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On Killing Trayvons

By: David Swanson Monday October 20, 2014 2:15 pm

This Wednesday is a day of action that some are calling a national day of action against police brutality, with others adding “and mass incarceration,” and I’d like to add “and war” and make it global rather than national. This Tuesday, the Governor of Pennsylvania is expected to sign a bill that will silence prisoners’ speech, and people are pushing back. A movement is coalescing around reforming police procedures and taking away their military weapons. And a powerful book has just been published called Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.

Saving Trayvon Martin would have required systemic reforms or cultural reforms beyond putting cameras on police officers. This young man walking back from a store with candy was spotted by an armed man in an SUV who got out of his vehicle to pursue Trayvon despite having been told not to when he called the police. George Zimmerman was not a police officer, though he wanted to be one. He’d lost a job as a security guard for being too aggressive. He’d been arrested for battery on a police officer. He had left Manassas, Va., and its climate of hatred for Latinos in which he participated, for Florida, where he was a one-man volunteer neighborhood watch group in a gated neighborhood. He’d phoned the police on 46 previous occasions. He apparently expressed his contempt for Trayvon Martin in racist terms. When the police arrived, they let Zimmerman ride in the front seat (no handcuffs, of course) and never tested him for drugs, testing instead the dead black boy he’d murdered. When public outrage finally put Zimmerman on trial, his defense displayed a photo of a white woman living in the neighborhood who had nothing to do with the incident but who was used to represent what Zimmerman had been “defending.” He was found innocent.

Killing Trayvons is a rich anthology, including police records, trial transcripts, statements by President Obama, accounts of numerous similar cases, essays, poetry, and history and analysis of how we got here . . .  and how we might get the hell out of here.

Recently I was playing a game with my little boy that must have looked to any observer like I was secretly spying on people. I found myself thinking that it was a good thing I wasn’t black or I’d risk someone reporting me to the police, and I’d find myself struggling to explain the situation to them rather than yelling at them, and they wouldn’t listen. “What do I tell my son,” wrote Talib Kweli, “He’s 5 years old and he’s still thinking cops are cool / How do I break the news that when he gets some size / He’ll be perceived as a threat and see the fear in their eyes.” I remember a character of James Baldwin’s explaining to a younger brother on the streets of New York that when walking in the rich part of town you must always keep your hands in your pockets so as not to be accused of touching a white woman. But a set of rules devised by Etan Thomas in Killing Trayvons includes: “Keep your hands visible. Avoid putting them in your pockets.” Opposite advice, same injustice. I can recall how offended I was when, as a young white man, I became old enough for a strange woman in a deserted place to hurry away from me in panic. Maybe if I’d been black someone would have prepared me for that. Maybe I’d have experienced it a lot earlier. Maybe I’d have experienced it as racist. Maybe it would have been. But would I have come around to the conclusion, as I have, that there’s nothing I have a right to be indignant about, that people’s fear — wherever it comes from — is more important to reduce than other people’s annoyance?

But what about fear that leads to murder? What about white fear of black violence that leads to the killing of so many African Americans — and many of them women, suggesting that fear isn’t all there is to it? Police and security guards kill hundreds of African Americans each year, most of them unarmed. In most cases, the killers claim to have felt threatened. In most cases they escape any accountability. Clearly this is a case of fear to be doubted and treated with appropriate skepticism, fear to be understood and sympathized with where real, but fear never to be respected as reasonable or justified.

We need a combination of addressing the fear through enlightenment and impeding the violence with application of the rule of law in a manner that does not treat murdering black kids as what any reasonable person would do. We need to rein in and hold accountable individuals and institutions — groups like the NRA and ALEC that push racist policies on us. Police and neighbors should not see a black boy as an intruder in his own house when his foster parents are white. They also shouldn’t spray chemical weapons in someone’s face before asking him questions.

The editors of Killing Trayvons, Kevin Alexander Gray, Jeffrey St. Clair, and JoAnn Wypijewski put killing in context. What if Trayvon actually got into a fight with his stalker superhero? Would that have been a good reason to kill him? “It takes a jacked-up disdain for proportionality to conclude the execution is a reasonable response to a fistfight. And yet . . . high or low, power teaches such disdain every day. Lose two towers; destroy two countries. Lose three Israelis; kill a couple thousand Palestinians. Sell some dope; three strikes, you’re out. Sell a loosey; choke, you’re dead. Reach for your wallet; bang, you’re dead. Got a beef; bang, you’re dead.”

This is exactly the problem. High and low includes supreme courts that kill black men like Troy Davis, and presidents who kill dark-skinned Muslim foreigners (some of them U.S. citizens) with drones, leading Vijay Prashad to call Zimmerman a domestic drone and Cornel West to call President Obama a global Zimmerman. Two bizarre varieties of murder have been legalized at the same time in the United States. One is Stand-Your-Ground killing justified by fear and applied on a consistently racist basis. The other is drone missile killing justified by fear and applied on a consistently racist basis. Both types of murder are much more obviously murder than other instances that have not been given blanket legalization.

Stand-your-ground murders are facilitated by racism; and racist propaganda that blames the victims protects the killers after the fact. Drone murders are driven by profit, politics, power lust, and racism; and the guilt of President Obama is sheltered by the prevalence of racist hatred for him — which comes from generally the same group of people who support stand-your-ground laws. (How can Obama be guilty of any wrong in overseeing a global kill list, when racists hate him?) Millions of Americans think of themselves as above the ignorant whites who fear every black person they see, and yet have swallowed such a fear of ISIS that even giving ISIS a war it wants and benefits from seems justified. After all, ISIS is barbaric. If it were civilized, ISIS wouldn’t behead people; it would have its hostages commit suicide while handcuffed in the backseat of police cars.

 

When Solartopia Transcends King CONG (with new poster)

By: solartopia Monday October 20, 2014 10:17 am
at ecowatch.com

When Solartopia Transcends King CONG

Harvey Wasserman

See new poster at EcoWatch.com

A green-powered future is our only hope.

A planet run by King CONG—Coal, Oil, Nukes & Gas—cannot be sustained.

But to get beyond it, our Solartopian vision must embrace more than just a technological transformation.  It also demands social, political and spiritual transcendence.

From Fukushima to global warming, from fracking to the Gulf disaster(s), it’s clear the fossil/nuclear industry is hard-wired to kill us all. Its only motivating force is profit; our biological survival has no part in the equation.

Thankfully, renewable energy has achieved technological critical mass. Green power is cheaper, cleaner, safer, more reliable, more job-producing and more secure. Despite a furious fossil/nuke push-back, the multi-trillion-dollar transition to a green-powered economy is well underway. Photovoltaic cells alone will be the biggest industry in human history.

Likewise, our food supply cannot be sustained with chemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, monoculture, industrial meat and genetic modification. The switch to organic, sustainable agriculture is essential to our survival

But this vital transformation in food and energy will not happen in a vacuum. We can prove the economic, ecological and public health rationale for a Solartopian transition.

But we can’t win without a cultural and political transformation.

That starts with the empowerment of women. Nature-based societies are matriarchal. And only when women are guaranteed equal education, pay and control of their reproductive rights will the human population come into balance with the planet’s ability to support us.

We must also cure the corporate virus that’s killing us all. Our economic and political system is being devoured by a Frankenstein monster whose only imperative is to make money. It claims human rights but has no human or ecological responsibilities. Until the engines of our economy are made accountable to us and the planet, we have no chance of survival.

The corporate monster’s primary assault mechanism is war, the continual slaughter of humans and the Earth. War’s only predictable long-term outcome is massive corporate profit and a destroyed planet. It is the ultimate divide-and-conquer strategy of a terminal cancer.

Sustaining our life also means all humans must be fed (which can be done globally at a fraction the cost of war), housed, clothed, educated and healthy. Without social justice, Solartopia is a meaningless dream.

And there’s only one way to get there—with true democracy, which cannot be had while corporations own and operate our government. Big money must be banned from our elections, which can only happen with universal voter registration and hand-counted paper ballots.

We also need a neutral internet, free of corporate control, a global nervous system by which our evolving consciousness can freely communicate.

As a species we can count great strides in cultural awareness and social ecology. But in the material world we run a dead heat with mutant fossil/nuke technologies and the vampire corporations now draining the life out of us and our planet.

In the long run, our human survival instinct must transcend the corporate profit motive.

There are those who say it’s hopeless, and that the battle is already lost.

But for the rest of us, for our kids and grandkids, not to mention our own good times, let’s just say we’ll see you in Solartopia …

Was the story about Mike Brown’s blood in Darren Wilson’s vehicle selectively leaked

By: Masoninblue Monday October 20, 2014 10:04 am

Cross posted from the Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Monday, October 20, 2014

Good morning:

Questions surfaced yesterday regarding the sources of the New York Times article on Saturday that has been used to portray Mike Brown as the aggressor in his encounter with Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department. I wrote about the article, Michael Brown’s blood found on officer’s gun, uniform and interior panel of driver’s door.

I suspect the tip about Mike Brown’s blood may be true, however, I think it is a good example of selective leaking motivated by a desire to portray Mike Brown as the aggressor and discredit Dorian Johnson’s statement about the shooting. Johnson was with Brown when the encounter with the officer occurred. The sources want people to believe that Mike Brown was going for the officer’s gun.

As I pointed out yesterday, however, even if this information is true, it is consistent with Dorian Johnson’s statement that Wilson grabbed Mike Brown’s arm through the open window, pulled him to pin him against the door, drew his gun and shot him in the arm during the ensuing struggle.

Not only is the forensic evidence consistent with Dorian Johnson’s statement, it does not address the fundamental issue in the case; namely, did Darren Wilson shoot and kill Mike Brown after he stopped fleeing, turned around and raised his hands in the universally understood gesture of surrender?

Nevertheless, that did not stop the right-wing-message-machine from claiming that the forensic evidence proves Mike Brown was the aggressor and exculpates Darren Wilson.

The sources of information referenced in the article are not identified, except for this statement in the first paragraph, “according to government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter.”

The second paragraph refers to “forensic tests conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

The eighth paragraph states that, “the account of Officer Wilson’s version of events did not come from the Ferguson Police Department or from officials whose activities are being investigated as part of the civil rights inquiry.”

Sometimes, you have to look at what is not said in order to discern the truth.

What was not said is whether the unnamed officials may be biased by virtue of relationship or continued employment by the “officials whose activities are being investigated as part of the civil rights inquiry.”

Given the absence of awareness that the forensic evidence is consistent with Dorian Johnson’s statement, I think we are seeing an example of selective leaking motivated by a desire to influence public opinion by portraying Darren Wilson as the victim.

I suspect the leak was planned and is a good example of what the grand jury is being told and how it will be manipulated to conclude that Darren Wilson should not be charged with a crime.

No indictment would be a crime because none of the eyewitness statements can be reasonably interpreted to support a conclusion that Officer Darren Wilson was in imminent danger of death or serious injury when he fired the fatal shots.

We continue to wait for justice in Ferguson and we are losing patience.

Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt: The Snowden Reboot

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday October 20, 2014 7:33 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

 

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Call me moved. I recently went to the premiere of Citizenfour, Laura Poitras's engrossing new film on Edward Snowden, at the New York Film Festival. The breaking news at film's end: as speculation had it this summer, there is indeed at least one new, post-Snowden whistleblower who has come forward from somewhere inside the U.S. intelligence world with information about a watchlist (that includes Poitras) with "more than 1.2 million names" on it and on the American drone assassination program.

Here's what moved me, however. My new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, ends with a "Letter to an Unknown Whistleblower," whose first lines are: "I don't know who you are or what you do or how old you may be. I just know that you exist somewhere in our future as surely as does tomorrow or next year... And how exactly do I know this? Because despite our striking inability to predict the future, it’s a no-brainer that the national security state is already building you into its labyrinthine systems.” And now, of course, such a whistleblower is officially here and no matter how fiercely the government may set out after whistleblowers, there will be more. It’s unstoppable, in part thanks to figures like Poitras, who is the subject of today’s TomDispatch interview. Tom]

Edward Snowden and the Golden Age of Spying
A TomDispatch Interview With Laura Poitras

Here’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! stat from our new age of national security. How many Americans have security clearances? The answer: 5.1 million, a figure that reflects the explosive growth of the national security state in the post-9/11 era. Imagine the kind of system needed just to vet that many people for access to our secret world (to the tune of billions of dollars). We’re talking here about the total population of Norway and significantly more people than you can find in Costa Rica, Ireland, or New Zealand. And yet it’s only about 1.6% of the American population, while on ever more matters, the unvetted 98.4% of us are meant to be left in the dark.

For our own safety, of course. That goes without saying.

All of this offers a new definition of democracy in which we, the people, are to know only what the national security state cares to tell us.  Under this system, ignorance is the necessary, legally enforced prerequisite for feeling protected.  In this sense, it is telling that the only crime for which those inside the national security state can be held accountable in post-9/11 Washington is not potential perjury before Congress, or the destruction of evidence of a crime, or torture, or kidnapping, or assassination, or the deaths of prisoners in an extralegal prison system, but whistleblowing; that is, telling the American people something about what their government is actually doing.  And that crime, and only that crime, has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law (and beyond) with a vigor unmatched in American history.  To offer a single example, the only American to go to jail for the CIA’s Bush-era torture program was John Kiriakou, a CIA whistleblower who revealed the name of an agent involved in the program to a reporter.

In these years, as power drained from Congress, an increasingly imperial White House has launched various wars (redefined by its lawyers as anything but), as well as a global assassination campaign in which the White House has its own “kill list” and the president himself decides on global hits.  Then, without regard for national sovereignty or the fact that someone is an American citizen (and upon the secret invocation of legal mumbo-jumbo), the drones are sent off to do the necessary killing.

And yet that doesn’t mean that we, the people, know nothing.  Against increasing odds, there has been some fine reporting in the mainstream media by the likes of James Risen and Barton Gellman on the security state’s post-legal activities and above all, despite the Obama administration’s regular use of the World War I era Espionage Act, whistleblowers have stepped forward from within the government to offer us sometimes staggering amounts of information about the system that has been set up in our name but without our knowledge.

Among them, one young man, whose name is now known worldwide, stands out.  In June of last year, thanks to journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, Edward Snowden, a contractor for the NSA and previously the CIA, stepped into our lives from a hotel room in Hong Kong.  With a treasure trove of documents that are still being released, he changed the way just about all of us view our world.  He has been charged under the Espionage Act.  If indeed he was a “spy,” then the spying he did was for us, for the American people and for the world.  What he revealed to a stunned planet was a global surveillance state whose reach and ambitions were unique, a system based on a single premise: that privacy was no more and that no one was, in theory (and to a remarkable extent in practice), unsurveillable.

Its builders imagined only one exemption: themselves.  This was undoubtedly at least part of the reason why, when Snowden let us peek in on them, they reacted with such over-the-top venom.  Whatever they felt at a policy level, it’s clear that they also felt violated, something that, as far as we can tell, left them with no empathy whatsoever for the rest of us.  One thing that Snowden proved, however, was that the system they built was ready-made for blowback.

Sixteen months after his NSA documents began to be released by the Guardian and the Washington Post, I think it may be possible to speak of the Snowden Era.  And now, a remarkable new film, Citizenfour, which had its premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 10th and will open in select theaters nationwide on October 24th, offers us a window into just how it all happened.  It is already being mentioned as a possible Oscar winner.

Director Laura Poitras, like reporter Glenn Greenwald, is now known almost as widely as Snowden himself, for helping facilitate his entry into the world.  Her new film, the last in a trilogy she’s completed (the previous two being My Country, My Country on the Iraq War and The Oath on Guantanamo), takes you back to June 2013 and locks you in that Hong Kong hotel room with Snowden, Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian, and Poitras herself for eight days that changed the world.  It’s a riveting, surprisingly unclaustrophic, and unforgettable experience.

Before that moment, we were quite literally in the dark.  After it, we have a better sense, at least, of the nature of the darkness that envelops us. Having seen her film in a packed house at the New York Film Festival, I sat down with Poitras in a tiny conference room at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City to discuss just how our world has changed and her part in it.

Tom Engelhardt: Could you start by laying out briefly what you think we’ve learned from Edward Snowden about how our world really works?

Laura Poitras: The most striking thing Snowden has revealed is the depth of what the NSA and the Five Eyes countries [Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the U.S.] are doing, their hunger for all data, for total bulk dragnet surveillance where they try to collect all communications and do it all sorts of different ways. Their ethos is “collect it all.” I worked on a story with Jim Risen of the New York Times about a document — a four-year plan for signals intelligence — in which they describe the era as being “the golden age of signals intelligence.”  For them, that’s what the Internet is: the basis for a golden age to spy on everyone.

This focus on bulk, dragnet, suspicionless surveillance of the planet is certainly what’s most staggering.  There were many programs that did that.  In addition, you have both the NSA and the GCHQ [British intelligence] doing things like targeting engineers at telecoms.  There was an article published at The Intercept that cited an NSA document Snowden provided, part of which was titled “I Hunt Sysadmins” [systems administrators].  They try to find the custodians of information, the people who are the gateway to customer data, and target them.  So there’s this passive collection of everything, and then things that they can’t get that way, they go after in other ways.

I think one of the most shocking things is how little our elected officials knew about what the NSA was doing.  Congress is learning from the reporting and that’s staggering.  Snowden and [former NSA employee] William Binney, who’s also in the film as a whistleblower from a different generation, are technical people who understand the dangers.  We laypeople may have some understanding of these technologies, but they really grasp the dangers of how they can be used.  One of the most frightening things, I think, is the capacity for retroactive searching, so you can go back in time and trace who someone is in contact with and where they’ve been.  Certainly, when it comes to my profession as a journalist, that allows the government to trace what you’re reporting, who you’re talking to, and where you’ve been.  So no matter whether or not I have a commitment to protect my sources, the government may still have information that might allow them to identify whom I’m talking to.

TE: To ask the same question another way, what would the world be like without Edward Snowden?  After all, it seems to me that, in some sense, we are now in the Snowden era.

LP: I agree that Snowden has presented us with choices on how we want to move forward into the future.  We’re at a crossroads and we still don’t quite know which path we’re going to take.  Without Snowden, just about everyone would still be in the dark about the amount of information the government is collecting. I think that Snowden has changed consciousness about the dangers of surveillance.  We see lawyers who take their phones out of meetings now.  People are starting to understand that the devices we carry with us reveal our location, who we’re talking to, and all kinds of other information.  So you have a genuine shift of consciousness post the Snowden revelations.

TE: There’s clearly been no evidence of a shift in governmental consciousness, though.

LP: Those who are experts in the fields of surveillance, privacy, and technology say that there need to be two tracks: a policy track and a technology track.  The technology track is encryption.  It works and if you want privacy, then you should use it.  We’ve already seen shifts happening in some of the big companies — Google, Apple — that now understand how vulnerable their customer data is, and that if it’s vulnerable, then their business is, too, and so you see a beefing up of encryption technologies.  At the same time, no programs have been dismantled at the governmental level, despite international pressure.

TE: In Citizenfour, we spend what must be an hour essentially locked in a room in a Hong Kong hotel with Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Ewan MacAskill, and you, and it’s riveting.  Snowden is almost preternaturally prepossessing and self-possessed.  I think of a novelist whose dream character just walks into his or her head.  It must have been like that with you and Snowden.  But what if he’d been a graying guy with the same documents and far less intelligent things to say about them?  In other words, how exactly did who he was make your movie and remake our world?

LP: Those are two questions.  One is: What was my initial experience?  The other: How do I think it impacted the movie?  We’ve been editing it and showing it to small groups, and I had no doubt that he’s articulate and genuine on screen.  But to see him in a full room [at the New York Film Festival premiere on the night of October 10th], I’m like, wow!  He really commands the screen! And I experienced the film in a new way with a packed house.

TE: But how did you experience him the first time yourself?  I mean you didn’t know who you were going to meet, right?

LP: So I was in correspondence with an anonymous source for about five months and in the process of developing a dialogue you build ideas, of course, about who that person might be.  My idea was that he was in his late forties, early fifties.  I figured he must be Internet generation because he was super tech-savvy, but I thought that, given the level of access and information he was able to discuss, he had to be older.  And so my first experience was that I had to do a reboot of my expectations.  Like fantastic, great, he’s young and charismatic and I was like wow, this is so disorienting, I have to reboot.  In retrospect, I can see that it’s really powerful that somebody so smart, so young, and with so much to lose risked so much.

He was so at peace with the choice he had made and knowing that the consequences could mean the end of his life and that this was still the right decision.  He believed in it, and whatever the consequences, he was willing to accept them.  To meet somebody who has made those kinds of decisions is extraordinary.  And to be able to document that and also how Glenn [Greenwald] stepped in and pushed for this reporting to happen in an aggressive way changed the narrative. Because Glenn and I come at it from an outsider’s perspective, the narrative unfolded in a way that nobody quite knew how to respond to.  That’s why I think the government was initially on its heels.  You know, it’s not everyday that a whistleblower is actually willing to be identified.

TE: My guess is that Snowden has given us the feeling that we now grasp the nature of the global surveillance state that is watching us, but I always think to myself, well, he was just one guy coming out of one of 17 interlocked intelligence outfits. Given the remarkable way your film ends — the punch line, you might say — with another source or sources coming forward from somewhere inside that world to reveal, among other things, information about the enormous watchlist that you yourself are on, I’m curious: What do you think is still to be known?  I suspect that if whistleblowers were to emerge from the top five or six agencies, the CIA, the DIA, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and so on, with similar documentation to Snowden’s, we would simply be staggered by the system that’s been created in our name.

LP: I can’t speculate on what we don’t know, but I think you’re right in terms of the scale and scope of things and the need for that information to be made public. I mean, just consider the CIA and its effort to suppress the Senate’s review of its torture program. Take in the fact that we live in a country that a) legalized torture and b) where no one was ever held to account for it, and now the government’s internal look at what happened is being suppressed by the CIA.  That’s a frightening landscape to be in.

In terms of sources coming forward, I really reject this idea of talking about one, two, three sources.  There are many sources that have informed the reporting we’ve done and I think that Americans owe them a debt of gratitude for taking the risk they do.  From a personal perspective, because I’m on a watchlist and went through years of trying to find out why, of having the government refuse to confirm or deny the very existence of such a list, it’s so meaningful to have its existence brought into the open so that the public knows there is a watchlist, and so that the courts can now address the legality of it.  I mean, the person who revealed this has done a huge public service and I’m personally thankful.

TE: You’re referring to the unknown leaker who’s mentioned visually and elliptically at the end of your movie and who revealed that the major watchlist your on has more than 1.2 million names on it.  In that context, what’s it like to travel as Laura Poitras today?  How do you embody the new national security state?

LP: In 2012, I was ready to edit and I chose to leave the U.S. because I didn’t feel I could protect my source footage when I crossed the U.S. border.  The decision was based on six years of being stopped and questioned every time I returned to the United States.  And I just did the math and realized that the risks were too high to edit in the U.S., so I started working in Berlin in 2012.  And then, in January 2013, I got the first email from Snowden.

TE: So you were protecting…

LP: …other footage.  I had been filming with NSA whistleblower William Binney, with Julian Assange, with Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project, people who have also been targeted by the U.S., and I felt that this material I had was not safe.  I was put on a watchlist in 2006.  I was detained and questioned at the border returning to the U.S. probably around 40 times.  If I counted domestic stops and every time I was stopped at European transit points, you’re probably getting closer to 80 to 100 times. It became a regular thing, being asked where I’d been and who I’d met with. I found myself caught up in a system you can’t ever seem to get out of, this Kafkaesque watchlist that the U.S. doesn’t even acknowledge.

TE: Were you stopped this time coming in?

LP: I was not. The detentions stopped in 2012 after a pretty extraordinary incident.

I was coming back in through Newark Airport and I was stopped.  I took out my notebook because I always take notes on what time I’m stopped and who the agents are and stuff like that.  This time, they threatened to handcuff me for taking notes.  They said, “Put the pen down!” They claimed my pen could be a weapon and hurt someone. 

“Put the pen down! The pen is dangerous!” And I’m like, you’re not… you’ve got to be crazy. Several people yelled at me every time I moved my pen down to take notes as if it were a knife. After that, I decided this has gotten crazy, I’d better do something and I called Glenn. He wrote a piece about my experiences. In response to his article, they actually backed off.

TE:  Snowden has told us a lot about the global surveillance structure that’s been built.  We know a lot less about what they are doing with all this information.  I’m struck at how poorly they’ve been able to use such information in, for example, their war on terror.  I mean, they always seem to be a step behind in the Middle East — not just behind events but behind what I think someone using purely open source information could tell them.  This I find startling.  What sense do you have of what they’re doing with the reams, the yottabytes, of data they’re pulling in?

LP: Snowden and many other people, including Bill Binney, have said that this mentality — of trying to suck up everything they can — has left them drowning in information and so they miss what would be considered more obvious leads.  In the end, the system they’ve created doesn’t lead to what they describe as their goal, which is security, because they have too much information to process.

I don’t quite know how to fully understand it.  I think about this a lot because I made a film about the Iraq War and one about Guantanamo.  From my perspective, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. took a small, very radical group of terrorists and engaged in activities that have created two generations of anti-American sentiment motivated by things like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.  Instead of figuring out a way to respond to a small group of people, we’ve created generations of people who are really angry and hate us.  And then I think, if the goal is security, how do these two things align, because there are more people who hate the United States right now, more people intent on doing us harm?  So either the goal that they proclaim is not the goal or they’re just unable to come to terms with the fact that we’ve made huge mistakes in how we’ve responded.

TE: I’m struck by the fact that failure has, in its own way, been a launching pad for success.  I mean, the building of an unparallelled intelligence apparatus and the greatest explosion of intelligence gathering in history came out of the 9/11 failure.  Nobody was held accountable, nobody was punished, nobody was demoted or anything, and every similar failure, including the one on the White House lawn recently, simply leads to the bolstering of the system.

LP: So how do you understand that?

TE: I don’t think that these are people who are thinking: we need to fail to succeed. I’m not conspiratorial in that way, but I do think that, strangely, failure has built the system and I find that odd. More than that I don’t know.

LP: I don’t disagree. The fact that the CIA knew that two of the 9/11 hijackers were entering the United States and didn’t notify the FBI and that nobody lost their job is shocking.  Instead, we occupied Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.  I mean, how did those choices get made?

Laura Poitras is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, and artist.  She has just finished Citizenfour, the third in a trilogy of films about post-9/11 America that includes My Country, My Country, nominated for an Academy Award, and The Oath, which received two Emmy nominations. In June 2013, she traveled to Hong Kong with Glenn Greenwald to interview Edward Snowden and made history. She has reported on Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA for a variety of news outlets, including the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the New York Times. Her NSA reporting received a George Polk award for National Security Reporting and the Henri Nannen Prize for Services to Press Freedom.  

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books), has just been published.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt

Mr. Obama, Tear Down This Wall!

By: patrick devlin Monday October 20, 2014 5:38 am

Over the past months the national media have stumbled upon the fact that the Great American Prohibition of cannabis has some pretty nasty consequences for regular ‘folks’, as the president likes to refer to us. Perhaps you have followed the stories of the knowing and on-going aggressive application of our nation’s antiquated and unjustly applied local, state and federal laws regarding cannabis.

The national press has reported on how the war on cannabis harms our sick citizens. There has been sympathetic reportage of the plight of families who have become medical refugees, forced to up-root their lives and other parents who have chosen to break the law so their suffering children can get the medical treatment they need in America.

There have been stories about patients who, because they work for institutions that receive federal funding, have to choose between being employed and using medicine. And the press commendably understands the nature of the disturbing threat of our Veteran’s Administration to refuse medical care to veterans who use cannabis to treat their battle injuries and symptoms of post-war-fighting-stress.

Also of note, a stream of reports of grossly overzealous actions against cannabis criminals that seem to be more acts of police force enrichment than acts of public safety enforcement.

In bizzaro America, as even the milquetoasty left media are finally reporting on the failure that is our disastrous war on drugs and how it has been based upon years of self-serving lies, amped up local coppers, go-getter prosecutors, an amalgam of frenzied state and federal agencies, rigor mortis judges and even private gun-wielding helicopter anti-cannabis posses are still hunting prey as our dry-doper politicos duck their heads and kick the cannabis can down the road until they are safely retired.

I know that the ‘we got to respect law enforcement’ crowd pulls out the ol’ “well, it’s still illegal, ain’t it?” dodge when the press reports on aggressive enforcement actions taken by politically motivated prosecutors and bigoted officers to justify prosecuting small time cannabis users – so I want to remind that police and prosecutors are never required to take the most aggressive action allowed under the law and are given tremendous leeway to make prosecutorial decisions. End-of-cannabis-prohibition arrests and ambiguities really don’t need to happen.

An example of this capacity to apply discretion is contained in the letter that the Department of Justice sent to all US Attorneys in 2009 advising that they should make “efficient and rational use of (the Department’s) limited investigative and prosecutorial resources” and should use their “plenary authority with regard to federal criminal matters” in situations involving cannabis, reminding US attorneys that they are “invested by statute and delegation from the Attorney General with the broadest discretion” in the exercise of their authority.

That makes sense to most Americans, but our cowardly federal politicians still hide behind deceptively deployed medical research and the intentionally stoked fears of propagandized voters to take no action on the federal legalization of recreational and medical cannabis.

We are put by self-interested politicians in a position of having to live in an America with a barrier that has been erected to support the failed war against cannabis – a barrier that separates us from one another.

We know, for example, that political inaction on cannabis legalization has created a permanently stigmatized class in our country – 600,000 cannabis arrestees or more added every year. 18 million of our fellow citizens over the course 30 years, the vast majority of whom are African and Latino Americans. This is only one way the war against cannabis harms all of us.

In our attempts to end this fixable travesty we are stymied by self-serving politicos who are fearful of angering constituencies, and who must, therefore, ‘evolve’ on the issue before taking the logical, compassionate and equality enhancing step of legalizing cannabis.

We all know of the unfair application of justice now.

We all know that the sick can be treated using cannabis today.

As long as this war against cannabis exists, as long as this barrier of political inaction is permitted to stand, it is not only the casualties of the war; patients, young African and Latino Americans, our students – our brethren, who are consigned to lives marked by unfairness and suffering, but it is all Americans, at least all Americans who care.

We are barricaded from stepping together hopefully into post-prohibition America.

Mr. Obama, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity, if you seek liberalization, consider this barrier.

Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!

cross posted at mLaw

Over Easy: Monday Science

By: BoxTurtle Monday October 20, 2014 4:39 am

Good Morning!

Fukushima Update:

The Typhoons have significantly increased the radioactivity of the Fuku Groundwater. This was to be expected, as almost every place on the site contains hot water  and the rain would flush it out.

The current plan to open up reactor #1 for more cleanup work. The last time they did work in #1, the radiation increases were detected as far away as Berkley. This time, the plan is basically to coat everything in plastic before opening up the cover.

Japanese reporters are starting to revolt against the censorship. It’s unclear how the JG will respond. They COULD lock up the reporters for a long time under their new state secrets law, but they are already having to deal with protesting mothers and Doctors. I think their facade is falling apart.

The JG Minister of Industry has resigned. She was one of the most vocal and effective advocates of restarting Japans reactors during her short tenure. This will hurt the restart plans, no matter what the JG official position may be.

On the subject of the reactor restart, there is NO local support. Many are coming up with fairly creative ways to block restarting their local reactors and the protesting mothers are a powerful symbol. Nobody wants to be photographed busting through their lines.

Fusion Power takes a big step forward. This is the best, most detailed writeup of the story that’s been perking in the MSM most of the week. Some key points to remember: There is no working prototype, though they have tested all the components successfully individually. The “blanket” that is supposed to stop the neutrons and turn their energy into heat is not described anywhere I could find. I’m guessing it’s some form of Boron, but what the mean free path of a neutron would be is not mentioned.There will still be hot waste, but WAY less and WAY less dangerous. Tritium production will be minimal, but not zero.

There was a kickstarter campaign to produce a private router that would protect average users from spying. In a very short time, they produced about $600K with a fundraising goal of only $7,500. That kickstarter has been suspended with no reason given. But I think it shows how much interest there is in the concept. Congress can re-interpret the constitution to watch us, but they can’t re-interpret technology and eventually technology will force the USG to go back to getting warrants.

Sex has been around 385 Million years.

“mine” metals from plants? It’s NOT science fiction, there are plants that naturally absorb metals. We then harvest the plants, burn them, and extract the metals from the ash. This could be cheaper than current mining techniques and could also be used to clean up heavy metal pollution.

We may have found a signal from Dark matter.

Humboldt Squid are a subject of debate. Some thing they’re non-hostile, others think they’re amongst the most dangerous creatures in the ocean.  In support of the latter group, the squid try to attack a minisub. The Humboldt Squid is one of the VERY few squids with confirmed human kills.

Methane hydrate land mines?

Boxturtle (I like Mike Rowe’s new show “Somebody’s got to do it“)

 

 

Turkey: New Bill Deepens Net Repression Yet Again

By: GREYDOG Monday October 20, 2014 2:54 am

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

Draconian Internet laws in Turkey are deepening yet once again with a new reform package that will bring new measures against freedom of speech in the country. Previously, the government had already tried to silence the masses through censorship measures, surveillance of Netizens, blocking access to Web sites, or even raids on online news portals’ headquarters. The most recent development concerning the laws against online free speech is the most recent bill that provides for up to five years’ imprisonment for tweeps (Twitter users) who criticize the government online.

The signatories of the infamous censorship law – or as the official name refers to it, “5651: Regulation on the Publications on the Internet” – have drafted a new bill and presented it on the parliament floor on the evening of October 14th. The new bill will allow all the possible suspects that have so far been declared “traitors, enemies, coup-plotters” to be put under full surveillance with just an order from a judge. The requirement of “tangible evidence” that has been required by the courts so far is no longer on the books, which allows the judges to give the order upon “reasonable doubt.” The new law also allows the property of the government-critical suspects to be confiscated, if the accusation is “criminal activity” or “organizing a gang.”

What is “criminal”?

What comprises criminal activity in Turkey has long been a problematic issue and the new bill is no different from any previous one. The main excuse in suppressing free speech in the country so far has been “national-security concerns.” Crimes against the state include plans to end the unity and integrity of the state, cooperation with enemies, propagating war against the state, actions against the basic national benefits, conscripting soldiers for a foreign nation, harming military premises and agreements in favor of foreign soldiers, and economical and financial contributions to enemies.

If one is only a little obsessive, any attempt to strengthen the regional governments and the Europeanization process, which requires that, can in fact be declared a crime against the state. And the witch hunt trials that have been going after hundreds of military officers over the years would definitely be a type of harm against the military.

Less urgent crimes that have been cited in the bill include violation of the constitution, crimes against the legislative body, armed uprising against the government, and assembling and organizing for these crimes. Even though armament had been previously mentioned as a crime in another law, this time the new bill seems to reflect more onto the protection of government against all types of possible criticism. And of course the government would be exempt from the crime of violating the constitution when citizens’ basic rights and liberties are being violated, even though those rights are guaranteed under the constitution.

Social media targeted

“Threat” as a crime is considered to be a much greater fault with the new law and will be punishable by a prison sentence. The new bill suggests that the citizens who criticize government harshly on social-media platforms are included within the scope of threat crimes. Under the current laws, threats bring about imprisonment only for crimes that result in two years and more of prison sentence. For that reason, the government has updated the prison sentence to two years minimum. The new bill also includes clauses that state that those who criticize the president, prime minister, ministers, or security forces openly or over social media will be considered guilty of “threats” and face possible arrest. The new bill also targets the prosecutor who conducted the graft probe of 17-25 December last year that revealed the greatest corruption scandal in Turkey’s history.

Not only the Internet but also the streets…

The new bill’s scope is not limited to digital public spaces but also makes opposition movements’ visibility on the streets problematic. The slogans that have been adopted by critical groups during street protests had already drawn many frowning faces so far; with the new bill they will be considered a crime. The new law also breaches the diplomatic immunity of politicians, allowing them to be put on trial as well in case of threats against public officers, soldiers, police, governors etc. The prison sentence will possibly go up to 5 years depending on the intensity of the “criminal activity.”

No right to defense

Moreover, the new bill also attacks the right to a fair hearing and the principle of defense. Lawyers will have harder time accessing their clients’ files in order to defend them fairly. The bill states that lawyers’ involvement in disclosing defendants’ files would breach the investigation and thus should be limited on a judge’s orders.

Reversal of improvement

The draft bill will be reversing the improvements that have been achieved in the last year with regards to legal procedure, and the few positive remarks in the European Union accession progress report are being met with counter-developments that will present a much graver situation in the coming period. Combined with the intentions to arm the police forces with greater authority to “shoot to kill” in times of protests and plans to multiply the number of water cannons five/tenfold as the Prime Minister has stated, the new bill is just another obstacle created against any kind of free speech, right to assembly, right to access information and many other rights and liberties. It seems and feels like the road to illiberal democracy – if it is democracy at all – is being traveled faster than expected.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Culture of the National Security State, an Interview with Deepa Kumar

By: Elliott Sunday October 19, 2014 5:24 pm

This is the last in a series of interviews Deepa Kumar gave the Real News Network, here she tells host Paul Jay “that a culture of fear and obedience has developed so we give consent to Cold War policies, to hot wars, to the complete militarization of society.”

Culture of the National Security State – Deepa Kumar on Reality Asserts Itself

On Deepa Kumar, an Associate Professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University, from The Real News Network:

Her work is driven by an active engagement with the key issues that characterize our era–neoliberalism and imperialism. Her first book, Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization and the UPS Strike (University of Illinois Press, 2007), is about the power of collective struggle in effectively challenging the priorities of neoliberalism.

If neoliberal globalization characterizes the economic logic of our age, the “war on terror” has come to define its political logic. Kumar began her research into the politics of empire shortly after the tumultuous events of 9/11.

Her second book titled Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire (Haymarket Books, 2012), looks at how the “Muslim enemy” has historically been mobilized to suit the goals of empire.

The interview opens: