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Forum Post: Break the Silence: A World War Is Beckoning

Posted 6 years ago on May 16, 2014, 4:49 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Break the Silence: A World War Is Beckoning

Friday, 16 May 2014 09:38
By John Pilger, Truthout | Op-Ed


Why do we tolerate the threat of another world war in our name? Why do we allow lies that justify this risk? The scale of our indoctrination, wrote Harold Pinter, is a "brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis," as if the truth "never happened even while it was happening."

Every year the American historian William Blum publishes his "updated summary of the record of US foreign policy," which shows that since 1945 the US has tried to overthrow more than 50 governments, many democratically elected; grossly interfered in elections in 30 countries; bombed the civilian populations of 30 countries; used chemical and biological weapons, and attempted to assassinate foreign leaders.

In many cases, Britain has been a collaborator. The degree of human suffering, let alone criminality, is little acknowledged in the West, despite the presence of the world's most advanced communications and nominally freest journalism. That the most numerous victims of terrorism - "our" terrorism - are Muslims is unsayable. That extreme jihadism, which led to 9/11, was nurtured as a weapon of Anglo-American policy (Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan) is suppressed. In April the US state department noted that, following NATO's campaign in 2011, "Libya has become a terrorist safe haven."

The name of "our" enemy has changed over the years, from communism to Islamism, but generally it is any society independent of Western power and occupying strategically useful or resource-rich territory. The leaders of these obstructive nations are usually violently shoved aside, such as the democrats Muhammad Mossedeq in Iran and Salvador Allende in Chile, or they are murdered, like Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. All are subjected to a Western media campaign of caricature andvilification - think Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and now Vladimir Putin.

Washington's role in Ukraine is different only in its implications for the rest of us. For the first time since the Reagan years, the US is threatening to take the world to war. With eastern Europe and the Balkans now military outposts of NATO, the last "buffer state" bordering Russia is being torn apart. We in the West are backing neo-Nazis in a country where Ukrainian Nazis backed Hitler.

Having masterminded the coup in February against the democratically elected government in Kiev, Washington's planned seizure of Russia's historic, legitimate warm-water naval base in Crimea failed. The Russians defended themselves, as they have done against every threat and invasion from the West for almost a century.

But NATO's military encirclement has accelerated, along with US-orchestrated attacks on ethnic Russians in Ukraine. If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained "pariah" role will justify a NATO-run guerrilla war that is likely to spill into Russia itself.

Instead, Putin has confounded the war party by seeking an accommodation with Washington and the EU, by withdrawing troops from the Ukrainian border and urging ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine to abandon the weekend's provocative referendum. These Russian-speaking and bilingual people - a third of Ukraine's population - have long sought a democratic federation that reflects the country's ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are neither "separatists" nor "rebels" but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland.

Like the ruins of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ukraine has been turned into a CIA theme park - run by CIA Director John Brennan in Kiev, with "special units" from the CIA and FBI setting up a "security structure" that oversees savage attacks on those who opposed the February coup. Watch the videos, read the eyewitness reports from the massacre in Odessa this month. Bussed fascist thugs burned the trade union headquarters, killing 41 people trapped inside. Watch the police standing by. A doctor described trying to rescue people, "but I was stopped by pro-Ukrainian Nazi radicals. One of them pushed me away rudely, promising that soon me and other Jews of Odessa are going to meet the same fate ... I wonder, why the whole world is keeping silent."

Russian-speaking Ukrainians are fighting for survival. When Putin announced the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border, the Kiev junta's defense secretary - a founding member of the fascist Svoboda party - boasted that the attacks on "insurgents" would continue. In Orwellian style, propaganda in the West has inverted this to Moscow "trying to orchestrate conflict and provocation," according to William Hague. His cynicism is matched by Obama's grotesque congratulations to the coup junta on its "remarkable restraint" following the Odessa massacre. Illegal and fascist-dominated, the junta is described by Obama as "duly elected." What matters is not truth, Henry Kissinger once said, but "but what is perceived to be true."

In the US media the Odessa atrocity has been played down as "murky" and a "tragedy" in which "nationalists" (neo-Nazis) attacked "separatists" (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine). Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal damned the victims - "Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says." Propaganda in Germany has been pure cold war, with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warning its readers of Russia's "undeclared war". For Germans, it is an invidious irony that Putin is the only leader to condemn the rise of fascism in 21st-century Europe.

A popular truism is that "the world changed" following 9/11. But what has changed? According to the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a silent coup has taken place in Washington and rampant militarism now rules. The Pentagon currently runs "special operations" - secret wars - in 124 countries. At home, rising poverty and hemorrhaging liberty are the historic corollary of a perpetual war state. Add the risk of nuclear war, and the question begs: Why do we tolerate this?

Copyright, Truthout.



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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Six Reasons to Be Afraid of the Private Sector/Government Security State

Friday, 16 May 2014 09:48
By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Author Interview


Beatrice Edwards, as executive director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), represents Edward Snowden and four other NSA whistleblowers.

Her new book, The American Corporate Security State, offers six reasons that people in the United States should fear the growing alliance between government and corporations to create a surveillance state. Truthout recently interviewed Edwards regarding her concerns about the growing collaborative encroachment upon privacy and - through the surveillance empowerment of the private sector - democracy itself.

Daniel Ellsberg writes of The American Corporate Security State: "Edwards is an extraordinary writer who brilliantly captures the essence of what whistleblowers such as Snowden have sacrificed their careers and jeopardized their personal liberties to convey." Get the book by contributing to Truthout here.

Karlin: Your priority recommendation for starting to put some constraints on the US corporate security state is the permanent defeat of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Why is this your number one goal?

Edwards: CISPA must be stopped because it provides legal immunities to private corporations that exchange information with US intelligence agencies. The right of US citizens, determined to preserve democratic processes, to sue corporations for damages related to these exchanges is crucial to preserving both democracy and privacy. As I discuss in the book, lawsuits - especially those alleging damages as a result of government/corporate data exchanges - are extremely inconvenient for corporations. They are time and funding intensive. They force testimony and documents into the public domain, which can be extremely embarrassing - even ruinous.

The telecoms and the electronic information industry are deeply concerned about legal liability and about negative publicity in this regard. CISPA would patch this remaining vulnerability of the corporate security state, and therefore the legislation must be stopped. Once corporations have legal immunity for cooperation with intelligence agencies, the task of reclaiming other rights that have been secretly annulled (the right to freedom of association and speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, for example) will be much, much more difficult.

On a tactical level, the permanent defeat of CISPA is an achievable goal in the short term. The legislation looked as if it was headed for passage in the summer of 2013, but the Snowden disclosures stopped it cold. After it easily passed the House in the spring, it was not even introduced in the Senate. Still, it is poised for resurrection, and we have to be vigilant.

You also would require that the NSA be held accountable for its illegal actions. How can this be achieved in the current political environment, when the executive branch and Congress are providing little more than the mildest of lip service in reining in the NSA?

In specific corners of the Congress, there is vocal opposition to massive warrantless surveillance. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has expressed a willingness to hold hearings or take action against the impunity of the NSA. Congressman James Sensenbrenner, a principal author of the Patriot Act, introduced the USA Freedom Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet Collection, and Online Monitoring), H.R. 3361/ S. 1599, in the House of Representatives. The legislation would end bulk collection of Americans' communications records and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, among other things.

The FISA reforms are inadequate, but they are a beginning. In addition, Rep. Barbara Lee has introduced H.R. 4608 to repeal the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force, which is a blank check for endless war. AUMF has been used to justify some of the worst abuses of executive power since 9/11 and has contributed to the fearmongering of the intelligence community. With Osama Bin Laden dead, Al-Qaeda a shell of its former self and our involvement in Afghanistan quickly diminishing, a movement is building in Congress to repeal the 2001 AUMF once and for all. Support for this comes from both the liberal side of the Democratic party and the libertarian wing of the Republican party. Budgetary constraints and resistance to wholesale surveillance are creating a new political coalition that can mobilize to roll back the surveillance state.

A coalition of NGOs advocating transparency and accountability is already campaigning in support of the Freedom Act and working to strengthen the recommended reform measures, but admittedly, the work needs to go further. Public awareness and attention are needed. An effective campaign against government impunity will involve the media - particularly online investigative journalism outlets, such as Pro Publica and the Center for Public Integrity - and a high-profile event that would feature the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI and the activists who participated in the 1971 Media, Pennsylvania, FBI break-in.

As a goal, the event will establish the parameters for a new congressional committee to examine the unconstitutional practices of the NSA. The coalition sponsoring the event and its follow-up will have access to much relevant information regarding NSA practices because of the Snowden disclosures already made.

It is clear from national polls that the public is increasingly engaged and alarmed about the dragnet surveillance to which we are all now subject. Supporters of democracy and privacy must keep the issue in the public mind and continue to draw attention to its implications.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

How do you compare the government corporate surveillance complex to the military industrial complex?

The answer to this question could be a book in itself, but the short answer is that the government corporate surveillance complex includes the "Systemically Important Financial Institutions" (SIFIs) and engages in coordinated data mining targeting ordinary citizens for purposes of pursuing profits and suppressing dissent. The military industrial complex is only a subset of the overarching gov./corp. complex.

The military industrial complex includes defense contractors, the Pentagon and the revolving door between them, through which top-level military and civilian officials in the war-making industry transit during their careers (and post-retirement). These officials and the lobbyists they hire influence Congressional representatives by locating defense facilities in their districts, which then require (and receive) continuing appropriations. Votes and profits go hand-in-hand, and this political-economic conglomerate promotes war (or the preparation for it) as a source of financial gain.

The government/corporate surveillance complex has expanded its scope into all executive agencies - and not only the Department of Defense. For example, the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department are fundamental elements of the gov./corp. surveillance complex. The Justice Department prosecutes whistleblowers reporting fraud in the military industrial complex (as spies), under the Espionage Act, does not prosecute high-level intelligence authorities for abuse of authority or corruption, declines to prosecute senior managers of SIFIs for fraud and ignores testimony and disclosures from whistleblowers who expose systemic corruption in the financial sector. The Treasury Department supplies public wealth to the SIFIs to prevent their insolvency, which periodically threatens them because of systemically fraudulent practices.

Lobbying by the gov./corp. comp extends far beyond the Congress, into the rulemaking at the executive agencies, so that if legislation represents the public interest, the rules implementing the legislation make the law inoperable.

The government/corporate surveillance complex engages in increasingly pervasive data gathering and mining for the purpose of controlling the population and raising profits through expert targeted marketing.

Given that both the state (through government agencies and contractors) and corporations (for marketing purposes) are massively data mining us, is there any way to currently protect our informational privacy?

Encryption can be used as much as possible. Intelligence agencies can break through encryption, but the break-in must still be done on an individual basis, and if more and more internet users employ encryption, bulk data gathering becomes impossible. Many of us believe that encryption represents the most effective, immediate obstacle to data mining.

Encryption programs, which are not especially easy to use presently, are becoming more user-friendly as the market for them grows.

Hasn't the growth of technological communication made us more vulnerable to surveillance? In essence, the more we use technology to transmit and view information and converse, don't we increase our exposure to surveillance?

We do. Technological communication, however, also represents the most effective and far-reaching means of mobilizing against gov./corp. surveillance. Like any technology, the internet is a double-edge sword. It can be used both for and against the public. The challenge is to appropriate its capabilities in the public interest. As the Snowden disclosures show, it is very difficult for the state to keep its secrets in the face of instantaneous global communication.

While we depend upon the right of privacy, the gov./corp. complex depends on secrecy. Our job is to preserve privacy in the face of increasing sophistication in the electronic information world, while minimizing government secrecy.

How did 9/11 provide a pretext for the exponential growth of the corporate surveillance state?

The attack of 9/11 gave the government a pretext for secrecy and surveillance. The public was terrified of a subsequent attack, and no one knew whether 9/11 was the beginning of a new borderless war or a fluke. Our government capitalized on this fear and presents its surveillance activities to the public as the price we pay for security.

As we all know, people who are afraid of attack readily surrender their rights - the same rights the government purports to defend by violating them. So the intelligence community tells the public that we must surrender our right to free speech in order to defend our right to free speech. We were never encouraged to debate this contradiction and examine the logic behind it. If we had, we would have realized that the government's position was senseless.

In addition, we now know that the intelligence community's dragnet surveillance has been absolutely useless in thwarting terrorist attacks inside the United States. The attacks that have been prevented - and the attack on the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which was actually carried out - were detected and solved through ordinary, coordinated law enforcement operations.

What is the fundamental conflict of interest inherent in the corporate surveillance state?

The government's surveillance operations are put at the service of corporate interests, but they are presented as operations undertaken in the public interest. Corporate power and the public interest are not the same. The government finances its surveillance with taxpayer funds, but then puts its operations at the service of private power rather than the public. This conflict of interest is concealed through government secrecy.

What is the fate of whistleblowers when they try to make the surveillance state more transparent?

Their fate differs according to the sector they expose. Intelligence community whistleblowers (Tom Drake, William Binney, Edward Snowden) are prosecuted or persecuted mercilessly in order to silence them. Whistleblowers from the financial sector (Richard Bowen, Eric Ben-Artzi, Eileen Foster) are simply fired and then ignored. After they made their disclosures, the Justice Department never contacted them. Bowen's disclosures were sealed and sent to the National Archives, where they would not be released until after the statute of limitations had run.

Do you have a response to the US citizen who brushes off concern about surveillance by averring that they are law-abiding citizens and have nothing to worry about?

Yes. First, law-abiding citizens depend upon access to a free press in order to preserve their democratic rights. Wholesale surveillance means that journalists cannot protect their sources' identities, which means that the press becomes little more than a mouthpiece for the state. That represents the end of democratic governance as we know it.

Secondly, the prevalence of surveillance creates a mentality of suspicion in the intelligence community: All citizens are potential threats to the state. You may be a law-abiding citizen, but you are no longer the party deciding that you're law abiding. A faceless bureaucrat in the intelligence community decides that. Your activities - communicating in a foreign language by e-mail, using encryption, having a friend who donates to a charity suspected of associating with "terrorists" will make you a target of the state. Once that happens, you will be hard-pressed to defend yourself, and your argument - that you're a law-abiding citizen - will not help you much.

In brief, wholesale surveillance eliminates the presumption of innocence. Once the state suspects you of association with a party critical of the state, you are presumed guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.

How much taxpayer money is being spent on the expanding government intrusion into our privacy?

Documents released by Edward Snowden show that the intelligence community has an annual budget of $52.6 billion. That figure represents an increase of about $40 billion a year since 2001.

Prior to the Snowden disclosures, we did not know this figure. We are obliged to pay for the activities of the intelligence community, but we have no right to know what those activities are.

Daniel Ellsberg writes of The American Corporate Security State: "Edwards is an extraordinary writer who brilliantly captures the essence of what whistleblowers such as Snowden have sacrificed their careers and jeopardized their personal liberties to convey." Get the book by contributing to Truthout here. https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6694/t/17304/shop/item.jsp?storefront_KEY=661&t=&store_item_KEY=2822

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

US Politicians Line Pockets With Funds From Ecuador's Billionaire Bankers on the Lam in US

Friday, 16 May 2014 10:54
By Josephine Simmons, Truthout | Op-Ed


"Money can't buy happiness" goes the saying. While this can be true to one extent or another, money can certainly buy protection from your enemies, as Ecuadorian billionaire brothers, Robert and William Isaias, have conveniently discovered. The Ecuadorian billionaire brothers were sentenced in 2003 in absentia to 8 years in prison on charges of embezzlement. They have since avoided punishment by lining the pockets of high-level American politicians to ensure their "safety" from Ecuadorian law.

But what is the deal with the Isaias duo? After a decade-long trial, an Ecuadorian court found the brothers guilty of defrauding Filanbanco, a bank they owned, after it collapsed in the 1990s. As a result, the state and its taxpayers incurred losses of over $400 million, with Ecuadorian citizens taking to the streets to protest the injustice. Fortunately for them, the Isaias fled long before the final judgment to enjoy a life of luxury in Florida - the famous hub of anti-Castro activists and billionaires living lavish lifestyles.

Repeated calls by President Correa to extradite the two fraudulent bankers back to Ecuador to serve their sentence fell on deaf ears, and, as it turns out, campaign donations played a large part in these developments. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has been thrown into the spotlight of the affair and is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his dodgy involvement in the immigration status of the Isaias brothers. Could Menendez have crossed a fine line in his protection of the brothers from Ecuadorian law? Or was he merely fulfilling his political duties in dealing with immigration inquiries and helping families in need?

NBC recently revealed that Sen. Menendez, under the pretext that the brothers' sentence was politically motivated, made several calls to the Department of Homeland Security and to the State Department to "protect" the poor and wrongfully targeted Isaias' from extradition back to Ecuador. However, these efforts were certainly not in the name of heartfelt concerns for the brothers, but rather in return for some political favors. As with many US politicians these days, it appears campaign donations were the main driving force at play for Sen. Menendez, despite his claim of genuine concern for the politically targeted Isaias family.

Indeed, records reveal that while Roberto and William Isaias were unable to make donations themselves (they are not US residents) their relatives did not think twice before throwing $10,000 at the Senator's 2012 campaign. Overall the family has donated over $320,000 in campaign funds since 2010, including to President Obama's reelection campaign of 2012, indicating that embezzled campaign donations reach the very highest level of our government

While the donations were not illegal per se, it certainly does raise some worrying questions regarding the intertwined system of campaign donations in return for political favors, a practice that America so viciously condones on the surface. Such revelations no doubt bring to light the corrupt and hypocritical nature of American politicians and their constantly unsatisfied hunger for money.

Through the process of political donations, the Isaias family has successfully bought the billionaire brothers the best protection money can buy - the government of the United States of America.

But let's not pretend this is one isolated case. Sen. Menendez was not the only US politician to feel lured by the lavish Roll Royce and million-dollar-mansion lifestyle of the Ecuadorian embezzlers. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) also fell into the same trap and wrote letters to US federal agencies defending the brothers' interests and protecting the two convicted Ecuadorian criminals. The Isaias family awarded Ros-Lehtinen $20,000 for her effective services.

Back in Ecuador, the president and people of the country are outraged by US ignorance and stubborn refusal to return the fugitives to the country to serve out their sentence. The Ecuadorian judge who passed the sentence held that the brothers were running a scheme that led to the ultimate collapse of Filanbanco. They were giving out loans to their own business and then forging balance sheets to defraud the government for bailout funds. At the end of the day, this cost Ecuador big time.

In a leaked cable, US Ambassador to Ecuador Kristie Kenny explicitly stated that William and Roberto Isaias, "fled Ecuador in 1999 after absconding with over $100 million in government bailout funds" and added that "the fact that the Isaias brothers continue to live a life of luxury in the US while their account holders are suffering in Ecuador has been a constant concern between the US and Ecuador since their flight." She consistently encouraged the State Department to deport the brothers back to Ecuador, but unsurprisingly, to no avail.

Despite several attempts by the Ecuadorian government to receive approval for extradition for two of Ecuador's most despised bankers, the United States continues to plead "lack of sufficient evidence" for a successful extradition request. Efforts were also made by the US Embassy in Ecuador to revoke their visas, but due to lack of results, several US diplomats believe that the duo is protected from above.

Leaving their own population and government financially distraught, the Isaias brothers calmly settled in Florida and since then, with the help of US politicians, have avoided facing the music in Ecuador. Their donations to America's policy makers successfully ensured that they were in the safe hands of the country's powerful and were even able to continue their work as bankers, despite their status as embezzlers and fugitives on the run.

And judging by America's handling of its own financial crisis at home and the self-absorbed money-hungry bankers who orchestrated it, it should hardly come as any surprise that US politicians hardly feel guilty for utilizing allegedly embezzled funds for their campaigns. The United States has proven to be the ultimate hypocrite. Judging the policies of others while failing first to tackle its unsavory practices at home, America has damaged its bilateral relations with other countries and its international obligations. For example, its reputation is suffering within the Organization of American States, which has a strongly worded section for fighting corruption, as well as its human rights leg, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, where members are claiming the United States is failing to abide by the same rules it imposes on the other members.

While Obama and his administration appear perfectly comfortable with demanding the extradition of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden for purported crimes against the US government, when it comes to respecting the requests for extradition of other governments, this practice holds little popularity.

The cancer of campaign donations has spread away from representing the interests of major companies and pressure groups and has found a new credit line in the form of condoning criminal behavior. Consent to such cringe-inducing developments is a symptom of the moral corruption plaguing our American political system. In a country where such practices are supported by the ruling class, the famous motto "freedom and justice for all" has been all but turned into a masquerade of smoke and mirrors.

Copyright, Truthout.