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Human Rights & Civil Liberties

The Snowden Effect: This Is Still Not America

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Uncertainty is born of everything we don't know, and the people who don't want us to know what they're doing in our name are its midwives. They know what they're doing. They are cultivating it quite deliberately, and for their own purposes. Very little of what they do is accidental. An uncertain people is a people easily led. That's the way it works now. That's the way it has always worked.

Charles P. Pierce, Esquire 

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July 29, 2014 | Now, it's the folks at Human Rights Watch who are pointing out that, while Edward Snowden, International Man Of Luggage, is not very good on television, and while Glenn Greenwald's probably a major doodyhead whom nobody will play with at recess, what the surveillance state in this country is doing -- and especially, what it's doing to national-security journalists -- continues to be a genuine threat to democracy, which is something we all used to value even more than whether or not someone is good on television. What's happening to the journalists is bad. What's happening to the lawyers is worse.

Lawyers we interviewed for this report expressed the greatest concern about situations where they have reason to think the US government might take an intelligence interest in a case, whether it relates to the activities of foreign governments or a drug or terrorism prosecution. As with the journalists, lawyers increasingly feel under pressure to adopt strategies to avoid leaving a digital trail that could be monitored; some use burner phones, others seek out technologies they feel may be more secure, and others reported traveling more for in-person meetings. Some described other lawyers expressing reluctance to take on certain cases that might incur surveillance, though by and large the attorneys interviewed for this report seemed determined to do their best to continue representing clients. Like journalists, some felt frustrated, and even offended, that they were in this situation. "I'll be damned if I have to start acting like a drug dealer in order to protect my client's confidentiality," said one. The result is the erosion of the right to counsel, a pillar of procedural justice under human rights law and the US Constitution. Uncertainty is a significant factor shaping the behavior of both journalists and lawyers. The combination of the sheer number of surveillance programs, the complexity of the underlying legal regimes, and the lack of clarity as to their scale and scope renders it practically impossible for any layperson to discern which forms of communication and data storage are secure and when they may be reasonably subject to surveillance.

Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America. He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

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Death and Abuse at the Southwest Border

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Lia G. Melikian, ACLU.org / Rise Up Times

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blog-iceabuse-500x280.pngJuly 30, 2014 | As Congress debates how to respond to children's migration from Central America, we must not forget that Customs and Border Protection is in dire need of improved oversight and accountability. Here are three examples of how the system is failing and what the ACLU is doing to help:

  1. Sergio, 15, was fatally shot in the face by a Border Patrol agent because he was allegedly throwing rocks at the agent across the border. His family sued the U.S. government, denying that Sergio threw anything, but the district court held that because Sergio was a noncitizen on the Mexican side of the border when he was killed he had no constitutional rights.

Lia G. Melikian: Customs and Border Protection, ACLU.org

Full story … 

Related:

When will this insanity end? Mazin QumsiyehHuman Rights Newsletter

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Just in case you're angry about the three Israeli kids kidnapped (and you should be) but are unaware that our media isn't telling anything like the whole story. The things included here go on all the time, every damned day, but U.S. media entirely ignores almost all of it.  In this country, Palestinian kids, or just Palestinian lives, seem to have no value. -- Jim Fuller

 

Police Deny Street Permit for Annual Vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia

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Constitutional Rights Under Attack in Georgia 

Hendrik Voss, SOA Watch

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SOAW%20banner.jpg July 22, 2014 | The Columbus Police Department, continuing its history of antagonizing the movement to close the US military training camp known as the SOA/WHINSEC (School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), has this year placed unjust, unsafe and unconstitutional restrictions on the annual SOA Watch Vigil, essentially attempting to shut down the peaceful protest at the main gates of Fort Benning.

In a letter to grassroots solidarity group SOA Watch, Police Chief Ricky Boren explained that the thousands expected at this year’s Vigil, the group’s 25th, would have to somehow limit themselves to no more than 200 and stay on sidewalks five feet back from the street. The permit for the stage and sound, which has for years lifted up the voices of those targeted by the infamous military training school, like Padre Melo from Honduras, who’s been threatened since speaking out against the SOA graduate-led coup in 2009, was also denied.

Hendrik Voss is SOA Watch's communications coordinator.

SOA Watch, founded by Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois in 1990,  is an independent organization that seeks to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.

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Obama and the CIA

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  • The CIA goes its own way, seemingly oblivious to what presidents or anybody else has to say, even if Obama is disingenuous in his public statements.
  • Lack of Intelligence
  • Chomsky: Obama ‘Determined To Demolish The Foundations Of Our Civil Liberties’ 

Melvin A. Goodman, Counterpunch

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10/goodman1.jpegJuly 16, 2014 | The political embarrassments for President Barack Obama from the intelligence community, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, continue to mount, but there is no sign whatsoever that the president is interested in reversing the pattern.  The German government’s unprecedented expulsion of the CIA station chief in Berlin because of the unnecessary recruitment of two German national security officials should have been the kind of shot across the bow that would lead to a response from the Obama administration.  The fact that the president had no early warning of these awkward recruitments from CIA director John Brennan and that Brennan’s initial forays with the Germans were so clumsy only added to the embarrassment.

Brennan never should have been appointed CIA director in the first place.  During his campaign for the presidency in 2007-2008, Obama spoke out against the militarization and politicization of the intelligence community, and promised more transparency in the community and an end to intelligence abuses.  Nevertheless, before his election, Obama appointed an intelligence advisory staff that was headed by former associates of George Tenet, whose failed stewardship of the CIA included the phony intelligence that was used to justify the use of force against Iraq.  Tenet’s deputy, John McLaughlin, who supported CIA programs of renditions and detentions and helped to draft the spurious speech of Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN in the run-up to the war, was part of the advisory group.  It was McLaughlin who delivered the infamous “slam dunk” briefing to President George H.W. Bush in January 2003.

Melvin A. Goodman (and Carolyn McGiffert Ekedahl) are the co-authors of “The Wars of Eduard Shevardnadze” (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997).  Goodman is also the author of National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism (City Lights Publishers, 2013).

Full story … 

Related:

Chomsky: Obama ‘Determined To Demolish The Foundations Of Our Civil Liberties’, Noam Chomsky, Daily Caller

  • “It is of no slight import that the project is being executed in one of the freest countries in the world, and in radical violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which protects citizens from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures,’ and guarantees the privacy of their persons, houses, papers and effects,” Chomsky said.
  • NSA Spying

 

Israel Is Captive to Its ‘Destructive Process’

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The belief that a race or class is contaminated is used by ruling elites to justify quarantining the people of that group. But quarantine is only the first step. 

Chris Hedges, Truthdig

 

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palestinians-search-rubble-gaza-destructive-process-590.jpgPalestinians salvage what they can of their belongings from the rubble of a house destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. AP/Khalil Hamra 

Jul 14, 2014 | Raul Hilberg in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

Chris Hedges, a weekly columnist for Truthdig, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has reported from more than 50 countries, specializing in American politics and society. 

Full story … 

From the Archives | Undocumented immigration: paying the price of NAFTA

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  • A study published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in December 2009 explains how this worked out in practice. ("Rethinking Trade Policy for Development: Lessons from Mexico under NAFTA")
  • The Economics of Immigration Reform

Emile Schepers, People's World

Tue, 08/03/2010 | The rationale for NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which came into force Jan. 1, 1994, was Ricardian (after the Anglo-Italian classical economist David Ricardo, who thought that each country should specialize in the production that most suited its climate and other characteristics).

Much of Mexico's rural population was engaged in maize and wheat farming, which is much more productive in the vast plains of the central United States and Canada than in Mexico's more rugged terrain. So the idea was to push the grain farmers off the land and move them into specialized fruit and vegetable farming, and into manufacturing which was supposed to be attracted to Mexico by the cheap labor of displaced farmers.

INS%20Visa%20Approval%20Stamp.jpg More... 

Related:

The Economics Of Immigration Reform, Matt Corley and others, Think Progress
While anti-immigrant groups use anecdotal evidence to erroneously claim <http://cis.org/UnemploymentAmongNativeWorkers>  that legalization would be disastrous for the American worker, passing comprehensive immigration reform would not only strengthen the labor market, it would promote needed economic growth.

The 25th Hour

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  • Still Living With Jack Bauer in a Terrified New American World 
  • A nation of cowards
  • Chomsky: Obama ‘Determined To Demolish The Foundations Of Our Civil Liberties

Rebecca Gordon, Tom Dispatch

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9780199336432.jpgJuly 10, 2014 | Once upon a time, if a character on TV or in a movie tortured someone, it was a sure sign that he was a bad guy. Now, the torturers are the all-American heroes. From 24 to Zero Dark Thirty, it’s been the good guys who wielded the pliers and the waterboards. We’re not only living in a post-9/11 world, we’re stuck with Jack Bauer in the 25th hour.

In 2002, Cofer Black, the former Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, told a Senate committee, “All I want to say is that there was ‘before’ 9/11 and ‘after’ 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off.” He wanted them to understand that Americans now live in a changed world, where, from the point of view of the national security state, anything goes. It was, as he and various top officials in the Bush administration saw it, a dangerous place in which terrorists might be lurking in any airport security line and who knew where else.

one-nation-under-surveillance.jpgRebecca Gordon is the author of Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States (Oxford University Press). She teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She has also spent several decades working in a variety of national and international movements for peace and justice, and is a member of the War Times/Tiempo de Guerras collective.

Full story … 

 

Related:

Chomsky: Obama ‘Determined To Demolish The Foundations Of Our Civil Liberties, Noam Chomsky, Daily Caller

  • “It is of no slight import that the project is being executed in one of the freest countries in the world, and in radical violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which protects citizens from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures,’ and guarantees the privacy of their persons, houses, papers and effects,” Chomsky said.
  • NSA Spying

 

Rethinking the Fourth of July

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  • Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852 said, "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license..." 
  • This July 4, our nation plans the massive deportation of thousands of immigrant children.
  • Trying to Feel Patriotic on the Fourth of July

Bill Begelow, Huffington Post

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no%20slavery%20-%20July%204th.jpg?itok=Dn2RMqkO "No Slavery" broadside, (1850s), courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society The Zinn Education Project

July 2, 2014 | In Portland, Oregon, where I live, the Fourth of July holiday offers an excuse for a wonderful annual blues festival downtown in Waterfront Park. Unfortunately, in my neighborhood, it also provides cover for people to blow off fireworks that terrify young children and animals and turn the air thick with smoke and errant  projectiles. Last year the fire department here reported 35 fires sparked by toy missiles, defective firecrackers, and other items of explosive revelry. The Washington State Department of Ecology warns:

Breathing fine particles in fireworks smoke can cause or contribute to serious short- or long-term health problems. They include:

  • Risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Lung inflammation.
  • Reduced lung function.
  • Asthma-like symptoms.
  • Asthma attacks.

Bill Bigelow: Co-director, Zinn Education Project; Curriculum editor, Rethinking Schools

Full story … 

Related:

Trying to Feel Patriotic on the Fourth of July, Gary G. Kohls, Duty to Warn, Evergreene Digest

  • Anyone who honestly reads Howard Zinn, Martin Luther King, Noam Chomsky, and  Chris Hedges can’t help but become disillusioned with America’s history and the massive propaganda by which the vast majority of us Americans have been duped into sometimes very sincerely believing that the US is the new shining light of the world, working courageously and endlessly for justice and peace.
  • Howard Zinn’s July 4 Wisdom: Put Away Your Flags

 

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