Posts Tagged ‘Bush’
Germany and Brazil are drafting a U.N. General Assembly resolution that would demand an end to excessive spying and invasion of privacy after a former U.S. intelligence contractor revealed massive international surveillance programs, U.N. diplomats said on Friday.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both condemned the widespread snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency.
“This resolution will probably have enormous support in the GA (General Assembly), since no one likes the NSA spying on them,” a Western U.N. diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, unlike resolutions of the 15-nation Security Council. But assembly resolutions that enjoy broad international support can carry significant moral and political weight.
Merkel demanded on Thursday that Washington strike a “no-spying” agreement with Berlin and Paris by the end of the year, adding she wanted action from President Barack Obama, not just apologetic words.
Last month, Rousseff used her position as the opening speaker at the General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders to yaccuse the United States of violating human rights and international law through espionage that included spying on her email.
Rousseff also expressed her displeasure by calling off a high-profile state visit to the United States scheduled for this month over reports that the NSA had been spying on Brazil.
The arrogant Ugly American never really left the White House. The military-industrial complex achieved all its Cold War goals early on. Almost every president after Eisenhower was able to try his hand at a large or small war, keeping death and destruction hardware up-to-date. As often as our government lectured about peace, taxpayers ponied up for undeclared and unfunded wars, have continued to pick up the tab for 750+ military bases around the world. We are more of a danger to peace than any imperial force before us. We make the British Empire look like a traveling sewing circle.
From Congress to local polling places, there is damned little challenge to any executive mission termed necessary to national security. The War Department became the Department of Defense. God joined our pledge to the flag and our currency – and there must be a joke somewhere in that one. The sum of the four most recent presidential terms is complete agreement on our natural right to spy on everyone from laborers to prime ministers, home and away. The only difference being which mealy-mouthed interpretation of the Constitution is relied on.
DEA agents – or AT&T employees?
For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.
The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.
The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.
The project comes to light at a time of vigorous public debate over the proper limits on government surveillance and on the relationship between government agencies and communications companies. It offers the most significant look to date at the use of such large-scale data for law enforcement, rather than for national security.
The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The N.S.A. stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls, for five years.
Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day, the slides say; technical specialists say a single call may generate more than one record. Unlike the N.S.A. data, the Hemisphere data includes information on the locations of callers.
The slides were given to The New York Times by Drew Hendricks, a peace activist in Port Hadlock, Wash. He said he had received the PowerPoint presentation, which is unclassified but marked “Law enforcement sensitive,” in response to a series of public information requests to West Coast police agencies.
The program was started in 2007, according to the slides, and has been carried out in great secrecy.
“All requestors are instructed to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document,” one slide says. A search of the Nexis database found no reference to the program in news reports or Congressional hearings.
The Obama administration acknowledged the extraordinary scale of the Hemisphere database and the unusual embedding of AT&T employees in government drug units in three states.
But they said the project, which has proved especially useful in finding criminals who discard cellphones frequently to thwart government tracking, employed routine investigative procedures used in criminal cases for decades and posed no novel privacy issues.
Crucially, they said, the phone data is stored by AT&T, and not by the government as in the N.S.A. program. It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called “administrative subpoenas,” those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.
The government will offer up blather about success at shutting down drug dealers. Worthy of one more ironic slow clap. Success arrived at by compromising the privacy of the citizens of a supposedly free country is crap. Government self-praise floating atop a cesspool of corrupt practices is just one more signal of imperial power clasped to the bosom of power-hungry politicians.
Relying on one of our royal corporations to store and dole out information on every citizen smacks of one more sci-fi prediction come true. Corporate networks functioning as the best ally of a potentially fascist state ain’t exactly something worth bragging about. Even though that will be the response from hacks in both parties now that Drew Hendricks has turned up one more Big Brother watchdog in our lives.
The mother of Bradley Manning, the US army private who is this week expected to be handed a long jail sentence for his role in the WikiLeaks dump of US state secrets, has said she believes she may never see him again.
Speaking before Wednesday’s sentencing of the 25-year-old who was found guilty of espionage, theft and computer fraud, Susan Manning urged her son to “never give up hope“.
Susan Manning, who lives in Pembrokeshire in Wales, has health problems and has not seen her son since 2011. In a rare statement in the Mail on Sunday, she said: “I know I may never see you again but I know you will be free one day. I pray it is soon. I love you Bradley and I always will…”
Susan Manning reportedly could not bring herself to watch TV or listen to the radio to hear last week’s verdict but waited for her sister, Sharon Staples, to tell her by phone.
Staples told the paper the family is now “praying for leniency” and described her sister’s shock at seeing Manning on her last visit to see him locked up in the US marine base in Quantico in February 2011.
“He was sitting on the other side of a glass partition and when I walked in I heard the sound of the chains round his hands and feet before I saw him,” Staples said. “Most of the time they sat in silence but held each others’ gaze. She didn’t get to hug him but was able to tell him she loved him.”
Afterwards, according to Staples, she said: “You wouldn’t treat a bloody animal like they’re treating Bradley.”
Like in the Land of Liberty and Justice. Well, in our prisons, anyway.
We live in a nation that offers leniency and pardons to economic gangsters who steal billions, politicians responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands. Mail me a penny postcard when we send George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to spend the rest of their lives in a prison in Iraq.
Dutch court blocks extradition of terror suspect to the United States – concern over torture and civil liberties
A Dutch court has blocked the extradition of a terrorism suspect to the United States amid concern about American collusion in his torture.
The 26-year-old man, known only as Sabir K, is accused of taking part in attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.
He says he was tortured in Pakistan after his arrest there in 2010, and that the Americans knew about it…
The suspect, who is a Dutch citizen of Pakistani origin, was returned to the Netherlands after his arrest and immediately taken into custody.
The appeals court in The Hague said he could not be extradited to the US “because too much is unclear regarding the role of the American authorities in Sabir’s torture“…
The BBC’s Hague Correspondent Anna Holligan says the judgement is significant as it appears to acknowledge that the US may have been aware of torture techniques used against suspects overseas – something Washington has always refused to comment on.
Chickens coming home to roost.
No doubt our government will follow standard operating procedure [Imperial version, latest edition] and bluster, try to bully the Netherlands government into making illegal procedures legal. After all, it works well here at home.
The ghost in charge of our privacy
What is the difference between secret law and no law at all? For American citizens contemplating the amorphous powers of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the shrouded body of law upon which its secret decisions are based, the distinction borders on trivial. Recent investigative reports suggest that both the court and the law it administers (and helped to create) exist largely outside the boundaries of established jurisprudence.
Because of the release of documents by former National Security Agency consultant Edward Snowden and subsequent reporting by the news media, the dangers of this un-American exceptionalism are becoming known. The 11-member surveillance court operates in rotating shifts; most of the orders authorizing government surveillance have been signed by a single judge—whichever one is on duty at the moment. Each judge was appointed, without review, by a single man, Chief Justice John Roberts. Although a court of review can be empaneled to hear appeals, in effect, a lone judge, appointed by a lone judge, is the only barrier between the government’s demand for intelligence and a citizen’s constitutional right to privacy…
A few members of Congress are calling for balance and oversight. A possible start; but, more is needed:
First is the court’s lack of an adversarial forum. The government presents its case to a judge, and the judge issues a ruling. No one represents the interests of those being monitored. One idea is to establish a unit in the Justice Department to serve as an advocate for privacy. When justified, the office would challenge the legal basis of surveillance requests. It could even challenge the government’s facts. The presentation of an alternative view might arrest the court’s drift toward national security myopia.
Second is the enormous power invested in the Chief Justice. No single person should appoint all members of the surveillance court without oversight. Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee has proposed a system in which the Chief Justice would name 3 of the 11 judges, and each of the four congressional leaders would make two appointments each.
One way or another, Congress should reform the court to more convincingly emulate the character of American justice. The U.S. government is an occasionally maddening system of checks and balances, yet the surveillance court stands out as uniquely shielded from both.
That was the intent of two conservative presidents. The latest better-versed in coming up with “legalness” to mask an anti-democratic process, an unconstitutional transformation of transparency in government.
When contemplating the euphemisms that have slipped into the lexicon since 9/11, the adjective Orwellian is difficult to avoid. But while such terms as extraordinary rendition, targeted killing and enhanced interrogation are universally known, and their true meanings – kidnap, assassination, torture – widely understood, the disposition matrix has not yet gained such traction.
Since the Obama administration largely shut down the CIA’s rendition programme, choosing instead to dispose of its enemies in drone attacks, those individuals who are being nominated for killing have been discussed at a weekly counter-terrorism meeting at the White House situation room that has become known as Terror Tuesday. Barack Obama, in the chair and wishing to be seen as a restraining influence, agrees the final schedule of names. Once details of these meetings began to emerge it was not long before the media began talking of “kill lists”. More double-speak was required, it seemed, and before long the term disposition matrix was born.
In truth, the matrix is more than a mere euphemism for a kill list, or even a capture-or-kill list. It is a sophisticated grid, mounted upon a database that is said to have been more than two years in the development, containing biographies of individuals believed to pose a threat to US interests, and their known or suspected locations, as well as a range of options for their disposal.
It is a grid, however, that both blurs and expands the boundaries that human rights law and the law of war place upon acts of abduction or targeted killing. There have been claims that people’s names have been entered into it with little or no evidence. And it appears that it will be with us for many years to come…
The term entered the public domain following a briefing given to the Washington Post before last year’s presidential election. “We had a disposition problem,” one former counter-terrorism official involved in the development of the Matrix told the Post. Expanding on the nature of that problem, a second administration official added that while “we’re not going to end up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying ‘we love America’”, there needed to be a recognition that “we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us“.
Drawing upon legal advice that has remained largely secret, senior officials at the US Counter-Terrorism Center designed a grid that incorporated the existing kill lists of the CIA and the US military’s special forces, but which also offered some new rules and restraints…
Orwell once wrote about political language being “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”. As far as the White House is concerned, however, the term disposition matrix describes a continually evolving blueprint not for murder, but for a defence against a threat that continues to change shape and seek out new havens…
And while Obama says he wants to curtail the drone programme, his officials have been briefing journalists that they believe the operations are likely to continue for another decade, at least. Given al-Qaida’s resilience and ability to spread, they say, no clear end is in sight.
The article deals both with Obama’s Kill List, American governmental decisions about who lives and who dies under a Papier-mâché wrapper of legalness – and the British government’s partaking which devolves into identifying terrorists, proto-terrorists, when law gets in the way in the UK, moving them physically over to Obama’s kill list. They wash their hands of responsibility after that.
Either road, the Orwellian aspect of our government murdering people in the name of our security, killing them without a trial under either military or civilian circumstances is beyond treaties, international accord – or common decency as supposedly practiced by the American nation in time of war.
Obama’s decisions continue to stink on ice. As do the phony premises adopted by the battalions of digital storm troopers that do his bidding.