… Meanwhile, the beat goes on. On Monday, the Peace Prize Laureate launched his third drone strike in Yemen in as many days. (It is of course superfluous to point out that the United States is not at war with Yemen.) The latest strike followed one on Easter Sunday, when Barack Obama celebrated the Resurrection of his Lord and Saviour by killing 30 people in Yemen, by the usual courageous method of having an underling in a padded chair somewhere thousands of miles away courageously push a button while courageously viewing a video screen.
This heroic action was preceded by a strike on Saturday, in which 13 people were killed, including at least three civilians. This was purportedly a “signature strike,” a common practice in which the courageous Americans actually have no earthly idea who they are courageously killing from thousands of mile away — they just push the button because a bunch of people they are tracking seem to be “acting like” terrorists in some way or another. For all we know, all 13 people killed that day were civilians, like the 15 people on their way to a wedding whom the Peace Laurate killed last December.
In fact, we have no way of knowing if any of the dozens of people killed by the Peace Laureate during his busy Easter holiday were civilians or militants. Or what “civilian” and “militant” even mean in the context of the Peace Laureate’s never-ending violation of other nation’s sovereignty to kill people, many if not most of whom are completely unknown to him and his assassins.
We are simply told that all the shredded corpses are “al Qaeda militants.” Which of course leads to the question: Are these the same “al Qaeda militants” whom the United States is supporting in Syria, or the “al Qaeda militants” it supported in Libya, or are they some other kind of “al Qaeda” militants? If the “al Qaeda militants” in Yemen suddenly decided to aim their attacks on, say, Iran, would they suddenly become “good” or “moderate” al Qaeda militants, like we have in Syria? And are these Yemeni “al Qaeda militants” of a different stripe from the “al Qaeda militants” the West supported in, say, Bosnia, or Afghanistan?
Anyway, who cares? The point is that Obama’s peaceful, progressive expansion of the drone bombing and death squads initiated by George Bush is obviously quelling the spread of violent extremism. Whereas “al Qaeda” was once a handful of militants concentrated largely in one corner of Afghanistan, it is now a large, loose, proliferating confederation of violent extremists operating over vast swaths of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria and other countries. As both an ideological brand and physical force, “al Qaeda” is more powerful today than ever before — after 13 years of unrelenting “war on terror.” Every drone strike — and the deep, horrific, constant dread and fear instilled in the multitudes of innocent people who live under the dead eye of American drones, never knowing when and where the bolt may fall — are all incomparable recruiting tools for “al Qaeda militiants” around the world.
Every step taken in the blind, brutal “war on terror” has been counterproductive. Every step has increased terrorism, exacerbated hatred for America and the West, destabilized vast regions of the earth, destroyed all vestiges of constitutional government in the United States, militarized and corrupted Western democracies and visited unspeakable horror and suffering on millions of innocent people.
Yet it never stops. It just goes on and on, plunging the world deeper into darkness day by day, year by year. It’s done by icky conservatives like George Bush and Margaret Thatcher; it’s done by cool progressives like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. No one, none of our leaders and would-be leaders, will call it off. They don’t know how. And they don’t want to. So they will go on bombing and killing — thus making even more “militants” to bomb and kill. They will pursue this literally insane course while the world burns up around them and their own nations fall to pieces.
“For over a decade, Americans have been told that terrorism poses a threat that cannot be addressed by the existing legal system; that a new domain of law must be constructed to handle this new threat. What has actually been created is a new domain of pseudo-law where the roles of law making, law enforcement, and judiciary, are rolled into a single political authority. Even if there has been no coup d’etat, nor extended imposition of martial law, this is nonetheless the dawning of an insidious and piecemeal form of fascism. It does not impose itself with an iron fist but grows upon us slowly, so that painlessly freedom can be lost as it is gradually forgotten.”—America’s willingness to be terrified by terrorism (via theamericanbear)
“Everyone seems to forget that the FBI is the NSA’s primary partner in the latter’s domestic spying operations and that, in fact, the NSA’s job would be impossible without them. Whenever you see a company deny giving any data to the NSA remember: It’s because it’s not the NSA asking (or demanding) the information of them, it’s the FBI. They use the same Patriot Act authorities that the NSA does, and yet we have almost no idea what they do with it.”—The mentality of J Edgar Hoover’s FBI undergirds today’s surveillance state
“Secular stagnation theory needn’t be ‘true’ to suggest a host of related results. The initial implementation of the New Deal was a political decision made to moderate capitalism to prevent its wholesale overthrow. Much is made today of the relative cooperation the New Deal received from the reigning plutocracy of the 1930s. But the level of dispossession of the Great Depression suggested a real threat of political-economic rupture and the replacement of ‘free-market’ capitalism with state socialism. The popular distinction being made these days between capitalism and neo-liberalism is academic— neo-liberalism is capitalism and New Deal capitalism is technocratic ‘management’ of capitalism in the service of residual plutocracy. The New Deal ended approximately when the threat of political overthrow did in the mid-1970s. The practical background of current economic malaise is that the existing plutocracy of bankers, CEOs and inherited wealth was fully restored from recent catastrophe through means and methods that were ‘political,’ through restoration of economic resources along the lines of division of economic power, and Western economists busied themselves explaining why doing so was necessary. When it came to the other 99.7% of the equation conclusions were quickly drawn that either (a) nothing needs to be done or (b) using duct tape and chicken wire to ‘repair’ the existing order was the best course of action. The ‘infrastructuralists’ are the duct tape and chicken wire crowd who haven’t yet resolved that current circumstance is the result of the existing order, not some accident of nature from outside of it.”—Economic Stagnation and the Stagnation of Economics
… Please keep in mind that we are dealing with a state that believes it has the arbitrary, unchallengeable right to kill any of its citizens, at any time, without any judicial process whatsoever, simply at the whim of the president — or any of the innumerable agents he empowers to kill on his behalf as they see fit. This is the reality we live under — a reality reconfirmed just this week by a federal judge, who ruled that the families of American citizens murdered by their own government have no standing to challenge this action in a court of law. And of course, this system extends its arbitrary license to kill to every human being on earth. It claims the right to kill anyone, anywhere, at the order of the president — who meets every week with his advisers to pore over hit lists, just as Stalin did with the Politburo, and decide which of the targets will live and which shall die.
Now, you may be happy with such a system policing itself with a few “reforms” which are devised and supervised by the system itself. A system which remains, at every point, completely hidden to the public that pays for it, and which at every turn, day after day, year after year, exacerbates the very extremism, violence, instability and chaos it purports to combat. (When it doesn’t just fund it and arm it outright, as it is is doing in its backing of violent, head-chopping, heart-eating extremists in Syria, for example.) You may be comforted by the thought that a small number of legislators whose careers are funded by this system — and very often directly by war profiteers and “security” profiteers — will be “overseeing” whatever “reforms” of the system eventually become law (assuming that any of them actually do).
But some people aren’t comforted by this. Some people continue to believe — or hope against hope — that we can do better than this. If such people see promising openings — like the exposure of NSA documents — falling short of the effect they could have, if they see these opportunities slowly being swallowed up in toothless “reforms” and “debates” by the very system they hope to break down and do away with, can they not question, criticize, even rail against this state of affairs, without being accused of envy, personal pique or irresponsibility? Why can’t they, like Robert Kennedy, “dream of things that never were, and ask, why not?”
“'The persons holding the jobs of the named defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,' Judge Collyer wrote. 'They cannot be held personally responsible … for conducting war.' … If it stands, the ruling suggests that courts have no role to play, before or after, in reviewing the legality of government decisions to kill citizens whom officials deem [in secret] to be terrorists …”—Judge Dismisses Suit Against Administration Officials Over Drone Strikes
The Obama administration released an official statement Thursday on its proposals to modify the US National Security Agency’s telephone-based surveillance and data collection efforts.
The “Fact Sheet” document, titled “The Administration’s Proposal for Ending the Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata Program,” details proposed changes to the bulk phone record surveillance, and is intended as a framework for new legislation to legitimize and further institutionalize the mass spying program.
Under the Obama proposal, the NSA would no longer engage in direct collection of telephone metadata. The government would instead submit requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Once authorized, the surveillance agencies would be allowed to gather telephone data from telecommunications on targets and anyone within “two hops” (or degrees of separation) from a target.
The document specifies that authorization from the FISC would not be required in “an emergency situation.” In other words, when the state deems it necessary, it will override even the cosmetic protections laid out in the proposed legislation. In non-emergency situations, surveillance would be based on the FISC’s determination that the numbers relate to “national security concerns.”
Once FISC approval is granted, records would have to be provided by telecommunications companies on an “ongoing and prospective” basis. Moreover, “the companies would be compelled by court order to provide technical assistance to ensure that the records can be queried and that results are transmitted to the government in a usable format and in a timely manner.”
While it does not say so explicitly, this stipulation is at least in part aimed at ensuring that telecommunications companies turn over cell phone records, which is presently not the case. It is estimated that the NSA has access to only 30 percent of all phone call records because it has not had access to cell phone records. That is, the Obama administration is seeking to cement a legislative framework which effectively extends the surveillance powers granted by the Patriot Act, under the guise of “reform.”
The reform proposals come as existing authorization of the program is set to expire. The administration has pledged to seek from the FISC a 90-day extension of the program as it presently exists, along with further extensions until some legislation has passed.
US Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger have advanced their own variant of the administration’s proposal, which would not even require the government to pass its data requests through the FISC. Instead, the court would only have authority to “expunge” data if it is determined, after the fact, to be irrelevant to any discernible “suspicious activity.”
The Rogers/Ruppersberger legislation will likely form the basis for any final bill. On Thursday, a senior administration officials said that the White House was “very pleased” with the proposals put forward by the House Intelligence Committee.
The legislation is set to be processed by the House Intelligence Committee, rather than the Judiciary Committee, to give Rogers and Ruppersberger—both with close ties to the NSA—greater control of the process. If anything is passed by Congress, it will be thoroughly vetted and pre-approved by the intelligence agencies.
The surveillance “reforms” relate to only one small patch of the sprawling complex of surveillance activities being carried out by US intelligence agencies. Currently active surveillance programs analyze reams of data from virtually every source imaginable, gathered through indiscriminate dragnet methods including tapping directly into the trans-oceanic fiber-optic cables. In effect, the entire Internet is being recorded in real time and stored for analysis and use by the repressive agencies of the state.
… Camus’ essay [“Reflections on the Guillotine”] on the barbarity of the death penalty was written in 1956, against the backdrop of the executions of hundreds of dissidents during the Soviet crackdown in Hungary, as well as the execution of Algerian revolutionaries condemned to death by French tribunals. He notes that by 1940 all executions in France and England were shielded from the public. If capital punishment was meant to deter crime, why hold the killings in secret? Why not make them a public spectacle?
Because, Camus argues, deterrence isn’t the purpose of state murder. The real objective is vengeance through the exercise of extreme state power. “Let us recognize it for what it is essentially: a revenge. A punishment that penalizes without forestalling is indeed called revenge. It is a quasi-arithmetical replay made by society to whoever breaks its primordial law.”
Public executions became a threat to the state, because the dreadful act tends to provoke revulsion in ordinary citizens, like Camus’ father, who see it clearly for what it is: a new form of murder “no less repulsive than the crime.” A form of murder that is performed, in theory, in the name of the citizens and for which they are complicit.
This kind of state-sanctioned killing, Camus reasoned, leads only to more murder, a vast panorama of murder. “Without the death penalty,” Camus writes, “Europe would not be infected by the corpses accumulated for the last twenty years on its soil.”
So what would Albert Camus, the great moralist of the 20th century, think about the latest innovation in administrative murder, Obama’s drone program, a kind of remote-control gallows, where the killers never see their victims, never hear their screams, smell their burning bodies, touch their mutilated flesh?
The conscience of the killer has been sterilized, the drone operator, fully alienated from the act he is committing, can walk out the door after his shift is over and calmly order an IPA at the local microbrew or play a round of golf under the desert sky. He is left with no blood on his hands, no savagery weighing on his conscience, no degrading images to stalk his dreams.
Drone strikes, Camus would argue, are not just meant to kill. They are programmed to terrorize. In this regard, whether the missile strikes its intended target or incinerates a goat-herder and his flock is incidental. In fact, the occasional killing of civilians may well be a desired outcome since collateral deaths intensify the fear. This is punishment by example, not for any particular crime or impending threat, but merely because of who you are, where you live, what you might believe. These new circuitries of death are meant to humiliate, subdue and dehumanize.
As more and more evidence of Obama’s secret killing operations in Pakistan and Yemen began to leak out, public squeamishness over the deaths, especially of civilians and targeted American citizens, began to mount. Uncomfortable questions were raised, even on the political right. To salvage his program, Obama announced that new guidelines would soon be imposed on his high-tech assassinations.
But Camus would be the first to warn us that such regulations should be viewed with grave suspicion, since they will likely only serve to legitimize and normalize state murder, by making lawless killing legal. …
“New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is ‘the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.’ The administration wants to ‘narrow the field of national security reporting,’ Risen said, to ‘create a path for accepted reporting.’ Any one journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, ‘will be punished.’ … The administration’s aggressive prosecutions have created ‘a de facto Official Secrets Act,’ Risen said …”—Risen: Obama administration is this generation’s ‘greatest enemy of press freedom’ | Poynter.
… The circumstance in the U.S. is of a political class that has aligned itself with every capitalist scam, con and predation yet imagined— home foreclosures against millions of citizens to protect banks and bankers from the predatory loans they made; wholesale, unconditional bailouts of the predatory, dysfunctional banker class at public expense; sequential programs posed as in the public interest that are corporate scams in fact— the ACA (Affordable Care Act), the JOBS Act, mortgage ‘relief’ programs, ‘fracking’ and the looting of public resources under the con of ‘privatization,’ that pose it clearly against the public interest. The ‘pox on all houses’ sentiment about to be realized in the mid-term elections will likely bring a Republican sweep and with it more straightforward— less cluttered, implementation of the catastrophe-generating class’s agenda. In Philadelphia, USA, a place dear to my heart, fully one-third of the city’s population lives on food stamps. Recent cuts to food stamps—SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Plan), have so decimated the ‘engine of economic growth,’ small businesses, that the Republican Governor of Pennsylvania is seeking to restore food stamp payments. The privatization of Philadelphia’s schools is such an obvious scam that a graft system to induce local ‘leaders’ to continue to support it now constitutes a substantial proportion of the system’s expenses. Suburban parents now a decade or more into their own economic diminishment have seen their children take tens of millions of dollars in onerous student loans to pay for college educations when half of college graduates work in low-paid, dead-end jobs to repay crushing debt that cannot be discharged. The political class in the U.S. most certainly wants to change the subject.
The war on and occupation of Iraq may have been the ‘purest’ demonstration in recent history of dim hubris in the service of unqualified catastrophe generation— over a million Iraqis killed, tens of thousand of Western troops killed or substantially destroyed and an entire modern nation-state left in chaos and ruins. The imperial ‘spoils’ system implemented when the adventure was still considered ‘successful’ shines light on the imperial mechanics that funnel resources and stolen booty to their rightful ‘homes’ in Georgetown, Manhattan and London— multi-national oil companies, ‘security’ and other military companies, ‘reconstruction’ contractors and various and sundry bogus financiers and opportunists are the new frontline of imperial extraction. In their ‘purity’ Western imperial predations in Iraq find general relation to half a century or more of cynical capitalists hiding behind ideological difference to sell naked imperial looting to always-gullible publics under the guise of responding to external threats. In Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Vietnam, Iraq, and Iran and on and on ad infinitum Cold War demagogues cobbled the residual of imperial history onto wholly contrived ‘threats’ to secure land, resources, compliant workforces and ‘partners’ in imperial expropriation to feed the engines of capitalist wealth ‘production.’ The technical ‘problem’ for the West now is that restoring geo-political credibility outside of rapidly diminishing television audiences will require that more enthusiastic modes of coercion be used.
Western imperial wealth, the greatest in world history, serves as advertising slogan for capitalist democracy. If you can ignore your lying eyes and three hundred years of imperial history then you too can live like us. Left out of this ‘us’ is opportunistic circumscription— the overwhelming preponderance of U.S. history is genocide against indigenous populations, slavery, wars of imperial conquest and internal and external social repression. This may by degree be true of other empires, but that is the point. Before tossing their lot with the West the good citizens of Ukraine may wish to spend time with the economic theory of ‘internal devaluation’ so recently applied by the EU (European Union) to the European periphery in the service of Western bankers. Internal devaluation was also the ‘gift’ from the IMF and assorted and sundry Western economists to Russia in the late 1990s, the product of the accumulated ‘wisdom’ of the Harvard, Princeton and University of Chicago economics departments distilled and applied to such economically catastrophic effect. Either known or not by capitalist demagogues in the U.S., internal devaluation is the implied goal of Western public policy for the last three or so decades. When engineered by Western bankers and the IMF it doesn’t matter how onerous, or by whom, external debt was accumulated. Western bankers sitting in modern office towers wearing three thousand dollar suits will be repaid from your labor and your wealth. The storyline in the West has it that the Russian ‘system’ runs on ‘graft.’ Left out is that the West has simply legalized graft to avoid unpleasant associations— see ‘campaign contributions’ and ‘Citizen’s United’ for details.
The Western ruling classes have had their way with geo-politics through the neo-cons and with political economy through the capitalist neo-liberals. In recent decades both saw spectacular and wholly temporary ‘successes’ before it became apparent to all but the most committed ideologues that imperial hubris in the service of self-serving demagogues benefits neither those who fell in line behind them nor their victims. It is however the ‘business’ of the West, it’s how ‘we’ pay our bills. On the surface it would seem that not even Americans are so deluded as to continue to raise the stakes over a manufactured crisis (Crimea) with three centuries of history behind it. The problem is that this is all that the ‘leadership’ in the West has. The duct tape and chicken wire used to patch up ‘the economy’ has repaired the exact and precise catastrophe-generating system of predatory finance that has given ‘us’ three decades of regularly recurring economic calamities of increasing breath and scope. And instead of repudiating the (baby) Bush ‘doctrine’ of pre-emptive self-defense the Obama administration has automated it through the global distribution of drone warfare. Whereas the CIA once-upon-a-time had to train its proxy armies to slice villages full of innocents from loin to throat (see Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras), the task of automated slaughter can today be carried out with the press of a button by marginally literate soldiers sitting in air conditioned trailers in Nevada, USA. Selling the illusion that this leadership is on ‘our’ side in the realms of the political or the economic becomes exponentially more difficult by the day. All that it has left to sell is the illusion that it is defending us from contrived threat.
“It is impossible for most Americans to think that their country and their government are not beloved around the world. That attitude is due to the relentless propaganda we are subject to our entire lives. We are told our nation is the best, richest, most just, and most deserving. After years of brain washing we are subject to a cynical collaboration between politicians and big business, the same big businesses who run our media outlets and determine what we’ll see and what we should think about what they choose to reveal. … This perversity has many negative consequences. Among them is the public acceptance and approval of nearly every crime committed by our government.”—Margaret Kimberly, Propaganda
"Whatever dangers much wider, and much more rapid, disclosure might have carried have been entirely obliterated. What remains constitutes no threat of any remotely serious kind to the States implicated. Yes, there will be hearings, some ‘reforms,’ and life for the States will go almost exactly as before. Your life, on the other hand … well, who gives a damn about your life.” — Chris Floyd
Has it only been 10 months since Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations changed the world? Can you even remember what the world was like, before he gave 50,000 — no, 200,000 — no, wait, 2 million— secret documents to Glenn Greenwald: smoking guns that exposed Washington’s global surveillance state, which far outstripped the wildest, wettest dreams of the Stasi, of Stalin, yea of Orwell himself?
Try to recall those dark days — now long since banished, thank God! — when the American imperium thrust its grubby hands and greedy eyes into every single digital pie available, scarfing up emails, URLs, locations, even webcam shots, of anybody and everybody, then storing them all in gargantuan data silos, to sift through and fondle for years on end. Remember that? Remember how this surveillance state, this über-Stasi, was put to the service of a regime that was actually going all over the world and murdering people — without charges, without due process, without defense, without warning. Just circling the world, blowing up a wedding party here, a couple of teenagers there, a village, a funeral, a farm, an apartment block, day after day, week after week, year after year? Innocent people, “guilty” people; guilty of something or other, that is — maybe just behaving in a “suspicious manner” in the eyes of unaccountable officials acting arbitrarily in secret, on the basis of screenshots sent by back by robots, and rumors and vendettas gathered, for pay, by secret agents.
Do you remember how this brutal, barbaric, ugly, inhuman regime would then go around the world condemning other nations for not being moral, holy, freedom-loving and strictly adherent to international law? Do you remember the base, sickening hypocrisy of it all? State murderers — proud state murderers, murderers who would go before legislators and under oath to God Almighty swear how proud they were to be murdering people — telling other nations how to order their affairs according to the principles of law and justice and human rights?
Isn’t it wonderful how much has changed since those days, when we discovered the spine and musculature of the surveillance regime that undergirded this ghastly system of murder and corruption and domination?
… Speaking at a summit in Mexico, Obama unilaterally declared that Ukraine should overturn the results of its democratic election in 2010 (which most observers said was generally “fair and free” — perhaps more “fair and free” than national elections in, say, the United States, where losing candidates are sometimes wont to take power anyway, and where whole states dispossess or actively discourage millions of free citizens from voting). Instead, the Ukrainians should install an unelected “transitional government” in Kiev. Why should they do this? Because, says Obama, now channeling all Ukrainians in his own person, “the people obviously have a very different view and vision for their country” from the government they democratically elected. All of the people of Ukraine have a different vision, you understand; every last one of them. And what is their vision, according to Obama the Ukrainian Avatar? To enjoy “freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair and free elections.” Something you might think they had enjoyed by having fair and free elections in 2010, and exercising freedom of speech and assembly to such a degree that a vast opposition force had occupied much of the central government district for months. But the Avatar knows better, of course.
Now, this is not a defense of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government. It is, by all accounts, a highly corrupt enterprise given to insider deals for well-connected elites who influence government policy for their own benefit. I guess this might be a reason for overthrowing a democratically elected government with an armed uprising supported by foreign countries, but I would be careful about espousing this as a general rule if I were an American president. The old saw about stones and glass houses comes to mind. […]
“The ideas of the Free Trade movement are based on a theoretical error, whose practical origin is not hard to identify; they are based on a distinction between political society and civil society, which is rendered and presented as an organic one, whereas in fact it is merely methodological. Thus it is asserted that economic activity belongs to civil society, and that the State must not intervene to regulate it. But since in actual reality civil society and State are one and the same, it must be made clear that laissez-faire too is a form of State ‘regulation’, introduced and maintained by legislative and coercive means.”—Antonio Gramsci [+]
“Human beings don’t have the appropriate engineering for the society they developed. Over a million years of evolution, the instinct of getting together in small communities, belligerent and compact, turned out to be correct. But then, in the 20th century, Man ceased to adapt. Technology overtook evolution. The brain of an ancestral creature, like a rat, which sees provocation in the face of every stranger, is the brain that now controls the earth’s destiny.”—Back to the Future With the NSA
In 1971 eight anti-war activists calling themselves the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI plotted to break into an FBI field office located in Media, Pennsylvania. They knew that the government was conducting a massive spying effort against American citizens and they were determined to find and publicly present their evidence.
On the night of March 8, 1971, they succeeded in stealing nearly every piece of paper in that office and later sent copies of key documents to the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. They also sent copies to two Democratic politicians, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota and Congressman Parren Mitchell of Maryland. The New York and Los Angeles newspapers both turned the files over to the FBI and so did the two supposedly left leaning politicians. The Washington Post, at the time a decent newspaper, was alone in standing up to White House and FBI pressure when they reported the story.
Five of the eight burglars came forward and are the subjects of a newly published book, The Burglary: the Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, written by former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger. The late William Davidon, John Raines, Bonnie Raines, Keith Forsyth, and Bob Williamson chose to publicly reveal their identities for the first time and in so doing have done yet another service to the public. Because of their actions the world found out about the government’s depth of hostility towards the left and black freedom movements and its determination to destroy them. By stepping forward so many years later they remind us that government surveillance is endemic to our political system and is not easily stamped out.
Betty Medsger revealed the lengths the government went to in order to destroy the liberation movement in particular. “Every FBI agent was required to hire at least one informer to report to him regularly on the activities of black people. In the District, every agent was required to hire six informers for that purpose. On one campus in the Philadelphia area, Swarthmore College, every black student was under surveillance.”
FBI informers reported on every meeting, every word and every action of members of the Black Panther Party, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other groups. FBI agents used informers to create dissension among activists and succeeded in weakening and destroying many organizations. Individuals were targeted for persecution and prosecution and some like the Omaha Two, Mondo we Langa and Edward Poindexter, are still imprisoned. Forty years ago they were set up by the FBI and local police and charged in the killing of a policeman in one of the last COINTELPRO prosecutions.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died peacefully in 1972, without having faced the investigations and scrutiny he ought to have faced in his lifetime. His power remained unchecked and the revelations of his worst acts were withheld from the public until after his death. Despite the document theft which took place in 1971 the word COINTELPRO didn’t become public until late 1973 when a reporter successfully under took a Freedom of Information Act request.
Had it not been for the burglars, we would never have known about the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO. Hoover had a special animus against black people and left no stone unturned in his efforts to destroy the freedom struggle. Internal divisions, feuds and even murders resulted from COINTELPRO whose stated purpose was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize” activists across the country. Black panther party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were among those “neutralized” in 1969 by an FBI and Chicago police department assassination.
In time the rest of news media followed the Washington Post’s lead and revealed more about Hoover’s domestic surveillance and illegal activities. Senator Frank Church led congressional hearings in 1975 and 1976 which ultimately resulted in greater oversight of domestic and foreign surveillance programs.
It now seems that the media revelations and investigations were all for naught. Acquiescence and collusion among politicians, the judiciary and media have left Americans with fewer rights now than in 1971. Richard Nixon didn’t have the legal right to designate citizens as terrorists or order them to be killed. Now forty years later, Barack Obama has the legal right to do those things and more. He has the right to hold anyone without charge or trial indefinitely and the NSA has given the government access to phone and internet records of ordinary citizens and foreign leaders alike.
The story of the 1971 burglary is fascinating on many levels but the central point is very simple. It was citizen action, not governmental decree which revealed the illegal acts committed by the government. Even 40 years ago when there was a stronger journalistic ethic, most of the corporate media chose not to cover this story. Politicians who were supposedly progressive were equally cowardly and even traitorous when handed information they were required to investigate and prosecute.
Times have changed and not for the better. The government has more tools as its disposal to use against activist citizens. The law has long ceased to be on our side. … .
“Let me say this: Martin Luther King Junior, today, could be taken to jail without due process or judicial process under the National Defense Authorization Act. Because he had a connection with a freedom fighter who was called a terrorist named Nelson Mandela. He just got off the Terrorist List — in 2008 — of America, let’s be honest about that. Because he had a relation to a “Terrorist.” And under the present administration you can assassinate Americans, you can take them to jail without due process. That’s a repressive side of the government that the Black Freedom Movement has always been suspicious of. We got black political prisoners right now in America. And they’re in there precisely because the repression came down so hard and their love was such that they were willing to tell the truth. That was a threat to the status quo. And we don’t even talk about them. … That’s why the Culture of Fear is not just silence, I don’t think, my dear brothers and sisters. People are afraid. They’re afraid to lose their jobs, they’re afraid to lose their status, they’re afraid of not going to the nice tea parties, they’re afraid of not going to the White House. You can’t have a Culture of Fear and generate a movement. That’s why it’s not just about justice. … We gotta talk about love. Martin was a tiding of love. If you’re not talking about love and willingness to sacrifice, all this is just sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. We’re not going nowhere. We’re not going nowhere. You’ve got to hit the streets, you got to go to jail and be willing to die. That’s what the movement’s about. If you’re not willing to do that, then keep your job and drink your tea. That’s what we’re talking about.”—Cornel West
Thanks to a ruling by the US Circuit Court of Appeals in DC, telecom companies are free to dictate every aspect of what you can and cannot see, hear or do over the internet. It’s an emergency. It’s time to demand immediate presidential intervention to head off the end of the internet as we know it.
… I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the soldiers who fought in Fallujah or took part elsewhere in this gigantic war crime thought of themselves as good people trying to do a good thing in difficult circumstances. That’s what they were told they were doing; and, poisoned from birth, like all of us, by that all-pervasive myth of exceptionalism, of special privilege for anything and everything done by the United States, most of them lacked the will — or even the conceptual tools — to question this belief. (Brave souls like Chelsea Manning and the Iraq Vets Against the War are among the exceptions.) I am sorry if some of them — and the survivors of the thousands of Americans killed in the process of unleashing this mass murder — now feel that the war was fought in vain, and that the American dead “were sacrificed for nothing,” as one “angry” ex-Marine told the Times after hearing that Fallujah was temporarily in the hands of the extremist militias engendered by the American invasion of Iraq.
This is unfortunate for them — but let us be absolutely clear on this point. To any American soldier who thought he or she was fighting in Iraq for anything other than the aggrandizement of a bloodthirsty elite, then yes, yes, a thousand times yes: you fought in vain. You fought under false premises, you were ordered to carry out a great crime — and you carried it out. And yes, yes, a thousand times yes: every American soldier who was killed in Iraq was “sacrificed for nothing.” This was true from the very first moment of the war, from the moment you set foot in Iraq. [As Arthur Silber notes here.] It did not suddenly become the truth 11 years later, when Fallujah became embroiled in the sectarian strife the war set loose.
So remember again the reality. Remember again what actually happened. The United States military, at the behest of its political leaders, carried out an abominable war crime in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Think of those innocent people who were murdered — and those who go on being murdered in the hellhole America made of Iraq — and then consider where the real tragedy lies, whom the real victims are. Some might think it was people like Artica Salim, whose young body was blown apart by an American bomb during weeks of bombardment to “soften up” the city before the Marlboro Men moved in. But the New York Times — which “stovepiped” so many helpful lies from government warmongers to help make the entirely specious case for aggression, and speaks today, as it spoke then, as the voice of the American establishment — thinks the real victims were the Marines who attacked Fallujah. [read]
An investigation by El Universal has found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs in exchange for information on rival cartels.
Sinaloa, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, supplies 80% of the drugs entering the Chicago area and has a presence in cities across the U.S.
There have long been allegations that Guzman, considered to be “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” coordinates with American authorities.
But the El Universal investigation is the first to publish court documents that include corroborating testimony from a DEA agent and a Justice Department official. [holy shit…continue]
“I note with pleasure that there is to be an Ariel Sharon Park, outside of Tel Aviv. It’s a-building, even now, on top of an old garbage dump, which was in turn placed on top of a Palestinian village, whose inhabitants were either killed or chased out during the ’48 atrocities. … Really, it would be difficult to find a better metaphor for modern Israel.”—Ariel Sharon, gone at last
The forty years of so-called “war on drugs” has been the rhetorical excuse for a nationwide policy of punitive overpolicing in black and brown communities. Although black and white rates of drug use have been virtually identical, law enforcement strategies focused police resources almost exclusively upon communities of color. Prosecutors and judges did their bit as well, charging and convicting whites significantly less often, and to less severe sentences than blacks.
The forty years war on drugs has been the front door of what can only be described as the prison state, in which African Americans are 13% of the population but more than 40% of the prisoners, and the chief interactions of government with young black males is policing, the courts and imprisonment. Given all that, the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition, first in Colorado and soon to be followed by other states ought to be great good news. But not necessarily.
Ask yourself, what would it look like if policymakers wanted to end the prohibition of marijuana, but not necessarily the the war on drugs. What if they desired to lock down the potential economic opportunities opened up by legalizing weed to themselves and their class, to a handful of their wealthy and well-connected friends and campaign contributors? What if they wanted to make the legal marijuana market safe for predatory agribusiness, which would like to claim lucrative patents on all the genetic varieties of marijuana which can be legally grown, as they already try to do with other crops?
If they wanted to do those things, the system in place in Colorado today would be a good start. In Denver today, low income property owners can’t just plant pot in the back yard or on the roof in hopes of making one mortgage payment a year out of twelve, it doesn’t work that way. Ordinary households are limited to 3 plants per adult, and for reference only the female plants are good for smoking, and prohibited from selling the weed or the seed. To participate in the marijuana economy as anything but a consumer requires background checks, hefty license fees, a minimum of hundreds of thousands to invest, and the right connections. All this currently drives the price of legal weed in Colorado to over $600 per ounce, including a 25% state tax, roughly double the reported street price of illegal weed.
So to enable the state to collect that tax money, and the bankers, growers and investors to collect their profits from marijuana taxed by the state and regulated in the corporate interest, cops and judges and jailers in near future, in Colorado and in your state as well, figure to be just as busy as they always have been the last forty years, doing pretty much what they’ve always done… conducting a war on illegal drugs, chiefly in the poorer and blacker sections of town, with predictable results.
The end of marijuana prohibition is not designed to create jobs in our communities, nor is it intended to shrink the prison state. Our ruling class simply does not allow economic growth that they can’t monopolize, and the modern prison state has never been about protecting the public from drugs or crime. Prisons and our lifelong persecution of former prisoners serve to single out, brand and stigmatize the economic losers in modern capitalist society, so that those hanging on from paycheck to paycheck can have someone to look down upon and so that they might imagine that this vast edifice of inequality is, if not just, inevitable.
In a move that was nearly a month too late, the Obama Administration has finally gotten around to announcing an “investigation” into the December 12 drone strike against a Yemeni wedding party, which killed a large number of civilians.
The strike fueled massive opposition from locals, and also a rare rebuke from the Yemeni parliament, which has long looked the other way over civilian deaths. The Obama Administration hasn’t learned any lesson however.
That’s because even as the probe was getting underway, the US launched yet another drone strike against the Hadrawmut Province, killing two unidentified people.
Officially, both of the slain have been declared “suspected al-Qaeda militants,” but that explanation would be a lot more credible if the US hadn’t labeled the wedding party the exact same way after that hit.
Though the US has long insisted virtually no civilians are slain in their strikes, they likewise have never identified a large number of their victims, shrugging them off as suspects unless someone says otherwise.
“This is the pattern that has been followed for decades: some social advances are accepted by the power structure — as long as the economic dominance of the ruling elite is not challenged. In Obama’s case, of course, this was a prerequisite, not a consequence, of his election. He would not have been allowed to be in the position of being elected president had he not clearly and continually signalled to the elite that he was in no way a threat to their power; in fact, as Hirthler notes, he went much further, and made it clear that he would be a more efficient and effective promoter of economic elite than cack-handed Republicans like George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin. And so it has proved. The nation’s oligarchs, corporations and financial sectors have devoured ever greater proportions of the nation’s wealth under Obama’s rule, while chronic unemployment and underemployment grinds on, the nation’s infrastructure rots, and the quality of life (and hopes for the future) of ordinary people continues to be degraded.”—Chris Floyd, Bait and Switch: The Heavy Price of Social Progress
“[W]hat Snowden revealed was far worse than simple bureaucratic overreach or inconsistencies with the law. Instead a narrative which had been promulgated by government officials over the past decade - that Americans would need to sacrifice their basic freedoms in order to be safe - was revealed to be brazenly false. Americans had given up their most personal freedoms and were not any safer for it. This was not because the NSA didn’t have enough power to search, but because it turned out there was literally nothing out there for them to find. Their response to this discovery mirrored those of powerful intelligence agencies throughout history: it made them want even more power. The American people had given the NSA a free hand to hollow out their democracy and they zealously took up the opportunity. They sought out the holy grail of “total information awareness” for no apparent reason other than the fact that they could.”—Murtaza Hussain, What Snowden really revealed
“I think it very important that the mere fact of there being surveillance takes away liberty. The response of those who are worried about surveillance has so far been too much couched, it seems to me, in terms of the violation of the right to privacy. Of course it’s true that my privacy has been violated if someone is reading my emails without my knowledge. But my point is that my liberty is also being violated, and not merely by the fact that someone is reading my emails but also by the fact that someone has the power to do so should they choose. We have to insist that this in itself takes away liberty because it leaves us at the mercy of arbitrary power. It’s no use those who have possession of this power promising that they won’t necessarily use it, or will use it only for the common good. What is offensive to liberty is the very existence of such arbitrary power.”—Quentin Skinner