters, and they made $100 million from seizing the central banks with “ISIS-like techniques.”
“We have never seen AQAP have as much territory and income as they do now, and there is not a lot of conversation about why we allow that to persist,” Murphy said.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign has also diverted resources away from efforts against ISIS.
The New York Times noted last fall that most Saudi aircraft had shifted from the air war in Syria — where they were ostensibly bombing ISIS — to combat in Yemen. “They’ve all been busy doing other things, Yemen being the primary draw,” Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Southwest Asia, told the paper.
The Obama administration has steadily provided arms and support to the Saudi-led coalition as it waged war in Yemen, even as thousands of civilians have perished in the fighting, and the country’s infrastructure and architectural history has been devastated.
Murphy said he worries that the U.S. support may be in exchange for Saudi acquiescence to the Iranian nuclear deal.
He also said that U.S. support for the war has inflamed lasting hostility towards the U.S. among the Yemeni people.
“Our participation in the war is only silent in the United States Congress and in Washington D.C.,” he said. “In the region, it’s not silent at all. Yemenis will tell you that this isn’t a Saudi bombing campaign, this is a U.S.-Saudi bombing campaign.”
A poll released earlier this month showed that 82 percent of Yemenis between the ages of 18 and 24 now view America as an enemy.
- The NSA’s New Partner in Spying: Saudi Arabia’s Brutal State Police
- One Map That Explains the Dangerous Saudi-Iranian Conflict
- The Agony of Saada: U.S. and Saudi Bombs Target Yemen’s Ancient Heritage
- Inside Saudi Arabia’s Campaign to Charm American Policymakers and Journalists
- Obama Went From Condemning Saudis for Abuses to Arming Them to the Teeth
The post Senator Says Bombing Yemen Is Distracting Saudis From Fighting Terror appeared first on The Intercept.
When the FBI hacked over 1,000 computers to ensnare consumers of child pornography early last year, its actions were illegal, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
But the decision was based on a violation of jurisdictional rules, not constitutional ones — and precisely the jurisdictional rules the government hopes the Supreme Court will change within the next few weeks.
In this case, a magistrate judge approved a warrant allowing the FBI to deploy malware to infect every visitor to a child-porn website called Playpen. Because users of the site were using Tor, a popular anonymity tool, the FBI couldn’t figure out who they were or where they were coming from — until the malware revealed their IP addresses.
Judge William Young of the U.S. District Court in Boston ruled that the FBI’s search of Playpen visitor Alex Levin’s computer — located in Massachusetts — was unlawful because the magistrate judge who issued the warrant was in Virginia. According to Rule 41 of federal criminal procedure, magistrate judges can’t authorize a warrant outside their geographical jurisdiction.
The Department of Justice is seeking to change that rule, but it hasn’t happened yet. “The government knew they had problems with Rule 41, and they didn’t wait for those changes to be approved. They went ahead with a mass hack,” Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Intercept.
Government lawyers two years ago began the multi-stage process of changing the rule to allow judges to grant warrants for remote searches of computers located outside their district or when the location is unknown. Despite angry protests from civil liberties advocates and technologists including the ACLU and Google, who described it as a power grab by the FBI to be able to conduct mass hacks with impunity, the rule change was approved by several judiciary panels, and is widely expected to be approved by the Supreme Court any day now. Congress has six months to modify or reject it, or else it will take effect.
“This is a serious, complicated issue that Congress needs to consider quickly, to ensure our laws are keeping up with technology,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement emailed to The Intercept. “The solution is not to allow an obscure bureaucratic process to vastly expand the government’s surveillance powers. This requires serious public debate, to guarantee there are strong safeguards and oversight when it comes to government hacking.”
Just this week, members of Congress first started asking substantive questions of the FBI about “lawful hacking” and the dynamics of getting around encryption by exploiting devices rather than trying to ban unbreakable encryption altogether.
The government’s takeover of the child-porn site also risks becoming a greater source of controversy. Soghoian said the government’s decision to keeping the site running, rather than shut it down immediately, allowed hundreds of thousand of people to share and distribute new hurtful images while the FBI only caught a small percentage with its malware.
In his ruling, Judge Young compared the practice to the FBI selling drugs — not just pretending to — in order to catch drug dealers. “The judge clearly is not happy about the government operating a child-porn site,” said Soghoian.
The post FBI Mass Child-Porn Hack Ruled Illegal on a Technicality appeared first on The Intercept.