Posts Tagged NSA

The United Nations… of Drones?

This week World Can’t Wait joins kNOwdrones.com and Granny Peace Brigade in ambitious outreach across Manhattan to protest U.S. drones for warfare & surveillance.  We have 3 replica drones and volunteers of all ages.  We talk about how drones are used in targeted killing.  Each lunch hour we’re in key parts of the city, talking to people about why secret, dirty, wars employing horrific technology should be opposed.  The campaign, which is being launched while the U.N. General Assembly meets here in NYC, includes a demand for a world ban on weaponized and surveillance drones.

Protesting drone war at the UN

Protesting drone war and surveillance at the U.N. this week

The outrageous use of drones by the U.S. is in news this week, as the U.N. meets:

Baraa Shiban, an investigator for Reprieve who was returning from Yemen to the U.K. was detained at the airport under the infamous British Anti-Terrorism Act, questioned by an un-named suited interrogator.  He recounts in The Guardian

“So,” he asked, “does your organisation have anything to do with terrorism in Yemen?”

I replied, “My organisation addresses counter-terrorism abuses inside the country.”

“Exactly!” He said. “Why doesn’t your organisation do something about the terrorism that happens in your country, instead of focusing on the counter-terrorism abuses?”

What could I reply? Of course I oppose terrorism. But I also oppose the secret air war in my country – waged by the US, apparently with covert support from the UK and others. The drone war in my homeland has claimed innocent lives and terrorised civilians. It operates wholly outside the law, and serves only to fuel anti-western sentiment.

These are considered views. I formed them in conversations with dozens of witnesses, victims, and officials across Yemen. I was not about to apologise for them to this interrogator.

Glenn Greenwald tied this to NSA documents UK detention of Reprieve activist consistent with NSA’s view of drone opponents as ‘threats’ and ‘adversaries’

Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of “propaganda campaigns” from America’s “adversaries”.

Excerpts of those documents, straight from the horses’ mouths, are published by The Guardian.  My friend John Hanrahan, a former Washington Post reporter, nailed the role of ruling-class media in fostering the actual government propaganda campaign against drone critics by the un-named government sources in Why is the New York Times enabling a U.S. government smear campaign against reporters exposing the drone wars?

There is great concern that U.S. pressure will affect the report coming on October 25 from Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism.  Substantial evidence has been presented to Emmerson that this secret program is extensive and dangerous to Yemenis. From Alkarama, the Swiss human rights organization: “Drones War in Yemen”: Report presented to UN experts:

From the first air strike in November 2002 until the month of May 2013, there have been between 134 and 226 U.S. military operations in Yemen, including strikes by aircraft, drone missiles, or attacks launched from warships stationed in the Gulf of Aden. The number of deaths due to these targeted killings is estimated at 1150.

…not only is the definition of ‘terrorist’ or ‘combatant’ problematic but these high-profile targets in fact only represent 2% of the individuals who have died because of these ‘targeted’ air strikes.

In more repression of those working to expose the drones, Shazad Akbar, a Pakistani attorney who works with Reprieve to expose the U.S. drone war in Pakistan, and seeks reparations for its victims, has been denied a visa to enter the U.S. to testify at a hearing convened by U.S. Representative Alan Grayson about drone killings.  In Obama administration blocks drone victims’ lawyer from testifying in congress, Akbar says:

Failing to grant me a visa silences the 156 civilian drone strike victims and families that I represent. These families, who have lost children, parents, and siblings, are now trying through legal means to achieve justice. They have powerful stories to tell in their own voices, but will not travel without me, their legal representative.”

Robert Greenwald just produced a short film which focuses on one of the families Akbar represents, and who would come along to the U.S. to testify in Congress if the visa is granted to him.

Greenwald says you can help get Mr. Akbar into the country (as our protests did in 2012):

  1. Call the State dept. directly at 202-647-4000
  2. Follow up with an email demanding the State Dept. issue a visa for Shahzad

Importantly, the Bureau for Investigative Journalism has a huge new project: “Naming the Dead” — those killed by CIA drones in Pakistan. The project (thebureauinvestigates.com/namingthedead) will list the known names of those reported killed by drones together with as much biographical information as can be gathered.

No one who pays any attention to world news can say they don’t know, now, about the US secret drone war of targeted killing.  Our mission is to ignite outrage among people in whose name this illegitimate, unjust, immoral enterprise is conducted.

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Obama Wants U.S. “Comfortable” with Vast Surveillance

Barack Obama pulled out the “we’re not Big Brother” line again Friday in the ongoing to effort to bamboozle people alarmed about the vast National Security Agency surveillance of whole populations exposed by Edward Snowden.  The important thing to him is not that the surveillance is curtailed, but that you feel comfortable with it.

Tech Crunch outlined Obama’s program to make you comfortable:

1) a new independent NSA review board that will publish recommendations on protecting civil liberties 2) a new website detailing the surveillance activities 3) changes to the Patriot Act authorizing the spying, and 4) a new public advocate to argue cases in the secret court that grants the NSA spying requests.

Reviews, public advocates, and a website (!) all with the intention of making you accept the illegal busting down of virtual walls breaking any remaining protection promised by the Fourth Amendment. Obama straight up lied when saying that

all these steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values. And to others around the world, I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people.

Obama was especially pissed off that Snowden’s revelations continue to be published via Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian, and in other media.  These include irrefutable evidence – from the horse’s mouth — of ongoing NSA programs which collect all metadata from very large sections of people, including Stellar Wind, Boundless Informant, and X-KEYSCORE.

Plainly put by The Guardian:

Nothing Obama announced Friday is likely to materially alter the NSA’s ongoing mass collection of phone data and surveillance of internet communications in the short term.

* Legal disclaimer: "Torture" here is defined as anything the United States does not do, and conversely anything the United States does, including waterboarding, forced feeding of hunger strikers through nasal tubes, long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, and the barbaric atrocities at Abu Ghraib are, by definition, not torture, not withstanding any international laws or treaties the United States is party to or has refused to sign. Furthermore, "murder" here is also defined as anything the United States does not do, and again, anything the United States does, including the execution of innocent people, the killing of over 200 children in drone attacks, and the deaths of millions around the world through coups, repression and war, is not murder.

* Legal disclaimer: “Torture” here is defined as anything the United States does not do, and conversely anything the United States does, including waterboarding, forced feeding of hunger strikers through nasal tubes, long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, and the barbaric atrocities at Abu Ghraib are, by definition, not torture, not withstanding any international laws or treaties the United States is party to or has refused to sign. Furthermore, “murder” here is also defined as anything the United States does not do, and again, anything the United States does, including the execution of innocent people, the killing of over 200 children in drone attacks, and the deaths of millions around the world through coups, repression and war, is not murder. 
Revolution — August 18, 2013 revcom.us

The Wall Street Journal, which mostly supports Obama’s spying, spoke plainly to Obama’s chief goal; to

gain public trust in the NSA programs and engage in a national debate about surveillance. But he also has said he was comfortable with the current programs. So he could say he spurred a debate and tried to address privacy concerns even if no changes result.

The New York Times editorialized, mildly, against the spying, apparently not satisfied with Obama’s sales effort:

The programs themselves are the problem, not whether they are modestly transparent. As long as the N.S.A. believes it has the right to collect records of every phone call — and the administration released a white paper Friday that explained, unconvincingly, why it is perfectly legal — then none of the promises to stay within the law will mean a thing.

Obama’s rhetoric rang like the May 23, 2013 address when he said he “wants” to close Guantanamo and would remove an obstacle to prisoners’ release — which he created — by putting a moratorium on releasing prisoners to Yemen.

Exactly ZERO prisoners have been released since his comments.

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Holder Promises Snowden Won’t be Tortured?

In arguing that Russia should send Edward Snowden back to the U.S. to face charges for exposing, from inside the NSA, a vast surveillance network on whole populations, Attorney General Eric Holder was in the ironic position of alleging that:

“I can report that the United States is prepared to provide to the Russian government the following assurances regarding the treatment Mr. Snowden would face upon return to the United States,” Holder wrote. “First, the United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States.” In addition, “Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.”

Here are layers of irony, in brief:

1) Most countries in the world don’t have the death penalty, oppose it, and know the U.S. kills by far more people per per capita than any country, even including the countries which also use the death penalty.

So, for Holder to have to pledge that the U.S. won’t seek the death penalty for Snowden is quite an admission, but one masking the real horror of 1,340 killed since the 1976 when the U.S. Supreme Court made the death penalty legal again.

2) “Torture is unlawful in the United States,” says Holder, which shows you what the law is good for.

Right now, 80,000 people every night are in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and detention centers, whether they have been convicted, or not, as in the case of Bradley Manning.

3).  “Torture is unlawful in the United States,” says Holder, which is exactly why the Bush regime set up Guantanamo and a whole system of indefinite detention and torture outside U.S. borders.

Edward Snowden explained on June 10 that he knew what could happen at the hands of the U.S. and then elaborated on his knowledge of what had been done to Bradley Manning while in pre-trial custody, and before a huge outcry that forced the Obama administration to move him out of solitary confinement.  We all fear for Snowden’s future, regardless of where he finds refuge, because as he said:

“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk, because they’re such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningful oppose them. If they want to get you, they will get you in time.”

Here is someone who knows the risks, and chose to come forward so that the public could be informed about illegal surveillance by the U.S. government.  In the process, over and over again, that same government must be exposed for illegitimate suppression of dissent and protest.

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Does the U.S. and its Commander in Chief Operate like a “Global George Zimmerman?”

Last Friday, President Obama, apparently responding to pressure, made an unexpected statement about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. He expressed understanding that Black people feel “a lot of pain around what happened here.” He promised no systemic remedies, saying that such decisions are left up to the states, and putting the responsibility of “each of us to do some soul-searching.”

Cornel West, on Democracy Now! Monday, went right after Obama’s statement:

“President Obama has very little moral authority at this point, because we know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent peoples, a criminal—George Zimmerman is a criminal—but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense, so that there’s actually parallels here.”

It’s well worth watching, or reading the whole exchange. Immediately Dr. West caught all kinds of criticism, for criticizing the President — a situation I personally identify with. I heartily support and agree with Dr. West’s comments. I would like to hear what you think.

Watch

Food for Thought & Action:

Expanded U.S. Targeted Killing, Drone War & Secret Operations.
See the leaked Pakistani document detailing many more civilian deaths in US drone strikes in Pakistan, released Monday by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

“Drawn from field reports by local officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the document lists over 70 drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009, alongside a small number of other incidents such as alleged Nato attacks and strikes by unspecified forces.

“Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated by the leaked report to be civilian victims. Some 94 of these are said to be children.”

A Promise Two Months Ago to Release Prisoners & Close Guantanamo.
No prisoners released since the President said he would relax restrictions on cleared Yemeni prisoners. Federal court decisions in favor of the prisoners’ rights against the government practice of force-feeding and genital searches have brought no relief. Joe Nocera, noticeably anguished, wrote Tuesday morning in The New York Times:

“There is one person who could get them out tomorrow — if he chose. That same person could stop the military from force-feeding the detainees. I am referring, of course, to President Obama. Yet despite decrying the Guantánamo prison, the president has refused to do anything but stand by and watch the military inflict needless pain and suffering, much of it on men who simply shouldn’t be there. Indeed, in many of the legal briefs filed on behalf of Guantánamo prisoners, the defendant is Barack Obama.”

An Expanding System of Mass Incarceration in the U.S.
In the Democracy Now! interview, Dr. West said,

“we’re talking about legacy of the white supremacy. We’re talking about a criminal justice system that is criminal when it comes to mistreating poor people across the board, black and brown especially…I just never forget Brother Carl Dix and others…we protested [stop-and-frisk by NYPD] and went to jail and then went to court and was—had a guilty verdict, right? That week, the president came to New York and said, “Edward Koch was one of the great mayors in the last 50 years,” and then said, “Michael Bloomberg was a terrific mayor.” Now, this is the same person saying we’ve got to care for black boys, and black boys are being intimidated, harassed, humiliated, 1,800 a day. It’s just not a matter of pretty words, Mr. President. You’ve got to follow through in action. You see, you can’t use the words to hide and conceal your mendacity, hypocrisy and the support of criminality—or enactment of criminality when it comes to drones, you see.”

Prosecution and Persecution of Whistle-Blowers

“Will you press for the justice of Trayvon Martin in the same way you press for the prosecution of Brother Bradley Manning and Brother Edward Snowden?” So you begin to see the hypocrisy.”

Glenn Greenwald writes,

“The Obama White House yesterday told Russia that it must not persecute “individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption” – as Bradley Manning faces life in prison for alerting the world to the war abuses and other profound acts of wrongdoing he discovered and as the unprecedented Obama war on whistleblowers rolls on. That lecture to Russia came in the context of White House threats to cancel a long-planned meeting over the Russian government’s refusal to hand over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US to face espionage charges.”

Vast Government Surveillance on Whole Populations

Remember when Obama said that he doesn’t want people to feel like “Big Brother” is watching us?  “in the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential, you know — you know, program run amok. But when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.” And we find out, as this scandal unfolds, that all date is being vacuumed up and held, forever,  in a global “Stand Your Ground” justiication, because “it keeps us safe.”

All of the above, and more, are why we drafted indictments against the US government for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Read and share with others.

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