Category Archives: Deep Politics

Greg Palast offers acidic take on the BP verdict


BP, the half-billion-dollar corporate sponsor of the University of California here in Berkeley, was the target this week of a scathing 150-page compendium of findings that help BP liable for billions in damages for the Gulf oil disaster.

In dialog with Abby Martin from Breaking the Set, journalist Greg “The Hat” Palast offers his sardonic take on the verdict, in which the disaster unfolds like a The Stooges script, but with results far more tragic and widespread.

And would you believe there was another oil spill in another part of the globe, currently inflamed?

From Breaking the Set:

What?! Another Massive BP Oil Spill Cover-Up? | Interview with Greg Palast

Program notes:

Abby Martin speaks with investigative journalist, Greg Palast discussing the most recent penalties against BP, and aspects of the company’s criminality that have been largely overlooked by the rest of the media including a massive oil spill cover-up in the Caspian Sea.

Image of the day: Remembering the other 9/11


We repeat a short item that has been one of our most popular posts ever:

BLOG 12 September other 911You know, the CIA/Nixon-backed 1973 military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of socialist President Salvador Allende in Chile and resulted in 60,000 deaths. Via PRAWN, the Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network.

InSecurityWatch: War, law, cops, hacks, zones


We begin today’s walk on the dark side with the latest in Obama’s drive to push Japan back into the past, via Reuters:

Exclusive: Japan, U.S. discussing offensive military capability for Tokyo – Japan officials

Japan and the United States are exploring the possibility of Tokyo acquiring offensive weapons that would allow Japan to project power far beyond its borders, Japanese officials said, a move that would likely infuriate China.

While Japan’s intensifying rivalry with China dominates the headlines, Tokyo’s focus would be the ability to take out North Korean missile bases, said three Japanese officials involved in the process.

They said Tokyo was holding the informal, previously undisclosed talks with Washington about capabilities that would mark an enhancement of military might for a country that has not fired a shot in anger since its defeat in World War Two.

From BuzzFeed, another blast from the past:

Obama Will Fight ISIS With George W. Bush’s Legal Theories

  • John Yoo: “Obama has adopted the same view of war powers as the Bush administration.”

By ordering the military into action without explicit congressional authorization, Obama is falling back, at least in part, on the same controversial legal theories of executive power that he once rejected.

Not everyone is surprised by the presidential about-face. John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer and one of the primary architects of the “strong executive” theory of presidential power, told BuzzFeed News, “Obama has adopted the same view of war powers as the Bush administration.”

In a preview of his speech on Sunday, Obama told Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press that he was “confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people.” Obama repeated that same line in meetings with foreign policy pundits on Monday and again in meetings with congressional leaders on Tuesday.

While El País covers blowback:

Spain raises terror threat level due to risk of jihadist attacks

  • Security forces to step up monitoring at airports, train stations, hospitals and government buildings

Spain’s security agencies are stepping up their monitoring efforts at the country’s airports, train stations, hospitals, government buildings and other key sites in response to the heightened risk of jihadist attacks.

The secretary of state for security, Francisco Martínez, ordered increased security measures as the government raised the level of the terror threat in Spain from low to high.

The latest crimes claimed by the Islamic State group and the progressive deterioration of the situation in Iraq and Syria are evidence of “a direct threat by jihadist terrorism against Western countries, with particular concern for US, French and British interests,” said the Interior Ministry.

The Japan Times covers the justifiable:

Protests, anger, doubt prevail at Ferguson meeting

Elected leaders in the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white police officer hoped to use their first public meeting since his death as a chance to promote community healing. Instead, they were greeted Tuesday night with anger, outrage and warnings of voter retribution at the ballot box.

Proposals to overhaul the municipal courts and create a citizen police review board were greeted warily, if not with outright skepticism.

“You’ve lost your authority to govern this community,” said St. Louis activist John Chasnoff. “You’re going to have to step aside peacefully if this community is going to heal.”

From Salon, revising the unspeakable:

Pennsylvania town will no longer evict domestic violence victims who call the police seeking help

  • Yes, that was a real thing that was happening in Pennsylvania — and still happens throughout the country

A Pennsylvania ordinance that targeted domestic violence victims for eviction has been repealed.

In addition to striking down the law, the city of Norristown will pay Lakisha Briggs, a domestic violence victim who faced eviction because she called the police to report the abuse, $495,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under the “nuisance property ordinance,” landlords were encouraged to evict tenants if the police were called to a residence more than three times during a four month period. Women like Briggs who called the police to intervene in domestic violence incidents were, under the ordinance, labeled “disorderly.”

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, sad and horrendous [see examples at the link]:

Misconduct at Justice Department isn’t always prosecuted

Dozens of Justice Department officials, ranging from FBI special agents and prison wardens to high-level federal prosecutors, have escaped prosecution or firing in recent years despite findings of misconduct by the department’s own internal watchdog.

Most of the names of the investigated officials, even the highest-ranking, remain under wraps. But documents McClatchy obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal for the first time a startling array of alleged transgressions uncovered by the department’s inspector general.

From Associated Press. Once it was jewelers, now fashion:

9 arrests in fashion hub money laundering probe

Federal authorities arrested nine people and seized more than $65 million Wednesday in a crackdown on suspected drug money laundering by Mexican cartels in the fashion district of Los Angeles.

About 1,000 law enforcement officers fanned out across the city’s downtown to search dozens of businesses suspected of taking bulk cash for clothing exported to Mexico as a way to launder money obtained from the sale of cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs in the United States.

The raids came after three separate federal indictments on charges of money laundering and other financial violations. Nine people were arrested, and authorities were searching for four others charged in the alleged schemes, including three in Mexico, federal prosecutors said.

Postmedia News covers spooky revelations:

Accused hospital fraudster Arthur Porter takes aim at former colleague Stephen Harper in new memoir

From his jail cell in Panama, accused hospital fraudster Arthur Porter dishes the dirt on his once-thriving political connections with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard in a new wide-ranging memoir that is bound to incense both Harper and Couillard while providing ammunition to their critics.

Porter, who at one point served as chairman of Canada’s spy watchdog, also provides details on the inner workings of the Security Intelligence Review Committee that is entrusted with the country’s most sensitive surveillance secrets.

Porter, 58, has been languishing in a Panamanian prison since the end of May 2013, fighting extradition to Quebec to face criminal charges alleging he was part of a conspiracy to defraud $22.5 million from the McGill University Health Centre he once headed over the awarding of a superhospital construction contract.

From intelNews, booby-trapped buggery:

Mystery spy device found in Lebanon detonates remotely, kills one

A mysterious spy device found in Lebanon was detonated remotely by what some say was an Israeli drone, killing one man and injuring several others.

According to Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV, the alleged spy device was uncovered last week by a Lebanese military patrol near the village of Adloun in southern Lebanon. Most of the region is firmly controlled by Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that governs large swathes of the Lebanese territory.

The report was later confirmed by the Lebanese Army, which said that the device had been attached, probably by Israel, to the telecommunications network belonging to Hezbollah.

And from Ars Technica, hardly iDeal:

iPwned: Mining iPhones, iCloud for personal data is terrifyingly simple

  • High-end tools, simple hacks can still make iPhone data less private than we’d like

Apple executives never mentioned the word “security” during the unveiling of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, and Apple Watch yesterday, choosing to focus on the sexier features of the upcoming iOS 8 and its connections to Apple’s iCloud service. But digital safety is certainly on everyone’s mind after the massive iCloud breach that resulted in many celebrity nude photos leaking across the Internet. While the company has promised fixes to both its mobile operating system and cloud storage service in the coming weeks, the perception of Apple’s current security feels iffy at best.

In light of one high profile “hack,” is it fair to primarily blame Apple’s current setup? Is it really that easy to penetrate these defenses?

In the name of security, we did a little testing using family members as guinea pigs. To demonstrate just how much private information on an iPhone can be currently pulled from iCloud and other sources, we enlisted the help of a pair of software tools from Elcomsoft. These tools are essentially professional-level, forensic software used by law enforcement and other organizations to collect data. But to show that an attacker wouldn’t necessarily need that to gain access to phone data, we also used a pair of simpler “hacks,” attacking a family member’s account (again, with permission) by using only an iPhone and iTunes running on a Windows machine.

As things stand right now, a determined attacker will still find plenty of ways to get to iPhone data.

From RT, they’ve got mail [yours]:

5 million ‘compromised’ Google accounts leaked

A database of what appears to be some 5 million login and password pairs for Google accounts has been leaked to a Russian cyber security internet forum. It follows similar leaks of account data for popular Russian web services.

The text file containing the alleged compromised accounts data was published late on Tuesday on the Bitcoin Security board. It lists 4.93 million entries, although the forum administration has since purged passwords from it, leaving only the logins.

The accounts are mostly those of Google users and give access to Gmail mail service, G+ social network and other products of the US-based internet giant. The forum user tvskit, who published the file, claimed that 60 percent of the passwords were valid, with some users confirming that they found their data in the base, reports CNews, a popular Russian IT news website

Defense One makes it clear:

Every Part of the US Government Has Probably Already Been Hacked

Consider the testimony today from some of the nation’s top cybersecurity experts before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

High-profile cyber breaches – such as those affecting Target, Home Depot and even celebrities’ private photos – trickle out on a near daily basis. But it’s clear the vulnerabilities aren’t relegated to the commercial sector.

When committee members asked Robert Anderson, the executive assistant director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services branch, how much of government hasn’t been hacked yet, he offered a stark reply.

Despite demurring that he probably couldn’t answer the question exactly “off the top of his head,” Anderson said any part of government that hasn’t been hacked yet probably has been hacked – and hasn’t realized it yet.

Nextgov covers hacks with an ulterior purpose:

Hackers Attacking Israeli Think Tank Aren’t Interested in State Secrets

The website of a respected Israel-based foreign policy institute — the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs — has been infected with code that is trying to steal bank account information from visitors.

The campaign looks like an “advanced persistent threat-style attack” devised to siphon intelligence from government officials browsing the site, but “the threat is ultimately designed to pilfer banking credentials,” Kaspersky Lab reports.

The cyber strike against the think tank is part of a larger operation. Users who visit are redirected through a chain of seemingly innocuous sites affiliated with the music industry and law firms. Ultimately, users are led to a malicious server located in Russia.

And from PandoDaily, uninformed consent:

Study: 85% of mobile apps fail to disclose how they use consumer data

It sometimes seems like every new product begs the same question: Is using this worth giving up whatever privacy I have left?

So many applications and websites request or require access to address books, location history, contact information, and other data that the idea that we even have any privacy left can seem ridiculous. But the important thing is in the asking — it’s better to give that information over willingly than to have it stolen without our knowledge or consent.

Unfortunately, many application developers haven’t learned this lesson. The Global Privacy Enforcement Network — a group meant to enforce privacy laws across borders — studied 1,200 mobile apps and found that many of them gather data without a consumer’s informed consent.

After the jump, on to Asia, with Chinese censorship, China admonishes, more submarine anxieties and anticipation in Vietnam and Taiwan, claim-staking expansion and anger, a Tainwanese espionage conviction, and growing belief in the inevitably of a Sino/Japanese war. . . Continue reading

Race and America’s growing wealth disparity


Here’s a fascinating interview by Sharmini Peries of The Real News Network with john a. powell, who holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion at the University of California, Berkeley where he also serves as director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and as Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

The subject is that grievous economic injustice borne by ethnic minorities — most grievously by African Americans as the result of the triumph of neoliberalism in the United States.

And note in particular what he says about good old UC Berkeley in the final paragraph of the transcript excerpt below:

From The Real News Network:

Federal Reserve Data Shows Growing Wealth Gap Based on Race

From the transcript:

POWELL: Well, the United States prided itself from its very beginning on being a country based on equality. It was in our Declaration of Independence. We as a country distinguished ourselves from England, where they had a very clear class system. And there was a sense that for white men in particular you could actually make anything of yourself. You could move, you could go get land. Now, there was the small problem that the land belonged to Native Americans, but still you could go get land. You could start a business. And to some extent that was true for white Americans. So the Horatio Algers story, which all of us has heard, although the person who wrote the story was born modest and died modestly, so he didn’t actually live it out, but the myth that we actually was a mobile society had some reality to it, up until about World War I, that we were more mobile than most of Europe, certainly more mobile than England. Now social mobility in the United States is probably near the bottom for developed countries. And that’s been true and growing since about 1970. So we still hold on to the myth, but it’s no longer reality.

And part of it is a function of our social policies. So the big thing is education and investing in people and making education really open for all. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer. Well, today, education is actually producing inequality. It’s not producing equality.

PERIES: How is that? Can you explain that a bit more?

POWELL: Well, two ways. First of all, as I said early, the myth was true for white men from after the New Deal. And then, after World War II, we had an effort to actually educate millions of servicemen, the G.I. Bill. Now, this actually didn’t say servicemen, but 90 percent of them were men, I think 98 percent. And so you got a chance to go to college, you got a chance to get a loan, you got a chance to be part of the American dream. And the American middle class exploded. But it was racially coded. It was largely for white men. Blacks and women were locked out.

And then, over the 1950s, blacks, women, Latinos, other groups started coming in as well. The reach of education, the reach of some of those programs, through fighting, through civil rights, through struggle. So it wasn’t that America just opened up. It started opening up. We had Brown v. Board of Education, we had sort of a crumbling of Jim Crow, which wasn’t simply about isolating people based on race; it was about isolating people from opportunity. So those opportunities became open or started opening up.

In the late ‘60s, with the election of President Nixon, those opportunities closed. So schools today are as segregated as they were in the 1960s. Elite schools–I teach at Berkeley. We have a very small number of African-American students. And it’s the elite schools in many ways that was the ladder to higher opportunity. And so all across the country we see a retrenchment for blacks, for Latinos, certainly for Native Americans. Asians are mixed. And the country simply is not doing anything about it. In fact, it’s trying very hard not to notice. And we now have racial segregation in schools. We have racial segregation in neighborhoods. And neighborhoods are the hub of opportunity. What neighborhood you live in determines what kind of park you have, if you have someplace to shop for food, where you go to school, is it safe. So the neighborhoods have been vastly retrenching in terms of segregation. And we had redlining. And so this whole mechanism of reproducing inequality is done largely through neighborhoods. There’s a saying that says in India they have the caste system, in England they have class. In the United States, they have zoning. And so when we look at what happened with the housing crisis, it was unevenly distributed, largely because of the segregated patterns throughout the neighborhoods.

InSecurityWatch: War, pols, spies, hacks, zones


Lots of ground to cover and some very interesting stories from the world of deep politics, spooks, hacks, blunders, and the Asian Game of Zones.

First up, from the New York Times, ignorance of history or simply slippery politics?:

A President Whose Assurances Have Come Back to Haunt Him

The comment that has caused Mr. Obama the most grief in recent days was his judgment about groups like ISIS. In an interview last winter with David Remnick of The New Yorker, Mr. Obama sought to make the point that not every terrorist group is a threat like Al Qaeda, requiring extraordinary American action.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Remnick. He drew a distinction between Al Qaeda and “jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

Asked about that by Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” last weekend, Mr. Obama denied that he necessarily meant ISIS. “Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to ISIL,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.

“I’ve said that regionally, there were a whole series of organizations that were focused primarily locally — weren’t focused on homeland, because I think a lot of us, when we think about terrorism, the model is Osama bin Laden and 9/11,” Mr. Obama said. And some groups evolve, he noted. “They’re not a JV team,” he added of ISIS.

But the transcript of the New Yorker interview showed that Mr. Obama made his JV team comment directly after being asked about terrorists in Iraq, Syria and Africa, which would include ISIS. After Mr. Obama’s initial answer, Mr. Remnick pointed out that “that JV team just took over Fallujah,” a city in western Iraq seized by ISIS. Mr. Obama replied that terrorism in many places around the world was not necessarily “a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”

From Want China Times, blowback metastasis:

Influence of ISIS felt in China, Southeast Asia

The influence of the brutal jihadist group known as the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), may be spreading in Southeast Asia and China despite strong opposition from governments in the region.

According to a report from Singapore’s New Straits Times, Malaysian security authorities have identified four new terror groups that have the same broad goals as Islamic State and may eventually join forces to carve out territory in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to form an independent, unified “super” Islamic caliphate to rule parts of Southeast Asia.

The four organizations, identified by the acronyms BKAW, BAJ, Dimzia and ADI, are said to have strong links with similar groups active in the Southeast Asia region as well as Islamic State and the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

From RT, maybe they should bust ‘em for trademark infractions:

‘Brand suicide’: Companies sharing name with ISIS forced to rebrand

Program note:

RT looks at how sharing the same name as the infamous extremist group is causing a major headache for a number of companies with no links to jihad. And it’s not just corporations that are suffering because of being called ISIS.

From the London Daily Mail, another intellectual property assault?:

ISIS declares war on Twitter: Terror group warns employees they will be assassinated for closing down Islamist propaganda accounts

  • Jerusalem-based group connected to ISIS tweeted threat to Twitter
  • Called on ‘lone wolves’ to assassinate employees for closing accounts
  • Issued specific warning to staff at headquarters in Silicon Valley
  • The social media site is a key platform for the group’s propaganda

From Reuters, blowback in Africa continues to rage:

Battle for Benghazi could break up Libya

Pro-government Libyan forces, already reeling from the fall of the capital, are fighting to prevent Islamist militants from seizing the eastern city of Benghazi and splitting the North African country into three warring parts.

Three weeks after losing Tripoli to a different militia, the army now faces an offensive in Libya’s second-largest city from the Islamists of Ansar al-Sharia, which has overrun special forces bases and is attacking Benghazi airport.

Losing the port city would not only leave the government looking impotent and irrelevant. It would also increase the risk of the country crumbling into de facto autonomous regions: the militants demand Islamist rule, while other armed groups want greater powers for the eastern region they call by its ancient name of Cyrenaica.

From Want China Times, recognition:

US planned industrial espionage against China, Russia: report

Though the United States claims that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage to benefit American corporations, a secret document issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that Washington had plans to steal information from corporations in China, Russia, India and Iran, says the Intercept, a news platform established to report on the documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The secret document known as 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review anticipates a series of potential scenarios that the United States may face by 2025 from China, Russia, India and Iran. “One of the principal threats raised in the report is a scenario in which the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips”— in particular, that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of US corporations,” said the report.

It then recommended that the US government launch a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through clandestine penetration and counterintelligence. Furthermore, the report envisions cyber operations penetrating covert centers of innovation such as R&D facilities. The report also suggested the use of cyber espionage to bolster the competitive advantage of American corporations.

From the Guardian, takin’ it to court:

‘Five Eyes’ surveillance pact should be published, Strasbourg court told

  • Appeal lodged at European court of human rights for disclosure of intelligence sharing policies of UK and foreign agencies

The secret “Five Eyes” treaty that authorises intelligence sharing between the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand should be published, according to an appeal lodged on Tuesday at the European court of human rights.

The application by Privacy International (PI), which campaigns on issues of surveillance, to the Strasbourg court is the latest in a series of legal challenges following the revelations of the US whistleblower Edward Snowden aimed at forcing the government to disclose details of its surveillance policies.

The civil liberties group alleges that the UK is violating the right to access information by “refusing to disclose the documents that have an enormous impact on human rights in the UK and abroad”.

Network World lobbies:

Tech industry groups ask US Senate to ‘swiftly pass’ NSA curbs

Tech industry organizations have written a letter to leaders in the U.S. Senate, to ask them to swiftly pass the USA Freedom Act, legislation that is expected to end the collection of bulk domestic phone data by the National Security Agency.

Disclosures about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs since June 2013 have led to an erosion of public trust in the U.S. government and the U.S. technology sector, anti-software piracy group BSA, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Reform Government Surveillance and the Software and Information Industry Association wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell on Monday.

Reforms contained in the USA Freedom Act “will send a clear signal to the international community and to the American people that government surveillance programs are narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight,” the industry groups added.

But California’s plutocratic senator suggest a politically convenient delay, via the Guardian:

Feinstein: CIA torture report will be delayed as Democrats decide redactions

  • Though 600-page report was planned for September, top senator says arguments may not finish until after midterms

The public release of a long-awaited US Senate report detailing the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques could be held up for weeks as the Senate Intelligence Committee and Obama administration negotiate what material can be included in the document, the committee’s chairwoman said on Monday.

The committee had hoped to release its 600-page summary of the report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of tactics many label as “torture” before Congress left for its August recess, a target that was pushed to September as discussions continued.

On Monday, as Congress returned from its five-week break, Senator Dianne Feinstein said the document would not be released this week, and might not come out before lawmakers leave later this month to campaign for the 4 November congressional elections.

Vice News covers a homicidal excuse:

A Justice Department Memo Provides the CIA’s Legal Justification to Kill a US Citizen

“This white paper sets forth the legal basis upon which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could use lethal force in Yemen against a United States citizen who senior officials reasonably determined was a senior leader of al-Qaida or an associated force of al-Qaida.”

So begins a 22-page, heavily redacted, previously top-secret document titled “Legality of a Lethal Operation by the Central Intelligence Agency Against a US Citizen,” which provides the first detailed look at the legal rationale behind lethal operations conducted by the agency. The white paper [pdf below] was turned over to VICE News in response to a long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department.

It’s one of two white papers the Justice Department prepared in 2011 after lawmakers demanded to know what the administration’s legal rationale was for targeting for death the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen. The first white paper, released last year, addressed why the targeted killing by the US military of an American abroad was lawful. This second white paper addresses why it was lawful for the CIA to do so. Neither white paper identifies Awlaki by name.

The May 25, 2011 document is based on a 41-page Justice Department memo that lays out the government’s legal basis for targeting Awlaki without affording him his right to due process under the US Constitution. For years, the Obama administration was pressured by lawmakers to share the memo, but officials refused — and wouldn’t even confirm that such a memo existed.

From The Intercept, the usual suspects, pocketing loot:

Murky Special Ops Have Become Corporate Bonanza, Says Report

The U.S. government is paying private contractors billions of dollars to support secretive military units with drones, surveillance technology, and “psychological operations,” according to new research.

A detailed report [PDF], published last week by the London-based Remote Control Project, shines a light on the murky activities of the U.S. Special Operations Command by analyzing publicly available procurement contracts dated between 2009 and 2013.

USSOCOM encompasses four commands – from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps – and plays a key role in orchestrating clandestine U.S. military missions overseas.

Researcher Crofton Black, who also works as an investigator for human rights group Reprieve, was able to dig through the troves of data and identify the beneficiaries of almost $13 billion worth of spending by USSOCOM over the five-year period. He found that more than 3,000 companies had provided services that included aiding remotely piloted drone operations in Afghanistan and the Philippines, helping to conduct surveillance of targets, interrogating prisoners, and launching apparent propaganda campaigns.

From the Guardian, don’t hold your breath:

Police using military gear in riots could be forced to repay millions in grants

  • Senators express concern over scenes in Ferguson in review hearing on federal militarisation of local police forces

US police forces that use military equipment earmarked for counter-terrorism to handle public order disturbances instead could be forced to repay millions of dollars in grants, under a review revealed during the first congressional hearings into this summer’s riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Department of Justice and the White House were already investigating whether to limit federal programs that have showered local law enforcement agencies with armoured vehicles and military-style equipment in recent years.

But the Department of Homeland Security, one of three US agencies primarily responsible for providing the equipment, said it was now considering whether to demand that its grants be repaid if police are found to have broken a little-known rule prohibiting its use in riot suppression.

More from USA Today:

Senators: ‘Police militarization’ needs more oversight

The federal government is sending more than $1 billion a year to police departments across the country — in the form of equipment and grants — with little assessment of whether that aid is needed and with minimal follow-up on how the weapons or money is used, according to testimony at a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The hearing — co-chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to probe “police militarization” in the wake of the police response to protests in Ferguson, Mo. — focused on three federal programs designed to help local police departments respond to drug crime and terrorist attacks. Lawmakers and witnesses suggested those programs have run amok, haphazardly doling out military equipment and federal funds and transforming some local police into paramilitary forces.

Pressed by McCaskill and others on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, federal officials who oversee the programs testified they had no way to track any “military-grade” equipment supplied by the government or purchased with federal dollars.

Next, from Mother Jones, a story close to Casa esnl:

Video: What We Saw Before Being Kicked Out of the SWAT Convention

This weekend, my colleague Prashanth Kamalakanthan and I attended Urban Shield, a first-responder convention sponsored by more than 100 corporations and the Department of Homeland Security. The five-day confab included a trade show where vendors display everything from armored trucks to sniper rifles to 3-D printable drones. (We documented a few of the more remarkable offerings here.) It also involved the largest SWAT training exercise in the world. Some 35 SWAT teams competed in a 48-hour exercise involving 31 scenarios that included ambushing vehicles, indoor shootouts, maritime interdiction, train assaults, and a mock eviction of a right-wing Sovereign Citizens group. The teams came from cities across the San Francisco Bay Area, Singapore, and South Korea and included a University of California SWAT team, a team of US Marines, and a SWAT team of prison guards.

But on Sunday, at a competition site near the Bay Bridge, our coverage was cut short. A police officer confiscated our press badges, politely explaining that his captain had called and given him the order. The captain, he said, told him we had been filming in an unauthorized location, though he could not tell us where that location was. (We’d been advised earlier that it was okay to film so long as we did not go on the bridge itself.) After several phone calls from both me and my editors, no one could tell us exactly what we had done wrong, but Sergeant J.D. Nelson, the public information officer for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department (which hosts the Department of Homeland Security-funded event) made it clear that we could not have our passes back.

And the video, also via Mother Jones:

Inside Urban Shield: The World’s Largest SWAT Training Event

Program note:

At Urban Shield, a first-responder convention sponsored by over 100 corporations and the Department of Homeland Security, our coverage was cut short by police.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers another misbehavior:

Former Atlanta officer indicted for alleged brutal assault

A Fulton County Grand Jury has indicted a former Atlanta police officer accused of assaulting a suspect, the District Attorney said Wednesday.

Nicholas J. Dimauro, 32, was indicted on two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of violation of oath by a public officer and one count of aggravated assault for the 2010 attack, DA Paul Howard’s office said.

The indictment alleges that in 2010, Robert Wormley was returning to his home at 3 a.m. on Woods Drive when he was approached by Officer Dimaur, Howard said. Dimauro claimed that Wormley was illegally walking on a public street and ran when he tried to question him.

Dimauro apprehended Wormley behind a house on Hood Street, where the officer allegedly hit and kicked a man on the ground, later identified as Wormley, for 15 minutes, according to prosecutors. A resident of the home allegedly witnessed the assault.

After the jump, protesting a Mexican cop’s conviction, a clarion call for reform, a Confederate militia forms, remilitarizing the Axis powers, major league malware, cyberbuffing and cyberamnesia, terrorism allegations in Pakistan, a Chinese admonition, hints of Sino/American thaw?, neo-Nazi woes in Japan and the view from Beijing, a Sino/Indian feeler, verbal sparring over Chinese jets [and problems thereof], and a Sino/Japanese sit-down sought. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, drones, zones


We begin today’s tales from the work of the insecure with a not-so-surprising helping hand from the Japan Times:

Israel provides intelligence on Islamic State, Western diplomat reveals

Israel has provided satellite imagery and other intelligence in support of the U.S.-led aerial campaign against Islamic State in Iraq, a Western diplomat said on Monday.

Once “scrubbed” of evidence of its Israeli origin, the information has often been shared by Washington with Arab and Turkish allies, the diplomat said.

Israel’s Defence Ministry neither confirmed nor denied involvement in any international efforts against the militant group.

The London Telegraph has one possible result:

Predator drones being flown over Isil’s Syrian ‘capital’

  • Attempt to target al-Baghdadi, the jihadist group’s leader, comes as Iraq’s MPs back first government, appointments by new prime minister

US drones are being flown over Isil’s Syrian “capital” for the first time as part of a drive by America to target Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the jihadist group’s elusive leader.

Residents of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa have captured photo and video footage of remotely-piloted planes, which Western weapons experts have identified as American Predators, the same drones used in Pakistan and Yemen to attack suspected terrorists.

The US has not publicly stated that it is flying drones over Syria, and the sightings over Raqqa are the first indication that it is doing so.

While Homeland Security News Wire questions another assault:

State Department’s social media campaign against ISIS questioned

The State Department is advancing its anti-terrorism efforts on social media by reaching out to vulnerable English-speakers who could be recruited to join the Islamic State (IS).

The campaign emphasizes IS’s brutality, and, mockingly, advises would-be recruits to learn “useful new skills” such as “blowing up mosques” and “crucifying and executing Muslims.”

Experts say that there is a psychological error in trying to scare people off with threats that something might be exciting and thrilling. “If you challenge a young adult, particularly a male, with the fact that something might be especially difficult or challenging, you’re just exciting them,” says an expert in the psychology of terrorists.

From the Guardian, another sort of insecurity:

Petition calls on Obama to respect rights of journalists to do their job

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the New York-based press freedom body, has launched a petition today calling on President Obama’s administration to respect journalists’ right to gather and report news.

The petition, “Right to report in the digital age”, makes three key demands of the US government:

It should prohibit the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organisations; it must limit prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers; and it must halt the harassment of journalists at the US border.

In its preamble to the petition, the CPJ argues that incidents of surveillance, intimidation and exploitation of the press “have raised unsettling questions about whether the US and other western democracies risk undermining journalists’ ability to report in the digital age.”

And from the New York Times, insecurity that flows from the barrel of a gun:

The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing

Posse comitatus is not a phrase that trips lightly off every tongue. It is typically translated from Latin as “force of the county.” Anyone who has ever watched an old Western movie will instantly recognize the first word as referring to men deputized by the sheriff to chase down some varmints who went thataway. (Rappers and their tag-alongs later gave “posse” a different context.) The full phrase is more obscure, but the concept that it embraces is enshrined in American law. The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 at the end of Reconstruction and amended but slightly over the decades, prohibits the nation’s armed forces from being used as a police force within the United States. Soldiers, the reasoning goes, exist to fight wars. Chasing local wrongdoers is a job for cops.

But many police departments today are so heavily armed with Pentagon-supplied hand-me-downs — tools of war like M-16 rifles, armored trucks, grenade launchers and more — that the principle underlying the Posse Comitatus Act can seem as if it, too, has gone thataway. Questions about whether police forces are overly militarized have been around for years. They are now being asked with new urgency because of the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of a teenager faced off for a while against mightily armed officers in battle dress and gas masks. What the world saw were lawmen looking more like combat troops in the Mideast than peacekeepers in the Midwest.

And the accompanying online video from the New York Times:

SWAT: Mission Creep | Retro Report | The New York Times

Program note:

SWAT teams were created in the 1960s to combat hostage-takings, sniper shootings, and violent unrest. But today they’re often used in more controversial police work.

From the Guardian, insecurity commodified in Oakland:

Urban Shield: after Ferguson, police and suppliers consider fate of military-grade tactical gear

Giant black armoured vehicles, assault rifles, gas masks and drones: the modern face of policing in America is on display at a four-day police trade show in Oakland, held mere weeks after a fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri

“Warriors”, says the sign emblazoned in huge letters across the top of the Marriott conference center in downtown Oakland. It refers to the Golden State Warriors, the hometown basketball team who have their practice facilities here, but it might equally apply to the unusual gathering inside the hotel.

Sprawled across the ground floor of the Marriott, a trade show was under way that represents the modern face of policing in America. Hundreds of burly men (they are largely men), heads shaved and dressed in battlefield uniforms in black, green or camouflage are milling around in groups of 10 or 20. There to greet them are scores of weapons manufacturers and military-grade technology companies eager to win their business.

On three sides of the hall, giant black tactical armoured vehicles are stationed, wheels chest-height, sides armour-plated to resist an AK-47 round or blast of a roadside bomb, roofs decked out with spotlights, surveillance cameras and swivel turrets able to house machine guns. One of the vehicles, the aptly named Sentinel – 21ft long, 17,500lbs in weight, and costing $250,000 and up – was developed by a Florida-based company called International Armored Group that began supplying the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan. “With all that experience in blast resistance, we decided to branch off into tactical vehicles tailored to police departments at home,” said the company’s Sally Stefova.

The Guardian again, with the same in Spain:

Spain prepares for an autumn of discontent by buying €1bn of riot gear

  • Amid concerns about heavy handed policing, protesters will face a newly equipped force and truck-mounted water cannon

The Spanish government is readying itself for an autumn of discontent, spending nearly €1bn on riot gear for police units as disparate protest groups prepare a string of demonstrations.

Since June, the interior ministry has tendered four contracts to purchase riot equipment ranging from shields to stab vests. The ministry also finalised its purchase of a new truck-mounted water cannon, an anti-riot measure used during Spain’s dictatorship and the transition to democracy but little seen in recent years. Despite attempts by opposition Socialist politician Antonio Trevín to paint the purchase as “a return to times that we would rather forget”, the ministry said in its tender that the water cannon was necessary, “given the current social dynamic”.

The government’s spending spree comes as groups across Spain are predicting a season of protests. “We’re calling it the autumn of confronting power and institutions,” said the activist group Coordinadora 25-S which has its roots in the indignados movement.

From TheLocal.de, overly Aryanized?:

Police ‘must do more’ to reflect diversity

People from immigrant backgrounds are massively under-represented in Germany’s police forces and security agencies, which are not making enough effort to track the problem, a study published on Monday found.

Migration information service Mediendienst Integration asked all 16 state police agencies, the Federal Criminal Police (BKA), the Federal Police and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution about their workers’ origins.

Most states do not collect figures on the backgrounds of their entire police forces, and neither do the federal agencies.

In the states which do record such figures, numbers were low.

Ditto, from EnetEnglish.gr:

Greek island police chief snapped giving Nazi salute

  • In 1999, same officer fired shots at funeral of junta leader Papadopoulos
  • Hydra island police chief is photographed giving a Nazi salute in a transport museum in Germany, where such behaviour is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine

A photograph has emerged showing the police chief of a Greek island giving a fascist salute in front of a Nazi-era train in a German museum.

In the image, published in Ethnos on Sunday, Lieutenant Yiorgos Kagkalos, chief of police on the island of Hydra, can be seen with an outstretched right arm. Behind him, on a red locomotive, is a large Reichsadler, a stylised eagle combined with the Nazi swastika used as a national emblem in Nazi Germany.

According to Ethos, the photograph was taken on 13 March 2011 when Kagkalos visited the Nuremburg Transport Museum. The train appears to resemble a Elektrolokomotive E 19 12, a model of which is kept at the museum.

And the key part of said image:

BLOG Heiler

From the Guardian, stirring the insecurity pot:

DHS chief: ‘unacceptable security risks’ if Congress withholds border funds

  • Obama administration’s Homeland Security chief renews request for $1.2bn as flow of unaccompanied migrants slows

The Obama administration renewed its plea Monday for Congress to provide additional money to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border. The request seemed likely to fall on deaf ears as neither party showed an appetite to revive the issue.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that without the $1.2bn in additional funding for 2015, he will be forced to take money from other accounts, such as $405m moved earlier this summer from the disaster relief fund.

“This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks,” Johnson said.

From the Los Angeles Times, insecurity in the ranks:

Scathing report on Alaska National Guard forces out commander

The Alaska National Guard’s commander was forced to resign after a six-month federal investigation found that some members of the Guard had been ostracized and abused after reporting sex assaults and that Guard members lacked trust and confidence in their leaders.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell asked the National Guard Bureau Office of Complex Investigations to conduct the review. After receiving the report,  he requested  the resignation of Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, who also served as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The scathing 229-page report, released late Thursday, found that complaints by some sexual assault victims before 2012 were not properly documented, that the victims were not referred to victim advocates, that their confidentiality was breached and that “in some cases, the victims were ostracized by their leaders, peers and units.”

Reuters covers a body count:

Fueling drug gangs’ impunity, unidentified corpses pile up in Mexico

Authorities’ failure to catch the killers in the vast majority of cases or even identify many of the dead is largely down to poor police work and a haphazard patchwork of forensic services across Mexico.

It also helps fuel impunity and further violence. More than 100,000 people have been killed since former President Felipe Calderon ordered a military offensive against drug gangs in late 2006, a move that led to waves of extreme violence.

Despite repeated requests by Reuters, the attorney general’s office did not say how many victims are yet to be identified.

But partial figures from the National Human Rights Commission offer a glimpse: Between 2006 and 2011, more than half of the 40,000 people reported killed in armed confrontations were never identified.

On to the spooky front, first with the predictable, from National Journal:

NSA Reform Will Likely Have to Wait Until After the Election

Legislation to reform the government’s surveillance programs looks destined for a lame-duck session of Congress—and might not get touched at all until next year.

A bill that would curtail the government’s broad surveillance authority is unlikely to earn a vote in Congress before the November midterms, and it might not even get a vote during the postelection lame-duck session.

The inaction amounts to another stinging setback for reform advocates, who have been agitating for legislation that would rein in the National Security Agency ever since Edward Snowden’s leaks surfaced last summer. It also deflates a sudden surge in pressure on Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act, which scored a stunning endorsement from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last week.

The hard-fought bill has a wide array of backing from tech companies, privacy and civil-liberties groups, the White House, and even the intelligence community. But multiple sources both on and off Capitol Hill say the measure is not a top legislative priority on a jam-packed Senate calendar filled with other agenda items, including unresolved fights over a continuing resolution and the Import-Export Bank.

RT gets protective:

Switzerland ‘unlikely to extradite Snowden’, if he appears for NSA testimony

Switzerland will most likely guarantee safety to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, if he comes to testify against the NSA’s spying activities, Swiss media said.

In the document, titled “What rules are to be followed if Edward Snowden is brought to Switzerland and then the United States makes an extradition request,” Switzerland’s Attorney General stated that Snowden could be guaranteed safety if he arrives in the country to testify, Sonntags Zeitung reported.

In the document, the authority said that Switzerland does not extradite a US citizen, if the individual’s “actions constitute a political offense, or if the request has been politically motivated,” Swiss ATS news agency reported.

A different response in a different country from TheLocal.no:

‘If Snowden wins Nobel Prize, arrest him!’: MP

Should Edward Snowden get a Nobel Peace Award this year, the US dissident faces arrest if he comes to Norway to collect his prize, said Norwegian politician Michael Tetzschner on Monday.

MP Michael Tetzschner of the Conservative Party believes that if the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden receives the Nobel Peace Prize in December this year, then Norwegian police could and should arrest him if he comes to Norway.

Snowden has been nominated for the Peace Prize amid growing support for him to receive the award this year.

A counterprovocation from Canadian Press:

Canadian warship HMCS Toronto buzzed by Russian fighter jets during NATO military exercise in Black Sea

A Canadian frigate taking part in a NATO exercise in the Black Sea was buzzed by Russian military jets off the southern coast of Ukraine on Sunday.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson calls the incident unnecessarily provocative and says it risks escalating tensions in the region even further at a time when a fragile ceasefire is just taking hold.

The minister says the planes circled HMCS Toronto in a manner that did not pose a threat.

From intelNews, he shoulda been a Bush:

Egypt ex-president charged with spying for Qatar, faces death penalty

Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi has been officially charged with spying for the government of Qatar, in what Egypt’s state prosecutor calls the biggest espionage case in the country’s history.

In the summer of 2012, Morsi, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first democratically elected national leader in Egyptian history, after winning the presidential election with nearly 52 percent of the vote. But he was ousted in a military coup a year later, following widespread protests against him and the Muslim Brotherhood, and has been held in prison ever since.

Now Egypt’s state prosecutor has charged Morsi and eight others, including two former presidential aides, with spying on behalf of the government of Qatar. Egypt’s government accuses Morsi of selling classified documents “with direct bearing on Egypt’s national security” to the intelligence services of Qatar in exchange for $1 million. The documents allegedly included sensitive information on Egyptian military strategy, as well as tactical “positioning and the nature of its armaments”.

After the jump, the latest the Asia and the Game of Zones, including Chinese military budgets reimagined, Japanese sartorial stupidity in China, a Sino/Formosan realignment sought, another alleged Chinese line-crossing and a Japanese response, Heil fellows well met in Tokyo, and more opposition to a U.S. base in Okinawa. . . Continue reading

Berkeley’s benefactor and the Gulf oil tragedy


The explosion of the Deepwater Horison offshore drilling platform at BP’s Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April 2010 killed ten oil workers and began a massive oil spill causing massive environmental damage and leading to last week’s jury verdict that will cost more billions than it’s already paid out.

BP [nee the Anglo Iranian Oil Company] is the same oil giant that gave a half-billion to bankroll the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley, in partnership with the University of Illinois, following a heated debate and protests which we covered back when we were reporting for the late Berkeley Daily Planet print incarnation.

Illinois is, of course, the state that provided Barack Obama’s platform for his senatorial run, leading to his election. Obama appointed as Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, a physicist who served as head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and who played a key role in landing Berkeley BP’s half-billion [for more, see here, and here].

With that out of the way, here’s a report from The Real News Network featuring a Jessica Desvarieux interview of Steve Murchie, campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, on lessons learned.

From The Real News Network:

Better Oversight and Less Drilling Needed to Protect the Gulf

From the transcript:

MURCHIE: BP has paid a substantial amount of money already and is lined up to pay substantially more. You know, we have to recognize that this is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and that BP is primarily responsible. So they’ve already pleaded guilty to criminal conduct. They paid $4 billion in fines for that. There’s a process underway through the Oil Pollution Act for them to pay additional compensation to people and the public who have been damaged by their actions. That’s everything from a bed-and-breakfast or a hotel that lost tourists, to companies that weren’t able to go out and catch fish, to state and local governments who lost tax revenue because they had to close their beaches and their fisheries. And so all of those entities, all of those people deserve to be compensated because of BP’s actions.

What Judge Barbier ruled on yesterday was the civil penalties under the Clean Water Act. And this is above and beyond compensation for the damage. It’s above and beyond criminal penalties. These are the civil penalties that for a corporation are really where the accountability comes in the American justice system. And so Judge Barbier, after sifting through the facts very carefully, came forth with a 153 page decision that proved that, to his satisfaction–and that’s the opinion that counts–that BP was grossly negligent, which allows for the largest possible fine under the Clean Water Act.

DESVARIEUX: Well, let’s go back. Why do you think this disaster was even able to happen? What role do regulations play in all this? Do you feel like there was enough of that to begin with?

MURCHIE: I think a lot of people would like to think of BP as some rogue oil company that was out of control. And that appears to be the case, according to the judge. But we have to remember that the regulators responsible for oversight of the offshore activities and the oil and gas industry in general in the Gulf were very lax, terrible practices happening with the federal agencies being way too cozy with the industry. And for observers like Gulf restoration network, we felt like the BP disaster was likely to happen at one point or another, and we and many other people had been pushing for reforms of the industry. And, unfortunately, it took a disaster to even get a bipartisan commission to come together to come up with recommendations. And while BP is being held accountable for their actions, many of the recommendations of that commission have yet to be implemented.

DESVARIEUX: So we’re talking essentially, just so I’m understand you correctly, Steve, is that there hasn’t been really any significant change in legislation to protect communities and the environment after such a disaster happened?

MURCHIE: There have been some reforms. The Obama administration made some changes to the federal agency that has provided some greater scrutiny, and that’s been helpful. I think the main thing that Congress has actually done, which is potentially going to have great benefit to the Gulf, is passing the Restore Act. And what that does is it dedicates those civil penalties under the Clean Water Act to come back to the Gulf states to be used for restoration. And that process is underway right now, to make sure that those billions of dollars that BP is going to pay will be put to use to bring back the Gulf.