Category Archives: Media

John Pilger on torture, the Ukraine, and history


John Pilger [his website] is one of the best documentarians around, relkentlessly charting the course of imperialism since the days of the Vietnam War.

An Australian native who lives in Britain, Pilger covered social issues for the London Daily Mirror for two decades, winning awards and producing for documentaries for Granada Television as well.

As Noam Chomsky writes of Pilger, “John Pilger’s work has been a beacon of light in often dark times. The realities he has brought to light have been a revelation, over and over again, and his courage and insight a constant inspiration.”

In this interview by RT’s Afshin Rattansi, Pilger covers a wide range, starting with the revelations of the torture report and moving on the conflict in the Ukraine — revealing, among other things, that one major beneficiary of the crisis has been Joe Biden’s son, who sits on the board of a fracking company that landed a contract in the Ukraine.

Pilger’s historical analysis is critical to gaining an understanding of the crisis that as been sorely lacking the U.S. mainstream media.

From Going Underground:

John Pilger: ‘Real possibility of nuclear war’ – Ukraine crisis could start World War 3

Program notes:

John Pilger, film-maker and award winning journalist, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the headline events of the year, from CIA torture to the Ukraine crisis. He says the whole tenure of the BBC coverage of the Torture report was ‘does torture work?’ Modern British history is full of torture, and the British were ‘masters’ at it. When the OSS become the CIA, it split into 2 sections – one an intelligence gathering section, the other a covert operations arm for the presidency, the central part of which was torture.

He warns that the culture of apologising for the state, to minimise its responsibility, has ‘burrowed’ into the minds of correspondents, citing the defence correspondent on Newsnight failing to mention the role of Britain when appraising why the Middle East was a mess. He also says that parliamentary inquiries like the Nolan inquiry and the Chilcot inquiry are stopped before they can get anywhere, describing it as a ‘series of whitewashes.’ He talks of a ‘consensus’ to cover up, citing the arms to Iraq inquiry, where the only person that the judge commended was a Foreign Office official who described the Foreign Office as a ‘culture of lying.’

He says that the number of high-ups in the British establishment who committed serious offences ‘numbered in the dozens,’ and the only difference between the US and UK in torture is ‘in terms of scale.’ The real issue in democracies is ‘dissent being constrained’ physically on the streets. He believes it is ‘dangerous’ to protest in the way people did in 2003, whether you are an establishment figure, a journalist, or just a man on the street.

He says the Sydney siege, whilst horrific, still has to be deconstructed to find what’s missing from it. He points out that the Australian PM declared it a ‘terrorist act’ within minutes of it starting, when it turned out to be a lone wolf, and asks why someone with his history was on the loose. He argues that looking at the list of demands, they were all negotiable, and asks why force was used, and says ‘it seems very likely that the people in there were killed by the police and not by the terrorist.’

With Russia, he says he has never known the truth ‘so inverted’ over any one issue. He believes we are in the midst of a cold war more dangerous than the one he grew up with, comparing the raw propaganda of the prior to what we’re seeing now, with a ‘real possibility’ of a nuclear war. He compares it to Iraq, because both involved ‘fiction,’ the idea that Russia is attacking the West. He says oil prices were driven down by agreement between the US and Saudis, to wreck the Russian economy. He says it was NATO and the US that took over Ukraine, to the point that Joe Biden’s son is on the board of Ukraine’s biggest private gas provider. At a meeting in Yalta in September 2013, the ‘takeover of Ukraine was planned’ by prominent politicians and multinationals. There was a ‘coup stage-managed by the Obama administration,’ and blame shifted to Russia, who acted purely defensively. He says there is a ‘real prospect of war’ with a nuclear power and strong conventional military, and Putin has now started ‘talking red lines’ himself. He describes ‘extraordinary propaganda’ promoting tension and demonising Russia, which ‘may end up being self-fulfilling.’

John is crowdfunding his new documentary, ‘The Coming War between America and China’, about the perceived threat to the US from China.

You can find out more and contribute at bit.ly/ComingWar

Chart of the day II: Police body cams cut violence


From the Los Angeles Times, what happened when the City of Rialto, California, began to equip officers with body cameras [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Body cams

Big Pharma and ISPs hook up to stalk you


Yahoo! and other Internet providers are hooking up with the goal of learning all about your medical history, they targeting you with ads peddling expensive drugs.

It’s a particularly noxious use of metadata and amounts to a form of cyberstalking to our way of thinking.

BloombergBusinessweek’s Jordan Robinson and Sharon Pettypiece dissect the practice:

The Big Business of Selling Prescription-Drug Records

Since the days of 19th century remedies such as castor oil laxatives and mercury syphilis tablets, pharmacists and patients have had a tacit understanding: Whatever you buy is confidential. No longer. Drugmakers and Internet companies are quietly joining forces to link pharmacy records with registrations at websites to target ads to people reflecting their health conditions and their prescription drugs.

In a process known as a matchback, third-party companies assign patients unique numerical codes based on their prescription-drug records. Websites use the same process to assign codes to registered users. Then databases can be linked—without names changing hands. That lets pharmaceutical companies identify groups who use a specific medicine and send them tailored Web ads.

Drug companies say the technique complies with federal medical privacy laws because patients’ names are concealed. Still, critics see it as a breach of confidentiality. “Marketers are treating our health data as if we were buying a pair of pants or a book,” says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy group in Washington. “That’s unconscionable.”

And here’s Pettypiece describing the practice in a Bloomberg Business interview:

How Marketers Know If You’re Buying Viagra

Program notes:

Drugmakers and Internet companies are quietly joining forces to link U.S. pharmacy records with online accounts to target ads to people based on their health conditions and the prescription drugs they buy.

You have to wonder at what point people are going to say “Enough.”

That our most sensitive of personal is parsed through the metadata game should be troubling to everyone. Are you taking an antidepressant? Taking an antiviral for a sexually transmitted disease? If so, you’re fair game for targeting, just as surely as a drone operator tracks a faceless subject then fires off a Hellfire missile.

To quote an old friend, “This shit has gotta stop.”

UPDATE: Reflections on medical times past. . .

Born at the very first stage of the Baby Boom, we grew up an America where the level of inequality was the lowest in the nation’s history in which young white people looked forward to prosperous futures. [Not so for people with more melanin in their skin, but for one young Midwesterner, a world of possibilities seemed to lie ahead].

Back in those days, prescription drug advertisements were barred from television, radio, and general audience newspapers and magazines. Only medical trade journals carried the ads, in which glowing claims and increasingly glizty graphics were with a large gray mass of data, including [supposedly] all the bad things that might happen to patients prescribed the nostrum in question.

Consumers could find that same information, but since there wasn’t an Internet in those days and long distance calls cost big money [up to $100 or more in 2014 dollars], finding out meant a trip to the library.

In other words, it took a real effort. But in those days, you got to know your doctor, and if you were too sick to make into his [almost always his] office, he’d come by the house to question, probe, probe, and stick as needed. And in making that house call, the doctor learned a lot more about his patient, ranging from home cleanliness and even eating habits should he ask to look around the kitchen.

But these days, much of our medical world experience is commercially mediated, and we are inundated with medical ads tailored for our personal circumstances, our prescription intake monitored not only by online efforts, but also by those discount cards needed to get the good prices at drug stores grown big as supermarkets, with drugs occupying only a small portion of floor space.

Those cards track your every purchase, compile the data, then sell it to, among other enterprises, insurance companies which can alter you rate should they see you’re buying notable quantities of sweets.

The medical relationship has transformed for a personal interaction to a mediated experienced tailored to sucker us into with buying vastly overpriced drugs that are often only slightly tweaked versions of medicines gone generic after patent expiration.

While the doctor of our youth, the man in the white coat, exercised considerable power, it was a relationship tempered by community mores and values and legislation limiting the ability of corporations to direct hustle the afflicted.

Which model is the better to build on?

Quote of the day: The tragic plight of journalism


From Thomas Frank, writing at Salon about the tragic state of the Fourth Estate:

Between the crumbling of a landmark Rolling Stone story and the dynamiting of The New Republic, these have been a bad couple of weeks for journalism. But with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program on Tuesday, the whole doleful parade took a turn toward the comical.

 Chapter IV of that report describes the CIA’s efforts to twist public perceptions of its torture program by revealing certain classified information to journalists—information that was wrong, per the report, because its object was to claim great successes for the torture program where few really existed. But said information, regardless of its truth value, was still classified. That, in turn, set up an awkward dilemma for all parties: certain CIA officials wondered whether to do something about the journalists in question for reporting these great dollops of bogusness; other spooks gently suggested that they shouldn’t, since, er, the Agency leaked that stuff to them.

Behind this Keystone Cops farce was something deadly serious: Writers from some of the most reputable institutions in America were being conned into propagandizing for torture. One of the journalists named in the Senate Committee report, David Johnston of The New York Times, told the International Business Times how it worked: “Another way of saying it is they basically lied to journalists and the journalists didn’t have a lot of alternatives but to reflect their point of view in stories.”

Tis ever thus with journalistic scandals. The thing of value that we writers possess is our independence, our trustworthiness; those with power, meanwhile, scheme endlessly to utilize these things for their own ends. David Johnston implies that he was led astray by the impulse to let each side say its piece. On other occasions, straight-up financial considerations do the trick, as in the case of the op-ed writers who did favors for Jack Abramoff. Sometimes the journalists’ motives are more complicated, as in the case of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who used information provided by a Bush Administration favorite in order to persuade the world that Saddam Hussein possessed scads of WMDs.

Read the rest.

Rap News: Tacklin’ the New World Order


Direct from Melbourne, Australia, we bring you the latest edition of Juice Rap News, created by Giordano Nanni and Hugo Farrant, this time targeting yet another powerful meme.

From their YouTube channel, thejuicemedia:

The New World Order [RAP NEWS 30]

Program Notes:

The New World Order: They control the world’s governments; THEY rule over all of us from the top of the pyramid. While WE suffer at the bottom. Right? Today we blow open the truth about the NWO in order to shed light on this widespread conspiracy which has frequently been invoked to explain the state of our world. Join intrepid host Robert Foster as he takes control of the lever of critical inquiry, alongside special guests Russell Brand, conspiracy guru Terrence Moonseed, and NWO representative William De Berg, in order to ask: who is the New World Order? And how can we stop it?

Warning: This episode of Rap News has been in the making since we started the show, 5 years ago. No punches will be pulled, no quarter will be given, and no depth will be left unplumbed on this arduous quest for the harsh truth. Welcome to the New World Order, bitches.

Written & created by Giordano Nanni & Hugo Farrant in a suburban backyard home studio in Melbourne, Australia, on Wurundjeri Land.

The pyramid of the hierarchy of control/power is posted here, and worthy of your consideration [click on the image to enlarge for legibility].

InSecurityWatch: Cops, torture, hacks, zones. . .


And so very, very much more. . .

We begin with action on the domestic front from Reuters:

Marchers in Washington, New York, Boston protest police killings

Thousands marched in Washington, New York and Boston on Saturday to protest killings of unarmed black men by police officers.

Organizers said the marches were among the largest in the recent wave of protests against the killings of black males by officers in Ferguson, Missouri; New York; Cleveland; and elsewhere. The protests were peaceful, although police in Boston said they arrested 23 people who tried to block a highway.

Decisions by grand juries to return no indictments against the officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York have put police treatment of minorities back on the national agenda.

“We’re going to keep the light on Mike Brown … on all of the victims. The only way you make roaches run is to keep the light on,” said civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network organized the Washington rally.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers umbrage taken:

Police officers across U.S. upset at being seen as brutal racists

Police officers dispatched to investigate a 911 hang-up last week in an Idaho suburb were surprised by the reaction they got from the mother of the children who’d been playing with the phone.

“She said, ‘I’ve told my kids not to talk to you because you’re the people who kill us,’ “ recalled Tracy Basterrechea, deputy police chief in Meridian, Idaho, near Boise. The mother was Hispanic and her children African-American, he said.

Police in Meridian and other cities across the country are facing an angry backlash from the public after a series of police killings of unarmed African-Americans.

From United Press International, via the Department of Implausible Excuses:

Police officer disciplined for playing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ at protest

The man who recorded “Sweet Home Alabama” coming from a Chicago police car at a protest said he knows some groups use it as “an anthem of Southern pride and those Confederate-type values.”

A Chicago police officer said he played “Sweet Home Alabama” at a weekend protest because he is a University of Alabama fan, the department said.

In a statement released Thursday, police officials said the officer faces disciplinary action. The Chicago Tribune said it was told by a source he will be suspended for 10 days if Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy approves the penalty.

Gabriel Michael, a Chicago resident who was at Sunday’s “Black lives matter” march, which protested the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, heard the Lynyrd Skynyrd song coming from what appeared to be an unmarked police car. Michael said the car was in the midst of a group of police cars following the march.

Michael videotaped the car.

“Some of the lyrics in themselves aren’t racist … but I know it’s also been co-opted by groups, maybe bigoted groups, as an anthem of Southern pride and those Confederate-type values,” Michael told the Tribune. “That’s what was so jarring to me. To hear that playing from a police car at the end of a protest against police brutality and the murder of African-Americans, it was just jarring.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers police injustice compensated:

Cobb County to pay $100K to woman arrested for ‘F-bombing’ cops

Cobb County is paying $100,000 to a woman who police arrested for shouting profanity to protest their actions.

Amy Elizabeth Barnes, a well-known political activist, sued in federal court saying the county violated her First Amendment rights and maliciously prosecuted her when it jailed her on charges of disorderly conduct and the use of abuse words to “incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

She had been shouting “Cobb police suck” and “(Expletive) the police” and raising her middle finger while riding her bicycle past two officers questioning an African-American man outside a convenience store on Easter Sunday 2012.

“Ms. Barnes’ comments to the police may have been offensive, but no one in the United States of America should be chased down and arrested for their free speech,” said lawyer Cynthia Counts, who represented Barnes in her civil and criminal litigation. “The officers argued that it was a bad neighborhood and you shouldn’t disrespect the police because it could create issues,” she added.

The Guardian again, with the cost of another case of overzealous policing:

New York woman wins $1.12m after arrest for snapping military base for website

  • Deputy sheriff allegedly said he wanted to make an example of ‘right-wingers’
  • Jailed for four days and misdemeanor trespass charge was dismissed

A New York woman who claimed she was falsely arrested outside an Air National Guard base for taking photographs for a “Support Our Troops” website has been awarded $1.12m in compensatory damages, her attorney said on Friday.

“What they took from this woman cannot be measured in money,” said prominent Long Island civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington. “There is no reason to treat another human the way they treated her.”

He said Suffolk County sheriff’s deputies humiliated Nancy Genovese after arresting her in July 2009 while she took photographs of a decorative helicopter on display outside the Gabreski Airport Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach on eastern Long Island. A deputy sheriff allegedly said he would arrest her for terrorism to make an example of other “right-wingers”, according to Brewington.

From the the Los Angeles Times, oy vey:

San Diego council aide suspended for comments about protesters

A San Diego City Council member has suspended a staffer without pay for two weeks for referring to police-conduct protesters as idiots and suggesting – in jest – that she wanted to shoot them.

The comments were made after a council meeting Wednesday in which two dozen protesters indicated opposition to the decisions by grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and New York not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men.

Children in the group wore black sweat shirts with the phrase: “Don’t Shoot.”

In the moments after the meeting, Shirley Owen, staff member to Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, reportedly told a friend that the protesters were “ … idiots” and “I wanted to shoot them.”

The McClatchy Washington Bureau poses a question:

Will police protests fade like tea party and Occupy?

Protesters may find they’ll have to channel their energy into community organizing or other non-traditional means rather than rely on the political process.

“People today see politicians as spinally challenged,” said South Carolina state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee’s Southern Caucus. “They know we ought not to see getting elected to office as the only way to change the system.”

That’s a big change from days past, making the legacy of today’s protests uncertain.

This much, though, is clear, said Shackelford: “These protests are making people think about change again.”

And from the Sacramento Bee, a look at a step in the right direction, not a panacea:

Stockton Police Department demonstrates body camera

Program notes

The Mobile Field Force Operation of the Stockton Police Department has equipped its officers with body cams for over a year now. Only two of the more than a dozen law enforcement agencies in the greater Sacramento area equip police with body cameras meant to record officers’ interactions with civilians. Andrew Seng/Aseng@sacbee.com

Drone scare from the London Telegraph:

Drones ‘could be used as flying bombs for terror attack on passenger jet’

  • Terrorists could “with impunity” fly multiple drones to take out passenger aircraft, a leading expert warns, following report into ‘near-miss’ at Heathrow Airport

Drones could be used as flying bombs by terrorists to take down a passenger aircraft, according to a leading expert, who called for improved security measures to deal with the “gaping hole” in the national defences.

Prof David H Dunn, of the University of Birmingham, said that jihadis could “with impunity” fly multiple remote-controlled unmanned aircraft into the engines of a jumbo jet, causing it crash.

Prof Dunn was speaking after it emerged that a drone flew within 20ft of an Airbus A320 as it landed at Heathrow Airport in July.

While SciDev.Net covers a drone boon:

View on Migration: Drone searches aid refugee rescues

  • Italy has cut its migrant search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean
  • A charity has been using drones to spot migrants in trouble and alert help
  • But even the Migrant Offshore Aid Station must fundraise to continue work

While Italy has scaled back its operations, a new NGO based in Malta has been assisting migrants with the help of cutting-edge technology: Schiebel camcopter drones. “We are using equipment for humanitarian reasons that — up to now — has been used almost exclusively by the military,” says Martin Xuereb, the NGO’s director.

The NGO, called the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), was launched last April by Christopher and Regina Catrambone, two entrepreneurs based in Malta who committed US$2.64 million of their own funds to the project. Since then, MOAS has been using the military grade camcopters to locate migrants in trouble on the sea, and then either alert the relevant authorities or dispatch its own rescue boats. So far 3,000 people — mainly Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers — have received help from MOAS.

“We feel this is a global problem that should be addressed globally, and not only by nation-states or international organisations; we have a moral responsibility to ensure that nobody dies at sea,” Xuereb tells me.

A Scandinavian terror scare from TheLocal.dk:

Terror threat in Denmark has increased: PET

A new report from the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) says that the number of Danes fighting in Syria and Iraq has increased, as has the risk of a terror attack.

Using a small but significant change in language, domestic intelligence agency PET has warned of a greater risk of a terror attack in Denmark.

The latest threat level assessment from PET’s Center for Terror Analysis (CTA) states that “the terror threat against Denmark is serious, but the risk of being the victim of a terror attack in Denmark is limited”.

In CTA’s previous threat level assessment, the agency called the risk of a terror attack “very limited”.

Off to the war with BBC News:

‘Hundreds’ more UK troops to be sent to Iraq – Michael Fallon

Hundreds of British troops will be sent to Iraq in the New Year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.

The deployment – to help train local forces – will be in the “very low hundreds” but could also include a small protection force of combat-ready soldiers, he said. About 50 UK troops are already training Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq.

The Ministry of Defence said the move had not yet been formally approved. An MoD spokesman said: “No decision on troop numbers, units or locations have yet been made”.

Weaponizing water with Homeland Security News Wire:

ISIS uses control of water as a tool of war

Global security analysts have warned for some time now that water scarcity due to climate change will be used as a tool of war in regions with poor government.

The on-going wars in Iraq and Syria provide the first examples of the strategic and tactical use of water as a tool of war, as militant groups operating in both countries have been using water against residents of areas they control. “ISIS has established a blueprint that can be used by other entities to take advantage of drought and water scarcity,” writes on researcher.

“For all the conversation about ISIS taking control of oil refineries, one could argue that their control of water is even more significant, as it deprives the population of a resource necessary for daily sustenance and gives the militant group significant leverage over local governments and populations.”

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, treating us like mushrooms [kept in the dark and fed with bullshit]:

U.S. providing little information to judge progress against Islamic State

The American war against the Islamic State has become the most opaque conflict the United States has undertaken in more than two decades, a fight that’s so underreported that U.S. officials and their critics can make claims about progress, or lack thereof, with no definitive data available to refute or bolster their positions.

The result is that it’s unclear what impact more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria have had during the past four months. That confusion was on display at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing earlier this week, where the topic – “Countering ISIS: Are We Making Progress?” – proved to be a question without an answer.

“Although the administration notes that 60-plus countries having joined the anti-ISIS campaign, some key partners continue to perceive the administration’s strategy as misguided,” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the committee’s chairman, said in his opening statement at the hearing, using a common acronym for the Islamic State. “Meanwhile, there are grave security consequences to allowing ISIS to control a territory of the size of western Iraq and eastern Syria.”

Messaging the media with the New York Times:

Online Trail Leads to Arrest of Indian as Man Behind Posts Backing Extremists

Police in Bangalore, India, arrested on Saturday the man accused of being behind @ShamiWitness, the Twitter handle of a fervent and widely followed English-language supporter of the Islamic State extremist group.

The authorities had been on the hunt for the man, Mehdi Masroor Biswas, since Channel 4 news in Britain broke the improbable story of a clean-shaven Indian executive who it said lived a double life: spending his hours off from his food company far from any Middle Eastern battlefield cheering on the Islamic States’ advances and trying to rally Muslims from around the world to its jihadi cause.

The police said Mr. Biswas, 24, would be charged with multiple offenses, including waging war against Asiatic states.

And on to torture, first with enablers in white coats from the Washington Post:

CIA report describes medical personnel’s intimate role in harsh interrogations

As the tempo of harsh CIA interrogation of terrorism suspects increased in early 2003, an agency medical officer observed to a colleague that their role of providing an “institutional conscience and the limiting factor” for the program had clearly changed.

Medical personnel, the officer wrote in an e-mail, were becoming “the ones who are dedicated to maximizing the benefit in a safe manner and keeping everyone’s butt out of trouble.”

As described in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released this week, CIA medical doctors, as well as psychologists, were intimately involved in virtually every interrogation session to a far greater extent than was previously known.

Oops! Where failures of intelligence andmorality meet, via the New York Times:

Amid Details on Torture, Data on 26 Who Were Held in Error

The Senate Democratic staff members who wrote the 6,000-page report counted 119 prisoners who had been in C.I.A. custody. Of those, the report found that 26 were either described in the agency’s own documents as mistakenly detained, or released and given money, evidence of the same thing.

The C.I.A. told the Senate in its formal response that the real number of wrongful detentions was “far fewer” than 26 but did not offer a number. Human rights advocates who have tracked the C.I.A. program believe that considerably more than 26 were wrongfully detained. Another Yemeni client of Ms. Satterthwaite, for instance, Mohammed al-Asad, was left out of the Senate’s count, even though he languished for months in C.I.A. prisons without being questioned, was sent home to Yemen and was never charged with a terrorism-related crime.

“The U.S. caused a great deal of suffering to people who posed no threat,” said Anne FitzGerald, director of research and crisis response at Amnesty International, who visited Yemen eight times to talk to Mr. Bashmilah, Mr. Asad and others who appeared to be former C.I.A. detainees. “International standards are there for a reason — they protect everyone.”

From the Hill, a damaging admission:

Bush attorney general says CIA overstepped legal guidance

Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Friday that it appeared that the Central Intelligence Agency had overstepped Justice Department guidance offered by the agency on the use of harsh interrogation techniques.

“You know, we provided a guidance, and, you know, it was up to the CIA to comply with that guidance. As I started hearing about some of the items in the report, I became a little — I became troubled, because some of those things, some of what was being referenced appear beyond the guidance,” Gonzales said on NewsMaxTV’s “Steve Malzberg Show.
Gonzales was White House counsel when the Justice Department issued its memos on the CIA’s ability to use torture. He later became Attorney General.

He also said that the drone program — which President Obama has supported — was likely as damaging to America’s reputation abroad as waterboarding.

VICE News notes context:

CIA Torture Was No ‘Rash’ Mistake

This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed this with the release of its 500-page executive summary of its $40 million report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program: broken bones stood on, forced rectal feeding, near drowning. On it went, because no one wanted to be “that guy” who said “enough.” Anyone who did was crushed.

In the polemic and fictional world of Zero Dark Thirty — and in the minds of real-life politicians — this barbarism effectively served a dangerous political requirement to find the monster in the cave: Torturing bad guys would lead us to bin Laden. Of course, as the report found, torture did not actually lead us to that prize — but let’s imagine that by some unhappy accident, it did. Would we then rest easy with the fact that American agents systematically, and with ample funding and support, became torturers? Would it have been worthwhile to waterboard, and freeze, and beat, and so much more? All for an infamous corpse in Abbottabad, tossed out the chambers of the sea.

The answer is no. We play a dangerous game in decrying torture because it is ineffective and not because it is torture. We also, in focusing on the failure of CIA torture in getting results, give an easy pass to the recent historical context that birthed the interrogation program. The widespread use of torture was a vile consequence; the problem was a paranoid national security ideology that would, did, and does justify any violation of rights and liberties under the pretext of fighting terror. To hold itself accountable in any honest way, which it will not, the US must admit that it was wrong because it perpetrated crimes. But beyond that, the country must face the fact that after 9/11, it would have done anything — torture, and much more.

The Guardian covers Old Blighty blowback:

Britain convulsed by its dirty secret in wake of CIA torture report

  • Senate report on rendition contrasts with recalcitrant UK, whose judge-led inquiry was shut down by Cameron

In September 2005, on the day the Guardian published its first edition in the new Berliner format, the newspaper informed its readers that a fleet of CIA aircraft had been using the UK’s airports during the agency’s so-called extraordinary rendition operations.

Aircraft from the 26-strong fleet had flown into and out of the UK at least 210 times since 9/11, the newspaper reported, “an average of one flight a week”, refuelling at RAF bases and civilian airports that included Northolt, Heathrow, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Belfast and – the agency’s favourite destination – Prestwick.

“It is not a matter for the MoD,” one Ministry of Defence official told the newspaper. “The aircraft use our airfields. We don’t ask any questions.”

Since then, a handful of British parliamentarians, judges, human rights activists and journalists have dragged into the public domain one piece of damning evidence after another to construct an incomplete but nonetheless disturbing picture of the UK’s involvement in the global kidnap and torture programme that was launched immediately after 9/11.

Reuters covers the Polish case:

After U.S. torture report, Poland asks what its leaders knew

The disclosure of details about the CIA’s brutal interrogation program could provide new leads for Polish prosecutors investigating how much Poland’s leaders at the time knew about a secret jail the agency was running in a Polish forest.

Prompted by a U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s “black sites” for interrogating al Qaeda suspects, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, at a joint news conference with former Prime Minister Leszek Miller, said on Wednesday he knew about the facility in Poland.

He said the CIA had denied Polish officials access to the site, a villa on the grounds of a Polish intelligence training academy, so they did not know people inside were being tortured. He said that while he and Miller knew people were detained there, they were told the detainees were cooperating willingly with U.S. intelligence and would be treated as prisoners of war.

Lawyers for former detainees say however that even if the detainees were treated as prisoners of war – which the lawyers dispute – it is illegal to detain anyone in secret, and Poland had a legal obligation to prevent this happening.

And from MercoPress, trained by the masters:

US/UK trained Brazil military in torture techniques; British were particularly sophisticated

Officials from the United States and the United Kingdom spent years teaching members of the Brazilian military how to develop and improve their torture techniques during the country’s two-decade long dictatorship (1964/1985), it was confirmed this week by the National Truth Commission, CNV, report.

According to that document the Brazilian Armed Forces’ “systematic use of torture,” which concluded that more than 400 individuals, considered to have been “subversives”, were killed or disappeared by the state, received international training to that purpose.

In effect as part of Washington’s support for anti-Communist governments in Latin America, United States trained more than 300 military officers from Brazil at the notorious ‘School of the Americas’, based in Georgia, the report says. The officers received “theoretical and practical lessons on torture,” it adds, with the intention that they could “replicate” their ideas in Brazil.

The CNV reports also reveals that the UK government shared the anti-communist crusade, and also contributed knowledge on torture techniques in training sessions with Brazilians.

Yet another intel failure, via CNN:

2003 CIA cable casts doubt on claim linking Iraq to 9/11

A recently released CIA cable casts heavy doubt on a key claim used by the Bush administration to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

It discounts intelligence that said Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 ringleaders, met with an Iraqi official in the Czech Republic a few months before the attacks.

The Bush administration — which maintained that Atta had met with Iraqi agent Ahmad al-Anian in Prague in April 2001 — had used the report to link the September 11 attacks to Iraq.

CIA Director John Brennan included a portion of the cable in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan. Levin, the retiring chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the letter public on Thursday.

The cable reads that “there is not one USG (counterterrorism) or FBI expert that…has said they have evidence or ‘know’ that (Atta) was indeed (in Prague). In fact, the analysis has been quite the opposite.”

In a 2001 interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” then-Vice President Dick Cheney said, “It’s been pretty well confirmed that (Atta) did go to Prague, and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in (the Czech Republic) last April, several months before the attack.”

After the jump, new light coming on a mysterious death, Washington rescinds demands that reporters spill their sources, a European leak prosecution, Sweden ups defense spending in Cold War 2.0, another Russian close encounter in Swedish air space, Congress grants new powers to the NSA, a German court turns down a Snowden visit to Germany, Germany says no proof NSA tapped Merkel’s cell but Spiegel stands by their story, cell phone spy gear covers the capital, Google’s NSA response, the Army gets cyberwar serious while Homeland Security extends is cyberpowers, Canada claims a Chinese hack of its research agency, a claim that Iran hacked Sheldon Adelson casinos and claims Iran is busily hacking American firms and universities, a major hacking campaign targets Russia, a Murdoch editor cops to phone hacks, on to the Sony hack, first with an executive’s future clouded, how the Game of Zones forced a Seth Rogen reedit, a Bond script and studio anti-Google strategies leaked as well as sleazy Maureen Down promises, and Sony own DDOS attacks on computers hosting the leaks, protesting Spain’s draconian new anti-protest law, Google retreats from Russia, an Argentinian Dirty War mass grave revealed, mass protests shut down Karachi, Washington hopes for North Korean talks, Hong Kong Occupy final shutdown set for Monday while Beijing hints at stronger measures ahead, the ape of Nanjing commemorated, Obama pressure on Tokyo for talks with Seoul, challenged to Abe’s Japanese militarization turned back by court, A-bomb survivors question Manhattan Project National Park plans, and your camera shake can ID you like a fingerprint. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cops, torture, hacks, & Asia


And so much more. . .

To open, there’s an ap for that via the Associated Press:

‘Driving while black’ apps give tips for police stops

A “Driving While Black” smartphone application is set for release this month, but its developers say motorists should be careful when they use it.

“Do not reach for your phone when you are talking to police,” stressed attorney Melvin Oden-Orr, who created the app with another Portland lawyer and a software developer.

Avoiding any move that could make officers think you’re reaching for a gun is just one of the tips “Driving While Black” offers. And despite its attention-grabbing name, the common-sense advice it offers applies to motorists of all races.

The app describes how people can assert their civil rights with officers, enables drivers to alert friends and family with a push of a button that they’ve been pulled over, and includes a recording function to document the interaction.

Empirical policing from MIT Technology Review:

Researchers Will Study Police Confrontations Via Body Cameras

  • UCLA scholars will analyze raw video and audio feeds to glean insights into effective policing

As more police are equipped with cameras on their bodies to capture footage of interactions with the public, a group of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been given permission to study video and audio streams from one police department to learn how best to prevent confrontations from escalating.

Police body-cams have been proposed as ways to resolve allegations of needless use of force following the police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of a New York City man during his arrest for selling cigarettes illegally.

The White House last week pledged $75 million that police departments could use to buy 50,000 body cameras as a way to help “build and sustain trust” among civilians. But whether or not cameras will resolve disputes or improve trust, they could at least provide a wider window into how policing works.

From Channel 4 News, solidarity in London:

76 arrests at Eric Garner protests in London

Program notes:

Police have arrested 76 people who were part of a mass demonstration at Westfield shopping centre in London.

On to that torture thing, first with a “what if?” from the New York Times:

C.I.A. First Planned Jails Abiding by U.S. Standards

Just six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush signed a secret order that gave the Central Intelligence Agency the power to capture and imprison terrorists with Al Qaeda. But the order said nothing about where they should be held or how the agency should go about the business of questioning them.

For the next few weeks, as the rubble at ground zero smoldered and the United States launched a military operation in Afghanistan, C.I.A. officials scrambled to fill in the blanks left by the president’s order. Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s harsh interrogation program.

They envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. Conditions at these new overseas prisons would be comparable to those at maximum-security facilities in the United States. Interrogations were to be conducted in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual, which prohibits coerced, painful questioning. Everything at the prisons would “be tailored to meet the requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,” C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001.

The Los Angeles Times covers the tortured semantics of somatic torture:

CIA struggled to keep rationalizing brutal interrogations, report shows

When CIA interrogators waterboarded their first prisoner, Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, on Aug. 4, 2002, they justified the simulated drowning as a vital tool to extract secrets about future attacks against the United States.

But after 20 days of round-the-clock interrogation at a secret prison in Thailand, during which Zubaydah was repeatedly waterboarded in long sessions, slammed against walls, slapped, confined in a coffin-size box for 266 hours and chained in “stress positions,” the interrogators concluded the Saudi-born operative knew nothing about new plots.

At that point, the justification changed: Officials said the brutal treatment was necessary not to extract information, but to reassure themselves that Zubaydah already had told them everything he knew.

“Our goal was to reach the stage where we have broken any will or ability of subject to resist,” the interrogators said in an email to CIA headquarters. The goal was to get to “the point that we could confidently assess” that Zubaydah did “not possess undisclosed threat information,” they said.

From the New York Times, the inevitable:

Chinese Coverage of C.I.A. Torture Report Says It Highlights U.S. Hypocrisy

The report on the C.I.A.’s interrogations of terrorism suspects, released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, has received extensive coverage in China, which has long accused the United States of hypocrisy on human rights issues.

At a regular news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei, said that China “consistently opposes torture.”

“We believe that the U.S. side should reflect upon and rectify its relevant behavior, earnestly obey and implement the provisions of international conventions,” he said.

Another Asia voice from the Guardian:

Afghan president condemns ‘shocking’ and ‘inhumane’ torture described in CIA report

  • Ashraf Ghani vows to defends the dignity of those who had been jailed in reminder of how impact of CIA interrogation programme still fuels anger

The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has described detailed revelations of US torture as “shocking” and “inhumane”, and demanded to know how many Afghans had been debased in grim facilities inside their own country.

The recently elected leader promised to defend the dignity of those who had been jailed, and gave notice that from the start of next year no foreign organisation would have the right to detain or torture Afghans.

“This is a vicious cycle. When a person is tortured in an inhumane way, the reaction will be inhumane,” Ghani told a specially convened news conference in Kabul. “There can be no justification for these kinds of actions and inhumane torture in today’s world.”

More tortuous spookspeak from the Washington Post:

CIA chief: ‘Unknowable’ whether ordinary interrogation would bring same intel gains

CIA Director John Brennan said Thursday that valuable information was obtained from detainees subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, but it remains “unknowable” whether conventional questioning alone could have led to the same intelligence gains.

In his first public comments since Tuesday’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA detention program, Brennan also defended the use of so-called “enhanced” techniques as the “right” response at a time when the agency believed al-Qaeda was possibly preparing another wave of terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Brennan also directly challenged some of the reports main conclusions.

Where have we heard this before?:

Rummy’s more cadaverous other half weighs in via Techdirt:

Dick Cheney Says CIA Torture Report Is ‘Full Of Crap’ — Then Admits He Hasn’t Read It

  • from the judging-a-book-by-its-cover dept

It’s no secret that those most closely responsible for the CIA’s torture program are pulling out all the stops to attack the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the program, trying out a variety of defenses from “it actually saved lives” to “it’s just a partisan hack job.” So it should come as no surprise that former Vice President Dick Cheney has been making the cable TV news appearances to help attack the report. After all, many have argued that the real person behind the torture program was Cheney and his staff — and to date, Cheney has insisted that everything that was done was perfectly reasonable and he’d do it again. Thus there’s no surprise when Cheney appears on Fox News (because, of course), to claim that the report is “a bunch of hooey” and “full of crap” and “deeply flawed” only to then admit “ I haven’t read the report.”

Wait, what?

Even the Fox News interviewer was taken aback — and Cheney must have realized how stupid he looked, because he then tried to backtrack, arguing that he hadn’t read “all 6,000 pages,” but then saying he’d read “parts of it” and “summaries.” Yes, we’ve all read “summaries.” But some of us have sat down to read the whole 500 pages (minus the redacted bits, of course). You would hope that if Cheney was going on TV to respond to questions about the report that he might have done so as well, rather than just repeating the talking points handed out to folks associated with the program. Apparently not.

More inevitability from the New York Times:

U.S. Tells Court That Documents From Torture Investigation Should Remain Secret

The Obama administration has urged a court to reject a request to disclose thousands of pages of documents from a Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, including summaries of interviews with about 100 witnesses and documents explaining why in the end no charges were filed.

The administration made the filing late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times, hours after the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 524-page executive summary of its own investigation into C.I.A. torture. The committee based its report on a review of C.I.A. documents but did not conduct any interviews.

The Justice Department materials, the court filing revealed, include 10 reports and memorandums totaling 1,719 pages — more than three times the number of pages in the Senate report released Tuesday — as well as “numerous” pages of reports on interviews with current and former C.I.A. officials.

The London Telegraph covers acts of omission by commission:

Downing Street admits: CIA torture report redacted at request of British spies

  • No 10 confirms British intelligence officials discussed redactions to torture report ‘on grounds of national security’

Key passages of report into the CIA’s torture programme were censored at the request of British spies, Downing Street has admitted, raising fears that the UK’s hand in the post-9/11 interrogation programme was covered up.

David Cameron’s spokesman admitted the Security Services asked their American counterparts to censor a US Senate report into the brutal interrogation of terror suspects at secret foreign prisons. It is understood the requests were granted.

John Brennan, the head of the CIA, tonight defended the “abhorrent” interrogation programme, saying the information helped locate Osama Bin Laden.

Mr Brennan said there was “strong concern” among foreign spy chiefs that the report was about to be made public. “Covert was something that they hoped was going to remain such,” he said.

And Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers an Asian denial:

Thailand denies existence of CIA black site

Thailand has long been accused by human rights groups of being one of a number of countries which hosted secret prisons run by the CIA to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York

A senior Thai official on Thursday (Dec 11) flatly rejected longstanding claims the kingdom hosted a secret CIA prison after the publication of a US Senate report this week reignited controversy over Washington’s “black site” network.

Thailand has long been accused by human rights groups of being one of a number of countries which hosted secret prisons run by the CIA to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York.

But Suwaphan Tanyuvardhan, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, rejected any suggestions that the Thai government had been complicit in running any “black sites”. “There has been no such thing as a secret prison or torture facilities in Thailand. Thai officials do not do these kind of actions,” he told reporters.

More semantic persiflage from the Washington Post:

‘Learned helplessness’: The chilling psychological concept behind the CIA’s interrogation methods

Of all the harrowing accounts and chilling examples in the U.S. Senate report on CIA interrogation practices, among the most striking was that of Abu Zubaydah. One of the first detainees in the war on terror, he was also one of the most vital. Lying in a bed in Thailand, he told FBI interrogators all about Khalid Sheik Mohammed — the mastermind of the Sept. 11th attacks.

But then the CIA showed up. Its team was accompanied by a psychologist. And he wanted to conduct a test that would get “Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death,” reported Vanity Fair in 2007 in a groundbreaking story. So interrogators built a coffin and stuffed him inside it, the Senate report said, for 300 hours. He was waterboarded 83 times in 17 days. He was absolutely broken by the procedures — but not one significant plot was foiled as a result of his confessions.

Despite the failure of the interrogation methods, the psychological concept guiding them — called “learned helplessness” — lived on. With the guidance of two psychologists on contract to the CIA for $1,800 per day, the technique of stripping someone of their will would be applied to numerous additional prisoners in the coming years. Media reports have named the two psychologists: Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who in all earned $81 million in payment. They derived their approach from a well-known 1967 research paper by University of Pennsylvania psychologists.

And from the London Telegraph, more inevitability:

Russia calls for prosecutions over ‘inquisition-style’ CIA interrogation methods

Foreign ministry says “shocking” Senate report was “latest confirmation of gross, systemic human rights violations” by US authorities

Russia has called on the United States to punish those responsible for the use of “inquisition-style” interrogation methods in the “global war on terror”, as revealed in the US Senate report on torture this week.

Konstantin Dolgov, the human rights ombudsman of Russia’s foreign ministry, said the results of the “shocking” report were “the latest confirmation of gross, systemic human rights violations by the American authorities”.

The long-awaited torture report, published in 500-page summary form on Tuesday by the Senate’s intelligence committee, detailed brutal interrogation methods used by the CIA against al-Qaeda suspects

The Guardian covers the objects of the machine, free at last:

Guantánamo prisoners released to Uruguay: ‘We are so happy to be here’

Six former US detainees who were never charged with a crime, were flown to Uruguay on Sunday to begin new lives as refugees

Over the past 12 years, Ali al-Shaaban has experienced precious little human kindness. Detained in Pakistan as a suspected al-Qaida member in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks, he was transferred to the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, where he was held for more than a decade.

This week, however, the 32-year old Syrian has been the subject of a wave of affection in a country half a world away from his homeland: government officials offer him warm embraces; total strangers wave to him and offer words of encouragement.

Shaaban is one of six Guantánamo prisoners who were flown to Uruguay on Sunday to begin new lives as refugees. The six – four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian – were never charged, and were cleared for release in 2009, but the US struggled to find countries willing to receive them until the Uruguayan president, José Mujica agreed to accept them.

The Associated Press covers culture war:

US co-opted Cuba’s hip-hop scene to spark change

In early 2009, a U.S. government contractor sent a Serbian music promoter to Cuba with these covert marching orders: Recruit one of Havana’s most notorious rappers to spark a youth movement against the government.

In communist Cuba, it was a project that could have landed Rajko Bozic in jail. So when he made his pitch to team up with hip-hop artist Aldo Rodriguez, Bozic left out the part about his true intentions — or that he was working for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Dreadlocked, muscled and tattooed, Aldo, as he was known, was a hero in the hip-hop underground for lyrics protesting the Castro government’s grip on everyday life in songs like “El Rap Es Guerra,” or “Rap Is War,” words he tattooed on his forearm.

He and his group, Los Aldeanos, were about to unknowingly get sucked into a tug-of-war between Havana and Washington, as thousands of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press and dozens of interviews show.

A video report from the Guardian:

USAid uses Cuban hip-hop to spark youth unrest

Program notes:

Hip-hop is latest covert weapon in the US government’s attempts to unseat Cuba’s communist government.

For more than two years, the American development aid organisation USAid has been secretly trying to infiltrate Cuba’s underground hip-hop movement. Like its previous efforts, including exploding cigars, poisoned milkshakes and the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, the attempt to co-opt rappers ended in ignominious failure, new documents have shown.

Grounded, via the Los Angeles Times:

European Union bans all Libyan airlines, citing safety risk

The European Union on Thursday banned all seven Libyan airlines from operating in the airspace of the 28-nation bloc, citing threats to flight operations while the country is plagued by violent militias battling for dominance.

“Recent events in Libya have led to a situation whereby the Civil Aviation Authority is no longer able to fulfill its international obligations with regard to the safety of the Libyan aviation sector,” European Union Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a statement issued in Brussels.

“My priority in aviation is passenger safety, which is nonnegotiable, and we stand ready to help the Libyan aviation sector as soon as the situation on the ground will allow for this,” Bulc said.

After the jump, Spanish law formalizes immigrant expulsions and implements anti-protest fines, ISIS tries hostage corpse ransom, Cold War 2.0 on the Baltic, using the deplorable to justify the unspeakable in Old Blighty, the hack of the year yields Tinseltown tawdriness and other revelations, fighting POODLE attacks on your browser, Spanish law triggers a Google News departure, prosecution urged for Brazilian military dictatorship crimes, a legal victory for journalists in Sierra Leone, forced conversions alleged in India, freedom of information oversight defunding Down Under, a virginity test for Indonesian policewomen, North Korean kidnap leaks alleged, China memorial brings Japanese war crimes into the present, Hong Kong Occupy evicted with 247 arrests as some vow to return, China rejects a Vietnamese island claim, Washington pushes for a Japanese/South Korean rapprochement, a Hollywood film inspires a revisionist censorship cry in Japan, and Tojo nostalgia in Tokyo as Japan ups its military budget again. . . Continue reading