Category Archives: USA

TSA Agent Confession: Dear America, I Saw You Naked

Jason Edward Harrington writes for Politico:

‘On Jan. 4, 2010, when my boss saw my letter to the editor in the New York Times, we had a little chat.

It was rare for the federal security director at Chicago O’Hare to sit down with her floor-level Transportation Security Administration officers—it usually presaged a termination—and so I was nervous as I settled in across the desk from her. She was a woman in her forties with sharp blue eyes that seemed to size you up for placement in a spreadsheet. She held up a copy of the newspaper, open to the letters page. My contribution, under the headline “To Stop a Terrorist: No Lack of Ideas,” was circled in blue pen.

One week earlier, on Christmas Day 2009, a man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had tried to detonate 80 grams of a highly explosive powder while on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He had smuggled the bomb aboard the plane in a pouch sewn into his underwear. It was a masterpiece of post-9/11 tragicomedy: Passengers tackled and restrained Abdulmutallab for the remainder of the flight, and he succeeded in burning nothing besides his own genitals.

The TSA saw the near-miss as proof that aviation security could not be ensured without the installation of full-body scanners in every U.S. airport. But the agency’s many critics called its decision just another knee-jerk response to an attempted terrorist attack. I agreed, and wrote to the Times saying as much. My boss wasn’t happy about it.’

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Why Google May Be More ‘Evil’ than the NSA: Interview with Taylor Lincoln of Public Citizen

Abby Martin speaks with Taylor Lincoln, Director of Research at Public Citizen’s Congressional Watch Division about a new report detailing how Google is invading users privacies and becoming the most powerful and influential political force in Washington.’ (Breaking the Set)

The looters the media tells you about and the ones it doesn’t

We Are the Enemy: Is This the Lesson of Ferguson?

John W. Whitehead writes:

‘[…] Ferguson matters because it provides us with a foretaste of what is to come. It is the shot across the bow, so to speak, a warning that this is how we will all be treated if we do not tread cautiously in challenging the police state, and it won’t matter whether we’re black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat. In the eyes of the corporate state, we are all the enemy.

This is the lesson of Ferguson.

Remember that in the wake of the shooting, Ferguson police officers clad in body armor, their faces covered with masks, equipped with assault rifles and snipers and riding armored vehicles, showed up in force to deal with protesters. Describing that show of force by police in Ferguson, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, stated, “This was a military force, and they were facing down an enemy.”

Yes, we are the enemy. As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, since those first towers fell on 9/11, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.’

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Ferguson: Riot Double-Standard, Smoke and Mirrors Grand Jury & Activists Demand Accountability

Ferguson Erupts After Grand Jury Clears Officer in Michael Brown Killing

‘A grand jury in St. Louis, Missouri has chosen not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager. The decision follows three months of deliberation by the jury of nine whites and three blacks, including four hours of testimony from Wilson himself. The grand jury decision set off outrage in Ferguson and communities across the country who see Brown’s killing as part of a wide-scale pattern of police mistreatment of people of color. In a statement, the Brown family said: “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.” We hear from St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch and go to the streets of Ferguson where Amy Goodman interviewed protesters last night.’ (Democracy Now!)

Protesters Save Restaurant From Looters

Small Businesses Left In Ruins By Ferguson Looters

Ferguson shooting: Protests spread across U.S.

BBC News reports:

Demonstrators march on November 26, 2014 in Los Angeles during demonstrations against a decision by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury to not indict a white police officer in the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown.‘A dozen US cities have seen new protests over the decision not to charge a white policeman who killed a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

Demonstrations from New York to Seattle were largely peaceful but rioting broke out in Oakland, California.

There was some unrest in Ferguson itself, with police making 44 arrests, but the town did not see destruction on the scale of Monday night.

The officer who killed Michael Brown there says he has a “clean conscience”.’

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You Didn’t Really Think Darren Wilson Would Be Indicted, Did You?

Ron Jacobs writes for CounterPunch:

‘Did you really believe Darren Wilson was going to be indicted for murdering Michael Brown? Did you think a cop was going to face a trial for gunning down a young man he thought should be arrested? Do you think the law treats all people equally-civilian and cop, rich and poor, black and white? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have been watching too much television. From the crime drama Law and Order to FoxNews and CNN the viewer is fed a constant storyline that portrays cops as heroes in a system that is ultimately fair, despite the fact that that fairness sometimes lets bad guys go.

If one listened carefully to the prosecutor McCulloch during his presentation to the media announcing the failure to indict Wilson, he seemed to be saying that there was never much likelihood that an indictment would be produced. Police officers, he said, are given much more leeway than civilians when it comes to shooting people. Recent history certainly proves this. It seems that all a cop has to do is “fear for his safety” and he can fire at will. Like James Bond in the 007 series, a police badge is a license to kill. If one adds the elements of race—an element that is part and parcel of the US system of justice and law enforcement—even greater leeway is provided to the police. Like the Supreme Court wrote over a century ago, African-Americans have “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”’

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A Complete Guide to the Shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson

Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept put together an excellent guide to the Michael Brown shooting days prior to the grand jury decision:

[…] Michael Brown’s killing, the culmination of an incident that the St. Louis Post Dispatch would later report lasted no more than 90 seconds, devastated a family with high hopes for their college-bound son and sparked some of the most significant civil rights demonstrations in a generation — casting a harsh light on the disproportionate number of black men killed by police, on St. Louis County’s exploitative and racially discriminatory municipal court system, and on the militarization of law enforcement.

In the months since Brown was killed, numerous eyewitnesses have come forward to describe what they saw during the teen’s final moments, while controversial disclosures to the press have served to describe Wilson’s version of the events that day.

This is everything we know about the shooting.’

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Ferguson Goes Under No-Fly Zone, Hampering Aerial News Coverage Of Protests

Think Progress reports:

Ferguson no fly zone‘The Federal Aviation Administration issued a no-fly zone over Ferguson, Missouri on Monday night, after a Grand Jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Mike Brown.

The reason listed for a no-fly zone is “TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES.” It extends up to 3,000 feet, effectively banning news helicopters in the area, as well as commercial flights.

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Obama’s new leader at the Pentagon will mean more war – not less

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

obama middle east illusration‘[…] While Hagel’s departure has already been framed around the Obama administration needing a “change” after the midterm elections, or as a scapegoat for the administration’s response to the Islamic State (Isis), but that just raises more questions than answers: Why does the Obama administration think removing the only Republican from its cabinet will satisfy an electorate that just voted in more Republicans? And how is firing Chuck Hagel supposed to be a magic wand for a faltering campaign to destroy Isis?

Taken with the Afghanistan news, as Marcy Wheeler points out, it’s clear that Obama’s White House wants to slot in someone who’s a lot more gung-ho about war. Hagel, a Vietnam veteran who was long skeptical of the Iraq conflict, entered office “to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration,” as the Times’s Helene Cooper described.

But “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” an unnamed official told the Times, apparently unwilling to articulate the obvious: Obama wants the primary focus of his (and perhaps Hillary Clinton’s) next defense secretary to be ramping up troops and once again expanding the Pentagon’s almost limitless budget.’

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US Already Breaking Afghan Troop Deal, Night Raids Latest “Concession” to Fall

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘[…] Undiscussed in the Afghan parliament was the fact that the Obama Administration openly plans to violate that pact on multiple fronts now, and has the apparent blessing of Ghani, elected earlier this year and a fraud-laden run-off vote.

On Friday, it was revealed President Obama had already signed a “secret order” that would ignore the training and advisory limit, and ensure that US ground troops remain in direct combat throughout at least 2015, the first year of the deal.

Today, reports are that Ghani has quietly agreed to lift another of the limitations, the ban on night raids against civilian homes in Afghanistan, beginning in 2015.’

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SIGAR: Pentagon’s economic development in Afghanistan ‘accomplished nothing’

Joe Gould reports for Military Times:

‘The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says he is investigating the Pentagon’s efforts to spark that country’s economic development, which cost between $700 million and $800 million and “accomplished nothing.”

SIGAR’s chief, John Sopko, told reporters Tuesday, that the agency has opened an “in-depth review” into the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a Defense Department unit aimed at developing war zone mining, industrial development and fostering private investments.

[…] More broadly, Sopko faulted the US government’s economic development efforts in Afghanistan as “an abysmal failure,” saying it lacked a single leader, a clear strategy or accountability. An avenue of inquiry for SIGAR’s investigation into TFBSO could be Afghanistan’s underdeveloped mining industry.’

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After Vowing to End Combat Mission in Afghanistan, Obama Secretly Extends America’s Longest War: Interview w/ Dr. Hakim & Kathy Kelly

‘President Obama has secretly extended the U.S. role in Afghanistan despite earlier promises to wind down America’s longest war. According to the New York Times, Obama has signed a classified order that ensures U.S. troops will have a direct role in fighting. In addition, the order reportedly enables American jets, bombers and drones to bolster Afghan troops on combat missions. And, under certain circumstances, it would apparently authorize U.S. air-strikes to support Afghan military operations throughout the country. The decision contradicts Obama’s earlier announcement that the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani has also backed an expanded U.S. military role. Ghani, who took office in September, has also reportedly lifted limits on U.S. airstrikes and joint raids that his predecessor Hamid Karzai had put in place. We go to Kabul to speak with Dr. Hakim, a peace activist and physician who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. We are also joined by Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who has just returned from Afghanistan.’ (Democracy Now!)

Exaggeration Nation

Micah Zenko writes for Foreign Policy:

‘[…] Government officials routinely mischaracterize and inflate the threats posed to the United States in order to catalyze public opinion and ensure congressional acquiescence to the latest foreign military intervention. Yet neither the public nor members of Congress should accept such language, because it is both deeply misleading and factually wrong. Of course, the United States has faced any number of threats that were far more sophisticated, well-armed, better funded, and larger — the Soviet Union is one notable, superpower-sized example. It is also completely incorrect to contend that IS is an imminent threat to every interest, or even directly to the United States itself. As several U.S. intelligence officials have now declared: “We have no credible information that [the Islamic State] is planning to attack the homeland of the United States.”‘

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How the Pentagon’s Skynet Would Automate War

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Motherboard:

‘Pentagon officials are worried that the US military is losing its edge compared to competitors like China, and are willing to explore almost anything to stay on top—including creating watered-down versions of the Terminator.

Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.

Last week, US defense secretary Chuck Hagel ann​ounced the ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’—a sweeping plan to identify and develop cutting edge technology breakthroughs “over the next three to five years and beyond” to maintain global US “mili​tary-technological superiority.” Areas to be covered by the DoD programme include robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, Big Data and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing.

But just how far down the rabbit hole Hagel’s initiative could go—whether driven by desperation, fantasy or hubris—is revealed by an overlooked Pentagon-funded study, published quietly in mid-September by the DoD National Defense University’s (NDU) Center for Technology and National Security Policy in Washington DC.’

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U.S. Firms Accused of Enabling Surveillance in Despotic Central Asian Regimes

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - U.S. Firms Accused of Enabling Surveillance in Despotic Central Asian Regimes‘U.S. and Israeli companies have been selling surveillance systems to Central Asian countries with records of political repression and human rights abuse, according to a new report by Privacy International. The U.K.-based watchdog charges that the American firms Verint and Netronome enable surveillance in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Verint’s Israeli arm provides those countries with monitoring centers “capable of mass interception of telephone, mobile, and IP networks,” the report says, as does the Israeli company NICE systems. Verint also enlisted California-based Netronome to give Uzbek agents the ability to intercept encrypted communications, Privacy International says, though it’s not clear whether the program was carried out successfully.

The report provides a broad picture of surveillance in a region that is marked by repression. Kazakhstan has been condemned for laws restricting free speech and assembly, flawed trials, and torture. As for Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch bluntly characterizes the country’s human rights record as “atrocious.”

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U.S. and British Intel Agencies Attacked European Union With Malware

Morgan Marquis-Boire, Claudio Guarnieri, and Ryan Gallagher report for The Intercept:

‘Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.

Regin was found on infected internal computer systems and email servers at Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian phone and internet provider, following reports last year that the company was targeted in a top-secret surveillance operation carried out by British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, industry sources told The Intercept.

The malware, which steals data from infected systems and disguises itself as legitimate Microsoft software, has also been identified on the same European Union computer systems that were targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The hacking operations against Belgacom and the European Union were first revealed last year through documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The specific malware used in the attacks has never been disclosed, however.’

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How Ferguson showed us the truth about police

Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure

Steve Kroft reports for CBS 60 Minutes:

chopper-shot-of-falling-debris-cover.jpg‘There are a lot of people in the United States right now who think the country is falling apart, and at least in one respect they’re correct. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our airports are out of date and the vast majority of our seaports are in danger of becoming obsolete. All the result of decades of neglect. None of this is really in dispute. Business leaders, labor unions, governors, mayors, congressmen and presidents have complained about a lack of funding for years, but aside from a one time cash infusion from the stimulus program, nothing much has changed. There is still no consensus on how to solve the problem or where to get the massive amounts of money needed to fix it, just another example of political paralysis in Washington.

Tens of millions of American cross over bridges every day without giving it much thought, unless they hit a pothole. But the infrastructure problem goes much deeper than pavement. It goes to crumbling concrete and corroded steel and the fact that nearly 70,000 bridges in America — one out of every nine — is now considered to be structurally deficient.’

READ MORE & WATCH THE FULL SEGMENT…

The Coming Blackout Epidemic

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Motherboard:

‘​Industrialized countries face a future of increasingly severe blackouts, a new study warns, due to the proliferation of extreme weather events, the transition to unconventional fossil fuels, and fragile national grids that cannot keep up with rocketing energy demand.

“We need a fundamental re-think about how electricity is generated and distributed and who controls this,” said lead author Prof Hugh Byrd of Lincoln University, a specialist in international energy policy and urban sustainability. “It is not in the interests of the privatized power industry to encourage less electricity consumption.”

Every year, millions of people around the world experience major electricity blackouts, but the country that has endured more blackouts than any other industrialized nation is the United States. Over the last decade, the number of power failures affecting over 50,000 Americans has more than doubled, according to federal data.’

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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ‘Resigns’

Helene Cooper reports for The New York Times:

‘Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel handed in his resignation on Monday, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and the struggles of his national security team to respond to an onslaught of global crises.

[…] Administration officials said that Mr. Obama made the decision to remove Mr. Hagel, the sole Republican on his national security team, last Friday after a series of meetings between the two men over the past two weeks.

The officials characterized the decision as a recognition that the threat from the militant group Islamic State will require different skills from those that Mr. Hagel, who often struggled to articulate a clear viewpoint and was widely viewed as a passive defense secretary, was brought in to employ.’

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US Statements, Actions on Syria Starkly Different

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘Vice President Joe Biden spent four hours today in private meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The topic: how to impose regime change on Syria, Turkey’s war-torn neighbor to the south.

Publicly, the US has been in favor of regime change for years, and had been backing “moderate” rebel factions on and off in hopes of installing one of them.

Since entering a direct war with ISIS in Syria two months ago, the US war focus has been on ISIS and other rebel factions, strikes which the US concedes are benefiting the Assad government.

Over the past few weeks, the US has been reiterating, over and over, that their policy is regime change, but their actions in the ISIS war are supporting the exact opposite, and when asked point blank, President Obama conceded earlier this week that no actions were being taken to try to remove Assad from power at this point.’

SOURCE

Utah Considers Cutting Off Water to the NSA’s Monster Data Center

Robert McMillan reports for Wired:

An aerial view of the cooling units at the NSA's Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would shut off the water spigot to the massive data center operated by the National Security Agency in Bluffdale, Utah.

The legislation, proposed by Utah lawmaker Marc Roberts, is due to go to the floor of the Utah House of Representatives early next year, but it was debated in a Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee meeting on Wednesday. The bill, H.B. 161, directs municipalities like Bluffdale to “refuse support to any federal agency which collects electronic data within this state.”

The NSA brought its Bluffdale data center online about a year ago, taking advantage Utah’s cheap power and a cut-rate deal for millions of gallons of local water, used to cool the 1-million-square-foot building’s servers. Roberts’ bill, however, would prohibit the NSA from negotiating new water deals when its current Bluffdale agreement runs out in 2021.’

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Seattle police may dump plans for body cams, citing records requests

Joe Mullin reports for Arstechnica:

Police in Seattle are just weeks away from implementing pilot program in which 12 officers will test different types of body cameras. It’s a first step in a plan to put body cameras on the department’s more than 1,000 officers by the year 2016.

Now that plan may get put on ice, due in part to an overly broad public records requests. The Seattle Times reported this morning that an anonymous man, known only by the email address policevideorequests@gmail.com, has made an official request for “details on every 911 dispatch on which officers are sent; all the written reports they produce; and details of each computer search generated by officers when they run a person’s name, or check a license plate or address.”

The requestor also wants all video from patrol car cameras currently in use, and plans to request video from body cams once they are implemented. He has requested the information “every day, in spreadsheet form.”‘

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Antiwar Voices Absent from Corporate TV News Ahead of U.S. Attacks on Iraq and Syria: Interview with Peter Hart

‘A new analysis of corporate TV news has found there was almost no debate about whether the United States should go to war in Iraq and Syria. The group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that of the more than 200 guests who appeared on network shows to discuss the issue, just six voiced opposition to military action. The report, titled “Debating How — Not Whether — to Launch a New War,” examines a two-week period in September when U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria dominated the airwaves. The report also finds that on the high-profile Sunday talk shows, out of 89 guests, there was just one antiwar voice — Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. We speak to Peter Hart, activism director at FAIR.’ (Democracy Now!)

The siege of Julian Assange is a farce

John Pilger writes:

Czu.jpg[…] Ny has never properly explained why she will not come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, the Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US before the European Arrest Warrant was issued.

Perhaps an explanation is that, contrary to its reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had been in Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan – in which Sweden had forces under US command.

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.’

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Familiar Bedfellows: Hillary and Henry

Sheldon Richman writes for The Future Freedom Foundation:

Hillary and Henry sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G-E-R!

It says a lot about former secretary of state and presumed presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton that she’s a member of the Henry Kissinger Fan Club. Progressives who despised George W. Bush might want to examine any warm, fuzzy feelings they harbor for Clinton.

She has made no effort to hide her admiration for Kissinger and his geopolitical views. Now she lays it all out clearly in a Washington Post review of his latest book, World Order.

Clinton acknowledges differences with Kissinger, but apparently these do not keep her from saying that “his analysis … largely fits with the broad strategy behind the Obama administration’s effort over the past six years to build a global architecture of security and cooperation for the 21st century.”

Beware of politicians and courtiers who issue solemn declarations about building global architectures. To them the rest of us are mere “pieces upon a chess-board.” Security and cooperation are always the announced ends, yet the ostensible beneficiaries usually come to grief. Look where such poseurs have been most active: the Middle East, North Africa, Ukraine. As they say about lawyers, if we didn’t have so-called statesmen, we wouldn’t need them.’

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