Category Archives: Corporations

Human rights groups face global crackdown ‘not seen in a generation’

Harriet Sherwood reports for The Guardian:

[…] The causes of increasing restrictions are complex, say organisations that monitor civil society activity, but broadly fall into three categories.

First is the shift in political power away from the west, the main source of funding for domestic civil society groups and the base for most big international NGOs. At the end of the cold war, the US and other western countries stepped in to assist newly democratising countries and burgeoning grassroots organisations.

But, more recently, many governments in the developing and post-communist world have pushed back against what they see as western interference. “This is the end of the post-cold war period in which [the west] felt that liberal democracy and western concepts of human rights were spreading around the world, to a period in which there’s a relativisation of political values and the questioning of a common narrative,” says Carothers.

Second, governments have woken up to the power of civil society – particularly after pro-democracy uprisings in former communist states and the revolutionary wave that swept through the Middle East.

“In most countries where leaders don’t allow a lot of pluralism or democracy, they’ve learned to tame opposition political parties,” Carothers says. “But the deepest fear of repressive governments is that they wake up in the morning, open the shutters of the presidential palace, and look out to find 100,000 citizens in the square saying ‘enough!’. That’s scary and uncontrollable,” particularly, Carothers adds, when coupled with technological skill in harnessing the power of social media to organise and spread messages.

The third cause of the NGO crackdown is the proliferation of counter-terrorism measures – often promoted by the west – that sweep civil society organisations into their embrace, either inadvertently or deliberately. Legitimate measures to curb funding of and money-laundering by terrorist organisations often have a debilitating effect on NGOs.

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Snowden Documents Reveal AT&T’s “Extreme Willingness to Help” NSA Domestic Spy Program

Neocons to Americans: Trust Us Again

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)America’s neocons insist that their only mistake was falling for some false intelligence about Iraq’s WMD and that they shouldn’t be stripped of their powerful positions of influence for just one little boo-boo. That’s the point of view taken by Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt as he whines about the unfairness of applying “a single-interest litmus test,” i.e., the Iraq War debacle, to judge him and his fellow war boosters.

After noting that many other important people were on the same pro-war bandwagon with him, Hiatt criticizes President Barack Obama for citing the Iraq War as an argument not to listen to many of the same neocons who now are trying to sabotage the Iran nuclear agreement. Hiatt thinks it’s the height of unfairness for Obama or anyone else to suggest that people who want to kill the Iran deal — and thus keep alive the option to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran — “are lusting for another war.”

Hiatt also faults Obama for not issuing a serious war threat to Iran, a missing ultimatum that explains why the nuclear agreement falls “so far short.” Hiatt adds: “war is not always avoidable, and the judicious use of force early in a crisis, or even the threat of force, can sometimes forestall worse bloodshed later.”

But it should be noted that the neocons – and Hiatt in particular – did not simply make one mistake when they joined President George W. Bush’s rush to war in 2002-03. They continued with their warmongering in Iraq for years, often bashing the handful of brave souls in Official Washington who dared challenge the neocons’ pro-war enthusiasm. Hiatt and his fellow “opinion leaders” were, in effect, the enforcers of the Iraq War “group think” – and they have never sought to make amends for that bullying.

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When Roger Stone met Antiwar.com

Mark Ames writes for Pando:

During my research, I came across a story about how, in 1973, the GOP infiltrated and bought off California’s socialist Peace and Freedom Party, using one of the co-founders of the popular Bay Area libertarian website, Antiwar.com. It’s too fascinating a story not to share.

The Peace and Freedom Party was founded in the Bay Area in 1968, at the height of leftist radicalism and the antiwar movement, nominating Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver as the party’s candidate for president.

Nixon’s CREEP campaign operatives, including young Roger Stone, specialized in manipulating anti-establishment politics in order to help Nixon (and later, Reagan, Bush, and who knows who else). As I wrote about in my Roger Stone-Donald Trump article, the Nixon people in 1971 laid out a campaign strategy centered on exploiting and manipulating anti-establishment politics in order to destroy their real competition in the Democratic Party.

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Assange Denied the Right to Defend Himself Against Sexual Assault Allegations: Interview with attorney Carey Shenkman

In times of war, Pentagon reserves right to treat journalists like spies

Frank Smyth writes for the Committee to Protect Journalists:

The Pentagon has produced its first Department of Defense-wide Law of WarManual and the results are not encouraging for journalists who, the documents states, may be treated as “unprivileged belligerents.” But the manual’s justification for categorizing journalists this way is not based on any specific case, law or treaty. Instead, the relevant passages have footnotes referring to either other parts of the document or matters not germane to this legal assertion. And the language used to attempt to justify this categorization is weak at best.

This broad and poorly defined category gives U.S. military commanders across all services the purported right to at least detain journalists without charge, and without any apparent need to show evidence or bring a suspect to trial. The Obama administration’s Defense Department appears to have taken the ill-defined practices begun under the Bush administration during the War on Terror and codified them to formally govern the way U.S. military forces treat journalists covering conflicts.

The manual’s impact overseas, especially in the short run, may be even worse. The language used to justify treating journalists as “unprivileged belligerents” comes at a time when international law for conflict is being flouted by armed groups–including government, militia, and insurgent forces–from Ukraine and Iraq to Nigeria and the Congo–and during a time in which CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists being imprisoned and killed. At a time when international leadership on human rights and press freedom is most needed, the Pentagon has produced a self-serving document that is unfortunately helping to lower the bar.

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After 27 Years, Reporter Who Exposed ECHELON Finds Vindication in Snowden Archive

Dan Froomkin writes for The Intercept:

Ever since legendary British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell told the world in a 1988 magazine article about ECHELON — a massive, automated surveillance dragnet that indiscriminately intercepted phone and Internet data from communications satellites — Western intelligence officials have refused to acknowledge that it existed.

Despite sporadic continuing press reports, people who complained about the program — which, as Campbell disclosed, automatically searched text-based communications using a dictionary of keywords to flag suspicious content — were routinely dismissed as conspiracy theorists.

The only real conspiracy, it turns out, was a conspiracy of silence among the governments that benefited from the program.

As Campbell writes today, in a first-person article in The Intercept, the archive of top-secret documents provided to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden contains a stunning 2005 document that not only confirms ECHELON’s existence as “a system targeting communications satellites”– it shows how the program was kept an official secret for so long.

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Suing the State: The Hidden Rules Within the EU-US Trade Deal

Donald Trump Says He Can Buy Politicians, None of His Rivals Disagree

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Donald Trump bragged Thursday night that he could buy politicians — even the ones sharing the stage with him at a Republican presidential debate.

Trump was asked about something he said in a previous interview: “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

“You’d better believe it,” Trump said. “If I ask them, if I need them, you know, most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money.”

[…] Though it surely wasn’t his intention, Trump was illustrating the key problem with the current campaign finance system. Campaign contributions are legally considered bribes only when there is an explicit quid-pro-quo. But as Trump explained, giving money to politicians bought him access and relationships, which he could leverage down the road in the form of favors. Such conflicts of interest are inherent in privately funded election systems.

No one on stage disputed Trump’s depiction of the American political system. In fact, it was taken as a given.

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Kim Kardashian Tweets Selfie With Armenian Genocide Flip-Flopper Hillary Clinton

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

It turns out Kim Kardashian isn’t as politically sophisticated as I’d hoped.

Kardashian’s father Robert was Armenian, and I was impressed when she traveled to Armenia with Kanye West in a blaze of publicity this past April 24 to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide. At the same time she wrote a piece for Time describing her father’s family’s escape from Armenia and her deep disappointment that Obama had broken his iron-clad promise to call what happened there genocide.

There aren’t many celebrities who’ll stick their necks out on anything at all, so this was brave, even though it’s unlikely that talking about the Armenian Genocide will screw up your endorsement deal with Carl’s Jr.

So I’m bummed out to see Kardashian kvelling about her selfie with Hillary Clinton at a Hollywood fundraiser Thursday night. Just like President Obama, Clinton has cynically abused the trust of Armenian Americans by calling it genocide when she was looking for votes, but not when it mattered.

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How big companies are infantilising us

Catherine Bennett writes for The Guardian:

Coca-Cola invests  30m in smoothie firmIn the 15 years since a new brand of smoothies introduced the style of packaging that addresses consumers as if they were the product’s ickle friends, the coming of the end of this cute, terminally patronising discourse, has continually been predicted. Even if Innocent can still get away with putting wee hand-knitted woolly hats on its refrigerated plastic bottles, for all the world as if it were run by dimwitted aunties as opposed to the Coca-Cola company, there are limits, learned advertisers have counselled, to the public’s tolerance for transparently manipulative baby talk. Especially now that so many consumers now know this tactic has a name – wackaging – and may even have begun to recoil from, rather than salivate over, formerly inoffensive words including – trigger alert – yummy, fun, respect, pure, good, planet, stuff, daddy, value and “us”.

For example: an over-familiarity that might work for fellow perpetrator Johnnie Boden, the sender of fun notey-woteys to the effect that one hasn’t been in touch for simply ages – as well as flogger of one’s personal details to random tat-purveyors – might not work, say, in the grittier context of road safety. The use of rhyming, though not scanning, ditties, as deployed by Transport for London, in intended mitigation of behavioural guidance, would surely not appeal to any organisation that respected its clients or wished to minimise homicidal ideation on the planet.

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Meirion Jones: Everyone on right side of the Savile argument has been forced out of the BBC

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

Three days after finishing work on Panorama documentary The Fake Sheikh Exposed, producer Meirion Jones was told his services were no longer required by the programme.

His previous job as head of investigations at Newsnight had been filled in his absence. He was effectively out of a job.

After 26 years at the BBC, Jones felt like this career at the corporation had come to an end and he was being squeezed out.

Jones believes he was punished because he tried to expose the Jimmy Savile scandal at the BBC and spoke out about the way his Newsnight investigation of December 2011 was suppressed.

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Pentagon Influences TV Shows Like ‘American Idol’? New Documents Show Scary Collaboration

Zaid Jilani reports for AlterNet:

It’s a little-known fact that the Pentagon has for years directly influenced the production of a wide variety of television programming. In fact, in instances where the producing companies are accessing military hardware, the Department of Defense requires approval of the scripts, a process which can result in line-by-line edits by the government of film and television plots and dialogue.

SpyCulture.com’s Tom Secker filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests with various branches of the military, seeking information about how often and to what extent the Department of Defense coordinates with programming. The results are revealing. Secker’s FOIA produced over 1,400 pages of documents from the Army’s Entertainment Liason Office and another 100 pages from the US Air Force’s office.

The documents reveal coordination not only on the type of programming we’ve come to expect—e.g. military war films— but also well-watched programs from numerous genres. For example, this entry on “American Idol,” where a contestant with a military background is referred to as a PSYOP specialist (meaning psychological operations) who was “unfortunately voted off of the show”.

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Putin Hurts a Think Tank by Not Banning It

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg View:

[…] The Kirchick piece offended the staff at Moscow Carnegie Center. “The world of American Kirchick, like the world of a bad Russian TV presenter, is divided into those who work for the State Department and those who work for Putin,” Carnegie.ru editor Alexander Baunov, a polyglot ex-diplomat (also my former colleague at two Moscow publications, and assuredly no fan of Putin), posted on Facebook. “His piece is written as a complaint to the U.S. authorities: Pay attention, these guys are deviating from the party line. There’s only one excuse for the author: Americans have never lived in a totalitarian state and they haven’t developed an immunity to the urge to write such complaints.”

The emotion is familiar to me. I have written many times that while Putin’s policies, both domestic and foreign, are not just illiberal and backward but also criminal, that doesn’t make compromise for the sake of peace impossible. Here I agree with Carnegie’s Trenin, who notes that such compromises were repeatedly made with much nastier Soviet rulers, which in the long run helped topple the Communist regime as Russians realized that the rest of the world didn’t seek to isolate them, only their own leaders did. The debate about how to handle Putin’s Russia, however, is defined by radicals on both sides, and to them I — like Baunov and his colleagues — am either Putin’s stooge at a Western media outlet or an anti-Russian Washington drone.

That falsehood benefits Putin more than anyone. He hates all foreign NGOs as State Department outposts and hotbeds of potential insurgency.

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Tokyo Electric executives to be charged over Fukushima nuclear disaster

Kentaro Hamada and Osamu Tsukimori report for Reuters:

A Japanese civilian judiciary panel on Friday forced prosecutors to indict three former Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) executives for failing to take measures to prevent the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The decision is unlikely to lead to a conviction of the former executives, after prosecutors twice said they would not bring charges, but means they will be summoned to appear in court to give evidence.

Tokyo prosecutors in January rejected the panel’s judgment that the three should be charged, citing insufficient evidence. But the 11 unidentified citizens on the panel forced the indictment after a second vote, which makes an indictment mandatory.

The three are former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, and former executives Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.

Citizens’ panels, made up of residents selected by lottery, are a rarely used but high-profile feature of Japan’s legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic overreach.

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Free football streaming: How illegal sites keep outpacing broadcasters

Howard Swains reports for The Guardian:

[…] On any game day in any sports league across the world, thousands of people do precisely what I have flown to Scandinavia to witness, and broadcast untold numbers of sporting events online. Meanwhile, in living rooms across the world, people are watching more live sport than ever, whether or not they have paid for it. The audience of unauthorised streams is estimated in the millions. As Sunday’s Community Shield heralds the start of another Premier League season, it’s a safe bet that more people than ever will be watching it illicitly. And as the idealists who first took on football’s behemoths find themselves increasingly hijacked by commercial operations with their eye on a quick buck, football’s black market will grow.

On 1 January, a site named Wiziwig – by far the most popular aggregation platform through which users could access thousands of streams – closed under the threat of legal action in Spain, where it was based. But other sites quickly stepped in to fill its role. Moreover, a senior Wiziwig moderator told me that they have no intention of remaining in the wilderness.

“All the Wiziwig moderators are still dedicated to our mission of a free and open internet, with free-to-air-programming for all,” the moderator said. He spoke on condition of anonymity – no one associated with Wiziwig has agreed to a mainstream press interview before – and used the language of the renegade that is familiar among internet libertarians: “All we have done and will do in the future is for sports fans anywhere in the world.”

The contention is that broadcasters are holding sport fans to ransom, and it means that this season, football stadiums will again host more than just the on-pitch duels between the nation’s top teams. The Premier League, among numerous other sports organisations the world over, will once again be forced to war against the online streamers. But if recent history offers much indication, they can hope to secure a score draw at best.

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Jimmy Carter: The United States is an “Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery”

Thom Hartmann: “Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?”

Jimmy Carter: “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.”

Julian Assange: The untold story of an epic struggle for justice

John Pilger writes:

The siege of Knightsbridge is both an emblem of gross injustice and a gruelling farce. For three years, a police cordon around the Ecuadorean embassy in London has served no purpose other than to flaunt the power of the state. It has cost £12 million. The quarry is an Australian charged with no crime, a refugee whose only security is the room given him by a brave South American country. His “crime” is to have initiated a wave of truth-telling in an era of lies, cynicism and war.

The persecution of Julian Assange is about to flare again as it enters a dangerous stage. From August 20, three quarters of the Swedish prosecutor’s case against Assange regarding sexual misconduct in 2010 will disappear as the statute of limitations expires. At the same time Washington’s obsession with Assange and WikiLeaks has intensified. Indeed, it is vindictive American power that offers the greatest threat – as Chelsea Manning and those still held in Guantanamo can attest.

The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up, and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables. WikiLeaks continues to expose criminal activity by the US, having just published top secret US intercepts – US spies’ reports detailing private phone calls of the presidents of France and Germany, and other senior officials, relating to internal European political and economic affairs.

None of this is illegal under the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”. In 2012, the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama boasted on its website that he had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had pronounced the whistleblower guilty. He was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison, having been tortured during his long pre-trial detention.

Few doubt that should the US get their hands on Assange, a similar fate awaits him. Threats of the capture and assassination of Assange became the currency of the political extremes in the US following Vice-President Joe Biden’s preposterous slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a “cyber-terrorist”. Those doubting the degree of ruthlessness Assange can expect should remember the forcing down of the Bolivian president’s plane in 2013 – wrongly believed to be carrying Edward Snowden.

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Target Tokyo: WikiLeaks reveals NSA spied on Japanese PM Shinzō Abe and companies like Mitsubishi

Anthony Cuthbertson reports for International Business Times:

CartoonThe US National Security Agency (NSA) undertook systematic mass surveillance of Japanese politicians, ministries and corporations over a number of years, according to recently published documents. The revelations come from whistleblowing organisation WikiLeaks, which released a list of 35 top secret targets in Japan on Friday morning (31 July).

The most high-profile target listed in the “Target Tokyo” documents is the current Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, while corporations named include car-manufacturing giant Mitsubishi. The documents also reveal that the US bugged Japan’s confidential G8 proposals on climate change, as well as spying on Japan’s secret World Trade Organisation (WTO) plan.

The period of spying on Abe dates from the Prime Minister’s first term in office, lasting from September 2006 until September 2007. Abe has since returned to office and the latest leaks will come as a major embarrassment for the US and in particular President Barack Obama who just months ago described Japan as “one of America’s closest allies in the world” during a meeting with Abe in Washington. They also follow similar leaks revealing intimate surveillance on other allies that include Brazil, France and Germany.

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Documents Published by WikiLeaks Reveal the NSA’s Corporate Priorities

Bill Blunden reports for Truthout:

Cyber espionage“We are under pressure from the Treasury to justify our budget, and commercial espionage is one way of making a direct contribution to the nation’s balance of payments.” – Sir Colin McColl, MI6 Chief

For years public figures have condemned cyber espionage committed against the United States by intruders launching their attacks out of China. These same officials then turn around and justify the United States’ far-reaching surveillance apparatus in terms of preventing terrorist attacks. Yet classified documents published by WikiLeaks reveal just how empty these talking points are. Specifically, top-secret intercepts prove that economic spying by the United States is pervasive, that not even allies are safe and that it’s wielded to benefit powerful corporate interests.

At a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton accused China of “trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move in America.” Clinton’s hyperbole is redolent of similar claims from the US deep state. For example, who could forget the statement made by former NSA director Keith Alexander that Chinese cyber espionage represents the greatest transfer of wealth in history? Alexander has obviously never heard of quantitative easing (QE) or the self-perpetuating “global war on terror,” which has likewise eaten through trillions of dollars. Losses due to cyber espionage are a rounding error compared to the tidal wave of money channeled through QE and the war on terror.’

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UK Police Confirm Ongoing Criminal Probe of Snowden Leak Journalists

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

A secretive British police investigation focusing on journalists working with Edward Snowden’s leaked documents remains ongoing two years after it was quietly launched, The Intercept can reveal.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service has admitted it is still carrying out the probe, which is being led by its counterterrorism department, after previously refusing to confirm or deny its existence on the grounds that doing so could be “detrimental to national security.”

The disclosure was made by police in a letter sent to this reporter Tuesday, concluding a seven-month freedom of information battle that saw the London force repeatedly attempt to withhold basic details about the status of the case. It reversed its position this week only after an intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, the public body that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws.

Following Snowden’s disclosures from the National Security Agency in 2013, the Metropolitan Police and a lawyer for the British government separately stated that a criminal investigation had been opened into the leaks. One of the London force’s most senior officers acknowledged during a parliamentary hearing that the investigation was looking at whether reporters at The Guardian had committed criminal offenses for their role in revealing secret surveillance operations exposed in the Snowden documents.’

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The Spirit of Judy Miller is Alive and Well at the New York Times, and It Does Great Damage

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

One of the very few Iraq War advocates to pay any price at all was former New York Times reporter Judy Miller, the classic scapegoat. But what was her defining sin? She granted anonymity to government officials and then uncritically laundered their dubious claims in the New York Times. As the paper’s own editors put it in their 2004 mea culpa about the role they played in selling the war: “We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.” As a result, its own handbook adopted in the wake of that historic journalistic debacle states that “anonymity is a last resort.”

But 12 years after Miller left, you can pick up that same paper on any given day and the chances are high that you will find reporters doing exactly the same thing. In fact, its public editor, Margaret Sullivan, regularly lambasts the paper for doing so. Granting anonymity to government officials and thenuncritically printing what these anonymous officials claim, treating it all as Truth, is not an aberration for the New York Times. With some exceptions among good NYT reporters, it’s an institutional staple for how the paper functions, even a decade after its editors scapegoated Judy Miller for its Iraq War propaganda and excoriated itself for these precise methods.

That the New York Times mindlessly disseminates claims from anonymous officials with great regularity is, at this point, too well-documented to require much discussion. But it is worth observing how damaging it continues to be, because, shockingly, all sorts of self-identified “journalists” — both within the paper and outside of it — continue to equate un-verified assertions from government officials as Proven Truth, even when these officials are too cowardly to attach their names to these claims, as long as papers such as the NYT launder them.’

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Anonymous Weighs in on TPP

Freedom of Information Act review “may curb access to government papers”

Rajeev Syal reports for The Guardian:

This front page makes an important point about freedom of speechMinisters have launched a cross-party review of the Freedom of Information Act that is likely to be viewed as an attempt to curb public access to government documents. The move comes just hours after papers released on Friday under FOI disclosed that British pilots have been involved in bombing in Syria.

Matthew Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, laid a statement before parliament outlining details about the five-person commission that will be asked to decide whether the act is too expensive and overly intrusive. Members will include Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, who is already on the record calling for the act to be rewritten. Straw is still the subject of FOI requests over the rendition of a terror suspect during his time in office.

Lord Carlile of Berriew will also sit on the commission. He accused the Guardian of “a criminal act” when it published stories using National Security Agency material leaked by Edward Snowden. The committee’s other members will be Michael Howard and Dame Patricia Hodgson, and it will be chaired by Lord Burns.’

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A Wizard at Prying Government Secrets From the Government

Ravi Somaiya writes for The New York Times:

When the reporter Jason Leopold gets ready to take on the United States government, he psychs himself up by listening to the heavy metal bands Slayer and Pantera.

Mr. Leopold describes himself as “a pretty rageful guy.” He argued recently with staff members at his son’s preschool because he objected to their references to “Indians” and they objected to his wearing family-unfriendly punk rock T-shirts to school meetings.

Mr. Leopold, 45, who works for Vice News, reserves most of his aggression for dealing with the government. He has revealed about 20,000 pages of government documents, some of them the basis for explosive news stories. Despite his appearance — on a recent day his T-shirt featured the band name “Sick of It All” — his secret weapon is the opposite of anarchic: an encyclopedic knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act, the labyrinthine administration machine that serves it and the kind of legal judo often required to pry information from it.

His small office, just off the kitchen in his home here, is littered with envelopes from various branches of the government and computer disks filled with secrets. His persistence has led to numerous revelations — some in documents that have been released exclusively to him, and others in documents that have been released to multiple reporters after pressure has been brought by Mr. Leopold.

They have included a series of disclosures from Guantánamo Bay; racist emails from the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department released after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer and the subsequent racial unrest in the city; and some details of unreleased Central Intelligence Agency memos on torture (another report was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December).’

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Julian Assange on Wikileaks’ Comeback: “We Are Drowning in Material”

Julian Assange was recently interviewed by Michael Sontheimer for Spiegel:

Spiegel: Mr. Assange, WikiLeaks is back—releasing documents proving United States surveillance of the French government, publishing Saudi diplomatic cables and posting evidence of the massive surveillance of the German government by US secret services. What are the reasons for this comeback?

Assange: Yes, WikiLeaks has been publishing a lot of material in the last few months. We have been publishing right through, but sometimes it has been material which does not concern the West and the Western media—documents about Syria, for example. But you have to consider that there was, and still is, a conflict with the United States government which started in earnest in 2010 after we began publishing a variety of classified US documents.

Spiegel: What did this mean for you and for WikiLeaks?

Assange: The result was a series of legal cases, blockades, PR attacks and so on. With a banking blockade, WikiLeaks had been cut off from more than 90 percent of its finances. The blockade happened in a completely extrajudicial manner. We took legal measures against the blockade and we have been victorious in the courts, so people can send us donations again.

Spiegel: What difficulties did you have to overcome?

Assange: There had been attacks on our technical infrastructure. And our staff had to take a 40 percent pay cut, but we have been able to keep things together without having to fire anybody, which I am quite proud of. We became a bit like Cuba, working out ways around this blockade. Various groups like Germany’s Wau Holland Foundation collected donations for us during the blockade.

Spiegel: What did you do with the donations you got?

Assange: They enabled us to pay for new infrastructure, which was needed. I have been publishing about the NSA for almost 20 years now, so I was aware of the NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance. We required a next-generation submission system in order to protect our sources.

Spiegel: And is it in place now?

Assange: Yes, a few months back we launched a next-generation submission system and also integrated it with our publications.

Spiegel: So we can expect new publications?

Assange: We are drowning in material now. Economically, the challenge for WikiLeaks is whether we can scale up our income in proportion to the amount of material we have to process.’

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Online pirates could face 10 years in jail under plans being considered by UK government

BBC News reports:

Piracy keyOnline pirates could face jail terms of up to 10 years under plans being considered by the government.

Online copyright infringement currently carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

Ministers have launched a consultation on increasing it to 10 years – bringing it into line with copyright infringement of physical goods.

The government said tougher sentences would act as a “significant deterrent”.’

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More than 2,800 people are dead in Yemen – so why aren’t we outraged?

Sophia Dingli writes for The Conversation:

In the summer of 2014, our screens were inundated with videos of the carnage from the streets of Gaza. The European media was outraged, and the sense of moral urgency was amplified across social media. Similar outrage greeted the destruction of UNESCO heritage sites in both Iraq and Syria with the condemnation of Islamic State’s barbarism reaching a crescendo when it overtook Syria’s majestic city of Palmyra.

Compare this coverage to the almost universal silence on the ongoing war in Yemen, which is largely absent from our TV screens, Facebook and Twitter trending topics sections and the front pages of broadsheet papers.

Admittedly, the Yemen conflict is a complicated matter, where the Saudi “bad guys” in the northern half of the country are looked upon as potential saviours in the southern half. The war includes a number of factions, and provides no easy narratives for the casual news watcher to follow.

Of course, neither the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor the Islamic State’s onslaught are simple matters, but the Western media has plenty of simplified narratives and stereotypes at its disposal to structure its coverage. And crucially, the media coverage of both Israel-Palestine and Islamic State is loud and clear in its condemnation of the human cost, both civilian and cultural.

So it may come as a surprise to learn the the damage inflicted upon Yemen and Yemenis since March 2015, when the Houthi rebels’ march toward Aden was met with a massive Saudi-led offensive, has already claimed more casualties than the last Israeli offensive in Gaza and has destroyed parts of a UNESCO world heritage site. Worse yet, it shows no signs of stopping.’

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CIA and Mandela: Can the Story Be Told Now?

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting wrote in December 2013:

Back in 1990, FAIR (Extra!, 3/90) noted that the media coverage of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison failed to mention there was strong evidence that the CIA had tipped off South African authorities to Mandela’s location in 1962, resulting in his arrest.

So with coverage of Mandela’s death dominating the media now, can the story of the CIA’s role in Mandela’s capture be told? Mostly not.

The link between the CIA and Mandela’s capture–reported by CBS Evening News (8/5/86) and in a New York Times column by Andrew Cockburn (10/13/86)–was almost entirely unmentioned in media discussions of his death.

There were a few exceptions. MSNBC host Chris Hayes mentioned it on December 5 (“We know there’s reporting that indicates the CIA actually helped the South African police nab Mandela the first time he was captured”). On Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show (12/7/13), Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman brought it up.’

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Queen’s Nazi salute footage is matter of historical significance, says Sun

Jamie Grierson reports for The Guardian:

The managing editor of the Sun has defended his newspaper’s decision to release leaked footage, apparently shot in 1933 or 1934, showing the Queen perform a Nazi salute as a matter of “historical significance”.

The black-and-white footage shows the Queen, then aged six or seven, and her sister Margaret, around three, joining the Queen Mother and her uncle, Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, in raising an arm in the signature style of the German fascists.

Edward, who later became King Edward VIII and abdicated to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, faced numerous accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser. The couple were photographed meeting Hitler in Munich in October 1937, less than two years before the second world war broke out.’

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