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synergy - June 12, 2011 01:38 PM (GMT)

June 10 2011

VIDEOS embedded here:

An open letter to Noam Chomsky and the general public.

Dear Noam

I am writing to you and a number of other friends mostly in the US to alert you to the extraordinary banning of my film on war and media, 'The War You Don't See', and the abrupt cancellation of a major event at the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe in which David Barsamian and I were to discuss free speech, US foreign policy and censorship in the media.

Lannan invited me and David over a year ago and welcomed my proposal that they also host the US premiere of 'The War You Don't See', in which US and British broadcasters describe the often hidden part played by the media in the promotion of war, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film has been widely acclaimed in the UK and Australia; the trailer and reviews are on my website

The banning and cancellation, which have shocked David and me, are on the personal orders of Patrick Lannan, whose wealth funds the Lannan Foundation as a liberal centre of discussion of politics and the arts. Some of you will have been there and will know the Lannan Foundation as a valuable supporter of liberal causes. Indeed, I was invited in 2002 to present a Lannan award to the broadcaster Amy Goodman.

What is deeply disturbing about the ban is that it happened so suddenly and inexplicably: 48 hours before David Barsamian and I were both due to depart for Santa Fe I received a brief email with a 'sorry for the inconvenience' from a Lannan official who had been telling me just a few days earlier what a 'great honour' it was to have the US premiere of my film at Lannan, with myself in attendance.

I urge you to visit the Lannan website Good people like Michael Ratner, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald are shown as participants in discussion about freedom of speech. I am there, too, but my name is the only one with a line through it and the word, 'Cancelled'.

Neither David Barsamian nor I have been given a word of explanation. All my messages to Lannan have gone unanswered; my calls calls are not returned; my flights were cancelled summarily. At the urging of the New Mexican newspaper, Patrick Lannan has issued a one-sentence statement offering his regrets to the Lannan-supporting 'community' in Santa Fe. Again, he gives no reason for the ban. I have spoken to the manager of the Santa Fe cinema where 'The War You Don't See' was to be screened. He received a late-night call. Again, no reason for the ban was forthcoming, giving him barely time to cancel advertising in The New Mexican, which was forced to drop a major feature.

There is a compelling symbol of our extraordinary times in all of this. A rich and powerful individual and organisation, espousing freedom of speech, has moved ruthlessly and unaccountably to crush it.

With warm regards

John Pilger

:: Article nr. 78519 sent on 11-jun-2011 20:23 ECT

synergy - September 26, 2011 05:32 PM (GMT)
Paul Joseph Watson
May 20, 2011

Government Orders You Tube To Censor Protest Videos 200511top

In a frightening example of how the state is tightening its grip around the free Internet, it has emerged that You Tube is complying with thousands of requests from governments to censor and remove videos that show protests and other examples of citizens simply asserting their rights, while also deleting search terms by government mandate.

The latest example is You Tube’s compliance with a request from the British government to censor footage of the British Constitution Group’s Lawful Rebellion protest, during which they attempted to civilly arrest Judge Michael Peake at Birkenhead county court.

Peake was ruling on a case involving Roger Hayes, former member of UKIP, who has refused to pay council tax, both as a protest against the government’s treasonous activities in sacrificing Britain to globalist interests and as a result of Hayes clearly proving that council tax is illegal.

Hayes has embarked on an effort to legally prove that the enforced collection of council tax by government is unlawful because no contract has been agreed between the individual and the state. His argument is based on the sound legal principle that just like the council, Hayes can represent himself as a third party in court and that “Roger Hayes” is a corporation and must be treated as one in the eyes of the law.

The British government doesn’t want this kind of information going viral in the public domain because it is scared stiff of a repeat of the infamous poll tax riots of 1990, a massive tax revolt in the UK that forced the Thatcher government to scrap the poll tax altogether because of mass civil disobedience and refusal to pay.

When viewers in the UK attempt to watch videos of the protest, they are met with the message, “This content is not available in your country due to a government removal request.”

We then click through to learn that, “YouTube occasionally receives requests from governments around the world to remove content from our site, and as a result, YouTube may block specific content in order to comply with local laws in certain countries.”

You can also search by country to discover that Google, the owner of You Tube, has complied with the majority of requests from governments, particularly in the United States and the UK, not only to remove You Tube videos, but also specific web search terms and thousands of “data requests,” meaning demands for information that would reveal the true identity of a You Tube user. Google claims that the information sent to governments is “needed for legitimate criminal investigations,” but whether these “data requests” have been backed up by warrants is not divulged by the company.

“Between July 1 and Dec. 31 (2009), Google received 3,580 requests for user data from U.S. government agencies, slightly less than the 3,663 originating from Brazil,” reports PC World. “The United Kingdom and India sent more than 1,000 requests each, and smaller numbers originated from various other countries.”

With regard to search terms, one struggles to understand how a specific combination of words in a Google search can be considered a violation of any law. This is about government and Google working hand in hand to manipulate search results in order to censor inconvenient information, something which Google now freely admits to doing.

You Tube’s behavior is more despicable than the Communist Chinese, who are at least open about their censorship policies, whereas You Tube hides behind a blanket excuse and doesn’t even say what law has been broken.

Anyone who swallows the explanation that the videos were censored in this case because the government was justifiably enforcing a law that says scenes from inside a court room cannot be filmed is beyond naive. Court was not even in session in the protest footage that was removed, and the judge had already left the courtroom.

The real reason for the removal is the fact that the British government is obviously petrified of seeing a group of focused and educated citizens, black, white, old and young, male and female, go head to head with the corrupt system on its own stomping ground.

In their efforts to keep a lid on the growing populist fury that has arrived in response to rampant and growing financial and political tyranny in every sector of society, governments in the west are now mimicking Communist Chinese-style Internet censorship policies in a bid to neutralize protest movements, while hypocritically lecturing the rest of the world on maintaining web freedom.

Via a combination of cybersecurity legislation and policy that is hastily introduced with no real oversight, governments and large Internet corporations are crafting an environment where the state can simply demand information be removed on a whim with total disregard for freedom of speech protections.

This was underscored last year at the height of the Wikileaks issue, when Amazon axed Wikileaks from its servers following a phone call made by Senator Joe Lieberman’s Senate Homeland Security Committee demanding the website be deleted.

Lieberman has been at the forefront of a push to purge the Internet of all dissent by empowering Obama with a figurative Internet kill switch that he would use to shut down parts of the Internet or terminate websites under the guise of national security. Lieberman spilled the beans on the true reason for the move during a CNN interview when he stated “Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too.”

Except that China doesn’t disconnect the Internet “in case of war,” it only ever does so to censor and intimidate people who express dissent against government atrocities or corruption, as we have documented. This is precisely the kind of online environment the British and American governments are trying to replicate as they attempt to put a stranglehold on the last bastion of true free speech – the world wide web.

synergy - November 17, 2011 03:02 PM (GMT)
ABC News

Nov 16, 2011 6:03pm

SOPA — the Stop Internet Piracy Act — has been presented in the House of Representatives as a way to protect movie studios, record labels and others whose music and films are taken and copied online. There was a hearing on it today. Its Senate counterpart is called the Protect IP Act.

But others are calling them flawed bills that would lead to Internet censorship.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, said the bills would overdo it — giving copyright holders and government the power to cut off websites unreasonably. They could be shut down, and search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo could be stopped from linking to them.

“The solutions are draconian,” Schmidt said Tuesday at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “There’s a bill that would require ISPs [Internet service providers] to remove URLs from the Web, which is also known as censorship last time I checked.”

That said, Schmidt granted that Hollywood studios have a real problem — people are pirating their movies and threatening their business. The Motion Picture Association of America has posted promos on YouTube to plead its case.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and sponsored SOPA, has said his bill will help “stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators.”

Now Tumblr, the microblogging website, has joined the opposition to the bills with a page called “Protect the Net.”

“As written, they would betray more than a decade of US policy and advocacy of Internet freedom,” said a statement on Tumblr, “by establishing a censorship system using the same domain blacklisting technologies pioneered by China and Iran.”

synergy - November 18, 2011 11:54 PM (GMT)

    * By David Kravets Email Author
    * November 17, 2011  |
    * 6:39 pm  |
    * Categories: intellectual property, politics

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) says passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act "would mean the end of the internet as we know it." Photo: AP

The rhetoric on both sides of the debate concerning the Stop Online Piracy Act almost peaked when Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said the House proposal “would mean the end of the internet as we know it.”

Weeks after the Silicon Valley representative’s comments, the vitriol reached a crescendo Wednesday during the measure’s first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, when Registrar of Copyrights Maria Pallante testified the U.S. copyright system would “fail” if Congress does not take action.

“The rhetoric around this bill is over the top,” said Rep. Howard Berman, the California Democrat whose district includes Hollywood.

Lofgren’s statements, however, aren’t that farfetched. Not if you actually read the bill.

Lofgren’s words do not mean she favors online piracy or the online distribution of counterfeited drugs.

Lofgren, her Silicon Valley constituents and civil rights groups are concerned about what’s actually contained inside the four corners of the 79-page proposal. It amounts to the holy grail of intellectual-property enforcement that the recording industry, movie studios and their union and guild workforces have been clamoring for since the George W. Bush administration: The bill grants rights holders the unfettered power to effectively kill websites they believe are dedicated to infringing activities — without needing to get a judge’s permission.

The measure would also boost the government’s authority to disrupt and shutter “rogue” websites that hawk or host trademark- and copyright-infringing products, including allowing the government to order sites removed from search engines. The bill allows the Justice Department for the first time to obtain court orders demanding American ISPs to stop rendering the DNS for a particular website, a feature even the bill’s main backer conceded Wednesday was problematic for a host of reasons, including that it’s a threat to a secure and uniform internet.

Most distressing, however, the measure paves the way for private rights holders to easily cut off advertising and banking transactions to what the bill’s backers call “rogue” websites, without court intervention.

And therein rests a major problem. The definition of a “rogue site” is so vague that the law is ripe for rights holders to abuse, to cut off the financial pipelines of websites they view as designed to “enable” or “facilitate infringement.” The bill also allows rights holders to target websites that turn a blind eye to avoid knowing their site is used for infringement. File-sharing sites or cyberlockers are also included.

The list of such sites that could be considered “rogue” is legion. They range from the notorious Pirate Bay hub for all things free, to cyberlockers like DropBox or Sites filled with user-generated content, such as YouTube, aren’t immune either because they generally don’t actively police their sites for infringement.

“We have a lot of concerns that it sweeps in legitimate sites,” Katherine Oyama, Google’s policy council, testified during the House hearing Wednesday.

Notwithstanding Google’s vested interests in the debate, we believe the measure simply seeds too much unfettered control to rights holders to decide what web sites can stay, and which ones must be disappeared from the internet.

We don’t dispute that rampant piracy of music, movies, software, and the sale of counterfeited drugs runs rampant on the internet. Clearly, the internet’s openness is often abused by many seeking a free ride.

But granting the rights holders the power to break the knees of sites they believe are infringing is equally ripe for abuse.

We’ve already seen the abuse by rights holders.

Perhaps the most telling example is Universal Music. The record label claims that it can send a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to YouTube without even analyzing whether a video is making a fair use of Universal’s copyright.

If Universal believes it has that right under the current law, what’s there to stop it from demanding credit-card companies and ad networks to block their affiliation with because it allows users 50 gigs of free storage to share any copyrighted works they want without permission from the rights holder.

Again, SOPA allows for this, without judicial intervention. Credit-card companies and ad networks that continue working with the allegedly rogue website can be held liable for contributing to the infringement.

Let’s not forget that Viacom is suing YouTube for $1 billion, saying its business model will “completely destroy the value of many copyrighted creations.”

And if you don’t believe the banks would willfully obey such an order from private rights holders without blinking an eye, consider WikiLeaks, which is nearly defunct because institutions like Bank of America, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa and others stopped processing donation payments to it. They did so because the secret-spilling site began releasing thousands of secret, U.S. diplomatic cables last year. No judge ordered these banks to take such action, and WikiLeaks has never been charged with a crime in the United States.

There’s some hope the bill will be stopped, in no small part due to a widespread internet campaign to stop the bill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) tweeted Thursday: “Need to find a better solution.” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), was quoted in the Hill newspaper Thursday that it has no chance of passage.

We can only hope that Smith’s proposal won’t become law. We’d hate to see an internet devoid of 4chan, music blogs, YouTube, SoundCloud, GrooveShark, Dropbox, RapidShare, DropSend and Scribd.

Hollywood may hate piracy, but Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, and the Amazon Fire tablet make it clear that people will pay for digital content online, despite the existence of piracy sites and easy services to share copyrighted content with friends and strangers.

The internet is in the midst of an innovation boom that’s only going to keep going thanks to amazing economies of scale, an open network and a light regulatory environment. Destroying that by creating an ineffective Great Firewall of Hollywood hardly seems like smart public policy.

synergy - April 8, 2012 08:48 PM (GMT)

Sunday, Apr 8, 2012 6:37 AM Eastern Daylight Time
U.S. filmmaker repeatedly detained at border
Laura Poitras makes award-winning controversial films, and is targeted by the U.S. government as a result
By Glenn Greenwald



One of the more extreme government abuses of the post-9/11 era targets U.S. citizens re-entering their own country, and it has received far too little attention. With no oversight or legal framework whatsoever, the Department of Homeland Security routinely singles out individuals who are suspected of no crimes, detains them and questions them at the airport, often for hours, when they return to the U.S. after an international trip, and then copies and even seizes their electronic devices (laptops, cameras, cellphones) and other papers (notebooks, journals, credit card receipts), forever storing their contents in government files. No search warrant is needed for any of this. No oversight exists. And there are no apparent constraints on what the U.S. Government can do with regard to whom it decides to target or why.

In an age of international travel — where large numbers of citizens, especially those involved in sensitive journalism and activism, frequently travel outside the country — this power renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment entirely illusory. By virtue of that amendment, if the government wants to search and seize the papers and effects of someone on U.S. soil, it must (with some exceptions) first convince a court that there is probable cause to believe that the objects to be searched relate to criminal activity and a search warrant must be obtained. But now, none of those obstacles — ones at the very heart of the design of the Constitution — hinders the U.S. government: now, they can just wait until you leave the country, and then, at will, search, seize and copy all of your electronic files on your return. That includes your emails, the websites you’ve visited, the online conversations you’ve had, the identities of those with whom you’ve communicated, your cell phone contacts, your credit card receipts, film you’ve taken, drafts of documents you’re writing, and anything else that you store electronically: which, these days, when it comes to privacy, means basically everything of worth.

This government abuse has received some recent attention in the context of WikiLeaks. Over the past couple of years, any American remotely associated with that group — or even those who have advocated on behalf of Bradley Manning — have been detained at the airport and had their laptops, cellphones and cameras seized: sometimes for months, sometimes forever. But this practice usually targets people having nothing to do with WikiLeaks.

A 2011 FOIA request from the ACLU revealed that just in the 18-month period beginning October 1, 2008, more than 6,600 people — roughly half of whom were American citizens — were subjected to electronic device searches at the border by DHS, all without a search warrant. Typifying the target of these invasive searches is Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual French-American citizen and an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student who was traveling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in 2011 when he was stopped at the border, questioned by DHS agents, handcuffed, taken off the train and kept in a holding cell for several hours before being released without charges; those DHS agents seized his laptop and returned it 11 days later when, the ACLU explains, “there was evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched.” That’s just one case of thousands, all without any oversight, transparency, legal checks, or any demonstration of wrongdoing.

* * * * *

But the case of Laura Poitras, an Oscar-and Emmy-nominated filmmaker and intrepid journalist, is perhaps the most extreme. In 2004 and 2005, Poitras spent many months in Iraq filming a documentary that, as The New York Times put it in its review, “exposed the emotional toll of occupation on Iraqis and American soldiers alike.” The film, “My Country, My Country,” focused on a Sunni physician and 2005 candidate for the Iraqi Congress as he did things like protest the imprisonment of a 9-year-old boy by the U.S. military. At the time Poitras made this film, Iraqi Sunnis formed the core of the anti-American insurgency and she spent substantial time filming and reporting on the epicenter of that resistance. Poitras’ film was released in 2006 and nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

In 2010, she produced and directed “The Oath,” which chronicled the lives of two Yemenis caught up in America’s War on Terror: Salim Hamdan, the accused driver of Osama bin Laden whose years-long imprisonment at Guantanamo led to the 2006 Supreme Court case, bearing his name, that declared military commissions to be a violation of domestic and international law; and Hamdan’s brother-in-law, a former bin Laden bodyguard. The film provides incredible insight into the mindset of these two Yemenis. The NYT feature on “The Oath” stated that, along with “My Country, My Country,” Poitras has produced ”two of the most searching documentaries of the post-9/11 era, on-the-ground chronicles that are sensitive to both the political and the human consequences of American foreign policy.” At the 2010 Sundance film festival, “The Oath” won the award for Best Cinematography.

Poitras’ intent all along with these two documentaries was to produce a trilogy of War on Terror films, and she is currently at work on the third installment. As Poitras described it to me, this next film will examine the way in which The War on Terror has been imported onto U.S. soil, with a focus on the U.S. Government’s increasing powers of domestic surveillance, its expanding covert domestic NSA activities (including construction of a massive new NSA facility in Bluffdale, Utah), its attacks on whistleblowers, and the movement to foster government transparency and to safeguard Internet anonymity. In sum, Poitras produces some of the best, bravest and most important filmmaking and journalism of the past decade, often exposing truths that are adverse to U.S. government policy, concerning the most sensitive and consequential matters (a 2004 film she produced for PBS on gentrification of an Ohio town won the Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy).

But Poitras’ work has been hampered, and continues to be hampered, by the constant harassment, invasive searches, and intimidation tactics to which she is routinely subjected whenever she re-enters her own country. Since the 2006 release of “My Country, My Country,” Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents who stand at the airplane door or tarmac and inspect the passports of every de-planing passenger until they find her (on the handful of occasions where they did not meet her at the plane, agents were called when she arrived at immigration). Each time, they detain her, and then interrogate her at length about where she went and with whom she met or spoke. They have exhibited a particular interest in finding out for whom she works.

She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter’s notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute. When she arrived at JFK Airport on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, she was told by one DHS agent — after she asserted her privileges as a journalist to refuse to answer questions about the individuals with whom she met on her trip — that he “finds it very suspicious that you’re not willing to help your country by answering our questions.” They sometimes keep her detained for three to four hours (all while telling her that she will be released more quickly if she answers all their questions and consents to full searches).

Poitras is now forced to take extreme steps — ones that hamper her ability to do her work — to ensure that she can engage in her journalism and produce her films without the U.S. Government intruding into everything she is doing. She now avoids traveling with any electronic devices. She uses alternative methods to deliver the most sensitive parts of her work — raw film and interview notes — to secure locations. She spends substantial time and resources protecting her computers with encryption and password defenses. Especially when she is in the U.S., she avoids talking on the phone about her work, particularly to sources. And she simply will not edit her films at her home out of fear — obviously well-grounded — that government agents will attempt to search and seize the raw footage.

That’s the climate of fear created by the U.S. Government for an incredibly accomplished journalist and filmmaker who has never been accused, let alone convicted, of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Indeed, documents obtained from a FOIA request show that DHS has repeatedly concluded that nothing incriminating was found from its border searches and interrogations of Poitras. Nonetheless, these abuses not only continue, but escalate, after six years of constant harassment.

* * * * *

Poitras has been somewhat reluctant to speak publicly about the treatment to which she is subjected for fear that doing so would further impede her ability to do her work (the NYT feature on “The Oath” included some discussion of it). But the latest episode, among the most aggressive yet, has caused her to want to vociferously object.

On Thursday night, Poitras arrived at Newark International Airport from Britain. Prior to issuing her a boarding pass in London, the ticket agent called a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent (Yost) who questioned her about whom she met and what she did. Upon arriving in Newark, DHS/CBP agents, as always, met her plane, detained her, and took her to an interrogation room. Each time this has happened in the past, Poitras has taken notes during the entire process: in order to chronicle what is being done to her, document the journalistic privileges she asserts and her express lack of consent, obtain the names of the agents involved, and just generally to cling to some level of agency.

This time, however, she was told by multiple CBP agents that she was prohibited from taking notes on the ground that her pen could be used as a weapon. After she advised them that she was a journalist and that her lawyer had advised her to keep notes of her interrogations, one of them, CBP agent Wassum, threatened to handcuff her if she did not immediately stop taking notes. A CBP Deputy Chief (Lopez) also told her she was barred from taking notes, and then accused her of “refusing to cooperate with an investigation” if she continued to refuse to answer their questions (he later clarified that there was no “investigation” per se, but only a “questioning”). Requests for comment from the CBP were not returned as of the time of publication.

Just consider the cumulative effect of this six years of harrassment and invasion. Poitras told me that it is “very traumatizing to come home to your own country and have to go through this every time,”and described the detentions, interrogations and threats as “infuriating,” “horrible” and “intimidating.” She told me that she now “hates to travel” and avoids international travel unless it is absolutely necessary for her work. And as she pointed out, she is generally more protected than most people subjected to similar treatment by virtue of the fact that she is a known journalist with both knowledge of her rights and the ability to publicize what is done to her. Most others are far less able to resist these sorts of abuses. But even for someone in Poitras’ position, this continuous unchecked government invasion is chilling in both senses of the word: it’s intimidating in its own right, and deters journalists and others from challenging government conduct.

* * * * *

As is true for so many abuses of the Surveillance State and assaults on basic liberties in the post-9/11, federal courts have almost completely abdicated their responsibility to serve as a check on these transgressions. Instead, federal judges have repeatedly endorsed the notion that the U.S. Government can engage in the most invasive border searches of citizens, including seizures and copying of laptops, without any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing whatsoever, let alone probable cause.

That has happened in part because federal courts have become extremely submissive to assertions of Executive authority in the post-9/11 era, particularly when justified in the name of security. It’s also in part because anyone with a record of anti-authoritarianism or a willingness to oppose unrestrained government power, with very rare exception, can no longer get appointed to the federal bench; instead, it’s an increasingly homogeneous lot with demonstrated fealty to institutional authority. And it’s also in part because many life-tenured federal judges have been cloistered on the bench for decades, are technologically illiterate, and thus cannot apprehend the basic difference between having your suitcase searched at the airport and having the contents of your laptop and cellphone copied and stored by the U.S. Government.

One potentially important and encouraging exception to this trend was a ruling two weeks ago by U.S. District Judge Denise Casper, an Obama-appointed judge in the District of Massachusetts. As I’ve reported previously, David House, an activist who helped found the Bradley Manning Support Network, was detained by DHS when returning from a vacation in Mexico and had all of his electronic devices, including his laptop, seized; those devices were returned to him after almost two months only after he retained the ACLU of Massachusetts to demand their return. The ACLU then represented him in a lawsuit he commenced against the U.S. Government, alleging that his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated by virtue of being targeted for his political speech and advocacy.

The DOJ demanded dismissal of the lawsuit, citing the cases approving of its power to search without suspicion, and also claimed that House was targeted not because of his political views but because of his connection to the criminal investigation of Manning and WikiLeaks. But the court refused to dismiss House’s lawsuit, holding that if he were indeed targeted by virtue of his protected activities, then his Constitutional rights have been violated:

    Before even questioning House, the agents seized his electronic devices and in seizing them for forty-nine days, reviewed, retained, copied and disseminated information about the Support Network. Although the agents may not need to have any particularized suspicion for the initial search and seizure at the border for the purpose of the Fourth Amendment analysis, it does not necessarily follow that the agents, as is alleged in the complaint, may seize personal electronic devices containing expressive materials, target someone for their political association and seize his electronic devices and review the information pertinent to that association and its members and supporters simply because the initial search occurred at the border. . . .

    When agents Santiago and Louck stopped House while he was en route to his connecting flight, they directed him to surrender the electronic devices he was carrying. They questioned him for an extended period of time only after seizing his devices. When the agents questioned House, they did not ask him any questions related to border control, customs, trade, immigration, or terrorism and did not suggest that House had broken the law or that his computer may contain illegal material or contraband. Rather, their questions focused solely on his association with Manning, his work for the Support Network, whether he had any connections to WikiLeaks, and whether he had contact with anyone from WikiLeaks during his trip to Mexico. Thus, the complaint alleges that House was not randomly stopped at the border; it alleges that he was stopped and questioned solely to examine the contents of his laptop that contained expressive material and investigate his association with the Support Network and Manning. . . .

    That the initial search and seizure occurred at the border does not strip House of his First Amendment rights, particularly given the allegations in the complaint that he was targeted specifically because of his association with the Support Network and the search of his laptop resulted in the disclosure of the organizations, members, supporters donors as well as internal organization communications that House alleges will deter further participation in and support of the organization. Accordingly, the Defendants’ motion to dismiss House’s First Amendment claim is DENIED. [emphasis added]

As Kevin Gosztola notes in an excellent report on this ruling, the court — although it dubiously found that “the search of House’s laptop and electronic devices is more akin to the search of a suitcase and other closed containers holding personal information travelers carry with them when they cross the border which may be routinely inspected by customs and require no particularized suspicion” – also ruled that the length of time DHS retained House’s laptop (six weeks) may render the search and seizure unreasonable in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

But thus far, very few efforts have been made to restrain this growing government power. More than a year ago, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez described to me legislation she proposed just to impose some minimal rules and safeguards governing what DHS can do at the airport, but it’s gone nowhere. A much stronger bill, proposed by then-Sen. Feingold, would have barred laptop seizures entirely without a search warrant, but it suffered the same fate. Apparently, the Small Government faction calling itself the “Tea Party” has no greater interest in restraining this incredibly invasive government power than the Democratic Party which loves to boast of its commitment to individual rights.

It’s hard to overstate how oppressive it is for the U.S. Government to be able to target journalists, film-makers and activists and, without a shred of suspicion of wrongdoing, learn the most private and intimate details about them and their work: with whom they’re communicating, what is being said, what they’re reading. That’s a radical power for a government to assert in general. When it starts being applied not randomly, but to people engaged in activism and journalism adverse to the government, it becomes worse than radical: it’s the power of intimidation and deterrence against those who would challenge government conduct in any way.  The ongoing, and escalating, treatment of Laura Poitras is a testament to how severe that abuse is.

If you’re not somebody who films the devastation wrought by the U.S. on the countries it attacks, or provides insight into Iraqi occupation opponents and bin Laden loyalists in Yemen, or documents expanding NSA activities on U.S. soil, then perhaps you’re unlikely to be subjected to such abuses and therefore perhaps unlikely to care much. As is true for all states that expand and abuse their own powers, that’s what the U.S. Government counts on: that it is sending the message that none of this will affect you as long as you avoid posing any meaningful challenges to what they do. In other words: you can avoid being targeted if you passively acquiesce to what they do and refrain from interfering in it. That’s precisely what makes it so pernicious, and why it’s so imperative to find a way to rein it in.

Glenn Greenwald

    Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.More Glenn Greenwald

synergy - April 21, 2012 05:20 PM (GMT)
Sherry Lutz
The real concern in Washington is the impact that the latest photographs, together with the unending succession of atrocities in Afghanistan, will have upon American and world public opinion. In the United States, opposition to the war is at record levels, with barely 30 percent of the population believing that it is worth fighting.

Internationally, people who are incessantly told that the US is ...engaged in a global crusade for “human rights” can see through these photos what American soldiers and their commanders in Afghanistan are really up to: murder and brutality on a massive scale.

To counter antiwar sentiment, the government and the military have done their best to control the reporting on the war and, above all, the photographic images that are accessible to the American public.
Washington’s real concerns over the Afghanistan atrocity photos

By Bill Van Auken

Global Research, April 20, 2012
World Socialist Web Site

The images of young American paratroopers playing and posing with dismembered Afghan corpses provide a revolting but accurate reflection of a decade-old war and the demoralizing impact it has had upon the US military.

The Pentagon and the Obama administration exerted intense pressure to block the Los Angeles Times’ publication of the photographs. Just two of 18 photographs given to the Times made it into print. Taken in 2010, one depicts a smirking soldier, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, posing with the hand of a dead Afghan placed on his shoulder. The other shows two soldiers grinning and giving thumbs-up while holding the severed legs of a dead suicide bomber in the air.

These were reportedly the least grotesque of the 18 images. One can only imagine what the other photos showed!

After they appeared, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the media that he did “not want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney chimed in: “We’re also very disappointed … about the decision made to publish these photographs two years after the incident.”

This refrain, that the overriding concern in Washington was that publication of the photos would inflame Afghan public opinion and provoke an intensification of attacks on US troops in Afghanistan, is based on a lie.

The Afghans do not need to see a picture on the front page of the LA Times to hate the foreign occupation of their country, which has lasted for over ten years and inflicted hundreds of thousands of casualties together with daily humiliation and oppression. The Afghans are living it, not merely reading it in a newspaper.

The real concern in Washington is the impact that the latest photographs, together with the unending succession of atrocities in Afghanistan, will have upon American and world public opinion. In the United States, opposition to the war is at record levels, with barely 30 percent of the population believing that it is worth fighting.

Internationally, people who are incessantly told that the US is engaged in a global crusade for “human rights” can see through these photos what American soldiers and their commanders in Afghanistan are really up to: murder and brutality on a massive scale.

To counter antiwar sentiment, the government and the military have done their best to control the reporting on the war and, above all, the photographic images that are accessible to the American public.

Such attempts at controlling the images of war are nothing new. The Nazi regime worked tirelessly to ensure that only positive representations of German militarism were made public. It concealed the real nature of the concentration camps and the crimes carried out by Hitler’s armies. Soldiers’ snapshots from the Eastern Front played a role in acquainting the broader German public with the monstrous scale of Nazi criminality.

The White House and the Pentagon, no less than the Third Reich, are well aware that photographic images are a powerful means of exposing the real character of a war. So it was in Vietnam, with the photos of a nine-year-old girl severely burned in a napalm attack, or the shocking pictures of hundreds of corpses piled into a ditch in My Lai. The war of aggression in Iraq ultimately is inseparable from the grotesque images of torture and sexual humiliation at Abu Ghraib.

The American news media, controlled by powerful corporations and conditioned to act as the lapdog of the wealthy and powerful, has acted as a full partner in this exercise. It faithfully repeats the official story put out by the Pentagon and readily trades any independence for the privilege of “embedding” itself in the US war machine.

Thus, while nearly 2,000 US troops have died in the more than 10 years since “Operation Enduring Freedom” was launched, virtually no photographs have been published of soldiers or Marines bleeding in Afghanistan. Until recently, similar discretion was routinely exercised towards the mountain of corpses and legions of wounded Afghan men, women and children produced by the war.

Where there have been exceptions—the video of laughing US Marines urinating on the bloodied bodies of slain Afghan resistance fighters and the photos published in the LA Times—they surfaced not out of the work of the media, but rather from the determination of individual soldiers to expose crimes that they had witnessed.

Despite the angry denunciations of the White House and the military command, the LA Times is hardly an exception to this rule. In its own account of its decision to publish the two photographs, it admits to protracted negotiations with Pentagon officials, repeated delays and a decision to self-censor the majority of the images. Some of the images showed American troops playing with a human head, and all of them were more shocking than those that appeared in print.

The reaction of official Washington to the photographs is equal parts intimidation and damage control. On the one hand, there is the heavy-handed message to the press that it will be held responsible for the armed resistance of the Afghan people. In addition, there are strong reasons to believe that Pentagon’s promised “investigation” will initiate a concerted effort to identify and punish the soldier who gave the photos to the LA Times. There is a real threat that he will face the same treatment as Private Bradley Manning, detained under conditions tantamount to torture and facing a possible life sentence for allegedly providing WikiLeaks with a secret video documenting the massacre of Iraqi civilians by a helicopter gunship.

Then there is the attempt to deny that the photos mean anything. Panetta, the top US commander in Afghanistan General John Allen, the White House, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen all have issued statements that are variations on the same theme, insisting that the photographs “are not us” and in no way represent “the standards of the US military”, the “core values of the United States” or the “principles and values that are the basis of our mission in Afghanistan”.

This is all bunk; the pictures do not lie. One sees in these photos the staggering levels of brutality that characterize the Afghanistan war and the demoralization of the troops who are sent to wage it. These sorts of atrocities are historically associated with a breakdown in military command and discipline that are the inevitable product of colonial wars waged to subdue entire populations.

The photographs reveal not only the nature of the war, but more essentially, that of the society that produced it. This undoubtedly is a matter of deep concern within the American ruling elite, as the seemingly unending exposures of massacres, torture and crimes carried out by the American military abroad provoke growing alienation from the social and political order at home.

Who is responsible? Defiling human remains is a violation of the Geneva Conventions—a war crime. But it, like countless other atrocities, is the product of a war of plunder and geo-political interests.

At the Nuremberg Tribunal following the Second World War, it was argued, by American prosecutors, that all of the crimes of the Nazis flowed from the Hitler regime’s use of aggressive war as a means of achieving its political and strategic aims, precisely what the United States has done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Up to this point, however, not one high-level American official has been held responsible for any of this.

These crimes have been carried out in the name of the American people, though the great mass of working people in the United States are outraged by and ashamed of these atrocities. It is high time for the revival of the struggle against war. This must be based upon a mass, independent movement of the working class against militarism’s source, the capitalist profit system. This movement must include in its demands that those responsible for the crime of aggressive war—in the Bush and Obama administrations—be held accountable, both politically and legally.

synergy - April 22, 2012 09:12 PM (GMT)
Democracy NOW!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras discusses how she has been repeatedly detained and questioned by federal agents whenever she enters the United States. Poitras said the interrogations began after she began working on her documentary, "My Country, My Country," about post-invasion Iraq. Her most recent film, "The Oath," was about Yemen and Guantánamo and follows the lives of two past associates of Osama bin Laden. She estimates she has been detained approximately 40 times and has had her laptop, cell phone and personal belongings repeatedly searched. Tonight she is leading a surveillance teach-in at the Whitney Museum in New York City with our other guests, computer security researcher and government target Jacob Appelbaum and National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney. Poiras is currently at work on a film about post-9/11 America. This interview is part of a 4-part special. Click here to see segment 1, 3, and 4. [includes rush transcript]
Filed under  Freedom of the Press, Domestic Surveillance, Domestic Spying, War on Terror

Laura Poitras, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and producer. She is working on the third part of a trilogy of films about America post-9/11. The first film was My Country, My Country, and the second was The Oath.
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      Jan 17, 2006
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      Dec 15, 2005
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      Apr 20, 2012


    * Surveillance Teach-in with Laura Poitras, Jacob Appelbaum and William Binney at the Whitney Museum, April 20
    * Praxis Films
    * “U.S. filmmaker repeatedly detained at border,” by Glenn Greenwald. (Salon, April 8, 2012)

Rush Transcript

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.Donate >

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are William Binney, who was technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. He worked with the NSA for almost 40 years, National Security Agency. We’re also joined by Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker, and Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher.

You two have something in common with each other. You—every time you come into the United States by plane, you are stopped, you are searched, you are interrogated. Laura Poitras, tell us about your experience. Your latest one?

LAURA POITRAS: Right. Well, I mean, I’ve been stopped at the border since 2006, since I started working on a series of films looking at U.S. post-9/11. And so, I’ve been—I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve been detained at the border, but it’s, I think, around 40 times. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Four-zero.

LAURA POITRAS: Four-zero, right. And on this particular trip, lately they’ve been actually sending someone from the Department of Homeland Security to question me in the departing city, so I was questioned in London about what I was doing. I told them I was a journalist and that, you know, my work is protected, and I wasn’t going to discuss it. And then, on this particular occasion, I landed at Newark Airport, and they—what they do when I’m flying, they do passport control inspection at the gate. So they make everyone who’s deplaning show their passport. And so, that’s how they—

JUAN GONZALEZ: So they don’t even wait for you to get to Immigration.

LAURA POITRAS: No, I don’t get—I don’t get into Immigration. I get the escorted treatment from—

AMY GOODMAN: So they make everyone show the passport, until they get to you.


AMY GOODMAN: And then they take you off the plane.

LAURA POITRAS: And then they take me away. And then I’m escorted, first through Immigration. And so, this has been going on—you know, I’ve been through this several times and kind of know how it goes. But what happened on this particular trip, which was very disturbing, so—

AMY GOODMAN: Just a few weeks ago.

LAURA POITRAS: Yeah. So I was met by two agents at Newark. One of them is Agent Wassum. And I—when they met me, I took out my pen and paper to note their names and the time and—because I’ve always taken notes, so I have a record of the questions that I’m asked and how long I’m detained for, what’s the focus of the interrogation, what they are doing to me. And on this occasion, I took out my pen, and I was ordered to put away my pen. And I didn’t, and I continued to take notes. And I was ordered again to put away the pen, and I didn’t. And then he threatened to handcuff me for not putting away my pen. And at that point, I put away my pen and then walked to Immigration and took out my pen again to take notes, was ordered again to put away my pen, and then was taken into secondary screening. And I asked to speak to a supervisor, explained I was a journalist, explained that legal counsel has told me that I should be taking notes of my detention and interrogation. And then I was told that I couldn’t take notes, that I was free to take notes after I was finished being questioned. And then—

JUAN GONZALEZ: Under the theory that what? The pen was a weapon?

LAURA POITRAS: Oh, yeah, that’s right. They said that my pen was a dangerous weapon. So that’s what—that’s Agent Wassum who said that, that my pen was a threat to them. And, you know, I mean, in terms of the context, you have to understand that I’m surrounded by border agents who are all carrying guns, and I’m taking out, you know, a pen that they find threatening. And so, this was, you know, profoundly upsetting. And then I was taken into—I was taken directly into an interrogation room and questioned. I took out my pen again. I was ordered by another agent to put it away. And this went on for quite some time. And I was told during this interrogation—I mean, I’m always asserting my rights as a journalist to not reveal my work, my sources.

AMY GOODMAN: You did a film on Yemen. You did a film on Iraq.

LAURA POITRAS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so, this detention started after I finished the first film in 2006, and which was about the occupation of Iraq. And I was told that I was refusing to cooperate with an investigation. And then he said, "Well, it wasn’t an investigation; it was questioning," but that I was refusing to cooperate. And then I asserted my rights, that actually asserting one’s rights is not refusing to cooperate. And so, this went on for quite some time. And, I mean, it’s something that’s been happening for a while, and I’ve talked about it publicly, but also have been hesitant to, because I don’t want to jeopardize the work that I do.

AMY GOODMAN: They took your computer? They took—

LAURA POITRAS: Not on this trip, no. In the past, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: They’ve taken your computer?

LAURA POITRAS: On one occasion, they took my computer.

AMY GOODMAN: They’ve taken your phone?

LAURA POITRAS: Yeah. Yeah, on one occasion. I was actually—it was right after, a few days after they—it was actually maybe a week after Jacob’s computer was detained.

AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! contacted the Department of Homeland Security for an explanation of why you were detained and interrogated at the airport on April 5th. We received a reply from Anthony Bucci, the public affairs specialist—that’s B-U-C-C-I—in New York City for U.S. Customs and Borders Protection. He emailed, quote: "Due to privacy laws, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is prohibited from discussing specific cases." He went on to write, quote: "Our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband." He did not answer our additional questions.

LAURA POITRAS: Well, I guess they should add "journalist" to that list.

This interview is part of a 4-part special. Click here to see segment 1, 3, and 4.

synergy - April 25, 2012 02:48 AM (GMT)

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 05:23 PM EDT
UCLA Professor warned about Israel views
What kind of person goes to college and demands to be shielded from political views they dislike?
By Glenn Greenwald

(updated below)

An Associate Professor at UCLA has been formally admonished for the crime of including a link on his course website to a political statement about Israel that some students dislike, as reported by The Daily Bruin:

    David Shorter, an associate professor of world arts and cultures, was the subject of a late March complaint from an organization of University of California faculty that fights anti-Semitic sentiments on college campuses. The organization, AMCHA Initiative, decried that Shorter had linked his course website to a campaign calling for a boycott of Israel.

    The chair of the Academic Senate responded to the complaint by saying that Shorter was counseled to not use the link again. But Shorter said he has not agreed to do so, and was only approached informally about the issue.

    During winter quarter, Shorter taught a class titled “Tribal Worldviews.” The class focused on “native people’s worldviews as they are expressed through language, mythology, ritual, health practices, languages and ecology,” according to the syllabus.

    As part of the class materials, Shorter posted a link to a site advocating for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel. Currently, he is also listed on the site as one of the endorsers of the boycott.

    His status as an endorser, as well as a complaint from a student who dropped the course, led AMCHA to file a complaint with the university’s Academic Senate and other UC officials on March 29.

    Tammi Benjamin, co-founder of AMCHA and a lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish studies at UC Santa Cruz, said she does not see a way that the link could be used for pedagogical reasons and believes Shorter’s use of the link is promoting activism that harms Israel. . . .

    Shorter said he recognizes why the link could be seen as problematic, but added that the subject fit within the context of his course because Palestinians are recognized as a native people by the United Nations.

    Shorter also said he discusses the issue in context during his lectures on the subject and that he points out areas where he disagrees with the boycott and discusses his evolving stance on the matter.

    In an email to AMCHA, Andrew Leuchter, chair of the UCLA Academic Senate, wrote that it was “not appropriate” for a UCLA faculty member to post a link as a course resource to a political petition of which he is a signatory.

    Shorter was also warned that his affiliation with the boycott could be perceived as political advocacy.

    Shorter said the link to the boycott was intended as a resource for a research paper on Gaza, and was to be understood through the lens of indigenous studies.

    The essay on Gaza was not a required assignment, Shorter said. It was one of four possible topics for a class research paper. Only about five out of 90 students chose to tackle the issue, he said.

    AMCHA, however, saw the link as a means of political indoctrination, Benjamin said.

    “We felt he was pushing and promoting (the boycott) in his class,” Benjamin said. “(Students) have to go to it as a requirement for the course. … He’s promoting his own political agenda and our academic integrity told us this is wrong.”

This is far from new. The widespread attempt in the U.S. to suppress and even sanction criticisms of Israel has long extended to academia. Neocons succeeded in blocking a tenure offer for Michigan Professor Juan Cole from Yale based on their dislike of his political positions on Israel. Alan Dershowitz did the same thing, for the same reasons, to Israel critic Norman Finkelstein at DePaul University. Professors at Columbia, mostly Arab, have long been accused of anti-Semitism, and have even been the subject of formal complaints, for their views on Israel. The UCLA complaint goes a bit beyond those incidents because it seeks to penalize a Professor for nothing more than a link on his website and out-of-classroom advocacy.

But I want to leave to the side the obvious threats to academic freedom this poses. My real question is this: what kind of person goes to an academic institution and then demands to be shielded from political ideas that they find objectionable? Of all places, academia is supposed to permit and encourage the challenging of one’s assumptions and beliefs. At least in theory, that’s the prime value of studying at a university: learning how to think critically, which requires subjecting one’s views to rigorous dispute. The petulant entitlement needed to demand that nobody in that setting ever cite or mention objectionable political views is just staggering; it also reveals a severe lack of confidence in the validity of one’s own views. Whatever one thinks of it on the merits, the belief that Israel should be targeted with boycotts and divestment for its apartheid policies the way South Africa was is one that is embraced by many people in many places around the world. It’s hard to express how anti-intellectual and oppressive it is to demand that such a view never even be discussed or aired — of all places — on an academic campus, and to formally complain against a Professor who merely mentions it on a website.

But, as the completely unhinged and bitter (and predictable) reaction to Peter Beinart’s new book about Zionism (and his proposal to boycott Israeli settlements) demonstrates, there are a sizable number of people conditioned to equate criticisms of Israel with some sort of deficiency worthy of punishment. That view is always odious, but particularly so when it asserts itself in an academic setting.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman today praises Peter Beinart’s critical book about the Israeli Government and, when doing so, explains why he — Krugman — almost never writes about Israel:

    The truth is that like many liberal American Jews — and most American Jews are still liberal — I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide — and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.

As M.J. Rosenberg says, that even Krugman, given his position at the NYT, is deterred by the inevitable attacks from writing about this topic is a testament to how potent the suppression efforts still are (albeit less so than they once were).

synergy - May 1, 2012 10:46 AM (GMT)
2:31 a.m. Tuesday, May 1, 2012


The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn't report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.

Such attacks reveal a level of mistrust and ill will between the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan counterparts in an increasingly unpopular war. The U.S. and its military partners are working more closely with Afghan troops in preparation for handing off security responsibility to them by the end of 2014.

In recent weeks an Afghan soldier opened fire on a group of American soldiers but missed the group entirely. The Americans quickly shot him to death. Not a word about this was reported by the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the coalition is formally known. It was disclosed to the AP by a U.S. official who was granted anonymity in order to give a fuller picture of the "insider" problem.

ISAF also said nothing about last week's attack in which two Afghan policemen in Kandahar province fired on U.S. soldiers, wounding two. Reporters learned of it from Afghan officials and from U.S. officials in Washington. The two Afghan policemen were shot to death by the Americans present.

Just last Wednesday, an attack that killed a U.S. Army special forces soldier, Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Brittonmihalo, 25, of Simi Valley, Calif., also wounded three other American soldiers. The death was reported by ISAF as an insider attack, but it made no mention of the wounded — or that an Afghan civilian also was killed.

The attacker was an Afghan special forces soldier who opened fire with a machine gun at a base in Kandahar province. He was killed by return fire.

That attack apparently was the first by a member of the Afghan special forces, who are more closely vetted than conventional Afghan forces and are often described by American officials as the most effective and reliable in the Afghan military.

Coalition officials do not dispute that such non-fatal attacks happen, but they have not provided a full accounting.

The insider threat has existed for years but has grown more deadly. Last year there were 21 fatal attacks that killed 35 coalition service members, according to ISAF figures. That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year. In 2007 and 2008 there were a combined total of four attacks and four deaths.

ISAF has released brief descriptions of each of the fatal attacks for 2012 but says similar information for fatal attacks in 2011 is considered classified and therefore cannot be released.

Jamie Graybeal, an ISAF spokesman in Kabul, disclosed Monday in response to repeated AP requests that in addition to 10 fatal insider attacks so far this year, there have been two others that resulted in no deaths or injuries, plus one attack that resulted in wounded, for a total of 13 attacks. The three non-fatal attacks had not previously been reported.

Graybeal also disclosed that in most of the 10 fatal attacks a number of other ISAF troops were wounded. By policy, the fact that the attacks resulted in wounded as well as a fatality is not reported, he said.

Asked to explain why non-fatal insider attacks are not reported, Graybeal said the coalition does not disclose them because it does not have consent from all coalition governments to do so.

"All releases must be consistent with the national policies of troop contributing nations," Graybeal said.

Graybeal said a new review of this year's data showed that the 10 fatal attacks resulted in the deaths of 19 ISAF service members. His office had previously said the death total was 18. Most of those killed this year have been Americans but France, Britain and other coalition member countries also have suffered fatalities.

Graybeal said each attack in 2012 and 2011 was "an isolated incident and has its own underlying circumstances and motives." Just last May, however, an unclassified internal ISAF study, called "A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility," concluded, "Such fratricide-murder incidents are no longer isolated; they reflect a growing systemic threat." It said many attacks stemmed from Afghan grievances related to cultural and other conflicts with U.S. troops.

Mark Jacobson, an international affairs expert at the German Marshall Fund in Washington and a former deputy NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, said attacks of all types are cause for worry.

"You have to build up trust when working with partners, and years of trust can be destroyed in just a minute," Jacobson said. No matter what the motivation of the Afghan attacker, "it threatens the partnership."

Until now there has been little public notice of non-fatal insider attacks, even though they would appear to reflect the same deadly intent as that of Afghans who manage to succeed in killing their foreign partners.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said the army has tightened its monitoring of soldiers' activities recently and, in some cases, taken action to stop insider attacks.

For example, "a number of soldiers" have been arrested for activity that might suggest a plot, such as providing information on army activities to people outside the military, he said. Some have been dismissed from the Army, but he did not provide figures.

U.S. officials say that in most cases the Afghans who turn their guns on their supposed allies are motivated not by sympathy for the Taliban or on orders from insurgents but rather act as a result of personal grievances against the coalition.


Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt in Kabul contributed to this report.

Robert Burns can be followed on Twitter at U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.


May 01, 2012 02:31 AM EDT

synergy - May 1, 2012 03:48 PM (GMT)
Posted on May 1, 2012 by Jim White | empthywheel

For several months, I’ve been hammering on the Obama administration and the US military for describing green on blue attacks in Afghanistan, where Afghan military or police personnel attack NATO forces, as “isolated incidents“. In choosing the framing of isolated incidents, these officials are ignoring a seminal report issued just under a year ago, “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility” (pdf), which went into great detail in describing the cultural misunderstandings that lead Afghan forces to attack their coalition “partners”. Shortly after the report was released as unclassified, the US seemed to realize how damaging it is to the preferred narrative of isolated incidents explaining the attacks, and so it was decided that the report should be retroactively classified.

Yesterday, the AP’s Robert Burns made a major breakthrough in the story of green on blue attacks. Burns reported that the US military, in the form of ISAF, has maintained a policy of not reporting on soldiers who are wounded in green on blue attacks. As a result of reporting only fatalities, both the number of attacks and the number of coalition troops affected by them have been significantly under-reported:

The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds – or misses – his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.


Jamie Graybeal, an ISAF spokesman in Kabul, disclosed Monday in response to repeated AP requests that in addition to 10 fatal insider attacks so far this year, there have been two others that resulted in no deaths or injuries, plus one attack that resulted in wounded, for a total of 13 attacks. The three non-fatal attacks had not previously been reported.

Graybeal also disclosed that in most of the 10 fatal attacks a number of other ISAF troops were wounded. By policy, the fact that the attacks resulted in wounded as well as a fatality is not reported, he said.

If the subject were not so serious, Graybeal’s explanation for why ISAF does not report incidents in which soldiers are wounded would be laughable:

Asked to explain why non-fatal insider attacks are not reported, Graybeal said the coalition does not disclose them because it does not have consent from all coalition governments to do so.

Never mind that since the bulk of forces in Afghanistan are US, most of those wounded would be US soldiers, Graybeal would have us believe that he can’t report on US soldiers being wounded because he doesn’t have express permission to report when soldiers from other coalition countries are wounded in green on blue attacks.

Burns got Graybeal to repeat the “isolated incident” mantra:

Graybeal said each attack in 2012 and 2011 was “an isolated incident and has its own underlying circumstances and motives.”

Burns completes that paragraph with a reference to and a quote from the retroactively classified report, but he merely refers to it as unclassified, passing over the hypocritical actions the military took in trying to classify the report once it began to be noticed.

Congratulations to Robert Burns on his excellent work in forcing ISAF, through Graybeal, to disclose what had previously been hidden intentionally.

synergy - May 7, 2012 11:27 PM (GMT)
As of 7 pm EDT Monday 07 May 2012 I have not heard anything about civilian deaths over the weekend in Afghanistan reported on U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) or on the western wire services. To their credit AFP filed the story below at 2:11 pm ET today. This is not the first instance of untoward war news being delayed or unreported in the American broadcast media.

"Tens of civilians — including women and children — had been killed in NATO bombardments in four provinces since Saturday, a statement from Karzai’s office charged."

Civilian deaths threaten Afghanistan-U.S. pact
QUOTE (Canada)

Emal Haidary, Agence France-Presse  May 7, 2012 – 2:11 PM ET
Danish Siddiqui/REUTERS

Danish Siddiqui/REUTERS

Afghan children stand on a hill overlooking part of the Kabul city May 7, 2012. Afghanistan's president said civilian death are threatening the Afghan-U.S. pact.

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KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai summoned the NATO commander and the U.S. ambassador on Monday to warn that civilian casualties in military operations threatened a strategic pact he has signed with the U.S.

Tens of civilians — including women and children — had been killed in NATO bombardments in four provinces since Saturday, a statement from Karzai’s office charged.

The president warned that if Afghan lives were not protected the Strategic Partnership Agreement he signed with U.S. President Barack Obama last week would “lose its meaning”, the statement said.


      Video from U.S. worker kidnapped in Pakistan begs Barack Obama to meet al-Qaeda demands

      U.S.-Afghan pact ‘does not rule out drone strikes’

“The Afghan president this evening summoned NATO Commander General John Allen and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker for an emergency meeting at the Presidential Palace,” the president’s office said.

He “expressed his concerns about the civilian casualties incurred by our people in four provinces” — Logar and Helmand in the south, Kapisa in the east and Badghis in the northwest.

The president said civilian casualties always hurt Afghan-American relations, adding that Afghanistan had signed the strategic pact with the U.S. to prevent such incidents and safeguard the lives of Afghans.

“If the lives of Afghans are not protected, the strategic partnership will lose its meaning,” the statement quoted the president as saying.

The pact covers relations between the two countries when U.S.-led NATO forces helping Karzai’s government fight a Taliban insurgency pull out in 2014.

Allen said after the meeting that he assumed personal responsibility for incidents in which civilians were killed and expressed condolences to the families involved, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told AFP.

“He said he will fully investigate these incidents and report back to President Karzai,” the spokesman said. “We don’t have all the facts right now.”

A NATO airstrike targeting militants in Badghis province on Saturday night killed fifteen civilians, including women and children in Joikar village, Bala Murghab district, provincial member of parliament Qazi Abdul Rahim told AFP.

An ISAF spokesman said earlier, ahead of the meeting with Karzai, that an airstrike killed three insurgents in an attack in the area, but reports indicated no civilians were involved.

In a separate incident, in the volatile Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Friday, six civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike, an Afghan official said.

“Six people — a woman, two boys and three girls — were killed in a foreign forces airstrike on Friday in Sangin district,” provincial spokesman Daud Ahmadi told AFP.

ISAF said they were aware of the allegation and “an investigation is under way”.

Civilian casualties have always been a sensitive issue in the U.S.-led war against a Taliban insurgency and have often been the cause of tense relations between Kabul and Washington.

The number of civilians killed has risen steadily each year for the past five years, reaching a record of 3,021 in 2011, the great majority caused by militants, according to UN statistics.

synergy - May 8, 2012 01:43 PM (GMT)
There were absolutely no reports on NPR or from western news agencies on the internet yesterday (Monday 07 May 2012) of 20 civilians including at least 5 children killed in NATO air strikes in Afghanistan over the weekend. To its credit I did find an Agence France-Presse article filed at 2:11 pm ET on the Canadian internet site This is not the first instance of untoward war news ...being delayed or unreported in the American broadcast media. So far today I have not heard or read anything about these incidents in the western press save from this article from The Washington Post picked up by which is The San Francisco Chronicle online.

Afghanistan: NATO plans apology for civilian deaths
Washington Post

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kabul --

NATO air strikes killed Afghan civilians in two provinces, local officials reported Monday, and the U.S.-led coalition said it plans an apology in one of the incidents.

An air strike Friday killed six members of a family in the Sangin area of southern Helmand province, according to the provincial spokesman.

The strike was called after insurgents attacked foreign and Afghan forces in the area, the spokesman said in a statement. Helmand's governor called the incident a mistake.

"At this point in the investigation, we are able to confirm the incident and will be formally apologizing in the next couple of days to the family," said Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. "We are deeply saddened by any civilian deaths, and particularly regret incidents where civilians are killed as a result of actions by ISAF."

There were conflicting accounts on the number of deaths in another incident in Bala Murghab district of northwestern Badghis province, where unconfirmed reports put the civilian deaths at 14.

Civilian deaths have been a key source of tension between President Hamid Karzai and U.S.-led forces fighting the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

The casualties are undermining efforts by Karzai, NATO and, in particular, the United States to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Afghans in the unpopular war, which has lasted more than a decade.

This article appeared on page A - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle

synergy - May 8, 2012 01:54 PM (GMT)

The incident did not come to light until the governor in Helmand Province made a public accusation

by John Glaser, May 07, 2012

The U.S. military has claimed responsibility for an airstrike that killed six innocent members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan and pledged a formal apology would be forthcoming.

The attack took place on Friday and was revealed publicly by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal on Monday. The U.S. almost immediately confirmed Mangal’s accusation, which makes it seem like they knew about it before he went public.

The episode raises questions about how many such cases of civilian killings the U.S. military commits in Afghanistan that aren’t investigated and brought to light by corrupt and inept Afghan authorities.

In fact, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Helmand, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, after admitting to Mangal’s charges said American officials had been unaware of the civilian deaths and claimed an investigation had been initiated. But the people of Afghanistan and the United States were kept in the dark.

The victims included a mother and her five children, three girls and two boys.

Last 5 posts by John Glaser

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synergy - May 19, 2012 02:30 AM (GMT)
Posted on May 18, 2012 by emptywheel

Nieman Watchdog asked Scott Shane recently why he had granted Administration officials anonymity so they could insinuate that those who report on civilian drone deaths were terrorist sympathizers. Shane defended violating the NYT’s prohibition on letting sources attack others under cover of anonymity because of the importance of getting two sides to the story. He also claimed that Administration sources were referring to ISI propagandists, not the journalists reporting on civilian deaths, when they suggested such reports amounted to support for terrorism.

    Shane, in written responses to a number of questions that Nieman Watchdog posed to him about the two articles, said he believes this particular quote was not necessarily directed at BIJ, calling it “ambiguous, and I wish I had been able to clarify it.” He added: “Based on all my reporting over the last couple of years, I believe U.S. government officials have in mind not BIJ or other journalists as sympathizers of Al Qaeda but militants and perhaps ISI officers who supply what they consider disinformation on strikes to journalists.”

There’s a problem with that, though: The Administration’s repeated reluctance (and at times outright refusal) to let Pakistani drone critics into this country.

The latest example is Pakistani student filmmaker Muhammad Danish Qasim, who was denied a visa so he can accept an award for his film on how terrorists are capitalizing on drone strikes at a film festival in Seattle. As Glenn Greenwald explains,

    In particular, “the film identifies the problems faced by families who have become victims of drone missiles, and it unearths the line of action which terrorist groups adopt to use victimised families for their vested interests.” In other words, it depicts the tragedy of civilian deaths, and documents how those deaths are then successfully exploited by actual Terrorists for recruitment purposes.

    We can’t have the U.S. public learning about any of that. In April, Qasim was selected as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. Qasim, however, along with his co-producers, were prevented from traveling to the U.S. to accept their award and showcase their film because their request for a visa to travel to the U.S. was denied. The Tribune reported: “Despite being chosen for the award, the filmmakers were unable to attend the award ceremony as their visa applications were rejected twice.

In the same way that The Bureau of Independent Journalism’s reporting on drones rebutted some of the claims made by militants, it appears that Qasim’s film shows how terrorists exploit the victims of drone strikes. It is not al Qaeda propaganda, no matter what anonymous cowards in the Administration might think.

Never the less, the Administration appears determined to keep even nuanced critiques of its drone program out of the country.

synergy - June 3, 2012 02:22 PM (GMT)
All males 16 year old and older who are killed in U.S. drone strikes are automatically considered to be "militants". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is taking the U.S. drone policy to task as well as the U.S. media for failing to report civilian casualties.

Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that failure of the U.S. media to report civilian casualties in drone strikes probably lies in the fact that national security correspondents won't get the "goodies" from the Pentagon, The White House, and the CIA if they bite the hand that feeds them.

Pakistan: US drone kills 10 suspected militants
By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press ~ 7 am EDT Sunday 03 June 2012

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — An American drone strike in the frontier tribal areas of Pakistan killed 10 suspected militants Sunday, Pakistani officials said. It was sixth such strike in two weeks as the U.S. pushes ahead with its drone campaign in the face of Pakistani demands to stop.

The continued attacks emphasize the importance the U.S. government puts on the drone campaign, which it considers to be a vital tool in the war against al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials say four missiles were fired at targets in the village of Mana Raghzai in South Waziristan near the border with Afghanistan on Sunday morning.

At the time of the attack, suspected militants were gathered to offer condolences to the brother of a militant commander killed during another American unmanned drone attack on Saturday. The brother was one of those who died in the Sunday morning strike. The Pakistani officials said two of the dead were foreigners, and the rest were Pakistani.

The American drone campaign has been a source of deep frustration and tension between the U.S. and Pakistan.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. stepped up its drone campaign in the border areas as a way to combat al-Qaida and Taliban fighters who were using Pakistan as a base for attacks against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. However, the number of drone attacks has eased in recent years.

Secretly, many Pakistani military commanders are believed to support the drone campaign. But among the Pakistani public, where the U.S. is viewed with mistrust, the drone strikes are considered an affront to the nation's sovereignty.

The Pakistani government and parliament have repeatedly asked the U.S. to stop the drone strikes.

The ongoing attacks are also complicating efforts for the U.S. and Pakistan to come to an agreement over reopening the supply routes to NATO and American forces in Afghanistan. American airstrikes inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November, prompting Islamabad to block U.S. and NATO supply lines running throught its territory.

Pakistan has demanded an apology over the raid and an end to drone strikes as a precursor to reopening the supply lines. But the U.S. has shown no intention of ending the attacks.

Also Sunday, gunmen killed four Shiite minority Muslims, a police officer and a bystander in a busy market of southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, said police officer Abdul Wahid. He said police were investigating who could be behind the attack, but that it had a sectarian motive.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan became the scene of a proxy war between mostly Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, with both sides funneling money to sectarian groups that regularly targeted each other.

The level of sectarian violence has declined somewhat since then, but attacks continue. In recent years, Sunni attacks on Shiites have been far more common.

Associated Press writer Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, and Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan contributed to this report.

synergy - June 3, 2012 02:56 PM (GMT)
All males 16 year old and older who are killed in U.S. drone strikes are automatically considered to be "militants". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is taking the U.S. drone policy to task as well as the U.S. media for failing to report civilian casualties.

Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that failure of the U.S. media to report civilian casualties in drone strikes probably lies in the fact that national security correspondents won't get the "goodies" from the Pentagon, The White House, and the CIA if they bite the hand that feeds them.

U.S. drone strike kills 10 in northwest Pakistan: officials
WANA, Pakistan | Sun Jun 3, 2012 4:14am EDT

WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - The second U.S. drone attack in as many days killed 10 people in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, intelligence officials said, an incident likely to raise tensions in the standoff between Washington and Islamabad over NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.

The remotely-piloted aircraft fired four missiles at a suspected Islamist militant hideout in the Birmal area of the South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghanistan border, officials said.

A drone strike in the same area killed two suspected militants on Saturday.

The United States and Pakistan are locked in difficult negotiations to re-open overland supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan, with no signs of a breakthrough.

Islamabad blocked the routes last November to protest the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers by cross-border friendly fire from NATO aircraft. The supply lines through Pakistan are considered vital to the planned withdrawal of most foreign combat troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2014.

The CIA drone campaign fuels anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan and is counterproductive because of collateral damage, Pakistani officials say. But U.S. officials say such strikes are highly effective against militants.

(Reporting by Hafiz Wazir in WANA, Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN and Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR; Writing by Qasim Nauman, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

synergy - June 3, 2012 03:17 PM (GMT)
All males 16 year old and older who are killed in U.S. drone strikes are automatically considered to be "militants". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is taking the U.S. drone policy to task as well as the U.S. media for failing to report civilian casualties.

Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that failure of the U.S. media to report civilian casualties in drone strikes probably lies in the fact that national security correspondents won't get the "goodies" from the Pentagon, The White House, and the CIA if they bite the hand that feeds them.
U.S. drone strike kills 10 in NW Pakistan: officials
WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - The second U.S. drone attack in as many days killed 10 people in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, intelligence officials said, an incident likely to raise tensions in the standoff
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    Gareth Porter likes this.
          John Randolph Hardison Cain AFAIC this is the most meaningful "like" I have had for any of my post. Thank you for the work you do and for being a person of conscience, Gareth Porter.
            55 minutes ago · LikeUnlike
          Gareth Porter BIJ is absolutely right about the media's role in this travesty. It is all a game of maintaining access to "inside" information, which comes with the price of not questioning the handouts. Glad you highlighted this, John.

synergy - July 1, 2012 06:18 PM (GMT)

synergy - August 31, 2012 01:15 AM (GMT)
QUOTE "Danger Room"

    * By Christina Bonnington and Spencer Ackerman
    * August 30, 2012 |
    * 6:30 am |
    * Categories: Gadgets and Gear
    *  | Edit


It seemed like a simple enough idea for an iPhone app: Send users a pop-up notice whenever a flying robots kills someone in one of America’s many undeclared wars. But Apple keeps blocking the Drones+ program from its App Store — and therefore, from iPhones everywhere. The Cupertino company says the content is “objectionable and crude,” according to Apple’s latest rejection letter.

It’s the third time in a month that Apple has turned Drones+ away, says Josh Begley, the program’s New York-based developer. The company’s reasons for keeping the program out of the App Store keep shifting. First, Apple called the bare-bones application that aggregates news of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia “not useful.” Then there was an issue with hiding a corporate logo. And now, there’s this crude content problem.

Begley is confused. Drones+ doesn’t present grisly images of corpses left in the aftermath of the strikes. It just tells users when a strike has occurred, going off a publicly available database of strikes compiled by the U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which compiles media accounts of the strikes.

iOS developers have a strict set of guidelines that must be adhered to in order to gain acceptance into the App Store. Apps are judged on technical, content and design criteria. As Apple does not comment on the app reviews process, it can be difficult to ascertain exactly why an app got rejected. But Apple’s team of reviewers is small, sifts through up to 10,000 apps a week, and necessarily errs on the side of caution when it comes to potentially questionable apps.

Apple’s original objections to Drones+ regarded the functionality Begley’s app, not its content. Now he’s wondering if it’s worth redesigning and submitting it a fourth time.

“If the content is found to be objectionable, and it’s literally just an aggregation of news, I don’t know how to change that,” Begley says.

A mockup of developer Josh Begley’s drone-strike app for iOS.

Begley’s app is unlikely to be the next Angry Birds or Draw Something. It’s deliberately threadbare. When a drone strike occurs, Drones+ catalogs it, and presents a map of the area where the strike took place, marked by a pushpin. You can click through to media reports of a given strike that the Bureau of Investigative Reporting compiles, as well as some basic facts about whom the media thinks the strike targeted. As the demo video above shows, that’s about it.

It works best, Begley thinks, when users enable push notifications for Drones+. “I wanted to play with this idea of push notifications and push button technology — essentially asking a question about what we choose to get notified about in real time,” he says. “I thought reaching into the pockets of U.S. smartphone users and annoying them into drone-consciousness could be an interesting way to surface the conversation a bit more.”

But that conversation may not end up occurring. Begley, a student at Clay Shirky’s NYU Media Lab, submitted a threadbare version of Drones+ to Apple in July. About two weeks later, on July 23, Apple told him was just too blah. “The features and/or content of your app were not useful or entertaining enough,” read an e-mail from Apple Begley shared with Wired, “or your app did not appeal to a broad enough audience.”

Finally, on Aug. 27, Apple gave him yet another thumbs down. But this time the company’s reasons were different from the fairly clear-cut functionality concerns it previously cited. “We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” the company e-mailed him.

It was the first time the App Store told him that his content was the real problem, even though the content hadn’t changed much from Begley’s initial July submission. It’s a curious choice: The App Store carries remote-control apps for a drone quadricopter, although not one actually being used in a war zone. And of course, the App Store houses innumerable applications for news publications and aggregators that deliver much of the same content provided by Begley’s app.

Wired reached out to Apple on the perplexing rejection of the app, but Apple was unable to comment.

Begley is about at his wits end over the iOS version of Drones+. “I’m kind of back at the drawing board about what exactly I’m supposed to do,” Begley said. The basic idea was to see if he could get App Store denizens a bit more interested in the U.S.’ secretive, robotic wars, with information on those wars popping up on their phones the same way an Instagram comment or retweet might. Instead, Begley’s thinking about whether he’d have a better shot making the same point in the Android Market.
Spencer Ackerman

Danger Room senior reporter Spencer Ackerman recently won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Reporting in Digital Media.

Read more by Spencer Ackerman

Follow @attackerman and @dangerroom on Twitter.

synergy - September 5, 2012 03:18 PM (GMT)
A former CNN correspondent defies threats from her former employer to speak out about self-censorship at the network

• Comment: CNN and the business of state-sponsored TV news

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      Glenn Greenwald
    *, Tuesday 4 September 2012 15.01 EDT

A Bahraini protester
A Bahraini protester in Manama. Photograph: Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images

In late March 2011, as the Arab Spring was spreading, CNN sent a four-person crew to Bahrain to produce a one-hour documentary on the use of internet technologies and social media by democracy activists in the region. Featuring on-air investigative correspondent Amber Lyon, the CNN team had a very eventful eight-day stay in that small, US-backed kingdom.

By the time the CNN crew arrived, many of the sources who had agreed to speak to them were either in hiding or had disappeared. Regime opponents whom they interviewed suffered recriminations, as did ordinary citizens who worked with them as fixers. Leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was charged with crimes shortly after speaking to the CNN team. A doctor who gave the crew a tour of his village and arranged meetings with government opponents, Saeed Ayyad, had his house burned to the ground shortly after. Their local fixer was fired ten days after working with them.

The CNN crew itself was violently detained by regime agents in front of Rajab's house. As they described it after returning to the US, "20 heavily-armed men", whose faces were "covered with black ski masks", "jumped from military vehicles", and then "pointed machine guns at" the journalists, forcing them to the ground. The regime's security forces seized their cameras and deleted their photos and video footage, and then detained and interrogated them for the next six hours.

Lyon's experience both shocked and emboldened her. The morning after her detention, newspapers in Bahrain prominently featured articles about the incident containing what she said were "outright fabrications" from the government. "It made clear just how willing the regime is to lie," she told me in a phone interview last week.

But she also resolved to expose just how abusive and thuggish the regime had become in attempting to snuff out the burgeoning democracy movement, along with any negative coverage of the government.

    "I realized there was a correlation between the amount of media attention activists receive and the regime's ability to harm them, so I felt an obligation to show the world what our sources, who risked their lives to talk to us, were facing."

CNN's total cost for the documentary, ultimately titled "iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring", was in excess of $100,000, an unusually high amount for a one-hour program of this type. The portion Lyon and her team produced on Bahrain ended up as a 13-minute segment in the documentary. That segment, which as of now is available on YouTube, is a hard-hitting and unflinching piece of reporting that depicts the regime in a very negative light.
Amber Lyon, former CNN report Amber Lyon on CNN, commenting on the March 2011 repression in Bahrain

In the segment, Lyon interviewed activists as they explicitly described their torture at the hands of government forces, while family members recounted their relatives' abrupt disappearances. She spoke with government officials justifying the imprisonment of activists. And the segment featured harrowing video footage of regime forces shooting unarmed demonstrators, along with the mass arrests of peaceful protesters. In sum, the early 2011 CNN segment on Bahrain presented one of the starkest reports to date of the brutal repression embraced by the US-backed regime.

On 19 June 2011 at 8pm, CNN's domestic outlet in the US aired "iRevolution" for the first and only time. The program received prestigious journalism awards, including a 2012 Gold Medal from New York Festival's Best TV and Films. Lyon, along with her segment producer Taryn Fixel, were named as finalists for the 2011 Livingston Awards for Young Journalists. A Facebook page created by Bahraini activists, entitled "Thank you Amber Lyon, CNN reporter | From people of Bahrain", received more than 8,000 "likes".

Despite these accolades, and despite the dangers their own journalists and their sources endured to produce it, CNN International (CNNi) never broadcast the documentary. Even in the face of numerous inquiries and complaints from their own employees inside CNN, it continued to refuse to broadcast the program or even provide any explanation for the decision. To date, this documentary has never aired on CNNi.
CNNi's refusal to broadcast 'iRevolution'

It is CNN International that is, by far, the most-watched English-speaking news outlet in the Middle East. By refusing to broadcast "iRevolution", the network's executives ensured it was never seen on television by Bahrainis or anyone else in the region.

CNNi's decision not to broadcast "iRevolution" was extremely unusual. Both CNN and CNNi have had severe budget constraints imposed on them over the last several years. One long-time CNN employee (to whom I have granted anonymity to avoid repercussions for negative statements about CNN's management) described "iRevolution" as an "expensive, highly produced international story about the Arab Spring". Because the documentary was already paid for by CNN, it would have been "free programming" for CNNi to broadcast, making it "highly unusual not to air it". The documentary "was made with an international audience as our target", said Lyon. None of it was produced on US soil. And its subject matter was squarely within the crux of CNN International's brand.

CNNi's refusal to broadcast "iRevolution" soon took on the status of a mini-scandal among its producers and reporters, who began pushing Lyon to speak up about this decision. In June 2011, one long-time CNN news executive emailed Lyon:

    "Why would CNNi not run a documentary on the Arab Spring, arguably the the biggest story of the decade? Strange, no?"

Motivated by the concerns expressed by long-time CNN journalists, Lyon requested a meeting with CNNi's president, Tony Maddox, to discuss the refusal to broadcast the documentary. On 24 June 2011, she met with Maddox, who vowed to find out and advise her of the reasons for its non-airing. He never did.

In a second meeting with Maddox, which she had requested in early December to follow up on her unanswered inquiry, Lyon was still given no answers. Instead, at that meeting, Maddox, according to Lyon, went on the offense, sternly warning her not to speak publicly about this matter. Several times, Maddox questioned her about this 18 November 2011 tweet by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, demanding to know what prompted it:
Kristof tweet CNN

When I asked CNN to comment on Maddox's meetings with Lyon, they declined to respond on specific details and said he was not available for interview. Instead, they made the following statement:

    "The documentary 'iRevolution' was commissioned for CNN US. While the programme did not air in full on CNN International, segments of it were shown. This differing use of content is normal across our platforms, and such decisions are taken for purely editorial reasons. CNN International has run more than 120 stories on Bahrain over the past six months, a large number of which were critical in tone and all of which meet the highest journalistic standards."

Despite Lyon's being stonewalled by CNNi, she said facts began emerging that shined considerable light on the relationship between the regime in Bahrain and CNNi when it came to "iRevolution". Upon returning from Bahrain in April, Lyon appeared on CNN several times to recount her own detention by security forces and to report on ongoing brutality by the regime against its own citizens, even including doctors and nurses providing medical aid to protesters. She said she did not want to wait for the documentary's release to alert the world to what was taking place.

In response, according to both the above-cited CNN employee and Lyon, the regime's press officers complained repeatedly to CNNi about Lyon generally and specifically her reporting for "iRevolution". In April, a senior producer emailed her to say:

    "We are dealing with blowback from Bahrain govt on how we violated our mission, etc."

"It became a standard joke around the office: the Bahrainis called to complain about you again," recounted Lyon. Lyon was also told by CNN employees stationed in the region that "the Bahrainis also sent delegations to our Abu Dhabi bureau to discuss the coverage."

Internal CNN emails reflect continuous pressure on Lyon and others to include claims from the Bahraini regime about the violence in their country – even when, says Lyon, she knew first-hand that the claims were false. One April 2011 email to Lyon from a CNN producer demands that she include in her documentary a line stating that "Bahrain's foreign minister says security forces are not firing on unarmed civilians," and another line describing regime claims accusing "activists like Nabeel Rajab of doctoring photos … fabricating injuries".

Having just returned from Bahrain, Lyon says she "saw first-hand that these regime claims were lies, and I couldn't believe CNN was making me put what I knew to be government lies into my reporting."
Bahrain's PR offensive

As negative news stories of its brutal repression grew in the wake of the Arab Spring, the regime undertook a massive, very well-funded PR campaign to improve its image. As reported by Bahrain Watch, the regime has spent more than $32m in PR fees alone since the commencement of the Arab Spring in February, 2011, including payments to some of Washington, DC's most well-connected firms and long-time political operatives, such as former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi.

One of the largest contracts the regime had was with the DC-based PR firm Qorvis Communications. As Time reported last November, the firm, which also does extensive PR work for Bahrain's close allies, the Saudi regime, "has a branch dedicated to rehabilitating the reputation of unsavory governments, a niche practice that has seen great demand in the wake of the Arab spring".

Qorvis often led the way in complaining to CNNi about its Bahrain coverage. An internal email from CNN at the beginning of 2012, seen by the Guardian, records the firm's calling to complain about excessively favorable mentions of Nabeel Rajab, who had been arrested and charged over an anti-regime tweet, and was just this month sentenced to three years in prison for an "illegal demonstration".

The long-time CNN employee said that "iRevolution" was vetted far more heavily than the typical documentary:

    "Because Amber was relatively new in reporting on the region, and especially because of the vocal complaints from the Bahrainis, the documentary was heavily scrutinized. But nobody could ever point to anything factually or journalistically questionable in Amber's reporting on Bahrain."

In response to several inquiries, Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority refused to say whether they had complained to CNNi about Lyon and "iRevolution". A spokesman, Fahad A AlBinali, instead offered only a generic statement that "on occasion we contact media outlets to provide correct information or a balanced view of the subject," and, he claimed, when doing so, they are simply trying "to help ensure that coverage of Bahrain is accurate and unbiased". Subsequent attempts to obtain specific answers from the authority about the regime's complaints to CNNi about "iRevolution" and Lyon went unanswered.

After Lyon's crew returned from Bahrain, CNN had no correspondents regularly reporting on the escalating violence. In emails to her producers and executives, Lyon repeatedly asked to return to Bahrain. Her requests were denied, and she was never sent back. She thus resorted to improvising coverage by interviewing activists via Skype in an attempt, she said, "to keep Bahrain in the news".

In March 2012, Lyon was laid off from CNN as part of an unrelated move by the network to outsource its investigative documentaries. Now at work on a book, Lyon began in August to make reference to "iRevolution" on her Twitter account, followed by more than 20,000 people.

On 16 August, Lyon wrote three tweets about this episode. CNNi's refusal to broadcast "iRevolution", she wrote, "baffled producers". Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added that the "censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story." She posted a picture of herself with Rajab and wrote:

    "A proponent of peace, @nabeelrajab risked his safety to show me how the regime oppresses the [people] of #Bahrain."

The following day, a representative of CNN's business affairs office called Lyon's acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.

When I asked CNN specifically about this alleged threat delivered to Lyon's agent, the company declined to confirm or deny it, commenting:

    "In common with other companies we do not discuss internal personnel matters."

Responding to Lyon's charge of censorship, CNN's spokesman replied:

    "CNN International has a proud record of courageous, independent and honest reporting from around the world. Any suggestion that the network's relationship with any country has influenced our reporting is wholly and demonstrably wrong."

It is true that CNNi can point to numerous recent reports describing the violence against protesters by the regime in Bahrain. Given the scope of the violence, and how widely it has now been reported elsewhere, it would be virtually impossible for CNNi never to broadcast such reports while still maintaining any claim to credibility. But such reports required far more journalistic courage to air in the first half of 2011, when so few knew of the brutality to which the regime had resorted, than now, when it is widely known. Moreover, CNNi's reports on the violence in Bahrain take a much more muted tone than when it reports on regimes disfavored by the US, such as Iran or Syria.

More importantly, the tidal wave of CNNi's partnerships and associations with the regime in Bahrain, and the hagiography it has broadcast about it (see the accompanying commentary on the relationship between the network and the regime), appear to have overwhelmed any truly critical coverage.

But CNN's threat had the opposite effect to what was intended. Lyon insists she never signed any confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement with CNN in any case, but she is sanguine about any risk to her severance package. "At this point," Lyon said, "I look at those payments as dirty money to stay silent. I got into journalism to expose, not help conceal, wrongdoing, and I'm not willing to keep quiet about this any longer, even if it means I'll lose those payments."

synergy - September 6, 2012 12:32 AM (GMT)

05 Sept 2012

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 2:55pm

Wired reported last week that the Apple App Store has rejected an app that compiles news reports in order to map overseas U.S. drone strikes, and provide users a pop-up notification whenever a drone strike has been reported.

Apple rejected the app several times, at first citing problems with its functionality, and then telling the developer that the app “contains content that many audiences would find objectionable.”

U.S. drone strikes have become a highly controversial issue, with critics saying that the strikes are counterproductive and immoral (and the ACLU taking issue with the legality of some of the strikes). The issue has emerged as one of the hottest foreign policy issues of our time.

An app providing a stream of basic information about the conduct of a policy that is the subject of current public debate would seem as American as, uh, apple pie.

Of course, Apple is a private company not covered by the First Amendment, and the App Store is not a public forum. In fact, Apple is arguably like the New York Times, with a right to pick and choose what it “publishes.”

But aside from what Apple has the right to do, you have to wonder how many of its customers say to themselves, “wow, I got a new iPhone, oh boy, now I can access all the information in the world that Apple allows to filter into my new device because nobody finds it objectionable!” Most people would be surprised to find, upon buying a desktop computer, that HP, Dell, or Lenovo was going to tell them what programs and content they could and could not install. We must hope that the computers we carry in our pockets (our smartphones) will eventually be as free. By providing a leading smartphone operating system, Apple is now a major player in the telecommunications space, and while not a monopoly, is certainly participating in a highly networked, oligopolistic market.

Regardless of the legalities of Apple’s “private censorship,” ultimately we need information to flow freely through the major nodes of our information infrastructure. If major players decide to censor information because one party or another takes offense, free speech and democracy will be the worse for it.

Companies have a choice: they can embrace the raucous, often messy path of freedom and openness, or they can try to take the path of picking and choosing who can communicate with whom, and how.

One problem with picking and choosing—private censorship—is that it can be plenty messy in its own way. Apple has found itself in a nonstop string of controversies over its editorial decisions for the App Store. When you’re the gatekeeper, of course, you get criticized not only for what you block, but what you allow. In recent years the company has:
•    Blocked apps from cartoonist Mark Fiore because, according to Apple, he “ridicules public figures.”
•    Warned a developer that it would block anything using the word “gay.”
•    Became embroiled in a controversy over an anti-gay “Manhattan Declaration” manifesto when it approved and then kicked out an app that allowed users to vote for the declaration.
•    Rejected a dictionary app unless profane words were removed.
•    Pulled a "gay cure" app from its store following a "wave of complaints."
•    Pulled an App that notified users of the location of police sobriety checkpoints—essentially, allowing citizens to share and distribute information about police activity. That move followed the writing of a letter by several Senators pressuring the company into doing so. (Blackberry also agreed to censor the app, while Google did not.)

This kind of capricious suppression is reminiscent of the behavior of an authoritarian regime, leaving app developers at their mercy, forced to guess what will and will not pass muster, and often looking just plain silly in their old-fashioned Comstockery.

True, as Wired points out, the Apple reviewers face a very difficult task—according to this article, sorting through a “slush pile” of thousands of submitted apps, much of it “garbage.” Protecting their customers from the dreary task of having to wade through such garbage is probably the idea. But that kind of sorting task is something that the marketplace and/or the crowdsourced hive mind (not the same thing) is pretty good at. And some of Apple’s silly decisions might just be quirky actions by individual employees.

But the problem with censorship—public or private—is that it’s devilishly difficult to administer consistently. A company like Apple, once it decides to become a gatekeeper, should not be surprised to quickly find itself in a morass—not only the morass of “junk” in its slush pile, but a political morass as it gets drawn into various passionate debates, and a public relations morass as its judgments are ridiculed.

This latest incident, the suppression of the drone-strike app, might be just another example of the capricious stupidity that censors the world over always seem to display at least partly because of the inherent difficulties of their “art.” But in this case the repeated rejections, their shifting rationales, and the alignment of this action with the interests of our government, cannot help but create suspicion of darker possibilities—that the company in some way has agreed to start protecting the interests of our national security establishment (if not necessarily our national security). Similar questions were raised when the company allowed and then three days later removed a Wikileaks App from the store, at a time when the U.S. government was pressuring numerous companies to financially blockade the reporting organization (a blockade that companies are striving to maintain).

That brings up a final disadvantage of censorship: it always ends up being misused. By blocking the drone-strike app, is Apple helping their customers—or the national security agencies? They’re certainly not helping their country.

Free speech—it’s is not just in the Constitution, it’s also a good idea!
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synergy - November 5, 2012 03:37 AM (GMT)
San Francisco Bay Guardian

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SFBG > This Week > Printer-friendly
By admin
Created 10/09/2012 - 3:39pm

The top stories you didn't read in the mainstream media: expanding police state, NATO war crimes, criminalized protests, more
Local censored 2012 [1] [2]

People who get their information exclusively from mainstream media sources may be surprised at the lack of enthusiasm on the left for President Barack Obama in this crucial election. But that's probably because they weren't exposed to the full online furor sparked by Obama's continuation of his predecessor's overreaching approach to national security, such as signing the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the indefinite detention of those accused of supporting terrorism, even US citizens.

We'll never know how this year's election would be different if the corporate media adequately covered the NDAA's indefinite detention clause and many other recent attacks on civil liberties. What we can do is spread the word and support independent media sources that do cover these stories. That's where Project Censored comes in.

Project Censored has been documenting inadequate media coverage of crucial stories since it began in 1967 at Sonoma State University. Each year, the group considers hundreds of news stories submitted by readers, evaluating their merits. Students search Lexis Nexis and other databases to see if the stories were underreported, and if so, the stories are fact-checked by professors and experts in relevant fields.

A panel of academics and journalists chooses the Top 25 stories and rates their significance. The project maintains a vast online database of underreported news stories that it has "validated" and publishes them in an annual book. Censored 2013: Dispatches from the Media Revolution will be released Oct. 30.

For the second year in row, Project Censored has grouped the Top 25 list into topical "clusters." This year, categories include "Human cost of war and violence" and "Environment and health." Project Censored director Mickey Huff told us the idea was to show how various undercovered stories fit together into an alternative narrative, not to say that one story was more censored than another.

"The problem when we had just the list was that it did imply a ranking," Huff said. "It takes away from how there tends to be a pattern to the types of stories they don't cover or underreport."

In May, while Project Censored was working on the list, another 2012 list was issued: the Fortune 500 list of the biggest corporations, whose influence peppers the Project Censored list in a variety of ways.

Consider this year's top Fortune 500 company: ExxonMobil. The oil company pollutes everywhere it goes, yet most stories about its environmental devastation go underreported. Weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin (58 on the Fortune list), General Dynamics (92), and Raytheon (117) are tied into stories about US prisoners in slavery conditions manufacturing parts for their weapons and the underreported war crimes in Afghanistan and Libya.

These powerful corporations work together more than most people think. In the chapter exploring the "Global 1 percent," writers Peter Phillips and Kimberly Soeiro explain how a small number of well-connected people control the majority of the world's wealth. In it, they use Censored story number 6, "Small network of corporations run the global economy," to describe how a network of transnational corporations are deeply interconnected, with 147 of them controlling 40 percent of the global economy's total wealth.

For example, Philips and Soeiro write that in one such company, BlackRock Inc., "The eighteen members of the board of directors are connected to a significant part of the world's core financial assets. Their decisions can change empires, destroy currencies, and impoverish millions."

Another cluster of stories, "Women and Gender, Race and Ethnicity," notes a pattern of underreporting stories that affect a range of marginalized groups. This broad category includes only three articles, and none are listed in the top 10. The stories reveal mistreatment of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons, including being denied medical care and shackled during childbirth, and the rape and sexual assault of women soldiers in the US military. The third story in the category concerns an Alabama anti-immigration bill, HB56, that caused immigrants to flee Alabama in such numbers that farmers felt a dire need to "help farms fill the gap and find sufficient labor." So the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries approached the state's Department of Corrections about making a deal where prisoners would replace the fleeing farm workers.

But with revolutionary unrest around the world, and the rise of a mass movement that connects disparate issues together into a simple, powerful class analysis — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent paradigm popularized by Occupy Wall Street — this year's Project Censored offers an element of hope.

It's not easy to succeed at projects that resist corporate dominance, and when it does happen, the corporate media is sometimes reluctant to cover it. Number seven on the Top 25 list is the story of how the United Nations designated 2012 the International Year of the Cooperative, recognizing the rapid growth of co-op businesses, organizations that are part-owned by all members and whose revenue is shared equitably among members. One billion people worldwide now work in co-ops.

The Year of the Cooperative is not the only good-news story discussed by Project Censored this year. In Chapter 4, Yes! Magazine's Sarah Van Gelder lists "12 ways the Occupy movement and other major trends have offered a foundation for a transformative future." They include a renewed sense of "political self-respect" and fervor to organize in the United States, debunking of economic myths such as the "American dream," and the blossoming of economic alternatives such as community land trusts, time banking, and micro-energy installations.

They also include results achieved from pressure on government, like the delay of the Keystone Pipeline project, widespread efforts to override the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the removal of dams in Washington state after decades of campaigning by Native American and environmental activists, and the enactment of single-payer healthcare in Vermont.

As Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed writes in the book's foreword, "The majority of people now hold views about Western governments and the nature of power that would have made them social pariahs 10 or 20 years ago."

Citing polls from the corporate media, Ahmed writes: "The majority are now skeptical of the Iraq War; the majority want an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan; the majority resent the banks and financial sector, and blame them for the financial crisis; most people are now aware of environmental issues, more than ever before, and despite denialist confusion promulgated by fossil fuel industries, the majority in the United States and Britain are deeply concerned about global warming; most people are wary of conventional party politics and disillusioned with the mainstream parliamentary system."

"In other words," he writes, "there has been a massive popular shift in public opinion toward a progressive critique of the current political economic system."

And ultimately, it's the public — not the president and not the corporations—that will determine the future. There may be hope after all. Here's Project Censored's Top 10 list for 2013:


President George W. Bush is remembered largely for his role in curbing civil liberties in the name of his "war on terror." But it's President Obama who signed the 2012 NDAA, including its clause allowing for indefinite detention without trial for terrorism suspects. Obama promised that "my Administration will interpret them to avoid the constitutional conflict" — leaving us adrift if and when the next administration chooses to interpret them otherwise. Another law of concern is the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order that Obama issued in March 2012. That order authorizes the President, "in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements." The president is to be advised on this course of action by "the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, in conjunction with the National Economic Council." Journalist Chris Hedges, along with co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, won a case challenging the NDAA's indefinite detention clause on Sept. 1, when a federal judge blocked its enforcement, but her ruling was overturned on Oct. 3, so the clause is back.


Big banks aren't the only entities that our country has deemed "too big to fail." But our oceans won't be getting a bailout anytime soon, and their collapse could compromise life itself. In a haunting article highlighted by Project Censored, Mother Jones reporter Julia Whitty paints a tenuous seascape — overfished, acidified, warming — and describes how the destruction of the ocean's complex ecosystems jeopardizes the entire planet, not just the 70 percent that is water. Whitty compares ocean acidification, caused by global warming, to acidification that was one of the causes of the "Great Dying," a mass extinction 252 million years ago. Life on earth took 30 million years to recover. In a more hopeful story, a study of 14 protected and 18 non-protected ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea showed dangerous levels of biomass depletion. But it also showed that the marine reserves were well-enforced, with five to 10 times larger fish populations than in unprotected areas. This encourages establishment and maintenance of more reserves.


A plume of toxic fallout floated to the US after Japan's tragic Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011. The US Environmental Protection Agency found radiation levels in air, water, and milk that were hundreds of times higher than normal across the United States. One month later, the EPA announced that radiation levels had declined, and they would cease testing. But after making a Freedom of Information Act request, journalist Lucas Hixson published emails revealing that on March 24, 2011, the task of collecting nuclear data had been handed off from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry lobbying group. And in one study that got little attention, scientists Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman found that in the period following the Fukushima meltdowns, 14,000 more deaths than average were reported in the US, mostly among infants. Later, Mangano and Sherman updated the number to 22,000.


We know that FBI agents go into communities such as mosques, both undercover and in the guise of building relationships, quietly gathering information about individuals. This is part of an approach to finding what the FBI now considers the most likely kind of terrorists, "lone wolves." Its strategy: "seeking to identify those disgruntled few who might participate in a plot given the means and the opportunity. And then, in case after case, the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity," writes Mother Jones journalist Trevor Aaronson. The publication, along with the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley, examined the results of this strategy, 508 cases classified as terrorism-related that have come before the US Department of Justice since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. In 243 of these cases, an informant was involved; in 49 cases, an informant actually led the plot. And "with three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings."


The Federal Reserve, the US's quasi-private central bank, was audited for the first time in its history this year. The audit report states, "From late 2007 through mid-2010, Reserve Banks provided more than a trillion dollars... in emergency loans to the financial sector to address strains in credit markets and to avert failures of individual institutions believed to be a threat to the stability of the financial system." These loans had significantly less interest and fewer conditions than the high-profile TARP bailouts, and were rife with conflicts of internet. Some examples: the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served as a board member of the New York Federal Reserve at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. William Dudley, who is now the New York Federal Reserve president, was granted a conflict of interest waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time the companies were given bailout funds. The audit was restricted to Federal Reserve lending during the financial crisis. On July 25, 2012, a bill to audit the Fed again, with fewer limitations, authored by Rep. Ron Paul, passed the House of Representatives. HR459 expected to die in the Senate, but the movement behind Paul and his calls to hold the Fed accountable, or abolish it altogether, seem to be growing.


Reporting on a study by researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich didn't make the rounds nearly enough, according to Censored 2013. They found that, of 43,060 transnational companies, 147 control 40 percent of total global wealth. The researchers also built a model visually demonstrating how the connections between companies — what it calls the "super entity" — works. Some have criticized the study, saying control of assets doesn't equate to ownership. True, but as we clearly saw in the 2008 financial collapse, corporations are capable of mismanaging assets in their control to the detriment of their actual owners. And a largely unregulated super entity like this is vulnerable to global collapse.


Can something really be censored when it's straight from the United Nations? According to Project Censored evaluators, the corporate media underreported the UN declaring 2012 to be the International Year of the Cooperative, based on the coop business model's stunning growth. The UN found that, in 2012, one billion people worldwide are coop member-owners, or one in five adults over the age of 15. The largest is Spain's Mondragon Corporation, with more than 80,000 member-owners. The UN predicts that by 2025, worker-owned coops will be the world's fastest growing business model. Worker-owned cooperatives provide for equitable distribution of wealth, genuine connection to the workplace, and, just maybe, a brighter future for our planet.


In January 2012, the BBC "revealed" how British Special Forces agents joined and "blended in" with rebels in Libya to help topple dictator Muammar Gadaffi, a story that alternative media sources had reported a year earlier. NATO admits to bombing a pipe factory in the Libyan city of Brega that was key to the water supply system that brought tap water to 70 percent of Libyans, saying that Gadaffi was storing weapons in the factory. In Censored 2013, writer James F. Tracy makes the point that historical relations between the US and Libya were left out of mainstream news coverage of the NATO campaign; "background knowledge and historical context confirming Al-Qaeda and Western involvement in the destabilization of the Gadaffi regime are also essential for making sense of corporate news narratives depicting the Libyan operation as a popular 'uprising.'"


On its website, the UNICOR manufacturing corporation proudly proclaims that its products are "made in America." That's true, but they're made in places in the US where labor laws don't apply, with workers often paid just 23 cents an hour to be exposed to toxic materials with no legal recourse. These places are US prisons. Slavery conditions in prisons aren't exactly news. It's literally written into the Constitution; the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, outlaws " slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." But the article highlighted by Project Censored this year reveal the current state of prison slavery industries, and its ties to war. The majority of products manufactured by inmates are contracted to the Department of Defense. Inmates make complex parts for missile systems, battleship anti-aircraft guns, and landmine sweepers, as well as night-vision goggles, body army, and camouflage uniforms. Of course, this is happening in the context of record high imprisonment in the US, where grossly disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos are imprisoned, and can't vote even after they're freed. As psychologist Elliot D. Cohen puts it in this year's book: "This system of slavery, like that which existed in this country before the Civil War, is also racist, as more than 60 percent of US prisoners are people of color."


HR 347, sometimes called the "criminalizing protest" or "anti-Occupy" bill, made some headlines. But concerned lawyers and other citizens worry that it could have disastrous effects for the First Amendment right to protest. Officially called the Federal Restricted Grounds Improvement Act, the law makes it a felony to "knowingly" enter a zone restricted under the law, or engage in "disorderly or disruptive" conduct in or near the zones. The restricted zones include anywhere the Secret Service may be — places such as the White House, areas hosting events deemed "National Special Security Events," or anywhere visited by the president, vice president, and their immediate families; former presidents, vice presidents, and certain family members; certain foreign dignitaries; major presidential and vice presidential candidates (within 120 days of an election); and other individuals as designated by a presidential executive order. These people could be anywhere, and NSSEs have notoriously included the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Super Bowls, and the Academy Awards. So far, it seems the only time HR 347 has kicked in is with George Clooney's high-profile arrest outside the Sudanese embassy. Clooney ultimately was not detained without trial — information that would be almost impossible to censor — but what about the rest of us who exist outside of the mainstream media's spotlight? A book release party will be held at Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph, in Berkeley, on Nov. 3. You can listen to Huff's radio show Friday morning at 8pm on KPFA.
Caption here (*required)

    Volume 47, Issue 02
    Project Censored
    Yael Chanoff

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synergy - January 6, 2013 03:39 PM (GMT)
What was that BS about freedom of the press? Obviously this American meme is only true if you own a press or are a media corporation. State control not needed when corporations censure themselves.

Time Warner drops Current after Al Jazeera deal

Al Jazeera's struggle to reach U.S. homes meets another setback after major deal to buy Gore's network goes through

By Natasha Lennard

Topics: current tv, time warner, Al Jazeera, Cable News, Media Criticism, News
Time Warner drops Current after Al Jazeera dealAl Jazeera English newsroom (Wikimedia/Wittylama)

Al Jazeera this week purchased Al Gore’s cable network Current TV in what the New York Times’ Brian Stelter called “a coming of age moment” for the Qatar-funded network in the United States. By buying Current, Al Jazeera seemed set to establish itself in the U.S. after struggling for years to gain purchase in unreceptive markets outside of New York and Washington.

However, hours after the estimated $500 million deal was made, Time Warner Cable announced that it would no longer carry the Current channel, and thus Al Jazeera’s new channel Al Jazeera America would not be distributed by the cable provider. Although the Current deal will still bring Al Jazeera into around 40 million American homes, the Time Warner move constituted a considerable blow for the globally respected network — Time Warner Cable reaches 12 million homes.

As HuffPo’s Michael Calderone reported:

    Joel Hyatt, who co-founded Current TV with former Vice President Al Gore, told staff in a Wednesday night memo that Time Warner Cable “did not consent to the sale to Al Jazeera.”

    “Consequently, Current will no longer be carried on TWC,” Hyatt wrote. “This is unfortunate, but I am confident that Al Jazeera America will earn significant additional carriage in the months and years ahead.”

Commentators have been swift to decry Time Warner’s move. The HuffPo banner leading to Calderone’s report read “gutless,” while founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University Dan Gilmor said the cable company showed “abject political and journalistic cowardice.”

However, a Time Warner spokesperson told Calderone that although there was no plan to distribute Al Jazeera America “at this time,” the company has “an agreement” with Al Jazeera.

As Stelter pointed out following news of the Current purchase, Al Jazeera has long struggled to establish a U.S. voice despite its stellar global reputation:

    A decade ago, Al Jazeera’s flagship Arabic-language channel was reviled by American politicians for showing videotapes from Al Qaeda members and sympathizers…

    With a handful of exceptions (including New York City and Washington), American cable and satellite distributors have mostly refused to carry Al Jazeera English since its inception in 2006. While the television sets of White House officials and lawmakers were tuned to the channel during the Arab Spring in 2011, ordinary Americans who wanted to watch had to find a live stream on the Internet.

    To change that, Al Jazeera lobbied distributors and asked supporters to write letters to the distributors — but accomplished next to nothing.

Instead of just using Current’s network platform to stream Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera America will be a whole new channel. Around 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States, while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English.

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email More Natasha Lennard.

synergy - March 11, 2013 01:28 AM (GMT)
Good old censorship in these United States.

The danger of suppressing the leaks
by News Sources on March 10, 2013 via War in Context

    Margaret Sullivan writes: Imagine if American citizens never learned about the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Imagine not knowing about the brutal treatment of terror suspects at United States government “black sites.” Or about the drone program that is expanding under President Obama, or the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans.

    This is a world without leaks.

    And a world without leaks — the secret government information slipped to the press — may be the direction we’re headed in. Since 9/11, leakers and whistle-blowers have become an increasingly endangered species. Some, like the former C.I.A. official John Kiriakou, have gone to jail. Another, Pfc. Bradley Manning, is charged with “aiding the enemy” for the masses of classified information he gave to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. He could face life in prison.

    The government has its reasons for cracking down. Obama administration officials have consistently cited national security concerns and expressed their intention to keep prosecuting leakers.

    “The government has legitimate secrets that should remain secrets,” Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director, said in a telephone interview.

    Journalists tend to view the situation differently, and not just because they want, in the oft-heard phrase, “to sell newspapers.” They see leaks — which have many motivations, not all altruistic — as vital to news gathering.

    Declan Walsh, a reporter who wrote many WikiLeaks-based stories for The Guardian before coming to The Times, calls leaks “the unfiltered lifeblood of investigative journalism.” He wrote in an e-mail from his post in Pakistan: “They may come from difficult, even compromised sources, be ridden with impurities and require careful handling to produce an accurate story. None of that reduces their importance to journalism.” [Continue reading...]


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