Posts Tagged snowden

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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In Court with Bradley Manning: It’s All About War Crimes

We learned while in a strange, airless, windowless trailer-like military court at the infamous Ft. Meade, during the trial of Bradley Manning on Thursday, June 28, that the U.S. military has blocked access, worldwide, for anyone in the military to the website of The Guardian, apparently in reaction to the leaks by Edward Snowden on vast surveillance of whole populations by the National Security Administration.  Ironically, or not, Ft. Meade is the home of the NSA.

Marching for Bradley at NYC Pride June 30, 2013

Marching for Bradley at NYC Pride June 30, 2013

The criminals, according to the U.S. government, are the leakers such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden and journalists such as Glenn Greenwald who publish the information about U.S. war crimes which we, the public, are supposed to support, or, at least ignore.  The “enemy” is us, the public, explicitly, in the case of Bradley, who is charged with “aiding the enemy.”

This is all backwards, to risk understatement. The crime of aggressive war is the supreme war crime. To have waged such a war, destroying a country’s infrastructure, society, displacing millions, displacing and killing uncounted numbers — and all on the basis of lies, as was the U.S. war on Iraq — is the criminal offense we should be trying the leaders of the Bush regime for.

Instead, Bradley Manning, a private who joined to pay for college, sent to a Forward Operating Base outside Baghdad, is facing charges for which the U.S. government wants him in prison for life, and which could potentially lead to the death penalty. Preliminary hearings went on for many months, during which, last February, Bradley made a declaration taking responsibility for sending classified documents to WikiLeaks.  The prosecution will finish its case against him this week, charging, most seriously, that he “aided the enemy.”

History is being made in this courtroom, but as is often the case in the proceedings of empire, on the surface, the proceedings are banal. The judge takes pains to point out Bradley’s rights as accused, all the better to not be reversed in an appeal. The large team of prosecutors comes and goes with stacks of files, as if this is business as usual, and as if “justice” will be served. Each morning the lead prosecutor informs the judge of how many members of the media and the public are present. There is a lot of talk about the rights of the public, while the public is searched, told not to talk, and treated as the “enemy” we are.

Bradley is charged with leaking “Cablegate” files, and specifically 117 of them, as allowed by the judge last week.  Kevin Gosztola notes that these aren’t the cables that made news when released.  He speculates on why these documents, which concerned countries all over the world including Iraq and Afghanistan, were charged:

Peter Van Buren, a former Foreign Service Officer for the State Department who helped lead two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in rural Iraq from 2009-2010, told Firedoglake that none of the cables from the US Embassy in Baghdad that Manning is charged with disclosing to WikiLeaks jump out at him as “anything special or concrete.” He suggested that many of them were reports done by State Department employees as if they were journalists.

The fact that none of the cables appear to be any that received widespread attention in the media when WikiLeaks published them is, to Van Buren, a possible symptom of the State Department’s “schizophrenia about WikiLeaks.” They have wanted to claim the release of cables was an “incredible crime against the US government” while at the same time wanting to “reassure” leaders of countries around the world that the “really important stuff was protected” and not compromised.

The prosecution attempted to get the judge to allow them to submit tweets from WikiLeaks as evidence that Bradley was working with WikiLeaks, providing what they asked for.  We learned that the prosecutors hadn’t subpoenaed Twitter for those records, and had someone find them on Google, perhaps because they know they don’t have to work very hard here to get a “guilty” verdict from the military judge.  The judge did deny one 2009 WikiLeaks tweet into evidence, but allowed others.

Collateral Murder

Everyone needs to see the video Bradley Manning is accused of releasing: Collateral Murder. Request a DVD copy. Distribute this flier.

A small defense victory Thursday came when the judge seemed to indicate she’ll allow them to submit evidence arguing that the Collateral Murder video of the July 2007 Apache helicopter attack killing 12 Iraqi civilians was no longer “classified” by 2010 when Manning sent it to Wikileaks.  It’s worth noting that this footage was sought by Reuters, (who employed two of the men killed in the attack) for three years, unsuccessfully.

The most interesting testimony Friday was from Col. David Miller, who had commanded Manning’s brigade in Iraq in 2010, which was assigned to “Operation New Dawn,” the U.S. cynical attempt to “teach” Iraqis to provide their own security, as he explained.  Miller told how he thought Manning, who had once briefed him at Ft. Drum before deployment was smart, but that the whole unit “took a hit” and that he was “stunned” when he learned of the charges against Manning. “The last thing I anticipated was an internal security breach from one of our own.”

Nathan Fuller, writing for the Bradley Manning Support Network, wrote:

On cross-examination, Col. Miller testified that there were no restrictions on surfing the SIPRNet, the military’s Secret-level internet, where he perused the State Department’s Net-Centric Diplomacy Database. He also said that soldiers were allowed to download files to their computers and to digital media, such as CDs, and there were no restrictions on the ‘manner’ in which a soldier could download. This refutes the claim that by using the download-automating Wget program, Manning exceeded his authorized computer access.

NOW: Take-home message:

The prosecution will rest July 1 or 2. After the holiday weekend, on Monday July 8, the defense will begin. Let this be a day where the prosecutor has to tell the judge that the media trailer is full; the public seats are all taken, and the overflow trailer is also full.  If you can’t get to Ft. Meade, join in the conversation online; send donations; talk to everyone you know about this case, and why telling the truth should not be a crime.

And, order a copy of Collateral Murder to show, to project outside, to share.  What is so dangerous about this footage that Bradley should spend life in prison for releasing it?  It shows war crimes, done in our name.

Finally, consider Julian Assange’s comments on the trial:

This is not justice; never could this be justice… The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity. It is a show of wasteful vengeance; a theatrical warning to people of conscience.

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