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What Did Michael Hastings Know?

5:00 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

Nevermind the fiery car crash that killed Michael Hastings. Forget about remotely controlled cars careening out of control at the command of insideous government spooks, remains cremated against the will of the family, and withheld accident reports involving Hastings’ death.

None of that is particularly important, really.*

What is important is the story journalist Michael Hastings was researching prior to his death. That would be the story that prompted Hastings to write an email to collegues at BuzzFeed warning that the FBI was snooping around asking questions of his close friends and associates. Hastings advised his colleagues that any conversations with the FBI about his news gathering and journalism practices should be done after first consulting with an attorney. Hastings was on to a big story, and needed to go “off the radar” for a while.

So what was Hastings researching? The last article Michael Hastings published looked into how major players in the Democratic Party have responded to the leaks exposing the NSA’s secret spying program called PRISM. Far from expressing outrage at the intelligence community’s widespread domestic spying programs, the Obama administration had been ruthless against those exposing illegal government surveillance, particularly journalists.

Transparency supporters, whistleblowers, and investigative reporters, especially those writers who have aggressively pursued the connections between the corporate defense industry and federal and local authorities involved in domestic surveillance, have been viciously attacked by the Obama administration and its allies in the FBI and DOJ. [Emphasis Added]

Michael Hastings was interested in how private contractors and government were working together to stop journalists from publishing details of illegal government surveillance.

Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald and Barrett Brown have been government targets, among others. Those three are important. The stories of Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald are well known and thoroughly documented by now and include a campaign of smears, threats, international legal contortions, and general hyperventilation from government, corporate America, and talking heads around the globe.

Less known is journalist Barrett Brown. Unofficial spokesman for Anonymous–although he denied holding that title–Barrett Brown’s work has focused on the secretive world of contract spies. Through Project PM, “a crowd-sourced research effort to expose government intelligence contractors,” Barrett Brown uncovered a strategy concocted by a consortium of private contractors called Team Themis to discredit activist groups opposing the contractors’ big-name clients, namely Bank of America and the US Chamber of Commerce. Strategies of Team Themis included Persona Management, which created false social media accounts to infiltrate and discredit progressive groups like Wikileaks and anti-Chamber group Chamber Watch.

A similar program was developed by the US military for international use and has been compared to attempts by the Chinese government to control and restrict its domestic population’s free speech on the internet.

Critics are likely to complain that it [the American military's program] will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

Bank of America was introduced to Team Themis through–wait for it–the Department of Justice, and BofA ultimately hired Themis in an effort to discredit Wikileaks after Assange obliquely threatened to bring down a major bank. Secret leaked bank documents were sitting in a security file to be released in the event of Assange’s capture or death. Prior to that, DOJ referred the US Chamber of Commerce to Team Themis when the Chamber sought to create a damage control campaign to immunize itself against opponents and their advocates, notably Glenn Greenwald.

Rather than winning accolades for exposing a nefarious public/private partnership to damage the credibility of journalists, Barrett Brown won indictments on charges that could result in over 100 years in jail. One obviously spurious charge was for cutting and pasting a link onto a discussion board. Some believe that Brown was targeted because he got dangerously close to discovering PRISM before Edward Snowden leaked top secret documents detailing the program.

But the toxic mix of big business, private intelligence and government was not all that interested Hastings. A February 2011 article for Rolling Stone outlined one General’s use of an army Psycological Operations unit to manipulate the opinions of US Senators visiting Afghanistan.

“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders.

The psyops operation was used to help secure additional funding for military operations in Afghanistan in the midst of an unpopular and unsuccessful operation. The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 pevents the use of military psyops against American citizens. Holmes continued,

“I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”

Meanwhile, an obscure provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) went into effect this month repealing the Smith-Mundt Act’s ban on the US government using psyops propaganda on a domestic American audience. The sockpuppet army of Team Themis is legally loosed and Americans can be legally manipulated by psyops to behave in ways amenable to the government.

Michael Hastings was a personal friend of Barrett Brown’s and contributed to Project PM. Hastings suspected that his conversations with Brown were being recorded and monitored. In a letter of condolence to supporters of Hastings, Barrett Brown announced that Hastings had scheduled an interview with Brown from the prison where Brown is incarcerated awaiting trial. Hastings was killed before the interview took place.

What were Michael Hastings and Barrett Brown planning to discuss during the interview that never happened? Website freebarrettbrown.org’s Kevin Gallagher has some ideas.

Hastings saw Barrett’s case in the context of the government’s war on the press, basically, and uh, a lot of the things he reported about the like psyops on US Senators to get them to support the war ties into the Persona Management stuff and the stuff that Barrett was researching, so there is a lot of overlap between the two.

Whatever Hastings found, he thought it was important. Apparently so did the FBI. As Hastings tweeted about his story on Barrett Brown, “Get ready for your mind to get blown.”

In his last published piece Hastings wrote, “Perhaps more information will soon be forthcoming” about the Obama Administration’s war on journalism. Sadly, it will not come from Michael Hastings.

*Okay, it’s important, really important, but its not the topic of this post and is a totally separate issue deserving a separate discussion.

National Call to Action April 5, 2013

5:37 pm in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

In the early days of 2011, an Egyptian woman posted a video online urging people to go to Tahrir Square to register dissatisfaction with the Mubarak regime.  That video helped spark a revolution.

Today, a video was posted at YouTube by a young American calling  on activists to pool their knowledge, resources and skills to join Bradley Manning supporters on April 5, 2013 in public protest against the US Government’s war on whistleblowers.

Link to video

Why April 5, you ask?

That is the day that Icelandic Parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir will arrive in the US to begin a photo exhibit of still shots taken from Collateral Murder, the video evidence of US war crimes in Iraq released by Wikileaks.   Jonsdottir plans to bring the exhibit nationwide to draw attention to the upcoming trial of Bradley Manning, who leaked the video and a cache of US Government diplomatic cables to Julian Assange.  Manning’s trial is scheduled to begin in June.

Jonsdottir’s arrival in the United States is particularly important because she could be arrested upon landing.  The US government has indicated an interest in staff of Wikileaks generally and in Jonsdottir specifically.  As a volunteer for Wikileaks, Jonsdottir helped produce the Collateral Murder video that brought the wrath of the US Government on Julian Assange.  Since the release of Collateral Murder, the US Government has subpoenad Twitter for account information relating to Jonsdottir, and fear of prosecution by the US has led her to join a lawsuit against NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) that allows for indefinite detention of persons, possibly including journalists, who the United States believes provide support to terrorists.

Although according the YouTube video the FBI claims that it will not act on her arrival, the government of Iceland has warned Jonsdottir that any such guarantee should not be trusted.

Will this video National Call to Action help draw activists from Occupy, Anonymous, the Pirate Party, and supporters of whistleblowers like Manning, Drake, Kirakou and others together on April 5?  I don’t know.  But I hope that it does.

 

 

Organization of American States Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Threat to Ecuador’s Embassy by UK (Liveblog)

1:19 pm in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

The Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS) is meeting to discuss UK’s threat to revoke the diplomatic status of Ecuador’s embassy in London over Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange.

Livestream here.  (English)

The meeting started about at around 9 a.m. PST.  Here is a recap of what has happened up to present:

WikiLeaks Press@wlpress

Representatives of all 34 delegations of the OAS are present. Members will now elect meeting president.

Perú’s FM Roncagliolo now assumes the chair and will preside over this meeting.

Guayana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett will serve as Vice President of this meeting

The plenary session of the 27th meeting of consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs is now open. Each delegate will have 8 minutes.

Delegate from Ecuador: A sovereign country has the right to act in accordance with its principles & international law.

Delegate from Ecuador: UK threats began on 9 july, only a few days after #Assange entered the Ecuadorean Embassy.

Asylum was not a hasty decision; there was very careful & deliberate review of intl conventions on right of asylum & threats to Assange

Delegate from Ecuador recalls William Hague’s defense of the inviolability of Embassies last year

Ecuador: Hague himself said, never can there be a pretext to fail inviolability of dipl. premises,in 2011 defense of UK embassy in Tehran

Delegate from Ecuador re-reads the UK threat against Ecuadorean Embassy communicated in this memo: http://telegrafo.com.ec/images/eltelegrafo/banners/2012/carta-de-las-autoridades-inglesas-entregada-a-la-cancilleria-ecuador.pdf …

Ecuador formally rejects infringement of its sovereignty and treatment as if it were a mere colony

Here is the threat by the UK against Ecuador, citing domestic law, to invade the Ecuadorean Embassy: • Be (cont) http://tl.gd/j0o93g

Ecuador delegate recalls asylum granted throughout history: Uruguay embassy in Hamburg granted asylum in 1938 to Jews escaping persecution

FM Patiño, Ecuador: Latin America has long tradition in granting asylum, jews fleeing to Uruguay after Kristallnacht, Trotsky to Mexico.

Ecuador delegate: The first right of humans is right to physical safety.

#Assange arrest instructions photographed on police clipboard outside Ecuadorean Embassy in London: http://www.itv.com/news/story/2012-06-19/assange-seeks-political-asylum/ …

FM Patiño restates the instruments of international law invoked in Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to #Assange. http://www.mmrree.gob.ec/eng/2012/com042.asp …

“In past two months, Ecuador has bent over backwards to accommodate the UK and Sweden, & consulted with the US re. intent to prosecute.”

Ecuador delegate reiterates how they asked for guarantees from Sweden that Assange would not be extradited to US in course being questioned.

FM Patiño: UK did not withdraw its threat against Ecuador. It must therefore be considered as still being in effect.

FM Patiño: UK states it has never threatened & never acted against Vienna convention; but at no point was the original threat *withdrawn*

FM Patiño: Univ. declaration as human rights establishes the right to seek and receive asylum. http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/human-rights-basics/universal-declaration-of-human-rights …

Draft resolution, declaration by Ecuador, as well as the offending UK memo, are now being distributed to attendants. http://www.oas.org/en/media_center/webcast_schedule.asp …

Saint Kitts supports resolution

Dominican Rupublic offers solidarity with Ecuador

Panama is supporting safe passage for Assange

Via Wikileaks Press Twitter account:

Panama on draft resolution: we are not in position to support it in its current form, OAS not the forum for discussing a bilateral issue

Nicaragua backs resolution

Jamaica has issues with the wording of the resolution.  Does not believe the substance of UK’s letter constitutes a threat.

Venezuela up.  Believes UK did threaten Ecuador embassy.  FM Moros says Ecuador acted appropriately in granting in Assange matter.  Venezuela stand with Ecuador and ask others to stand in solidarity with Ecuador.  Asks UK to withdraw threat and return to respectful dialogue.  Says UK must do this today.

Trinidad and Tobago:

El Salvador: 

US:  Blah blah, we’re not involved.  We’re committed to protecting diplomatic premesis.  Mentions Iran embassy and bombings of Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam.  We shouldn’t perpetuate a discussion of threats that do not exist.  We share committment to law but there are more vital issues to discuss re intl law.  Tells OAS to focus on important issues.   Snide diplay of superiority, IMO.  Jerks.

Grenada:  Urges negotiation between parties.  Via WL press, Greneda wants rewording.

Haiti:  Reaffirm belief in Vienna Convention.  Will join in consensus. 

Mexico:  Shares concerns about inviolability of diplomatic missions per intl law.  Bilateral situation.   Re asylum, we support asylum generally but there are limitations in exercizing it.  Need for concert of states involved in order for asylum to work.  Must find mutually workable solution.   Supports consensus resolution.

Costa Rica:   Principle of inviolability has evolved over time.   Equality undergirds principles of UN agreements. 

Argentina:  International law is for all nations to follow, not just smaller countries.  Smaller countries must rely on law because they have less power.   Major powers must follow the law.  If the UK had broken asylum law, some here may be grieved by their families today.  Laws must be upheld.  Violation of asylum law requires condemnation.  For Argentina, it is necessary that UK withdraw threat to Ecuador’s embassy.  The threat against Ecuador is a threat against everyone.  Argentina supports draft resolution.

Uruguay:  Inviolable.  Threats out of place.  The receiving state cannot threaten.  Receiving state is there to protect the safety of the mission.   Never shall a threat be used as a means to resolve international issues.

Colombia:  Respect for diplomatic premisis.  Solidarity with government of Ecuador.   Talks about Tehran and inviolability of missions.  It cannot be otherwise so that all nations can operate on equal footing.

Dominica:  Resolve issue diplomatically. 

Canada:  Bilateral matter.  This is not the correct forum to reolve issue.   One party in matter is a member of the OAS, the other is not.  Draft resolution will cause more division.  Must respect the subject matter involved, be objective.  Does not accept that diplomatic asylum.  Cannot support resolution because of use of  ”threat”.  UK denies threat and says it is seeking diplomatic solution.  Wants consensus based approach through bilateral negotiation.

Suriname:  Belief in intl law and compliance with treaties.  Respect of civility of states and the Geneva Conventions and Vienna Convention.  Inviolability of diplomatic missions.  Mutually acceptable resolution in accordinace with intl law.

Bolivia:  Diplomatic missions an extention of a state.  Threats against Ecuador affect all of Latin America.   Must adopt firm resolution to uphold the law. 

St. Vincent?    Peaceful resolution.  All parties must negotiation in a way free of rancor.  Don’t want to devolve into a debate about whether there was a threat.   Threat was to the law of diplomatic protection.  Only three reasons to revoke protection of embassy per UK law.  Assange not threat to national security, not threat to public safety.   Vienna Conventions must be complied with, no limits.  Supports draft revolution. 

Paraguay:  Accepts just principle of asylum. No provision of UK law will prevail over international law.  WL press quote:  “Delegate from Paraguay: Right to asylum is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the right of Ecuador to decide.”

Guatemala:  Support any  resolution upholding intl law.

St Lucia:  Not here to be judge and jury but we believe in peaceful settlement of dispute.   Bilateral.   Some issues with the language of the resolution. 

Chile:  Ecuador has obligation to work on strengthening intl law.  No country can use domestic law to breach intl obligations.  Pleased to see the UK note distributed at this meeting re Vienna Conventions.  Full support to Ecuador.

Brazil:  Issue of great importance is inviolability of diplomatic premesis.  Pursue dialogue and direct relations. 

Antigua:  Full support behind inviolability of premesis of diplomatic missions.  Asks both parties to resolve issue.

Barbados:  First and foremost a bilateral issue to be resolved through amicable dialogue.  Subscribe to intl law and inviolability of diplomatic premesis.

Honduras:  Compliance with intl law and provisions of intl treaties informs our domestic law.  Inviolability of missions.  Right to asylum in Latin America that does not exist in other parts of world. 

Permanent Observers will take floor.  Agreement may be reached in a few minutes,  so PO’s may take the floor.

UK:  Principles of Vienna Conventions, UK has not threatened Ecuador.  Respect and compliance for intl law heart of UK.  In full compliance of Vienna.  Sweden issued arrest warrant for Assange, accused of serious offenses.  UK police arrested Assange.  Met UK’s obligation according to EU law, was required to take action on Sweden’s behalf.  Blah blah we’re doing all the legal things that need to be done to extradite legally.  Assange sought refuge because he did ot get the legal ruling he wanted.

 Sweden:  (Sorry, I missed a lot)  Extradition to 3rd country is hypothetical speculation.  Sweden not allowed to extradite person who could get capital punishment.  (But renditioned for torture is ok, right?)   We will respect intl law if requested to extradite to 3rd country. Via WL Press tweet :  “Swedish representative: it is unacceptable that the course of european judicial process is hindered in this manner”

Ecuador, again:  We are not discussing the Vienna Convention here today.  The draft resolution may have discrepancies in wording and we are open to revise it.  Revision happening at this time.

We may have consensus within a few minutes…

* * *

Restarting…

Reading out document.

Canada:  We can’t support resolution and we’d like to add a footnote to the resolution, should it pass.

US:  We’ll allow this resolution to go through (??WTF?!?)  but we want to add a footnote.  OK, I hope that is diplomatic speak for something, because it sounded like a condescending swipe.  Can the US block this resolution?

DECLARATION APPROVED

Applause in the room.

WL Press twitter account says that text of resolution will be found here.

WikiLeaks@wikileaks

UK’s letter sent to the OAS regarding Julian #Assange today. http://scm.oas.org/pdfs/2012/RC00166T.pdf All documents from today’s meeting: http://www.oas.org/consejo/MEETINGS%20OF%20CONSULTATION/XXVII%20meeting%20cosulation.asp