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    TRNN Replay: Revealing the 9/11 Conspiracy Would Undo the Entire US-Saudi Alliance - Sen. Bob Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt2

    The Real News Network - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:10
    Paul Jay asks Senator Graham if a culture of "not wanting to know" was created to prevent the conspiracy from being uncovered and to protect the role of the Saudi government

    Bono: Tax Haven Salesman for the Celtic Paper Tiger

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 09:55
    Yves here. Pop star Bono is a case study in hypocrisy thanks to his use of corporate-friendly tax dodges and and advocacy of creating tax havens as a viable form of economic development. Ireland exemplifies of how well, as in badly, this approach has worked.
    Categories: political economy

    Fighting the Demonization of Muslims - Deepa Kumar on Reality Asserts Itself (2/5)

    The Real News Network - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 09:10
    Dr. Kumar says after 9/11, with the ratcheting up of anti-Muslim racism, she decided she had to do something about it

    UN Report Finds Mass Surveillance Violates International Treaties and Privacy Rights

    The Intercept - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 08:32

    The United Nations’ top official for counter-terrorism and human rights (known as the “Special Rapporteur”) issued a formal report to the U.N. General Assembly today that condemns mass electronic surveillance as a clear violation of core privacy rights guaranteed by multiple treaties and conventions. “The hard truth is that the use of mass surveillance technology effectively does away with the right to privacy of communications on the Internet altogether,” the report concluded.

    Central to the Rapporteur’s findings is the distinction between “targeted surveillance” — which “depend[s] upon the existence of prior suspicion of the targeted individual or organization” — and “mass surveillance,” whereby “states with high levels of Internet penetration can [] gain access to the telephone and e-mail content of an effectively unlimited number of users and maintain an overview of Internet activity associated with particular websites.” In a system of “mass surveillance,” the report explained, “all of this is possible without any prior suspicion related to a specific individual or organization. The communications of literally every Internet user are potentially open for inspection by intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the States concerned.”

    Mass surveillance thus “amounts to a systematic interference with the right to respect for the privacy of communications,” it declared. As a result, “it is incompatible with existing concepts of privacy for States to collect all communications or metadata all the time indiscriminately.”

    In concluding that mass surveillance impinges core privacy rights, the report was primarily focused on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty enacted by the General Assembly in 1966, to which all of the members of the “Five Eyes” alliance are signatories. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1992, albeit with various reservations that allowed for the continuation of the death penalty and which rendered its domestic law supreme. With the exception of the U.S.’s Persian Gulf allies (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar), virtually every major country has signed the treaty.

    Article 17 of the Covenant guarantees the right of privacy, the defining protection of which, the report explained, is “that individuals have the right to share information and ideas with one another without interference by the State, secure in the knowledge that their communication will reach and be read by the intended recipients alone.”

    The report’s key conclusion is that this core right is impinged by mass surveillance programs: “Bulk access technology is indiscriminately corrosive of online privacy and impinges on the very essence of the right guaranteed by article 17. In the absence of a formal derogation from States’ obligations under the Covenant, these programs pose a direct and ongoing challenge to an established norm of international law.”

    The report recognized that protecting citizens from terrorism attacks is a vital duty of every state, and that the right of privacy is not absolute, as it can be compromised when doing so is “necessary” to serve “compelling” purposes. It noted: “There may be a compelling counter-terrorism justification for the radical re-evaluation of Internet privacy rights that these practices necessitate. ”

    But the report was adamant that no such justifications have ever been demonstrated by any member state using mass surveillance: “The States engaging in mass surveillance have so far failed to provide a detailed and evidence-based public justification for its necessity, and almost no States have enacted explicit domestic legislation to authorize its use.”

    Instead, explained the Rapporteur, states have relied on vague claims whose validity cannot be assessed because of the secrecy behind which these programs are hidden: “The arguments in favor of a complete abrogation of the right to privacy on the Internet have not been made publicly by the States concerned or subjected to informed scrutiny and debate.”

    About the ongoing secrecy surrounding the programs, the report explained that “states deploying this technology retain a monopoly of information about its impact,” which is “a form of conceptual censorship … that precludes informed debate.” A June report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights similarly noted “the disturbing lack of governmental transparency associated with surveillance policies, laws and practices, which hinders any effort to assess their coherence with international human rights law and to ensure accountability.”

    The rejection of the “terrorism” justification for mass surveillance as devoid of evidence echoes virtually every other formal investigation into these programs. A federal judge last December found that the U.S. Government was unable to “cite a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack.” Later that month, President Obama’s own Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies concluded that mass surveillance “was not essential to preventing attacks” and information used to detect plots “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”

    Three Democratic Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote in The New York Times that “the usefulness of the bulk collection program has been greatly exaggerated” and “we have yet to see any proof that it provides real, unique value in protecting national security.” A study by the centrist New America Foundation found that mass metadata collection “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism” and, where plots were disrupted, “traditional law enforcement and investigative methods provided the tip or evidence to initiate the case.” It labeled the NSA’s claims to the contrary as “overblown and even misleading.”

    While worthless in counter-terrorism policies, the UN report warned that allowing mass surveillance to persist with no transparency creates “an ever present danger of ‘purpose creep,’ by which measures justified on counter-terrorism grounds are made available for use by public authorities for much less weighty public interest purposes.” Citing the UK as one example, the report warned that, already, “a wide range of public bodies have access to communications data, for a wide variety of purposes, often without judicial authorization or meaningful independent oversight.”

    The report was most scathing in its rejection of a key argument often made by American defenders of the NSA: that mass surveillance is justified because Americans are given special protections (the requirement of a FISA court order for targeted surveillance) which non-Americans (95% of the world) do not enjoy. Not only does this scheme fail to render mass surveillance legal, but it itself constitutes a separate violation of international treaties (emphasis added):

    The Special Rapporteur concurs with the High Commissioner for Human Rights that where States penetrate infrastructure located outside their territorial jurisdiction, they remain bound by their obligations under the Covenant. Moreover, article 26 of the Covenant prohibits discrimination on grounds of, inter alia, nationality and citizenship. The Special Rapporteur thus considers that States are legally obliged to afford the same privacy protection for nationals and non-nationals and for those within and outside their jurisdiction. Asymmetrical privacy protection regimes are a clear violation of the requirements of the Covenant.

    That principle — that the right of internet privacy belongs to all individuals, not just Americans — was invoked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden when he explained in a June, 2013 interview at The Guardian why he disclosed documents showing global surveillance rather than just the surveillance of Americans: “More fundamentally, the ‘US Persons’ protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%.

    The U.N. Rapporteur was clear that these systematic privacy violations are the result of a union between governments and tech corporations: “States increasingly rely on the private sector to facilitate digital surveillance. This is not confined to the enactment of mandatory data retention legislation. Corporates [sic] have also been directly complicit in operationalizing bulk access technology through the design of communications infrastructure that facilitates mass surveillance. ”

    The latest finding adds to the growing number of international formal rulings that the mass surveillance programs of the U.S. and its partners are illegal. In January, the European parliament’s civil liberties committee condemned such programs in “the strongest possible terms.” In April, the European Court of Justice ruled that European legislation on data retention contravened EU privacy rights. A top secret memo from the GCHQ, published last year by The Guardian, explicitly stated that one key reason for concealing these programs was fear of a “damaging public debate” and specifically “legal challenges against the current regime.”

    The report ended with a call for far greater transparency along with new protections for privacy in the digital age. Continuation of the status quo, it warned, imposes “a risk that systematic interference with the security of digital communications will continue to proliferate without any serious consideration being given to the implications of the wholesale abandonment of the right to online privacy.” The urgency of these reforms is underscored, explained the Rapporteur, by a conclusion of the United States Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that “permitting the government to routinely collect the calling records of the entire nation fundamentally shifts the balance of power between the state and its citizens.”

    Photo: Trevor Paglen

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    The post UN Report Finds Mass Surveillance Violates International Treaties and Privacy Rights appeared first on The Intercept.

    Links 10/15/14

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:55
    Categories: political economy

    Wolf Richter: Toxic Mix for Fracking – Oil Price Collapse & Junk Bond Insanity

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:31
    Yves here. As oil prices have collapsed, the fundamentals of fracking, which was overhyped given the short productive life of individual wells, now looks even more dubious at current energy price levels. And given how risky the sector has become, cheap debt, even in this time of ZIRP, is no longer freely available either.
    Categories: political economy

    Bill Black: EU Austerity Witch Doctors Attack Each Other

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:20
    As things go from bad to worse in the eurozone the putative adults have begun to fight openly in front of the kids.  The putative adults, of course, have refused to act like adults for six years and instead have lived in a fantasy world in which austerity – bleeding the patient – is the optimal response to a recession.  As many of us have been warning for six years, this is a great way to create gratuitous recessions and even the Great Depression levels of unemployment in three nations of the periphery with 100 million citizens.
    Categories: political economy

    Maximizing Happiness Does Not Maximize Welfare

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:10
    Yves here. This post gives another vantage on the money versus happiness issue, this time through the lens of where people choose to live. And you can also find out what the happiest city in the US is.
    Categories: political economy

    Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire - Deepa Kumar on Reality Asserts Itself (3/5)

    The Real News Network - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:10
    Dr. Kumar says the roots of Islamophobia are to be found in a conflict between empires and economic interests, not a clash of civilizations

    Bombing of Kurds Shows Everything That’s Wrong with U.S. Foreign Policy

    The Intercept - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 18:25

    One administration’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Just ask the PKK.

    The militant Kurdish independence group, known formally as the Kurdistan Workers Party, suffered strikes from Turkish fighter jets against its positions in southeastern Turkey — even as PKK-linked forces battle Islamic State militants in and around the Syrian town of Kobani.

    Turkey, whose conflict with the PKK stretches back three decades, was reportedly retaliating after shells struck a Turkish military base. Deadly riots have also broken out recently in Kurdish areas of Turkey, fueled by perceptions that the Turkish government has been colluding to undermine Kurdish factions fighting in Syria.

    The PKK is officially designated as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the United States. As reported previously by The Intercept, the NSA under both the Bush and Obama Administrations actively aided the Turkish military in targeting this group and has provided intelligence used to kill its members.

    However, in yet another ironic twist to U.S. foreign policy in the region, this ostensible terrorist organization is now an important American partner in halting the expansion of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The PKK today in part represent the “boots on the ground” in Syria that many observers have said are necessary to any serious campaign to reverse the spread of this group. In other words, the Bush administration’s terrorist group has become the Obama administration’s freedom fighters.

    Despite this, and despite facing a shared danger from ISIS, the PKK and Turkey have not been able to put aside their differences.  Indeed, their conflict appears to be escalating to new heights. These airstrikes represent the first major Turkish military action against the PKK in two years and are likely to generate further reprisals.

    Though hugely counterproductive to containing ISIS, the Turkish strikes neatly illustrate how contradictory and incomprehensible American policy in the Middle East is right now. The United States would surely prefer that Turkey not bomb the PKK right now, but how can it object to attacking a group that the U.S. itself designates as a terrorist organization?

    It would likewise be hard for the U.S. to publicly protect other key entities willing and able to fight ISIS, including Al-Qaeda-connected militants like Jabhat al-Nusra, paramilitary groups such as Hezbollah, or countries such as Iran, which is both the the only state to show a commitment to fighting ISIS on the ground and an official state sponsor of terrorism in the eyes of the U.S. State Department.

    The U.S. has shown no real resolve in turning such groups into a real anti-ISIS coalition. Whatever American politicians may say in public, official U.S. policy toward the conflict in Syria largely amounts to “everyone’s a terrorist”. Recent American airstrikes reached beyond ISIS targets to other extremist groups, helping to unite against the U.S. various factions that had beforehand been at odds.

    The people on the ground fighting ISIS today in Kobani are the same ones whose comrades were recently being described as terrorists and killed with the direct assistance of the NSA. Turkey’s airstrikes yesterday are simply a continuation of these policies, and the natural result of such designations. If the United States is serious about combating ISIS, it needs to look past its dated and counterproductive FTO list and start reevaluating who its real enemies are today.

    Photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images

    The post Bombing of Kurds Shows Everything That’s Wrong with U.S. Foreign Policy appeared first on The Intercept.

    Missing Malala's Message of Peace: Drones Fuel Terrorism

    FAIR blog - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 16:04
    The new Nobel Peace Prize winner had some choice words for another Peace Prize winner's wars. But most media aren't telling us about that message of peace.

    ISIS in Texas?! ABC Fails an Easy Factcheck

    FAIR blog - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 14:45
    ABC This Week mangles an easy fact check, after a Republican politician claims that ISIS fighters have been caught at the Texas border.

    2:00PM Water Cooler 10/14/14

    Naked Capitalism - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 13:58
    Today's Water Cooler: Hong Kong and St. Louis protests, Cuomo's missing Sherman statement, and altruistic acts in the ebola epidemic.
    Categories: political economy

    Islamophobia and a Challenge to Bill Maher - Deepa Kumar on Reality Asserts Itself (1/5)

    The Real News Network - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:10
    Dr. Kumar tells Paul Jay that what Bill Maher said is a perfect example of liberal Islamophobia

    AIG Bailout Trial and the Deadbeat Borrower Defense

    Naked Capitalism - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 09:55
    It's déjà vu all over again. I'm only starting to dig into the AIG bailout trial by reading the transcripts and related exhibits. That means I am behind where the trial is now. However, that gives me the advantage of contrasting what is in the documents with the media reporting to date. And what is really striking is the near silence on the core argument in this case.
    Categories: political economy

    A Momentum Sparked Beyond Ferguson

    The Real News Network - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 08:10
    On his return from Ferguson, Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report says we must implement people-powered community control of the police

    U.S. Government Tells UN Committee on Torture: “There Is No Systematic Use of Solitary Confinement in the United States”

    Solitary Watch - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:00

    Representatives of “civil society” have been invited to the State Department to comment on a report that says the U.S. does not torture.

    Today, dozens of advocates will travel from around the country to Washington, DC, to take part in what are called “Civil Society Consultations” with representatives of the U.S. government on the subject of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

    As a signatory of CAT, the United States Government is required prepare a “Periodic Report” to the UN’s Committee Against Torture about its adherence to the Convention. In this report, the United States must respond to questions, observations, and recommendations for change issued by the Committee.

    The U.S.’s latest Periodic Report, prepared by the State Department and due to be presented in Geneva in November, runs to more than 100 pages. The government addresses 55 separate items raised by the Committee Against Torture, on its conduct in the “war on terror” and also on its civil justice system.

    CAT forbids “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for the purposes of intimidation, coercion, forced confession, or punishment, “when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

    Unsurprisingly, the United States asserts that it is in all cases in alignment with CAT. It’s safe to say that most of the advocates permitted to testify at the State Department today will differ, to some degree, with that assertion. Some have even created “shadow reports” to the U.S. Periodic Report.

    In what is pretty clearly a pro forma review process, each of the 21 representatives of “civil society” will have three minutes to address their concerns to members of the U.S. State, Justice, and Homeland Security Departments, who will then have the opportunity to respond. The entire session will take just two hours.

    For advocates working on solitary confinement, the key item comes on page 73 of the U.S. Periodic Report. Amid questions regarding the treatment of immigrants, the death penalty, police brutality, and prison rape, item 37 asks the U.S. government to do the following:

    Please describe steps taken to improve the extremely harsh regime imposed on detainees in “super-maximum security prisons”, in particular the practice of prolonged isolation.

    The assurances provided by the United States should be read in full, but we are publishing a few choice sections here. For example, the U.S. report insists that the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the courts, offers sufficient protection against the ravages of solitary confinement to all people in prison, and especially to children and people with mental illness.

    The U.S. Constitution, along with federal and state laws, establishes standards of care to which all inmates are entitled…U.S. courts have interpreted the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution as prohibiting the use of solitary confinement under certain circumstances, especially with regard to inmates with serious mental illness or for juvenile detainees. (Specifically, under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishments,” correctional facility administrators may not subject inmates to solitary confinement with deliberate indifference to the resulting serious harms, including suicides, suicide attempts, and serious self-injury. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 843 (1970); see also, e.g., Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F. Supp. 1146, 1265 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (using prolonged solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness can be “the mental equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air to breathe”)…

    People with mental, physical, and psychological disabilities are not punished with solitary confinement, the U.S. reports asserts:

    The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act) restrict and regulate the use of solitary confinement for persons with disabilities. Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12132, applies to state actors, while the Rehabilitation Act applies to federal correctional facilities and correctional facilities receiving funds from the federal government. Both statutes prohibit the use of solitary confinement in a manner that discriminates on the basis of disability instead of making reasonable modifications to provide persons with disabilities access to services, programs, and activities, including mental health services. See Pa. Dep’t of Corr. v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206, 210 (1998).

    Likewise, according to the report, children cannot be placed in solitary confinement (or at least, “only as a last resort”:

    PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act] restricts the use of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates and inmates who are the victims of sexual violence. Under implementing regulations, juveniles “may be isolated from others only as a last resort when less restrictive measures are inadequate to keep them and other residents safe, and then only until an alternative means of keeping all residents safe can be arranged.” 28 C.F.R. 115.342. The regulations also set time limits and other limitations on the use of solitary confinement on juvenile inmates. With regard to adult inmates at high risk for sexual victimization, the regulations establish conditions on placement in segregated housing and provide that if such inmates are placed in segregated housing, they are to have access to programs, education, work opportunities, and other services to the extent possible. 28 C.F.R. 115.43(a)-(b).

    In fact, there is “no systematic use of solitary confinement in the United States” at all! Not even at the notorious federal supermax, ADX.

    As stated in a letter of November 30, 2011, responding to a request from the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, “[t]here is no systematic use of solitary confinement in the United States.” Noting that the Special Rapporteur had cited the U.S. Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility as an example of a facility that places inmates in solitary confinement, the letter provided information including the following:

    Security requirements at the ADX mandate restrictive procedures for movement of inmates and physical interaction with staff. For security reasons, inmates in General Population spend most of their day in individual cells. They are not deprived, however, of human interaction. Inmates can speak with (but not touch) one another in the recreation yards, and can communicate with the inmates housed on either side of their cells. The Warden, Associate Wardens, Captain, and Department Heads perform weekly rounds so they can visit with each inmate. Correctional Officers perform regular rounds throughout all three shifts on a daily basis. A member of an inmate’s Unit Team visits him every day, Monday through Friday, except on holidays. Inmates receive regular visits from medical staff, education staff, religious services staff, and mental health staff, and upon request if needed. In addition, General Population inmates are permitted five non-contact social visits per month and two fifteen-minute phone calls. Inmates in less restrictive housing units are permitted even more social visits and phone calls. Inmates can also send and receive personal correspondence.

    Virtually everything we have published in the last five years on Solitary Watch refutes these assurances. So do the lives of the thousands of men, women, and children who have been driven to despair, to madness, to self-harm, or to suicide–all by a practice which, according to their government, is neither cruel, inhumane, degrading, or torturous.

    Links 10/14/14

    Naked Capitalism - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 06:55
    Categories: political economy

    How Obama Controls Media Coverage of the Administration

    Naked Capitalism - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 03:48
    This Real News Network segment describes some recently-exposed strategies the Obama Administration uses to control the press.
    Categories: political economy
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