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Obama Has Decriminalized Torture: Do Americans Care?

7:07 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

From President Barack Obama’s inauguration to now, he has treated the issue of torture and the legalization of this supreme violation of human rights as an inconvenience. Obama has kept the possibility of holding former Bush Administration officials accountable for torture shrouded in remarks that contain platitudes on nobody being above the rule of law, yet, in those same remarks, he has shifted the responsibility to people like Attorney General Eric J. Holder to prosecute Bush officials, effectively freeing him of any obligation or liability that might stem from having to launch an investigation.

A new report from Human Rights Watch, “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” provides opportunity to reflect on the reality that Bush Administration officials committed and effectively legalized torture and the Obama Administration, in its failure to hold these officials accountable, has in a way decriminalized torture.

As a number of news organizations and blogs have noted, the critical thing about the report is that it appears to give up on any possibility of a thorough investigation being launched by the Obama Administration. It encourages “judicial systems in foreign states to pursue investigations” and prosecute “under the doctrines of ‘universal jurisdiction’ and ‘passive personality’ jurisdiction. Under the principle of international that states have an interest in bringing to justice “perpetrators of particular crimes of international concern.” And, it notes that under the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which the US has ratified, “grave breaches” including “willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health; and willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial” puts an obligation on countries that have signed to search for those alleged to have committed “grave breaches” and even push for extradition of officials suspected of violations.

While urging foreign countries to prosecute may show human rights groups are desperate, that human rights groups are now pursuing this as an option says a lot about America’s contempt for the rule of law. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch explained on Democracy Now! torture is the “intentional infliction of severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental.” Mock executions, like waterboarding, have been prosecuted by the US previously. But, the political class and establishment lawyers argue that prosecuting violations under the law will “politicize criminal law.” Or, they display as much interest in addressing the misconduct as those who know the war in Libya is a downright illegal war.

Those who were opposed to Bush Administration policies of torture, like human rights groups and lawyers, have been understandably disappointed with the Obama Administration. It has failed to close Guantanamo, indicated support for indefinite detention of terror suspects without a trial, bowed to the rancor of neoconservatives and decided to prosecute terror suspects with military commissions, refused to release “torture photos” and chosen to not charge any former CIA officials with the destruction of interrogation tapes.

Human rights groups have been very patient with the administration. Not only has the Obama Administration failed to uphold its duty to investigate and prosecute Bush officials under signed treaties like the Convention against Torture but it has let Bush officials tour around with their memoirs—books which contain prideful admissions of torture.

When Osama bin Laden was killed in a targeted operation, the administration put up with people like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who suggested torture had likely helped the Obama Administration kill him. And, with the news that the Justice Department was dropping ninety-nine of the one hundred and one cases against the CIA for abuse and torture, Bush officials were effectively absolved of any real threat of prosecution from the Obama Administration.

Jeff Kaye draws attention to how the “fight for transparency” makes this renewed push for prosecutions important. Kaye highlights how the Department of Defense is now considering a new policy for unclassified information that would enable less openness and more secrecy. This proposal is to be expected from an administration that has derailed torture lawsuits by invoking “states secrets” privileges. For example, in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., in a suit brought by five survivors of the CIA’s rendition program, the ACLU reports, the Obama Administration argued against a lower court ruling, claimed the “case could not be litigated without the disclosure of state secrets.”

What’s more striking is how this report further demonstrates the US has no culture of accountability for those in power who do not commit crimes that involve sexual misbehavior. Probe after probe and investigation after investigation can produce pages of evidence that would fill an entire room. Recommendations on what to do and blueprints for moving forward can be drafted. Nobody in Washington wants to be bothered with the business of correcting injustice.

Today, President Obama could call for a criminal investigation into US government detention practices, as recommended in the HRW report. But, in America, those guilty of crimes in the national security establishment are permitted to commit crimes so long as it appears it happened while trying to protect America from terrorism. They can trash people’s civil liberties, torture people and violate treaties that are law and get away with it just like bank executives on Wall Street can get away with collapsing the US economy.

The effect of not investigating and prosecuting torture is not only that laws are violated but that torture becomes normalized. A rot spreads throughout the American population as Americans find power should be granted the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to torture terror suspects. Ignoring the number of people detained by the US, who are innocent and have no relationship to any terror group, they remember the mythology of 9/11 that has been seared into their brain by leaders like President Bush and President Obama, who countlessly retell the story of 9/11 in war speeches, and see no problem dehumanizing people.

Torture legalized as a tool for those carrying out “counterterrorism operations” becomes legitimate for use throughout America. Guards in Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, who tortured detainees, can come home and become guards at prisons like the Pelican Bay prison and torture prisoners by subjecting them to solitary confinement in a prison-within-the-prison called the Security Housing Unit or the SHU. They can get away with using interrogation techniques, which are tantamount to torture, on political prisoners like Bradley Manning, the alleged military whistleblower to WikiLeaks.

As reported yesterday, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has been restricted from having access to detainees in the US so he can conduct inquiries into torture or inhumane treatment. Mendez reports:

I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning’s prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico. However, in addition to obtaining first hand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.

The US Department of Defense has said they would allow Mendez to visit but that he would not be able to have an unmonitored visit, violating “long-standing rules that the UN applies to prison visits.” Mendez reluctantly agreed to a monitored visit, but Manning declined to agree to speaking to Mendez while under close watch by any agents or guards. Now, Mendez concludes the US may no longer wish to allow him to visit detainees in any US prisons if he makes a country visit to the United States.

This prevention of access is not unique to the Obama Administration, as the Bush Administration also put unacceptable conditions on UN visits to Guantanamo Bay. This is part of the “new normal,” an era where officials who commit crimes are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; navy ships hold prisoners that can no longer be sent to Guantanamo because there will be public outrage; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

America purports to have moral authority in the world to push for prosecutions for crimes in Third World countries. It condemns Middle Eastern and African countries (excluding Israel), which do not allow access to their countries for investigations of human rights violations. But, it does not investigate and prosecute its own officials, who are responsible for committing and legalizing torture.

The country appears to care little when it is suggested that what happened under Bush could happen again because all too many fail to see how shopping around for legal arguments to create justification for torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques” was wrong. The idea of moving forward instead of looking backward to hold Bush officials accountable enchants the population. And so, the population presses on without collectively confronting the system that has been put in place over the past ten years.

Glenn Greenwald: Two Obama Policies That Expand the Assault on Civil Liberties [VIDEO]

4:30 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Throughout the past couple of days, I have been posting video of  Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald’s speech at the Socialism Conference held in Chicago, IL. last weekend. Instead of posting the speech in full, I have been posting the speech in segments to draw attention and encourage discussion on key aspects of Greenwald’s speech.

My post on Part 1 of the speech is here. My post on Part 2 of the speech is here. And now, here’s part 3.

Greenwald describes two areas where President Obama has embraced two policies that former President George W. Bush never employed. The first is asserting the right to target and assassinate US citizens.

…The Washington Post in January 2010 reported there were four Americans on Obama’s list of individuals, who he has declared without any due process to be terrorists, who the CIA is now not just permitted but instructed to hunt down and murder. One of who is Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born American citizen in Yemen who the US government hates because he speaks effectively to the Muslim world about the violence that the US commits in that part of the world and the responsibility of Muslims and the need of Muslims to stand up to this violence. The US hates him because this message is resonating and so the solution is not to charge him with crimes, because he’s not committing any crimes because you have the First Amendment right to say the things you say. It’s not even to detain him without process. They’re not bothering with that. They’re trying to kill him. They’ve shot cruise missiles and used drones at at least two occasions in the last year to try and kill this US citizen without due process, not on a battlefield but in his home, in his car, with his children, wherever they find him. And, this power is one that the Obama Administration has asserted for itself in a way that George Bush and Dick Cheney never did. [emphasis added]

As Maria Lahood pointed out on Democracy Now! in May, after the Obama Administration attempted to assassinate al-Awlaki but did not succeed, he has not been charged with anything.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU brought a case against the US government charging that al-Awlaki had a right to due process. They weren’t arguing that he could not be killed. They were arguing that if he is guilty of a crime he had the right under international law and the Constitution to be granted due process, a right that most in the American political class appear to have utter contempt for when it is granted to those suspected of engaging or promoting terrorism.

The case, brought on behalf of Al-Awlaki’s father but ultimately thrown out because the court found his father didn’t have the standing to seek relief for his son and the questions raised were “political.” The decision to label him a terrorist and decide to kill him overseas was determined to be not reviewable by a court of law.

The second area Greenwald outlines is the war on whistleblowing, which the Obama Administration is waging, which he argues is important ”because if you combine the extraordinary secrecy powers of the US government…with the unbelievable subservient establishment media that won’t disclose any facts or truths without getting permission from the US government,” you see that “whistleblowing is one of the very few avenues left that we even have to learn about what our government does.” And, according to Greenwald, that is why the US government sees whistleblowing as such a threat.

He talks about WikiLeaks in the context of this war on whistleblowing:

Not only is the Obama Administration trying to criminalize what WikiLeaks is doing; there’s a very aggressive grand jury in northern Virginia to try to turn what they’re doing into a crime, even though all it is is the core of investigative journalism—revealing the secrets of the world’s most powerful corporate and government factions. If that’s turned into a crime, then meaningful transparency and journalism are dead, but they’re also doing a whole other variety of things like trying to invade the social networking communications who anyone who is even suspected of supporting WikiLeaks. And they’ve even gone so far as to execute a policy of detaining anyone they suspect of being associated with WikiLeaks at airports when they try to reenter the country, American citizens. And they’ve not only detained them but they’ve seized their laptops and other electronic devices like thumb drives and the like, memory drives. And then they just seize them and copy their contents, sometimes don’t return them, sometimes return them after a couple months—All without any form of judicial oversight or search warrant. They literally go through and do it routinely. It’s a form of pure harassment. [emphasis added]

David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, and Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks volunteer, have faced this harassment. Not only have they been harassed at airports, but House has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Virginia and Appelbaum has had his Twitter user data subpoenaed. You can read more about the government’s repression of Appelbaum and House here.

Also, in the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, the government is arguing there is no such thing as “good leaks,” effectively laying the groundwork for criminalizing whistleblowing in most if not all instances.

Greenwald goes on to further contextualize these two policies the Obama Administration has adopted. And, he concludes after demonstrating the Administration’s utter disregard for the Constitution (call it the “audacity of hope”):

You really do wonder, if we allow these sorts of things, these kinds of breaches of basic constitutional freedom without much backlash or objection, what is it that we would object to? Or what would trigger real backlash? That I think is an important question to answer.

There have been small attempts to preserve American civil liberties. A number of people condemned the recent extensions of provisions of the PATRIOT Act. And, after Bush left office, a number of people pushed for accountability for Bush Administration officials, only to abandon their campaigns for justice because they did not think there was any realistic chance of holding officials accountable.

Many have accepted defeat. Some are just realizing that Obama has been continuing Bush policies that continue and expand attacks on civil liberties (see Part 1 of Greenwald’s speech). Either way, it should be considered stunning and abysmal that the public tolerates what the government is doing. But, unfortunately, those who are most capable of fighting tolerate the apathy or melancholiness of the public and do very little to challenge the Obama Administration.

Wars, Foreign Policy & Civil Liberties Taboo at First-Ever Presidential Twitter Town Hall

12:43 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A first-ever presidential Twitter town hall with President Barack Obama kept questions from Twitter users focused to jobs and the economy, avoiding the many questions on the wars, foreign policy and civil liberties issues that have primarily been created because of legislation and policies deemed necessary to prosecute a “war on terrorism.”

The questions touched on: mistakes made during the recession, being realistic on job creation, rising cost of higher education, issuing an executive order to raise the debt ceiling, the possible creation of a startup visa program for immigrant entrepreneurs, promoting alternative energy especially in oil states like Louisiana and Texas, protecting collective bargaining rights and stalling the onslaught from state legislatures around the country, helping homeowners who just can’t sell their homes, jobs, growing small business, tax breaks for honorably discharged veterans, changing the tax system to address the deficit, using the free market to help homeowners, privatizing education, tax cuts, space exploration, welfare programs and, very briefly, defense contracting and the war on drugs.

One can make the argument that this was to be on jobs and the economy and not civil liberties or the wars or foreign policy. But, job creation and the economy is dependent on the wars and the costly foreign policy, which the Obama Administration continues. Also, there are economic questions that can be asked, which touch on civil liberties issues in America.
Read the rest of this entry →

Glenn Greenwald: Obama Has Maintained Indefinite Detention, State Secrets Powers [VIDEO]

8:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The Socialism Conference was held in Chicago, IL, over the weekend. On Saturday, July 3, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald delivered a speech on civil liberties in the age of President Obama.

I attended the conference and recorded Greenwald’s speech. Part 1 of the speech has already been posted. Now, here’s Part 2.

Up front, Greenwald makes clear the critique of Obama should not be that he has been “slow to reverse” Bush policies. Rather, the critique should be that he ”has affirmatively embraced them as his own and in many cases extended far beyond where George Bush and Dick Cheney ever dreamed of taking them” (and, if you saw Part 1, you understand this is now bipartisan consensus in American politics).

Indefinite detention is the first area he outlines. He describes how ”the heart and soul of the controversy over Guantanamo, over Abu Ghraib, over the universal worldwide system of detention,” the notion of putting a person in cage for life without any shred of due process, has been maintained.

A key salient point:

…If you talk to Democratic partisans and apologists of the president, what they will say is that the reason that he hasn’t close Guantanamo is not his fault. The reason is that Congress passed a law or a series of laws impeding his doing so. And that’s not necessarily untrue. Congress did pass a series of laws barring the closing of Guantanamo, in effect. But, before that ever happened, the president’s plan for a “closing of Guantanamo” was not really to close Guantanamo at all. It was simply to move it a few thousand miles north to Illinois, where the aspects that made it so controversial—namely imprisoning people for life without due process—was going to be fully preserved and maintained.

Now, the controversy as I understood it during the Bush presidency about Guantanamo was not, “Isn’t it so outrageous that George Bush and Dick Cheney are imprisoning people without due process on an island in the Caribbean rather than doing it in Illinois?” …

Recently, in May, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA) introduced legislation to “embed in law the principle of indefinite detention without trial for suspected terrorists.” This was a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gave the president the authority to wage war anytime, anywhere and without congressional authorization (a power that Congress doesn’t need to grant the Executive Branch because it has already claimed the right to engage in worldwide war without the consent of the American people, effectively rendering Congress an administrative and mostly impotent body when it comes to checking the consolidation of power in the Executive Branch).

Greenwald also outlines how habeas corpus rights have been argued against by the Obama Administration:

…Despite the horrendous record of not just imprisoning people without due process but imprisoning obviously innocent people without due process, the Obama Administration took the position that this right the Supreme Court recognized applies only to people in Guantanamo but not anywhere else that the US imprisons people, such as at Bagram, Afghanistan or in places in Yemen or any other places where the US maintains prisons…

By winning this argument in the Supreme Court, President Obama can simply direct agencies and formulate policy that circumvents Guantanamo and instead just use prisons America has in other countries, for example, “black sites.” Or, the US can just use navy ships to indefinitely detain people (and maybe in some cases bring them to trial).

Finally, Greenwald illuminates how Obama has gone along with a Bush policy on state secrets that Bush significantly altered in such a way that his administration was able to guard against judicial review if they were suspected of breaking the law.

[The state secrets doctrine] said that, in certain cases involving national security and certain judicial cases, some documents may be so secretive that, even though they’re relevant to the litigation, even though they’re relevant to the case, even though in all other instances they would be allowed to be used, some documents are so sensitive and risk triggering the disclosure of important state secrets that they can’t be used in the case, even if they’re relevant. And what the Bush presidency did was it converted this doctrine from a document-specific privilege, that said certain documents couldn’t be used, and they developed a new theory that said certain topics are so secretive that they cannot be the subject of litigation, even when the president is accused of breaking the law. And that was basically the tool the Bush presidency used to shield itself from any judicial review for its actions, even the most illegal ones.

Obama has used the state secrets doctrine to guard against investigations into torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, etc.

As University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone, someone who has spoken publicly about going after WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act, points out in and editorial published on June 26 titled, “Our Untransparent President“:

…The dawn of the Obama administration brought hope that Congress would enact the proposed State Secrets Protection Act of 2009, which would have limited the scope of the doctrine. Indeed, shortly after President Obama took office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. suggested that the doctrine should be invoked “only when genuine and significant harm to national defense or foreign relations is at stake and only to the extent necessary to safeguard those interests.”

Since then, however, the Obama administration has aggressively asserted the privilege in litigation involving such issues as the C.I.A.’s use of extraordinary rendition and the National Security Agency’s practice of wiretapping American citizens…

*Check back soon for more video of Glenn Greenwald’s speech.

At the President’s Twitter Townhall, #AskObama About His Pathetic & Disgusting Civil Liberties Record

6:23 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

*Update:For my report on the Twitter town hall event, go here.

President Barack Obama will be participating in a first-ever Twitter @townhall event. The town hall, moderated by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, is to be limited to discussion of jobs and the economy.

Effectively limiting the discussion to jobs and the economy leaves out an array of issues on the state of freedom, justice and liberty in America that warrant conversation. Should we the people really allow the White House to limit this discussion to just the economy?

The Obama Administration came in pledging to be different than the Bush Administration. It has continued and expanded on many of the Bush Administration “war on terrorism” policies, which effectively shredded the Constitution and eroded American civil liberties. President Obama has been outright atrocious when it comes to protecting American civil liberties and so bad it is no longer clear that he is the lesser evil when compared to former President George W. Bush.

Here are some questions that he should be made to address at the town hall to be held at 2 pm ET:

The Justice Dept has been sending letters indicating state laws may not override federal law on medical marijuana.

#AskObama What’s your position on state moves to decriminalize marijuana so it can be used for medicinal purposes?

Or, to frame the question in terms of jobs and the economy:

#AskObama: What’s your position on growing the economy and increasing jobs by further decriminalizing medicinal marijuana production & use?

Illinois recently recalled and abolished the death penalty.

#AskObama Would you like to see more states follow in the footsteps of Illinois and pass their own legislation to abolish the death penalty?

President George W. Bush admits he authorized waterboarding or torture against detainees as president.

#AskObama Why should US not fulfill legal obligation under Torture Convention & investigate & prosecute fmr Bush officials for torture?

You  missed the deadline for closing Guantanamo.

#AskObama What plans, if any, does your administration have to shut down Guantanamo? Do you still plan to shut it down?

#AskObama While demonstrating interest in closing Guantanamo, you have embraced policy of indefinite detention for detainees. Why?

Your administration’s statistics show the “Secure Communities” initiative invites racial profiling and leads to deportations of people who have committed no crimes or very minor offenses.

#AskObama Why have you ignored law enforcement and political leaders’ concerns on the “Secure Communities” program?

Your administration has deported 779,000 people, more than President George W. Bush’s last two years in office. ICE apparently has a mandate of deportation of 400,000 individuals per year.

#AskObama Why should ICE’s dragnet enforcement that is tearing apart immigrant families in America be acceptable or tolerated?

On same-sex marriage:

#AskObama Why do you think same-sex marriage is a states’ rights issue & why do you seem afraid to become moral leader on this issue?

More and more state legislatures are pushing laws that require drug testing for individuals to be drug tested if they receive public assistance.

#AskObama Do you think it is fair that more & more state are requiring drug testing in order to receive public assistance?

On the continued mass incarceration of people in America, especially people of color:

#AskObama US has 25% of world’s prison population. Are you concerned about mass incarceration of people in America & what should be done?

Government is employing more and more technology, which enables surveillance of US citizens. Police powers are being expanded, with the US Supreme Court often coming down on the side of law enforcement’s efforts make their job easier by not having to be concerned with citizens’ civil liberties.

#AskObama Should citizens abandon expectations of Fourth Amendment rights in the 21st Century?

Hot watches, cell phone tracking, x-ray vans that can see through walls or people’s clothing, etc are new methods of surveillance being used on citizens.

#AskObama Do citizens have a right to know if and when they are under government surveillance & should they?

The PATRIOT Act recently had three key provisions extended.

#AskObama As a constitutional professor, do any parts of the PATRIOT Act concern you any longer?

A religious rights issue:

#AskObama When does your administration plan to make changes to terrorism financing laws so they don’t unfairly target Muslims?

State legislatures around the country are stripping women of their right to an abortion. Some recent state laws are so extreme that they outright degrade and humiliate women, who dare to consider exercising their right to choose.

#AskObama What kind of leadership on reproductive freedom issues does your administration plan to show, if any?

There are currently antiwar and international solidarity activists under investigation by a federal grand jury based in your hometown of Chicago.

#AskObama How do you think your administration has done when it comes to protecting the right to dissent? #stopfbi

Also:

#AskObama Do you find it acceptable that the State Dept would like to criminalize US citizens delivering aid to Gaza? #flotilla2

You tremendously failed (and perhaps tainted the case) the last time this question was asked of you. So, I know you might be afraid to answer, but give it another shot. I’ll even ask about him in a different way.

#AskObama Why do you think Bradley Manning, if he did release classified info, isn’t military whistleblower protected under law? #WikiLeaks

And, finally:

#AskObama Why is your administration prosecuting war on whistleblowing & going after people like Thomas Drake, James Risen?

Glenn Greenwald: Bush/Cheney Approach to Civil Liberties Has Been Continued & Embraced by Obama [VIDEO]

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The Socialism Conference was held in Chicago, IL, over the weekend. On Saturday, July 3, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald delivered a speech on civil liberties in the age of President Obama.

I attended the conference and recorded Greenwald’s speech. Throughout the next couple of days, I will be posting video of his speech and, eventually, a full transcript of it will be made available.

In this first part, Greenwald discusses how it has become conventional wisdom that Obama has continued many of the Bush Administration policies, which were once regarded as policies that shredded the Constitution, but now in Democratic circles it is considered to be “Democratic consensus.”

He describes how one year ago it was “controversial” and “provocative” to utter observations that President Obama had virtually continued “the entirety of the Bush/Cheney approach to the war on civil liberties and terrorism.” It was something people found “repellent.” But, now, it has become “so obvious” and “self-evidently true.”

That it has become so blatantly obvious means one no longer has to spend time proving the existence of continuity between the two administrations, Greenwald argues.

One of Greenwald’s most salient points is made as he highlights how the Bush-following American right has had to acknowledge Bush policies have continued under Obama and thus admit he has been strong and courageous on national security.

“The reason why I find it interesting that even the right wing is willing to acknowledge these policies have continued under the Obama presidency is for decades the Republicans have gained really potently on a political level from accusing Democrats of being weak on national security or soft on terrorism in the age of terror,” Greenwald suggests.

He adds:

Now, weak on national security in American political parlance doesn’t mean that somebody shies away from acts of strength and courage. And similarly, strength and national courage doesn’t mean that one acts strongly or engages in acts of courage. It means the opposite. What strength and national security means is a willingness to send other people’s children off to war to risk their lives to kill large numbers of civilians in foreign countries.

Greenwald cites Jack Goldsmith, former National Security Agency head under former President George W. Bush, Michael Hayden, and former Vice President Dick Cheney as proof that one of Obama’s greatest achievements among the political and ruling elite in America is that he has made what was once controversial, and seen as right wing radicalism, part of a bipartisan political consensus. And, by making this part of a consensus, Greenwald argues, debate is effectively ended; the policies are no longer objectionable to the political class in Washington.

Finally, Greenwald notes liberal professors and leaders of liberal groups like the ACLU have noted the continuity and expressed their disgust and outrage at the fact that the assault on civil liberties has continued and in some cases escalated under President Obama.

Discussion of civil liberties and the Obama administration’s assault has been largely absent from conversations. At liberal conferences, discussion has been pushed to the margins.

Netroots Nation had one panel, “What the Government Wants to Know About You,” that looked at some of the policies expanding under Obama. There was little talk about Guantanamo and lack of accountability for torture. Liberal organizers focused on the right wing attack on the middle class, avoiding outright condemnation of the bipartisan support that President Obama has created on national security (although Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos did ask White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer why Guantanamo hasn’t been closed).

In October, the liberal Campaign for America’s Future that holds a “Take Back America” conference each year is rebranding their conference, “Take Back the American Dream.” Led by Van Jones, there will likely be minimal conversation on civil liberties or national security policy, as the focus will involve a much more politically safe discussion on jobs and unemployment.

A key difference between those who attend Netroots and “Take Back America” conferences and those who attend Socialism conferences is the fact that those in attendance seldom consist of people with radical views, which in American history have been openly condemned and in many cases left people with those views open to government smearing and prosecution. Those with socialist views understand what many liberals take for granted, why civil liberties must be protected.

How can one fight a right wing assault on what Democratic Party operatives term the middle class if one’s civil liberties or rights under the constitution have been entirely stripped away or rendered meaningless, especially in cases when one is challenging power?

There’s a Twitter town hall tomorrow at 2 pm ET. This is an opportunity to undermine liberal organization leaderships’ efforts to make nice with the Obama Administration and overlook the Administration’s ever-expanding assault on civil liberties by doubling down on Bush Administration “war on terror” policies.

Purify the Tweet stream for #AskObama with lots of questions and remarks on the continuity between the Bush and Obama Administrations.

*Go here for Part 2 of Glenn Greenwald’s speech.

Obama DOJ’s Indefensible Policy on Medical Marijuana Legalization

8:29 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Even as Republican lawmakers in states like Indiana begin to open up committees to explore the possibility of legalizing marijuana, especially so that patients with health problems can legally use the drug as medicine, the Justice Department (DOJ) appears set to maintain a strict policy of discouraging and even outright deterring the movement toward legalization.

A DOJ memo released last week provides reason for alarm among those in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, as it signals the federal government may leave medical marijuana patients and caregivers alone but cultivators or distributors of marijuana could still face prosecution.

Noting an “increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes” and the fact that some planned “industrial marijuana cultivation centers” have “revenue projections of millions of dollars” that will likely involve the “cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants,” the memo clarifies the federal government never intended to shield such industrialized production, even if the production might be legal under a state’s law(s).

“Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law.  Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution.  State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA.  Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws.”

In October 2009, US Deputy Attorney General David Ogden sent a memo that supporters of marijuana legalization thought to be a signal the federal government might be backing off on efforts to deter the use of medical marijuana. The Ogden memo outlined guidance for federal investigation in states with medical marijuana laws saying investigations “should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

The ACLU, however, has sent a letter to the DOJ suggesting the Cole memo deviates from the suggested policy described in 2009. The letter also mentions recent letters sent by US attorneys in Washington, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Rhode Island and Vermont. The letters from US attorneys suggest people, including state employees and state licensed providers of medical marijuana who use marijuana, may be prosecuted, even if they are compliant with state law.

According to the ACLU, the US attorney letters create two significant problems: (1) it appears the DOJ seek to undermine the public legislative process in states through law enforcement and prosecutions and (2) they indicate the DOJ may be intent to obstruct states’ moves to set up legal marijuana distribution centers that allow for healthy and safe distribution of the drug to patients.

Perhaps even more striking, the ACLU alleges this memo conflicts with the DOJ’s response to a lawsuit that arose from “a 2002 DEA raid of a medical marijuana garden sanctioned by City and County officials” in Santa Cruz, California. The lawsuit was thrown out in 2009. DOJ attorneys indicated there had been a “policy shift” and even entered a stipulation in response to concerns from plaintiffs in the case that “the federal government might at any moment abandon the new policy and revert to enforcement that would endanger legitimate entities complying with state law and working most closely with local and state governments to implement state laws.” The ACLU is appropriately concerned the DOJ may reinstate the case, as it officially departs from the position laid out in the Ogden memo.

*

It’s worth reviewing what has happened in the past six months with regards to state laws passed on medical marijuana and the federal government renewing its standoffish position toward medical marijuana use and production.

Arizona decriminalized the use of medicine marijuana in 2010. In June, California-based company weGrow opened a “superstore-sized garden center in Phoenix” to make it possible for people to purchase all the products and services necessary to “responsibly cultivate” marijuana on their own.  But, as the center was set to open, Gov. Jan Brewer filed a lawsuit against her state’s own law, potentially undermining the outcome of a democratic vote in her state by Arizonans. [As the ACLU pointed out, she didn't like the federal government when it sought to enforce laws on immigration after SB1070 passed but on marijuana? No problem.]

The DOJ sent a letter to the Washington Democratic governor Chris Gregoire. Responding to Gov. Gregoire’s request for guidance on how a bill allowing “state employees to license growers and sellers of the product, as well as retail locations” might conflict with the federal government, the DOJ wrote:

This [bill] would authorize conduct contrary to federal law and thus, would undermine the federal government’s efforts to regulate the possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances. Accordingly, the Department could consider civil and criminal legal remedies regarding those who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries as they will be doing so in violation of federal law. Others who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, including property owners, landlords, and financiers should also know that their conduct violates federal law. In addition, state employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability under the CSA.

The intimidating and threatening letter ultimately deterred Gov. Gregoire from signing the bill, when it came to her desk in April.

In March, a California seller of medical marijuana claimed the IRS was seeking to destroy the medical marijuana industry. Lynette Shaw of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM) planned to take the IRS to court for auditing her tax returns in 2008 and 2009, disallowing her foundation’s business deductions and demanding “millions of dollars in back taxes.” Shaw sought to have marijuana classified as a “controlled substance” and not a narcotic so tax deductions for dispensaries could be legal. (Medical marijuana has been legal under Proposition 214 since 1996.)

Bryan Gonzalez, a border guard, was fired in January for suggesting to a co-worker that marijuana should be legalized. The government issued the guard a “termination letter,” which described Gonzalez as holding “personal views that were contrary to the core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.” Gonzalez was asked by Customs and Border Patrol’s Office of Internal Affairs if he “wanted to overthrow the American government” and if he was a socialist. The ACLU naturally slammed this “ideological purity” test and Gonzalez filed a lawsuit.

Finally, while the aforementioned might be disturbing, nothing poses a threat to a person’s right to privacy or the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, like an 8-1 decision by the Supreme Court in May that warrantless searches are permissible. If the police smell marijuana smoke or think they hear evidence being destroyed, they can under “exigent circumstances” break down a door and bust people they may not even be targeting.

Contrast the US Supreme Court ruling with a Massachusetts high court ruling in April that “police can no longer search or seize someone they suspect of possessing a small amount of marijuana,” because Question 2, according to the ACLU, “made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction instead of a crime.”

A report has been released indicating medical marijuana is now seen as a $1.7 billion market. In fact, Scotts Miracle-Gro is exploring the possibility of going after medical marijuana growers to boost sales of its lawn and garden supplies. Yet, the federal government seeks to maintain “law and order,” even if it means violating what conservatives might call the “free market” by deterring the rise of a robust medical marijuana industry in America.

Isn’t what happened in Massachusetts how it should work? Citizens vote or push state representatives to pass legislation to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. Cases involving possession of marijuana go to court in states, where possession is no longer criminal. The court issues a ruling in line with what the citizens of the state support and the new state laws. Yet, unfortunately, the federal government seems to want state leaders to behave more like Arizona Gov. Brewer and obstruct decriminalization efforts by invoking federal laws in ways that subvert democracy.

Update on Bradley Manning from His Lawyer

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: Abode of Chaos)

A couple days ago I did a post on the support contingents for Bradley Manning, the accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks, which participated in the LGBT pride parades that took place in the United States during the weekend. I was asked how Manning was doing but had no update. Now, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs has posted an update on Manning.

From his blog:

It has been a little over two months since PFC Manning was moved from Quantico to the Joint Regional Corrections Facility (JRCF) at Fort Leavenworth.  Since being moved to the JRCF, PFC Manning’s overall mood and demeanor has greatly improved.  PFC Manning is able to maintain regular contact with his defense team.  He receives weekly written updates, phone calls and visits from defense counsel.  In addition, he receives regular visits from family.  Finally, PFC Manning also receives hundreds of letters from supporters every week.  He wishes to extend his sincere appreciation to those who have taken the time to send along their thoughts and well-wishes.

The Bradley Manning Support Network adds, “Let’s keep Bradley’s mood up as he approaches a pre-trial hearing this summer by continuing to send him letters of support. Mr. Coombs’ blog has more information regarding the rules around mail and Bradley’s address.”

*

Additionally, here are a few items worth noting:

-London Pride on July 2nd – Bradley Manning supporters will be out marching.

-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks on Manning from a recent Vanity Fair feature story: Logan Price draws attention to her remarks in a post here at myFDL. (His post is also published on the Bradley Manning Support Network website.)

Clinton said:

“Hillary told staff that she could not fathom how an army private, Bradley Manning, with psychological problems and a drag-queen boyfriend could single-handedly cause the United States unprecedented embarrassment just by labeling massive downloads as Lady Gaga songs.”

Crabby Go Lightly takes down this idea that Manning has “psychological problems.”

For the most part, the American LGBT community has been silent on Manning’s case while LGBT communities throughout the world have taken an interest in his case. It’d be great if these inflammatory comments led more LGBT people to take interest and come to his defense. That’s not because they have an obligation since Manning is gay but because Manning has kind of become this example for the military that can be used to argue gay people shouldn’t be allowed in the military. Plus…

-Lt. Choi Continues to Speak Out for ManningHowever, as this collection of tweets shows, he has been taking flack for it.

Supporters of Bradley Manning have really appreciated the fact that Choi is now an outspoken ally of Manning, who is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with him.

In recent days, he’s said things like, “Bradley Manning is not a hero because he is gay. He is a hero because he rejected war crimes” and “If treason is the exposure of truth to end an unjust war, I could only hope to be such a ‘traitor.’” He’s also debunked the myth that “WikiLeaks did not endanger our troops; cultural illiteracy, false pretenses and war crimes did. They still do.”

Choi has done what people should do on and offline: challenge people on Manning.

There are numerous misconceptions. For example, @ThatGirlRuns tweets, “You might have noticed that nothing has been achieved by his dumb actions. We already knew the war was unjust,” and, “There is no way Manning knew every detail of what was in the documents he leaked.”

First of all, he is alleged to have released information to WikiLeaks. He has not been convicted yet (except in the court of public opinion by Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama).

If Manning did release the information, he helped contribute to the toppling of a dictatorship in Tunisia. Tweeting one’s penis is a “dumb action.” Releasing information that can liberate a country? Is that really dumb?

And, it wasn’t Manning’s duty as a whistleblower to filter the information and decide what to release. That was the job of the media organizations and possibly WikiLeaks. Contrary to the widespread myth, a document dump did not occur. The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel all collaborated and released stories on cables they wanted to cover. Since the beginning of “Cablegate,” WikiLeaks has been using media organizations as filters to provide context and get the maximum impact out of the information contained in the US State Embassy cables. (Plus, if you believe what Manning allegedly said in his now infamous chat with hacker Adrian Lamo, who ultimately turned him into authorities, he likely read more cables than many think he did if he leaked the information to WikiLeaks.

Why make such a fuss about all this? The cumulation of all this misunderstanding and nonsense on Manning has an effect. We who are interested and care should read up on what really happened. We should confront people in public and online who don’t really know what happened. And, we should put into context the war on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning and show Americans what the cost of not standing up for Manning or WikiLeaks might be.

A number of people may have made up their mind that he is a traitor. However, many Americans don’t know the case of Manning all that well and reflexively parrot what they’ve heard on the news or in a PBS or CNN special. We can connect with them and perhaps shift their understanding.

Obama’s Latest Speech on Afghanistan: Bridging the Say/Do Gap to Finally End the War

6:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Those who read President Barack Obama’s speech will likely be reading to find hints of when the conflict might finally come to an end. Support for a pullout from Afghanistan is at an all-time high, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. But, there is little reason to put much stock in the fact that ten thousand troops will be leaving Afghanistan this summer. Withdrawing a number of troops around July of 2011 was always part of a plan, a way of deftly managing public opinion.

When Obama went ahead and added thirty thousand troops, he knew, as shown in Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars he had two years with the public. He understood the perils of escalating a war, as retired Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry,  retired Gen. James L. Jones and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute all offered a level of dissent against Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. And, Obama allegedly told Vice President Joe Biden in private to oppose a big troop buildup but could not stand up to military brass. In the end, though, he was able to set a withdrawal timetable of ending the war by 2014.

Like any speech on war by US presidents these days, it began by re-opening the wounds of 9/11, by forcing all Americans to recall the fear or pain they experienced that day. It transitioned into a history of how America had gotten to this point—why America invaded Afghanistan, how it got “sidetracked” in Iraq (sorry for  your luck Iraqis) and why America committed to a surge in Afghanistan about a year and a half ago. It proceeded to outline the plans and goals for the next stage of the mission and then concluded with pure, pathological American exceptionalist fallacies.

A key difference between this speech and the surge speech is during the speech there weren’t any US State Embassy cables or war logs from WikiLeaks to reference and call “bullshit” when something was said with an err of confidence that seemed preposterous. Fast forward to June 2011, with plenty of information on US diplomacy and US military operations in Afghanistan, there is ample reason to doubt the assertions President Obama makes in his speech.

When Obama announced the surge, he committed the US to refocusing on al Qaeda, reversing the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan security forces to defend their own country. According to Obama, the US is meeting these goals or objectives and so the country will be able to “recover” the surge and be back around the level of troops that were in Afghanistan when President George W. Bush left office.

One week ago, Jonathan Owen for The Independent reported, “Not a single Afghan police or army unit is capable of maintaining law and order in the war-torn country without the support of coalition forces.” Owen cited a US Department of Defense report on Afghanistan from February showing “out of more than 400 army and police units in Afghanistan” none are capable of operation without assistance from coalition forces. And, Owen also highlighted the fact that twenty-five billion US dollars have been used to train and equip Afghan forces thus far and Lieutenant-General William B. Caldwell does not think the “training mission” can be complete until 2017.

A cable from December 2009 titled, “Karzai Looks Forward,” features this exchange on the Afghan army and police:

Turning his attention to the Afghan National Army (ANA), Karzai announced that the ANA leadership should lead simpler, more spartan lives. He criticized widespread reports of ANA generals driving expensive cars and NDS reports that only no officers had died in battles with insurgents, only ANA soldiers died (the latter account was disputed by Minister of Defense Wardak). Reflecting on ANA recruitment, Karzai asked why so few Afghans from the provinces of Zabul, Ghazni, Helmand, Herat, and Farah enlist in the ANA. He bemoaned the fact that only drug users join the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Khandahar and Helmand Provinces. Upon hearing the latter, Minister of Interior Affairs Atmar interjected that a partially completed personnel asset inventory conducted in Khandahar and Helmand turned up the surprisingly good news that only 20 percent of ANP personnel were drug users. [emphasis added]

These days, what percentage of Afghan police are drug users or addicts? How is that impacting operations? More importantly, do private contractors like DynCorp leaders still “pimp little boys to stoned Afghan cops”?

A June 2009 cable shows the DynCorp leaders pimping Afghani children to the police. At bacha bazis or “boy-play” parties eight to fifteen-year-old boys are “made to put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women’s clothing.” The boys dance seductively to older men. Their “services” are auctioned and men will sometimes purchase them outright. And, the State Department understands that bacha bazis are a “widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape.”

Purchasing services from a child is illegal under Sharia law and the civil code in Afghanistan. The party mentioned in the cable led to the arrest of two Afghan National Police. Are “dancing boys” still a problem for law enforcement in the country?

What about this story from the cables on Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd saying the situation “scares the hell out of me”? Or the fact that he found France and Germany’s contribution to fighting the Taliban to be “organizing folk dancing festivals” and the comment from Australian Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Ric Smith that the mission was like a “wobbly three-legged stool”?

Obama’s speech singled out the Afghan national police, but what about the unconventional forces the United States has been using? A November 2009 cable indicates the Afghan government and local communities were using “unconventional security forces. These “local and private bodies” were proliferating because of the lack of “public confidence in the police.”

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar had a plan to use a “traditional militia concept.”

Locals who are loyal to the government and register their existing arms could serve as police auxiliaries, receiving food and even some pay from MOI in return for helping the police. Atmar’s longest-serving advisor, Habib Wayand, explained that the Minister prefers to encourage small groups linked to local shuras, rather than large militias that might bite back or prove loyal to commanders with their own agendas.

Exactly, how are these militias impacting operations now? And, also, a prime proposal from Atmar in February 2010 involved sending twelve to fifteen thousand police to train in Jordan at a facility constructed for training Iraqi police. There is little indication this proposal has been accepted by US forces tasked with training Afghanis to keep their country “secure.” Atmar also reported a “need to train 50,000 per year to meet expansion targets and offset attrition” but the maximum training capacity was around 30,000 trainees.

Less than 100 al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. It seems true that the goal of refocusing on al Qaeda has been achieved but why did US forces ever have to “refocus” on al Qaeda? Was there ever a point when they weren’t going after al Qaeda?

The Afghan War Logs released by WikiLeaks almost one year ago revealed the Pakistan spy service was meeting directly with Taliban for “secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.” To what extent do these operations persist?

The released war logs also showed the US military covered up “a reported surface-to-air missile strike by the Taliban that shot down a Chinook helicopter over Helmand in 2007 and killed seven soldiers, including a British military photographer.” There may be political leaders affiliated with the Taliban who are willing to talk, but how does the US intend to halt the fighters who are committed to fighting US forces?

The questions are not raised because this author supports the war effort and wishes to see it continue. Doubts are made evident because President Obama appears to be certain that it will all work out by 2014. It seems quite clear that this speech is part of a ploy to con Americans into believing the mission is ending and will end as the timetable being discussed suggests yet it appears it could take another half decade to train forces or further sort out a political solution. In the meantime, if the US is being consistent, wouldn’t forces have to remain to prevent a vacuum from forming?

Furthermore, the conclusion of Obama’s speech shows that what is at stake for America, as for any war, is its credibility and reputation. Obama, whose weapon of choice in governance is often compromise, lays out two choices, in the same way he laid out two choices when working to pass health reform. The are not necessarily the only two choices America has but they are two choices, which Obama averages to get a solution that will make possible a balancing act between the military and political establishment and the citizens of the United States.

He presents one of the choices as isolationism or retreat. This means no longer being an “anchor for global security,” letting despots and terrorists flood the earth and create anarchy. The other choice he presents is overextension, struggling to confront every evil that can be found in the world. (Absurdly, he does not hint at the reality that the US already tries to go after all evil or at least exploits this as a pretext for many, many operations.)

Upon establishing these poles, he plants a stake in at what he deems “the center.” The solution is not necessarily right or wrong but “pragmatic.” The answer is not to deploy large armies when targeted operations can be used. When innocents are being slaughtered, the US can rally international action (e.g. Libya). Somehow, the final stages of Afghanistan are part of this “centered course.”

The disenthralled approach obfuscates the past and recasts the future. US-assassination squads operating with “kill-and-capture lists,” the use of drones, intelligence agents awash in data they don’t know what to do with, and the killing of civilians going unreported, all revealed in the Afghanistan War Logs, can continue as tools so long as they are employed properly. Brutal night raids, which have led Afghanis in villages to fear US forces more than the Taliban, become legitimized. The brutality of war cast as “pragmatism” suggests what is unfolding is part of a measured approach and whether those who get bombed at weddings care about “pragmatism” versus “realism or “idealism,” that does not matter.

The most fraudulent part is the mythological portrayal of America that Obama presents:

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

The sophistry of these words dares one to ask whether engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition, invoking state secrets to prevent transparency, denying habeas corpus to detainees in prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist), holding detainees in detention indefinitely, asserting the right to target and kill US civilians bypass due process or employing military commissions—“kangaroo courts”—is what nations that adhere to the rule of law and respect the rights of people do.

The portrait of America presented and its underhandedness obscures how America has typically been at war with those in the country who engage in acts of self-determination, who dissent against power.

Search warrants, grand jury subpoenas, indictments, trials, spying, infiltration, entrapment, raids, and severe limits on demonstrations with bystanders, protesters and journalists all subject to arrest at demonstrations are all omitted. Obama cannot sell America as a model country for freedom if that paragraph contains hints at abuses of the state or Executive.

Thus, the next stage of the Afghanistan war, officially launched by this speech, is benign compared to the pathological rot in the military and political establishment, which conditions someone to be able to stand before a world and utter such misrepresentations.

Gareth Porter, investigative journalist, says this morning on Democracy Now!, “There is an effort here to create a narrative that as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding. When in fact, nothing of this sort is happening…Clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That is not going to come to an end.” And, about 70,000 US military forces along with thousands of contractors would remain in the country after 2012.

Thanks to transparency, technology and the courage of whistleblowers, citizens in this country can begin to bridge the gap between what leaders say and do in such a way that has never been possible before in this country’s history. Information released by outlets like WikiLeaks can be used to confront speeches like this one head on and work to bridge the say/do gap. It’s relentlessly working to bridge this gap that will force leaders into a corner that will eventually lead to deception being exposed and the war coming to an end.

Tim DeChristopher at NN11: Obama Administration Pursues Activists Like Previous Administrations (VIDEO)

1:40 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

While at Netroots Nation 2011, I had the privilege of speaking to some very inspiring and courageous people, who have no qualms about speaking the truth. One of those videos, an interview with climate activist Tim DeChristopher, is now up at TheNation.com.

DeChristopher placed fake bids in a public land auction to disrupt drilling by energy companies. He has been convicted on two felony charges and now could face a number of years in prison.

In the interview, DeChristopher recounts how he disrupted a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction at the end of 2008 that the Bush Administration was holding as a “parting gift to the oil and gas industry.” DeChristopher registered as a bidder and wound up outbidding most of the companies’ bidders that were present.

He now is set to be sentenced on July 26.

“Before I was ever indicted, the Obama Administration overturned the auction and admitted it was illegal in the first place, not because of my actions but because the BLM had violated its own rules,” DeChristopher explains. He makes clear the Obama Administration has had the option all along to not pursue him but yet has chosen to push a case against him for the maximum four and a half years. And, he claims that it may not be all the popular to press charges especially since he is a nonviolent climate activist who “was standing in the way of something that was admittedly illegal.”
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