The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

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Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States

I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


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August 23, 2013,  OpEdNews

Privacy, and open government: both under assault
 
By Stephen Unger

Edward Snowden's heroic action has made it clear that the ability of government to obtain information about individuals has been greatly expanded, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to obtain information about their government. Individual privacy is being eroded, while government secrecy is growing.::::::::

While the ability of government to obtain information about individuals has been greatly expanded, it is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to obtain information about their government. Individual privacy is being eroded, while governmental secrecy is growing. Both trends are highlighted by the dramatic action of Edward Snowden to make public, in some detail, how various secret government agencies have been using modern technology to eavesdrop on people all over the world, including American citizens on US soil. One consequence of the eavesdropping is to make many pubic figures vulnerable to blackmail by the NSA, FBI, etc. The intense assault being mounted on whistleblowers is weakening a vitally important check on the abuse of governmental power.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the US government is simultaneously assaulting both the openness of government that is an essential pillar of democracy, and the privacy of citizens. Since the end of WW II, governmental secrecy has been rapidly growing, as measured by the continued expansion of the amount of information classified as secret, and the number of people in and out of government "cleared" to access secret material [Unger]. (A parallel trend is the increasing tendency for private corporations to keep secret such information as the ingredients and origins of their products.) At the same time that citizen knowledge of what the government is doing is being greatly reduced, government access to information about the affairs of individual citizens is being significantly expanded.

An important part of the process of snooping on communications is the mechanism used to give legal cover to various forms of governmental eavesdropping. This consists of warrants issued by an unusual kind of court.

FISA: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court The ostensible function of the FISA court [Wikipedia-FISA] (established in 1978) is to issue warrants requested, usually by the National Security Agency (NSA) or the FBI, to surveil suspected foreign agents within the US. In practice today, as will be made evident below, the subjects of FISA approved surveillance operations consist mainly of US citizens. Foreigners outside of the US are also often included.

The FISA court consists of 11 judges, appointed for 7 year terms, by the chief justice of the US Supreme Court. Unlike every other judicial appointment process that I am aware of, there is no ratification process. A warrant is issued by a single judge on the basis of an agency request. If a request is denied, the agency can appeal to the Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, a 3-judge court whose members are also appointed, without ratification, by the Chief Justice. Unlike conventional warrants, a single FISA warrant can cover large numbers, sometimes millions, of people [Katikala]. The Fourth Amendment concepts of probable cause and particularity have been scrapped.

The FISA court behaves as a rubber stamp. Since its inception it has denied only 11 out of more than 33,900 requests for warrants. None of the over 5100 requests made since 2009 have been denied.

There is no mechanism, adversarial or otherwise, for ensuring that requests for such warrants have been properly made, and that they are used as specified. The entire process is enshrouded in secrecy. The chief judge of the court, Reggie B. Walton, recently stated that the court has no way to verify that the information given to them by the executive branch is accurate, or that the government is complying with their rulings[Leonnig]. Since only the executive branch has knowledge of and access to the FISA court, the principle of checks and balances that we learned in school is fundamental to American government is ignored in this realm, as is the concept of open government.

What about congressional oversight? Did I overlook the claim that NSA and other surveillance activity is being monitored by congress? Not really. Ordinary members of congress are told no more about what is going on than what is known to the general public. When they try to get more information, they are stonewalled [Greenwald].
Even members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees are unable to rein in the intelligence agencies. They are prohibited from speaking out publicly when they learn about, or suspect, abuses. Referring to the Patriot Act as it pertains to surveillance, Intelligence Committee members, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall complained to Attorney General Holder that, "...there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows." [Holan]

In effect, there is no check on the executive branch's claims that its surveillance operations are justified by considerations of national security. All efforts to contest such claims in specific court cases have been blocked by arguments that litigation on such matters would jeopardize national security by exposing vital state secrets.
Are whistleblowers good or bad? A principal means by which excessive governmental secrecy can be countered is action by government employees or contractors at various levels to make public important material that it unjustifiably being kept secret. Such so-called whistleblowers have always been an important check on abuse of power, corruption, and incompetence.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, the Obama-Biden team pledged to protect whistleblowers [Obama-08]. Their campaign statement on this topic said:
Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
A more recent statement by the Obama Administration on this topic [Ellman] (February 22, 2013) reads:
With the passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, and President Obama's landmark directive extending whistleblower protections to the intelligence and national security communities for the first time, Federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government will receive the protection they deserve.
But the actions of the Obama administration have been rather different from what one might have expected in the light of the above quotations, which are not unique. During the 2012 election campaign an Obama campaign statement [Obama-12] dealing with this subject proudly (and accurately) proclaimed:
President Obama has done more than any other administration to forcefully pursue and address leaks of classified national security information. Here are the facts:
  • The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many cases under the Espionage Act as all other administrations combined.
  • Under the President, the Justice Department has prosecuted six cases regarding national security leaks.
  • Before he took office, federal prosecutors had used the Espionage Act in only three cases.
The gap between the rhetoric and actions of the administration is astounding--and dismaying. Those who performed what were characterized rhetorically as "acts of courage and patriotism" are, in practice, treated as "leakers", and blowing the whistle by revealing "secret" information to journalists (and thereby, to the public) is equated with espionage--the passing of significant national security information to enemies of the country [Masnick-leakers]. Along the same lines, the government has also attacked journalists who are receptive to information from whistleblowers [Todd].

In this schizophrenic context, it is interesting that, altho frequently praising whistleblowers in general (as in the first two of the above quotes), Obama, as president, has never found good words for an actual person who has blown the whistle [Sledge].

Administration statements responding to criticisms of its surveillance activities are characterized by obscurity. Words such as "incidental", "relevant", and "targeted" are frequently used in misleading ways that distort their commonly understood meanings [Timm].

A big league whistleblower For some time now there has been considerable evidence in the public realm that the US government has been spying on people all over the world, including American citizens in the US. E.g., in 2006, Russell Tice, who had been employed over a period of two decades by various intelligence agencies, including the NSA, said that there was large-scale NSA eavesdropping on phone calls without legal warrants [Ross].

The NSA revoked his security clearance and fired him. But, perhaps because he was careful not to reveal details or provide copies of secret documents, the Bush administration did not prosecute Tice.

The revelations of Edward Snowden [Wikipedia-Snowden] are more dramatic. Rather than speak in generalities, he released a number of secret documents that revealed, in great detail, the enormous scope of NSA surveillance on a worldwide basis. This surveillance covers email and other internet communications, phone calls, and even bugging the offices of diplomats of friendly nations both in the US and abroad. Truly massive amounts of information are collected and stored.

Snowden solidly documented the way the US government has been using modern technology to expand on the kind of surveillance of citizens depicted in the classic novel, "1984". Detailed logs listing recipients and topics of email correspondence and phone calls are being compiled and stored by the NSA. The agency is also intercepting and storing the contents of emails, text messages, and phone calls. There are no effective restrictions on the accessing of such material by government employees or contractors, altho various officials and legislators have made contradictory, often vague, statements on this [CNET].

It is claimed by some that Snowden should have used internal mechanisms for calling attention to the problems he saw, rather than release classified material to the public. This is not a very realistic position, given the experiences of others who did take this path. The Government Accountability Project (GAP), perhaps the leading organization in the area of whistleblower protection, considers Snowden's action to have been very appropriate [GAP]. Others have pointed out that, contrary to what President Obama said about Snowden's failure to use internal mechanisms, that such mechanisms are not available to employees of contractors (which is what Snowden was), as opposed to government employees [Masnick-Protection ].

Especially in the light of the vicious way the Obama administration attacked whistle blowers such as Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou, and Thomas Drake, it took great courage, patriotism, and a strong moral sense for Edward Snowden to give up his promising career and comfortable life in order to call the attention of the public to this assault on our civil liberties.

A bizarre sidelight is the fact that the government has blocked access by army personnel to the website of the Guardian (British-based news organization that has been publishing material released by Snowden). An army information assurance security officer (perhaps in an attempt at comic relief) explained that this is "to prevent an unauthorized disclosure of classified information" [Molnar].

Why worry about privacy violations? "I have nothing to hide, so I don't care if government agents read my email or listen to my phone conversations." This expresses the views of many Americans to concerns about privacy losses due to the operations of the NSA, FBI, etc. It is a very short-sighted attitude.

Stripping people of privacy by eavesdropping on their communications has always been a prime characteristic of totalitarian governments, such as those of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Altho not many Americans would be significantly harmed today by the kind of privacy loss under discussion, this may not hold for the future. It was certainly not true in the past.

During the McCarthy era, many people were greatly harmed by disclosures of information about them that involved no wrong-doing. Past views that they no longer held, and current views that were perfectly legal, but not in line with the prevailing national ideology, were used against them, often making them unemployable. Such matters as being related to, or friends with, a person considered to be a radical caused great career damage, leading, in some cases, to suicides. The surveillance methods discussed here would have greatly facilitated such attacks.

A current indication that this sort of problem is not just history is the No-Fly list. People on this list, including American citizens, are prohibited from flying. There is no legal process that put them there, and there is no simple way to contest inclusion, or even to find out if you are on the list, short of buying a ticket and trying to board a plane [Zetter][Wikipedia-no-fly]. The massive data files being created by the NSA via its surveillance operations is a plausible resource for adding names to the No-Fly list.
Many politicians have had extra-marital affairs, or engaged in other potentially embarrassing sexual activity. Others have exploited inside information, unethically, or even illegally, for financial gain, or have used campaign funds illegally. If evidence of such can be retrieved from email, telephone, or other records, they would become vulnerable to blackmail, subjecting them to control by government agents.

Defenders of the current system claim that abuses are precluded by strict rules limiting access to surveillance files. Such claims are not persuasive, since there are so many people involved in the agencies and private companies building and maintaining these files. The level of secrecy makes it impossible for outsiders to verify whether various purported safeguards are being properly implemented. As pointed out above, those kept in the dark include members of congress.

It remains to be seen whether Edward Snowden's revelations will be sufficient to jolt enough Americans into recognizing how far we have gone toward developing--and I don't think the words are too strong--a new version of totalitarianism. Bear in mind that the same government carrying out the activities discussed above has also been imprisoning, torturing, and killing people, including Americans, all over the world (and not just on battlefields) without a semblance of due process. So far, this has been done on a relatively small scale, but precedents are being established that could easily lead to such atrocities being made routine.

References CNET, "NSA spying flap extends to contents of U.S. phone calls", CNET, June 15, 2013
Lisa Ellman and Nick Sinai, "Fulfilling our Commitment to Open Government", The White House Blog, February 22, 2013
GAP, "GAP Statement on Edward Snowden & NSA Domestic Surveillance", GAP, June 14, 2013
Glenn Greenwald, "Members of Congress denied access to basic information about NSA", The Guardian, August 4, 2013
Angie Drobnic Holan, "In Context: the Wyden-Udall letters on government secrecy", PolitiFact, June 6th, 2013
Shaq Katikala, "Supreme Court FISA Decision: How the NSA and the Courts Are Trashing the First Amendment", Policymic, Feb. 2013
Carol D. Leonnig, "Court: Ability to police U.S. spying program limited", Washington Post, August 15, 2013
Mike Masnick-leakers, "Obama Administration Has Declared War On Whistleblowers, Describes Leaks As 'Aiding The Enemy'", Techdirt, Jun 21, 2013
Mike Masnick-Protection, "Obama's Simply Wrong: Whistleblower Protections Would Not Have Applied To Snowden", Techdirt, Aug 9, 2013
Phillip Molnar, "Restricted web access to The Guardian is Armywide, officials say", Monterey Herald, 6/27/2013
Obama-08, "The Change We Need In Washington", September 22, 2008
Obama-12 Team, "Fact check: President Obama has aggressively pursued and addressed national security leaks", barackobama.com, August 16, 2012
Brian Ross, "NSA Whistleblower Alleges Illegal Spying", ABC News, Jan. 10, 2006
Matt Sledge, "Obama Has Rarely Or Never Praised Whistleblowers", Huffington Post, 5/18/2013
Trevor Timm, "A Guide to the Deceptions, Misinformation, and Word Games Officials Use to Mislead the Public About NSA Surveillance"Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 14, 2013
Tricia Todd, "The United States vs. Freedom of Speech", Huffington Post, 6/3/2013
Stephen H. Unger, "Governmental Secrecy: Shield for Tyranny, Incompetence, and Corruption", Ends and Means, September 14, 2011
Wikipedia-FISA, "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act From ", Wikipedia
Wikipedia-no-fly, "No Fly List", Wikipedia
Wikipedia-Snowden, "Edward Snowden", Wikipedia
Kim Zetter, "Man Banned Mid-Trip by No-Fly List Gets Stranded in Hawaii", TechDirt, 10/22/12




Submitters Website: http://www1.cs.columbia.edu/~unger/myBlog/endsandmeansblog.h

Submitters Bio:

I am an engineer. My degrees are in electrical engineering and my work has been in the digital systems area, mainly digital logic, but also computer organization, software and theory. I am a Professor, Emeritus, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Columbia University (retired 6/08 after four decades at Columbia). Before joining the Columbia faculty, I worked at Bell Labs for about five years, and while at Columbia I worked in industry (e.g., at IBM, and RCA Laboratories) often during summers and sabbaticals, as well as doing some consulting work. I have always been interested in the social implications of technology and have done a lot of work in this area, giving talks, writing articles and doing some organizing. Topics I have been actively involved in include engineering ethics, resisting government imposed secrecy in technology, environmental issues. I wrote, "Controlling Technology: Ethics and the Responsible Engineer", 2nd Ed., 1994, Wiley. (Also authored two books on digital logic).

Friday, August 23, 2013


Russia, Saint Basil's Cathedral, Moscow


Russia, Saint Petersburg, Interior View of Catherine Palace


Russia, Saint Petersburg, Winter Palace



Latvia, Riga, View from River


Latvia, Riga, Old Town


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Latvia, Riga, Liberty Monument



"Our American Penal Colony"



August 22, 2013

Bradley Manning and the Gangster State
By Chris Hedges

Wednesday's sentencing marks one of the most important watersheds in U.S. history. It marks the day when the state formally declared that all who name and expose its crimes will become political prisoners or be forced, like Edward Snowden, and perhaps Glenn Greenwald, to spend the rest of their lives in exile. Our nation has become a vast penal colony.::::::::
Source: TruthDig


FORT MEADE, Md. -- The swift and brutal verdict read out by Army Col. Judge Denise Lind in sentencing Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison means we have become a nation run by gangsters. It signals the inversion of our moral and legal order, the death of an independent media, and the open and flagrant misuse of the law to prevent any oversight or investigation of official abuses of power, including war crimes.

The passivity of most of the nation's citizens -- the most spied upon, monitored and controlled population in human history--to the judicial lynching of Manning means they will be next. There are no institutional mechanisms left to halt the shredding of our most fundamental civil liberties, including habeas corpus and due process, or to prevent pre-emptive war, the assassination of U.S. citizens by the government and the complete obliteration of privacy.

Wednesday's sentencing marks one of the most important watersheds in U.S. history. It marks the day when the state formally declared that all who name and expose its crimes will become political prisoners or be forced, like Edward Snowden, and perhaps Glenn Greenwald, to spend the rest of their lives in exile. It marks the day when the country dropped all pretense of democracy, obliterated checks and balances under the separation of powers and rejected the rule of law. It marks the removal of the mask of democracy, already a fiction, and its replacement with the ugly, naked visage of corporate totalitarianism.
 
State power is to be, from now on, unchecked, unfettered and unregulated. And those who do not accept unlimited state power, always the road to tyranny, will be ruthlessly persecuted. On Wednesday we became vassals. As I watched the burly guards hustle Manning out of a military courtroom at Fort Meade after the two-minute sentencing, as I listened to half a dozen of his supporters shout to him, "We'll keep fighting for you, Bradley! You're our hero!" I realized that our nation has become a vast penal colony.

If we actually had a functioning judicial system and an independent press, Manning would have been a witness for the prosecution against the war criminals he helped expose. He would not have been headed, bound and shackled, to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. His testimony would have ensured that those who waged illegal war, tortured, lied to the public, monitored our electronic communications and ordered the gunning down of unarmed civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen were sent to Fort Leavenworth's cells.

If we had a functioning judiciary the hundreds of rapes and murders Manning made public would be investigated. The officials and generals who lied to us when they said they did not keep a record of civilian dead would be held to account for the 109,032 "violent deaths" in Iraq, including those of 66,081 civilians. The pilots in the "Collateral Murder" video, which showed the helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad that left nine dead, including two Reuters journalists, would be court-martialed.

The message that Manning's sentence, the longest in U.S. history for the leaking of classified information to the press, sends to the rest of the world is disturbing. It says to the mothers and fathers who have lost children in drone strikes and air attacks, to the families grieving over innocent relatives killed by U.S. forces, that their suffering means nothing to us. It says we will continue to murder and to wage imperial wars that consume hundreds of thousands of civilian lives with no accountability. And it says that as a country we despise those within our midst who have the moral courage to make such crimes public.

There are strict rules now in our American penal colony. If we remain supine, if we permit ourselves to be passively stripped of all political power and voice, if we refuse to resist as we are incrementally reduced to poverty and the natural world is senselessly exploited and destroyed by corporate oligarchs, we will have the dubious freedom to wander among the ruins of the empire, to be diverted by tawdry spectacles and to consume the crass products marketed to us. But if we speak up, if we name what is being done to us and done in our name to others, we will become, like Manning, Julian Assange and Snowden, prey for the vast security and surveillance apparatus. And we will, if we effectively resist, go to prison or be forced to flee.

Manning from the start was subjected to a kangaroo trial. His lawyers were never permitted to mount a credible defense. They were left only to beg for mercy. Under the military code of conduct and international law, the soldier had a moral and legal obligation to report the war crimes he witnessed. But this argument was ruled off-limits. The troves of documents that Manning transmitted to WikiLeaks in February 2010 -- known as the Iraq and Afghanistan "War Logs" -- which exposed numerous war crimes and instances of government dishonesty, were barred from being presented. And it was accepted in the courtroom, without any evidence, that Manning's release of the documents had harmed U.S. security and endangered U.S. citizens. A realistic defense was not possible. It never is in any state show trial.

Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, read a brief statement from the 25-year-old after the sentencing:
"The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We've been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we've had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

"I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized that (in) our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

"In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

"Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

"Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy -- the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps -- to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.
"As the late Howard Zinn once said, 'There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.'

"I understand that my actions violated the law; I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

"If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal."
We will pay for our criminality. We will pay for our callousness and brutality. The world, especially the Muslim world, knows who we are, even if we remain oblivious. It is not Manning who was condemned Wednesday, but us. "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly," Henry David Thoreau wrote, "the true place for a just man is also a prison." And that is the real reason Bradley Manning is being locked away. He is a just man.




Submitters Bio:Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. The Los Angeles Press Club honored Hedges' original columns in Truthdig by naming the author the Online Journalist of the Year in 2009, and granted him the Best Online Column award in 2010 for his Truthdig essay "One Day We'll All Be Terrorists."
Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and has taught at Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University. He currently teaches inmates at a correctional facility in New Jersey.

Hedges began his career reporting the war in El Salvador. Following six years in Latin America, he took time off to study Arabic and then went to Jerusalem and later Cairo. He spent seven years in the Middle East, most of them as the bureau chief there for The New York Times. He left the Middle East in 1995 for Sarajevo to cover the war in Bosnia and later reported the war in Kosovo. Afterward, he joined the Times' investigative team and was based in Paris to cover al-Qaida. He left the Times after being issued a formal reprimand for denouncing the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.

He has written nine books, including "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle" (2009), "I Don't Believe in Atheists" (2008) and the best-selling "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" (2008). His book "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. His latest book is "Death of the Liberal Class" (2010)

Hedges holds a B.A. in English literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif. Hedges speaks Arabic, French and Spanish and knows ancient Greek and Latin. In addition to writing a weekly original column for Truthdig, he has written for Harper's Magazine, The New Statesman, The New York Review of Books, Adbusters, Granta, Foreign Affairs and other publications.


Arunachala, India


Join Bernie Sanders in Demanding Answers from the Next Fed Reserve Chair Nominee




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Demand answers from the next Fed chair nominee.

The decisions made by the next chair of the Federal Reserve will have a powerful impact on the economic well-being of every person in America.

While the largest financial institutions and corporations in this country have been bailed out and are now back to making enormous profits and rewarding their executives with outsized compensation packages, recovery hasn’t gone so well for the rest of America. Middle class families have continued to lose ground economically, the number of Americans living in poverty is near an all-time high, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.

The next Fed chair will have enormous power and influence over our entire financial system and the direction of the economy. The Fed is responsible not only for our country’s monetary policy, but it is also a key regulator of financial institutions. In my view, the president’s nominee for Fed chair must be committed to improving the lives of working Americans who are still struggling through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Join me and our partners at Daily Kos and Democracy for America in demanding that any Fed chair nominee answer the following four questions:
Question 1: Do you believe that the Fed’s top priority should be to fulfill its full employment mandate?

The U.S. continues to face a major crisis in unemployment. When Wall Street was on the verge of collapse, the Fed acted aggressively and with a fierce sense of urgency to save the financial system. Will you act with the same sense of urgency to combat the unemployment crisis in America today, and will you make clear what specific actions you will take? What rate do you think is acceptable and should be the Fed’s target?

Question 2: If you were to be confirmed as chair of the Fed, would you work to break up “too-big-to-fail” financial institutions so that they could no longer pose a catastrophic risk to the economy?

The financial institutions that are too-big-to-fail played a major role in undermining the American economy and driving our country into a severe recession in 2008. Yet today the four biggest banks are 30 percent bigger than they were then, and the six largest financial institutions now have assets equivalent to two-thirds of our GDP. By any measure, “Too Big” has gotten bigger. The risk they pose is clear. As Richard Fisher, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said last year, “institutions that amplified and prolonged the recent financial crisis remain a hindrance to full economic recovery and to the very ideal of American capitalism … Achieving an economy relatively free from financial crises requires us to have the fortitude to break up the giant banks.”

Question 3: Do you believe that the deregulation of Wall Street, including the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and exempting derivatives from regulation, significantly contributed to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

The next chair of the Federal Reserve will play an important leadership role in dealing with too-big-to-fail banks and in shaping the rules that govern them, so it is important to assess the Fed chair’s views toward deregulation, particularly toward the massive deregulations of the 1980′s and 1990′s that permitted the TBTF banks to take on huge risks. There is a lot more work to do in implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act and to minimize the risk of future crises, and the Fed will play a critical leadership role.

Question 4: What would you do to divert the $2 trillion in excess reserves that financial institutions have parked at the Fed into more productive purposes, such as helping small- and medium-sized businesses create jobs?

Five years ago, the Fed bailed out the largest financial institutions in the country but put no restrictions on the funds to make sure that lending increased for small businesses. At the same time, the Fed began paying interest on excess reserves, and the excess reserves parked at the Fed have skyrocketed as a result rather than going into productive lending. The reality is that, despite promises and intentions that the Fed’s efforts would help support small businesses, much more work needs to get done to move money from Wall Street to Main Street.

The next Fed chair will have an opportunity to get our economy back on track and to help rebuild America’s middle class. But that will require the right temperament and a willingness to take on Wall Street CEOs when necessary. It is critical that the next Fed chair make a genuine, long-term commitment to supporting those who don’t have armies of lobbyists and lawyers to advance their interests in Washington -- working and middle-class families.
Please join me today in demanding that any Fed chair nominee answer these four questions.
Thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Bernie
Senator Bernie Sanders

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Scott Pelley, CBS's Very Own Obama's-Behind Kisser



It doesn't much matter when you watch Scott Pelley's evening news broadcast on CBS. It's invariably an extended song of praise  for the Great American Military-Industrial Complex and its current Head Puppet, Barack Obama.

But the other night Pelley was particularly upfront: Within the first few moments of the broadcast, Pelley implied quite clearly that Edward Snowden was a "Russian spy." And soon after that he presented an  interview with a multibillionaire tech CEO, whose name I don't recall and which I wouldn't repeat if I could recall it. The CEO went on quite in a rapture about how great the NSA surveillance program was and how vital it was for "national security." No, no worry about the invasion of privacy of hundreds of millions of Americans. No, no threat at all to American internet and 'phone users, said Monsieur CEO. Trust the government. Obama and his minions only want your welfare.

Yes, Mr. Pelley, quite an interview. I guess it wouldn't occur to any viewers that a multibillionaire tech CEO might be something of an influential member of the 1% ruling financial elite that has a vital interest in manipulating the "masses" for financial gain and in controlling their communications to inhibit  any "threats" to their supremacy --- right, Mr. Pelley?

Unfortunately, you may be right, Mr. Pelley. So many Americans are thoroughly programmed to be manipulated and exploited that they wouldn't raise an eyebrow. And that's just the way you like it, eh, Mr. Pelley?

You are not an authentic journalist and stop pretending that you are. The subterfuge is nauseating. Call yourself what you are: Press Agent for the One Percent.

Well, Williams and Sawyer are of similar cloth. But really, Mr. Pelley --- You are so so obvious.

August 2012
Bradley Manning Support Network

Sign Daniel Ellsberg’s petition to free Bradley Manning

Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Bradley Manning Support Network call on you to sign our petition to free Bradley Manning.


Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg asks you to sign this petition to free Bradley Manning.
Bradley Manning Support Network. August 1, 2012.
When hundreds of thousands of people take action online, those in power have no choice but to take notice. Last year, more than 500,000 people signed a petition on the Avaaz website demanding the military end its abusive, torturous treatment of Bradley Manning at the Quantico Marine Brig. Shortly thereafter,
Bradley was moved to Ft. Leavenworth, KS.
Bradley is treated much better at Ft. Leavenworth, yet he’s still deprived of his due process rights. Though promised a “speedy trial,” he’s spent more than 800 days in prison without court martial.
President Obama has illegally declared him guilty before a trial even began. The prosecution has prevented the defense from showing the lack of harm from WikiLeaks’ releases. More to the point, Bradley is a heroic whistle-blower who believed the American public deserved to know what their government does at war and in secret.
He shouldn’t be on trial in the first place. Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Bradley Manning Support Network call on you to stand up for Bradley again. Sign our petition and share it widely. Bradley put his future on the line for a transparent government and a better democracy.
Now he needs you to call on U.S. officials to do the right thing.


Thank you for supporting Bradley Manning.

 

 

21 August 2013

President Obama: Commute Bradley Manning’s sentence and investigate the abuses he exposed

   
US Army Pte Bradley Manning was court martialled for leaking reams of classified information.USArmy Pte Bradley Manning was court martialled for leaking reams of classified information.

© BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
 


President Obama should commute US Army Private Bradley Manning’s sentence to time already served to allow his immediate release, Amnesty International said today.

Military judge Col Denise Lind today sentenced the Wikileaks source to 35 years in military prison – out of a possible 90 – for leaking reams of classified information. He has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane.

“Bradley Manning acted on the belief that he could spark a meaningful public debate on the costs of war, and specifically on the conduct of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. His revelations included reports on battlefield detentions and previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in US helicopter attacks, information which should always have been subject to public scrutiny,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

“Instead of ‘sending a message’ by giving him a de facto life sentence the US government should turn its attention to investigating violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the context of the ill-conceived ‘war on terror’.”

Some of the materials Manning leaked, published by Wikileaks, pointed to potential human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law by US troops abroad, by Iraqi and Afghan forces operating alongside US forces, and by military contractors. Yet the judge had ruled before the trial that Private Manning would not be able to defend himself by presenting evidence that he was acting in the public interest.

“Manning had already pleaded guilty to leaking information, so for the US to have continued prosecuting him under the Espionage Act, even charging him with ‘aiding the enemy,’ can only be seen as a harsh warning to anyone else tempted to expose government wrongdoing. ” said Brown.

“More than anything else, the case shows the urgent need to reform the USA’s antiquated Espionage Act and strengthen protections for those who reveal information that the public has a need and a right to know.”

Manning’s defence counsel is expected to file a petition for clemency shortly with the U.S. Department of Justice office that reviews requests for pardons and other acts of clemency before passing them on to the President for a final decision. Such requests are normally made after all appeals are exhausted, but the President may grant clemency at any time.

“Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pre-trial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial. The President doesn’t need to wait for this sentence to be appealed to commute it; he can and should do so right now,” said Brown.


(amnesty.org, 8/21/2013)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013



Help Stop Obama and the British Government From Persecuting Investigative Journalists

 


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End attacks on press freedom!



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David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained for nine hours at London's Heathrow Airport. He was questioned under a U.K. anti-terrorism law and his laptop, cellphone and other electronic devices were confiscated.

Click here to tell the U.S. and U.K. governments to end their intimidation of journalists and their families!

It gets even worse: Yesterday we learned that British authorities seized and destroyed computers at the Guardian's London headquarters in retribution for the outlet's reporting on Edward Snowden, whose leaks revealed unchecked surveillance programs in the United States and Great Britain.

Join RootsAction and FreePress in telling them this is an outrageous attempt to intimidate Greenwald and all journalists who are reporting on national security.

But it is also just the tip of the iceberg. In recent months authorities in the U.S. have undertaken a troubling campaign to threaten and intimidate journalists and whistleblowers who try to hold our leaders accountable. The Justice Department has been caught spying on journalists from the Associated Press and went so far as to label a Fox News journalist a “co-conspirator” in a leak investigation.

Right now, the DoJ is trying to force a New York Times reporter to reveal the source of another leak — and threatening him with jail time if he doesn’t comply.

And because of her own reporting on national security and surveillance, journalist Laura Poitras — who has been working with Glenn Greenwald on the NSA revelations — has been detained by U.S. authorities more than 40 times.

The attacks on the press won’t stop unless the public raises its voice. Click here to join the resistance!

Ultimately, this isn’t about individual journalists or any specific case. It is about our rights to share information, make media and hold our leaders accountable. It is about journalism’s role at the center of our democracy, exposing information our leaders would rather keep hidden.

End the Intimidation: Stop the Attacks on Journalists and Their Families!

Please forward this email widely to like-minded friends.

-- The RootsAction.org team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, and many others.




Monday, August 19, 2013


The American Police State In The Making



August 19, 2013

WHY ARE SWAT TEAMS ANSWERING ROUTINE POLICE CALLS?
 
By S. E. Smith
OpEd News, 8/19/2013

A growing trend in the US has SWAT teams handling routine police business, which is bad for civilians and bad for the police. What's going on here?


The SWAT team is the big guns of policing in the United States, reserved for kidnappings, gunmen and other highly dangerous and potential volatile situations. Right?

Wrong, apparently, because in recent years, the use of SWAT teams for routine law enforcement matters has been on the rise, with sometimes fatal consequences. These highly trained police personnel are being sent out on gambling raids, ordered to break up underage parties and even dispatched to handle student loan fraud. Not the best use of taxpayer resources, given the expense of maintaining a SWAT team and sending members out on calls, but more than that, it's a troubling indicator of something going deeply wrong in America.

In the United States, the police are kept separate from the military for a number of social and political reasons. Paramilitary forces like SWAT teams, developed in 1960s Los Angeles to address considerable social unrest, are intended to be used judiciously, in situations where a threat to civilian wellbeing and social stability is so significant that it justifies the use of considerable force and organized military tactics against members of the civilian community.

Thus, a potential terrorist threat or situations in which people's lives are endangered by a gunman or another threat of violence is an appropriate use of a SWAT team or similarly-trained arm of a police department.

But what about routine law enforcement situations? These are supposed to be the purview of the police, who are trained in how to handle them, and when to determine if they need more substantial backup. When a police raid includes a SWAT team, the mix can turn explosive and dangerous extremely quickly; and police killings, particularly of young black men, are a problem across the United States thanks to the criminalization of ordinary activities like walking down the street in baggy jeans or even existing while black.

Such activities are also including searches under nebulous circumstances, the use of excessive force, and other abuses of law enforcement power that have a net effect of intimidating civilians. This is a troubling development in a nation that enshrines civil liberties and the ability to live without interference from police forces unless clear evidence of lawbreaking is occurring, and it's evident that some police forces and their SWAT teams are overstepping boundaries, sometimes with inadequately trained personnel who aren't prepared to deal with the complexity of a chaotic raid situation.

Absurdly, celebrities like Shaquille O'Neal and Steven Seagal are being "deputized" onto SWAT teams without any formal training, but it's not just an honorary position. They're going out with police officers into situations that involve contact with civilians, despite the fact that they aren't prepared, and the results might seem comic on the news -- Seagal driving a tank into a man's living room, for example -- but they are indicative of a seriously problematic trend in law enforcement, one in which heavily-armed law enforcement are flooding the homes and businesses of people who may not necessarily have committed crimes and don't pose a significant public safety risk.

The CATO Institute has a grim map of paramilitary incidents like raids that went horribly wrong, and it provides a bleak picture of a United States struggling with deep internal conflicts when it comes to making decisions about policing and civil liberties. Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, a growing chokehold on civil liberties has occurred to the steady beat of a nationalistic drum, and while many of these liberties have slipped away in bits and pieces, creating a subtle slide into a more militaristic nation, civilians are clearly aware of the issue, and they're not happy with it.
 
Has policing in the United States evolved to the point of no return, making it impossible to dial it back and put SWAT teams back where they belong? Or can organizers and advocates push for a return to the basics when it comes to policing, paired with more conscientious treatment of civil liberties?