Category Archives: MSM

Seymour Hersh: The U.S. bankrolled ISIS founders


Gosh, is this starting to sound familiar?

Back under Rotten Ronnie Reagan, the White House decided to bankroll and arm religious fundamentalists in Afghanistan to cause the Soviet Union to bog down in their own version of Vietnam.

Well, it worked.

Sort of.

The Soviets are gone [along with the Soviet Union], but those fundies lingered on, even [on 9/11] biting the hand that fed them.

Well, we did it again, and are now witnessing the consequences, says Pulitzer-winning reporter Seymour Hersh in a fascinating interview with RT’s Afshin Rattansi on Going Underground.

From Going Underground:

DUH! Somebody denies something, that means it isn’t true? – Seymour Hersh on Middle East crisis

Program notes:

Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the war against ISIS. He wrote an article that around 2006-7 the Bush administration decided to be pro-Sunni, and finance some of jihadist extremists, to work against Shias in Iran and Syria. He thinks ISIS has emerged out of that, partly due to the behaviour of the Iraqi government with Maliki being very anti-Sunni.

He says there is an inherent contradiction in democracy, as unlike in monarchies where the Royals take control of the military, a democracy needs wars in order for people to rise through the ranks, so there is a constant thirst for more war. The troop surge that was claimed to end the war in Iraq was simply a decision to support Sunni jihadist groups, often filled with former members of the Ba’ath party, working with the US to kill Al Qaeda.

The Syrian army, tasked with dealing with ISIS, has received good training from Hezbollah, and is one of the most battle-tested armies in the Middle East at the moment. He believes it is an amazing situation that Iran is working with the US and Syrian air forces on bombing, dismissing official denies that it is happening. He thinks it is clear that the story of Assad using chemical weapons is very problematic – why would he invite a US inspection team to look at previous uses of Sarin (which found previous uses of Sarin by Al Nusra) and then stage a gas attack? He also points to the sarin samples recovered by Russia and passed to the UK for analysis, which was determined to have nothing to do with the gas in the Syrian arsenal. He says that the idea that Syria was not bombed because it agreed to give up its arsenal is ‘lunacy’, because this had been proffered a year earlier, but once there is a narrative in the Western press, it is very hard to change that.

He says that the moderate rebels that Cameron wants to fund have already cut deals with Assad for their own little ‘fiefdom’ as long as they pay allegiance to Assad. Erdogan is in a bad spot, he thinks, because he can’t break with ISIS. He says he has had serious discussions with people saying they should have stayed out of Afghanistan, rather than fighting the cold war there using the Sunni fundamentalists, funding people like Bin Laden and the original militias that have become ISIS. With Ukraine, he quotes Jack Matlock, a former American ambassador to the Soviet Union, who said, ‘I never believe we should get involved in family fights,’ and that since the cold war ended, any country, no matter how corrupt, would get arms from the US if they said they’d fight Russia. But Syria is the ‘biggest game’ going right now, and ‘if that goes the wrong way, we’re in trouble.’

Think we’ll ever learn the obvious lesson?

Judging by the history of the U.S. in the nearly seven decades we’ve lived here, we’re not optimisitic.

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.

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

EbolaWatch: Patients, vaccine woes, aid, more


We begin with the latest potential case to cross the Atlantic, via the Los Angeles Times:

Nurse exposed to Ebola going to National Institutes of Health

A female nurse who was exposed to Ebola while in West Africa is expected to be admitted to the National Institutes of Health on Thursday, becoming the latest person to be admitted to a U.S. hospital after being exposed to the disease.

Officials with the NIH, based in Bethesda, Md., said the patient was doing volunteer work in an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone. The patient, who will be admitted to the special clinical studies unit for observation, was not identified by name.

Since the current Ebola outbreak began a year ago in West Africa — where the World Health Organization estimates the virus has killed more than 6,000 people — 10 patients have been treated in the United States. Of those 10, eight have recovered and two have died.

The Associated Press offers a new prognosis:

UN says several months needed to control Ebola

The U.N. Ebola chief said Thursday it will take several more months before the outbreak in West Africa is under control, an assessment that makes clear the World Health Organization’s goal of isolating 100 percent of Ebola cases by Jan. 1 won’t be met.

Dr. David Nabarro said there has been “a massive shift” over the last four months in the way affected governments have taken the lead in responding to the epidemic, communities are taking action and the international community has pitched in.

But he said greater efforts are needed to combat Ebola in western Sierra Leone and northern Mali, to reduce the number of new cases in Liberia and to limit transmission to Mali.

WHO conceded that it didn’t meet an interim Dec. 1 target of isolating 70 percent of Ebola patients and safely burying 70 percent of victims in hardest-hit Sierra Leone. But it hasn’t made clear what that means for its Jan. 1 goal, which it set in September. It has acknowledged that its patchy data could compromise the goal, since the agency does not know how many Ebola patients there actually are and is unable to track all of their contacts.

And BuzzFeed News covers the latest disappointment:

Ebola Vaccine Tests Suspended At Geneva Hospital

The trial was put on hold after four patients complained about joint pain in their hands and feet.

Geneva University Hospital has halted clinical trials of the Ebola vaccine after several recipients complained of pain, hospital officials told Reuters.

The vaccine, developed by Merck and NewLink, was suspended “as a measure of precaution” in 59 patients after four of the volunteers complained of joint pain in their hands and feet.

“They are all fine and being monitored regularly by the medical team leading the study,” the hospital said in a statement.

The trials are set to resume on January 5 in up to 15 volunteers after tests are run to confirm the pain is “benign and temporary” the hospital said.

The latest donor, via the Associated Press:

Saudi pledges $35 million for fight against Ebola

The Islamic Development Bank says the Saudi king has pledged $35 million to help fight Ebola in hard-hit West African countries.

More than 6,000 people have died from Ebola in West Africa over the last year, including more than 1,500 in Sierra Leone since June.

The bank says the grant will be used to provide West African schools, bus stations and railway and airport stations with thermal sensors and medical examination equipment designed to diagnose the virus and keep public spaces safer.

From Jiji Press, cooperation:

G-7, Partners Confirm Cooperation in Fight against Ebola

The Group of Seven major countries, Mexico and the European Union reiterated their support Thursday for countries affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“We express our strong determination to remain vigilant in our response and to support all necessary efforts to stop the virus from spreading further,” they said in a joint statement following the 15th ministerial meeting in Tokyo of the Global Health Security Initiative forum.

The statement underscored the importance of sharing information in efforts to develop drugs to combat the lethal disease. “We remain committed to the open and transparent sharing of the results of clinical trials to expedite any efforts to protect human lives,” it noted.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa examines:

ECA to launch report on the economic impact of Ebola Virus Disease

While the Ebola outbreaks in both Nigeria and Senegal officially ended in October 2014 and both countries declared free of Ebola, a new United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) report looks at the impact of the 13,241 cases identified and 4,950 deaths reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone so far.

The report raises the alarm on the risk of a rise in mortality of diseases not related to Ebola and also points out the wider impacts of the virus on the livelihoods of those affected. Educational systems, rising social stigma, unemployment, and decreased food security are some of the big issues that Ebola-affected countries must deal with, according to the report.

Despite the alarm, Carlos Lopes calls for a careful and cautious approach to the response. The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa notes that while the social and economic situation in the three most affected countries is dramatic, the crisis for Africa as a Continent is exaggerated.

According to the report, West Africa has been the fastest growing region in Africa in recent years. Based on 2013’s estimates, the three Ebola countries taken together only represent 2.42 percent of West Africa’s GDP and 0.68 percent of Africa’s GDP, so West Africa’s overall growth should remain robust.

And from Agence France-Presse, the art of Ebola:

Art exhibition about the Ebola outbreak opens in Conakry

Program notes:

Art exhibition on the theme of the Ebola outbreak goes on show in the Guinean capital.

On to Mali with a declaration of victory — for now — from Reuters:

Mali says has no remaining Ebola cases as last patient recovers

Mali has no remaining cases of the Ebola virus as the last patient in the country has recovered and left hospital, the Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

Six people have died of Ebola in Mali, while two others have recovered. The country is the sixth West African state to be hit by the worst outbreak on record of the hemorrhagic fever.

Ebola first entered Mali through an infant girl who died of the disease in October after arriving from neighboring Guinea. Later that month, an imam who also arrived from Guinea with the disease died in Mali. He infected other people.

“The only remaining case in treatment has recovered and has been released today so there are no more people sick with Ebola in Mali,” said Ministry of Health spokesman Markatié Daou.

And on to Sierra Leone with BBC News and a gruesome discovery:

Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone bodies found piled up in Kono

Health officials in Sierra Leone have discovered scores of bodies in a remote diamond-mining area, raising fears that the scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been underreported.

The World Health Organization said they uncovered a “grim scene” in the eastern district of Kono. A WHO response team had been sent to Kono to investigate a sharp rise in Ebola cases.

The WHO said in a statement on Wednesday that over 11 days in Kono, “two teams buried 87 bodies, including a nurse, an ambulance driver, and a janitor drafted into removing bodies as they piled up”.

More from Reuters:

Twenty-five people had died in a hastily cordoned off section of the local hospital in the five days before the team arrived. They found that villages scattered across eight of the area’s 15 chiefdoms had been hit by Ebola.

Officially the district of over 350,000 inhabitants had reported 119 cases up to Dec. 9.

“We are only seeing the ears of the hippo,” said Dr. Amara Jambai, Sierra Leone’s Director of Disease Prevention and Control, expressing concern that the official figures underrepresented the size of the outbreak in Kono.

A barb aimed at Freetown, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Devil Hole chief chides gov’t for Ebola response

  • Headman of the Devil Hole community has chided government for its failure to support them in the fight against the Ebola outbreak.

Adikali Mansaray said they only survive by the grace of God, and that ten residents had died of Ebola in the community in the past four months, noting that they have been using local methods to prevent new infections.

Mansaray further explained that a community taskforce has been set up to monitor movements within the community, especially at night, as people from Port Loko and Makeni sneak in to the area at night.

“It is disheartening that we are very close to the capital city despite little government intervention in our community towards the fight against Ebola. We give little support from our earnings to the taskforce group to patrol at night,” he said.

The Associated Press covers a plea from Freetown:

Sierra Leone president makes Ebola plea to chiefs

Sierra Leone’s president implored the country’s traditional leaders on Thursday to stop cultural practices that have been blamed for spreading Ebola, like burials that involve touching corpses.

Officials have said up to 70 percent of new infections in Sierra Leone are linked to unsafe burials. The bodies of people who have died from Ebola are highly contagious and must be handled carefully.

“We should stop all traditional practices for now so that we will live to continue to practice them later,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said in a speech to launch the “Ebola Resistant Behavior Change Initiative.”

For months, Koroma has been urging traditional leaders to use their clout to stop burial and other cultural practices that contribute to the spread of Ebola. But the outbreak has only intensified in Sierra Leone in recent weeks.

teleSUR English covers an unusual collaboration:

African, Cuban and US doctors fighting Ebola together in Sierra Leone

Program notes:

African, Cuban, and US doctors are fighting Ebola together at the Maforki Treatment Center in Port Loko, Sierra Leone, and they are building strong links and achieving important results.

After the jump, on to Liberia and a peer-to-peer accolade, a regional victory — at least for now, a new medical facility in Monrovia, communities confront the aftermath, when Ebola goes postal, and journalists take the pledge. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Torture, hacks, drones, & zones


And more. . .

We begin with a segment from Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set:

Why the Senate Torture Report Doesn’t Matter | Interview with David Remes

Program notes:

Abby Martin speaks with human rights lawyer, David Remes, about the contents of the newly released Senate torture report summary and how it will impact the future of the “war on terror”.

And from CBC News, a call for prosecution:

UN counterterrorism expert says U.S. officials must be prosecuted for CIA torture

Senior U.S. officials who authorized and carried out torture as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, a top United Nations special investigator said Wednesday.

Ben Emmerson, the UN’s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said in addition that all CIA and other U.S. officials who used waterboarding and other torture techniques must be prosecuted.

He said the Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities after the 9/11 terror attacks shows “there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law.”

The New York Times covers leaks the spooks love:

Report Says C.I.A. Used Media Leaks to Advantage

The Central Intelligence Agency leaked classified material to reporters to shape the perception that its detention and interrogation program was an effective tool in thwarting terrorism, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday.

The report also said that in 2002, a publication, revealed later on Tuesday to be The New York Times, agreed to withhold information about a secret prison in Thailand at the urging of the agency and Vice President Dick Cheney.

In addition to providing vivid details of the C.I.A.’s use of secret prisons and more aggressive torture methods than was previously known, the Senate report provides examples — in highly redacted form — of the interactions between the agency and journalists in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The details in the report speak to tensions inside the government over the intelligence community’s dealings with the media. In some cases, the agency authorized the disclosure of classified information to journalists. Yet, in recent years, the government has investigated reporters and officials, including prosecuting a C.I.A. officer for leaking details of the torture program.

And from the Washington Post, debunking a myth:

Senate report disputes CIA account of Osama bin Laden search

The killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 was hailed by current and former CIA officials as the crowning justification for the use of harsh interrogation tactics. High-value detainees, when subjected to those methods, provided intelligence that the officials said helped lead the spy agency to a mysterious courier and, ultimately, to the terrorist leader himself.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday upends that version of history, providing an alternate case study that revives questions about the agency’s account. The report asserts that the role of harsh interrogation techniques was greatly exaggerated.

“A review of CIA records found that the initial intelligence obtained, as well as the information the CIA identified as the most critical — or the most valuable — on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, was not related to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques,” investigators concluded.

The role the CIA detention and interrogation program played in the hunt for bin Laden is one of the most pivotal questions in assessing the effectiveness of the agency’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The Senate report notes that even in the weeks before the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs had prepared “agreed-upon language” to be released that would stress “the critical nature of the detainee reporting in identifying bin Laden’s courier.”

The Los Angeles Times offers a frank assessment:

At CIA’s ‘Salt Pit’ prison, torture reigned with little oversight

The first detainee interrogated in the old abandoned brick factory north of Kabul became the model for what would later unfold in the cave-like halls of a CIA interrogation facility known as the “Salt Pit.”

Ridha Najjar, a suspected former bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, often was left alone in the shadows under a barrage of shrieking music, cold, shackled and hooded, his dark figure handcuffed to an overhead bar for 22 hours a day, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Later, another detainee, Gul Rahman, believed to have served in a security detail for an Afghan warlord, would die in the Salt Pit.

He was dragged though the dirt and grime of the corridors, his mouth taped, his clothes falling off. His captors slammed and punched him, and left him chained to a concrete floor in a sweatshirt but no pants. Officials labeled the death hypothermia, though his face, legs, shoulders and waist were cut and bruised.

A few months later in March 2003, with the outside world still unaware of the secret facility, a lead CIA officer who ordered Rahman to be shackled naked in his cell was presented a $2,500 “cash award” for his “consistently superior work,” the report states.

And a bottom line, summed up in a headline from the Los Angeles Times:

Senate report says CIA torture methods yielded no useful intelligence

The CIA’s brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects from 2002 to 2008 led to false confessions and fabricated information, produced no useful intelligence about imminent terrorist attacks and were so badly run that the CIA lost track of captives, according to a long-delayed Senate report released Tuesday.

TheLocal.de covers an error with great bodily harm:

CIA tortured German it mistook for a terrorist

A German citizen abducted and tortured by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents in 2004 should never have been detained, a US Senate report published on Tuesday showed.

Khalid al-Masri was “rendered” – a term for extrajudicial transfers of prisoners – to the CIA in January 2004 after being arrested by Macedonian border authorities, who mistook him for an al-Qaeda suspect.

While in CIA custody he was severely beaten, stripped, shackled and sodomized with a suppository as part of a process the agency called “capture shock”.

He was later flown to a CIA site in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was beaten, kicked and subjected to other abuse in a prison called the “Salt Pit”.

And the London Telegraph reports an admission:

Polish president admits Poland agreed to host secret CIA ‘black site’

  • Alexander Kwasniewski, Poland’s president from 1995-2005, admits for the first time that Poland agreed to host a secret CIA ‘black site’

A former Polish president has admitted for the first time Poland agreed to host a secret CIA “black site” where terrorism suspects were held and allegedly tortured.

Alexander Kwasniewski, Poland’s president from 1995-2005, said he had permitted America to operate a base on Polish soil in the wake of the September 11 attacks but stressed there was “no agreement on torture”.

It is the first time a senior Polish politician in office during 2002-2003, when the base was operational, has conceded the CIA had a site in Poland.

For many years they issued flat denials about its existence despite a mountain of evidence indicating the base had existed, and allegations by former terrorism suspects that not only were they prisoners in Poland but also tortured there.

More from RT:

Poland: We hosted secret CIA torture prison

Program notes:

The damning report into CIA torture has led Poland to finally admit that it DID host a secret American prison – after years of denying it. It’s the first acknowledgement by a foreign country to hosting such a site.

TheLocal.at covers a partner in crime:

Austria complicit in US torture program

Austria was one of many European and Arab countries which was complicit in US torture programs, by supporting the secret and illegal transfer of detainees to some of its ‘black site’ prisons, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

The report is based on an in-depth investigation by the US senate, and was led by US Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Although many parts of the report are redacted, or have code names instead of countries, reporters and analysts have combined other information to glean details of which countries were actively supporting the US in its program of secret prisons around the world, where torture was allegedly carried out by the CIA on a routine basis.

From Techdirt, torture profiteers:

Profiting Massively From Torture: Designers Of CIA Torture Program Raked In $81 Million (And Are Still Getting Money)

  • from the how-do-they-sleep-at-night? dept

There are so many incredible things in the CIA Torture Report that will be discussed and analyzed over the next few weeks and months. But one that stands out to me is that the architects of the torture program were not only wholly unqualified to design it, but they profited massively from the program, to the tune of at least $81 million. And that number may go up, as they also are getting paid by the government for any legal issues related to the program, including over $1 million for legal fees associated with responding to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation that resulted in this report.

The report uses pseudonyms for the two psychologists: Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar. However, their names were actually revealed back in 2007: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. To say they were unqualified for the work of designing the torture program would be an understatement. While they were psychologists with the US Air Force’s “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape” (SERE) program (which is supposed to help train US military personnel in case they’re captured), you’d think they’d actually have some relevant background with terrorism and/or interrogation. But, nope:

Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al- Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise. SWIGERT had reviewed research on “learned helplessness,” in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information.

And from the Guardian, torture by others:

Rousseff in tears as Brazilian report details junta’s killings and torture

  • Brazil’s president, herself tortured by 1970s military regime, breaks down as she says ‘new generations deserve truth’

Brazil’s National Truth Commission delivered a damning report on the killings, disappearances and torture committed by government agents during the country’s 1964-85 military dictatorship. It called for those responsible to face prosecution.

The 2,000-page report was delivered on Wednesday to President Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who endured harsh torture and long imprisonment in the early 1970s.

“Under the military dictatorship, repression and the elimination of political opposition became the policy of the state, conceived and implemented based on decisions by the president of the republic and military ministers,” the report states. The commission “therefore totally rejects the explanation offered up until today that the serious violations of human rights constituted a few isolated acts or excesses resulting from the zeal of a few soldiers”.

Investigators spent nearly three years combing through archives, hospital and morgue records and questioning victims, their families and alleged perpetrators. The document represents Brazil’s most sweeping attempt yet to come to terms with the human rights abuses committed under the country’s military regime.

Who were trained by Uncle Sam, via BuzzFeed News:

The U.S. Spent Decades Teaching Torture Techniques To Brazil

The Latin American country’s National Truth Commission just produced its own torture report, which among other things documents the way American teachers taught Brazilian officers the theory and methods of torture.

U.S. military officials spent years teaching torture techniques to Brazil’s military, including throughout the South American giant’s lengthy period of military dictatorship, according to a new report.

After more than two years of investigation, the panel charged with documenting the human rights abuses committed under Brazil’s military dictatorship released its final report on Wednesday. The Brazilian report comes just a day after the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own lengthy chronicle of the United States’ use of torture in prosecuting last decade’s War on Terror.

According to O Globo, the National Truth Commission (CNV) report documents how more than 300 members of the Brazilian military spent time at the School of the Americas, run out of Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. While there, attendees “had theoretical and practical lessons on torture, which would later be replicated in Brazil.”

teleSUR covers survivors arriving:

Mujica to Meet Guantanamo Refugees

  • The President of Uruguay urged Obama to release political prisoners and end the Cuban embargo.

The ex-inmates of the Guantanamo prison that Uruguay has accepted will meet with President Jose Mujica, local media reported on Wednesday.

The meeting was expected to happen Wednesday afternoon at the military hospital which the refugees entered after arriving inthe South American country on Sunday, to undergo medical examinations.

Also on Wednesday, five of them were released from the hospital.

And the Los Angeles Times comes to a conclusion:

CIA torture report not likely to result in reforms or prosecutions

Amid a fresh call for a major shake-up at the highest levels of the CIA, the White House expressed support for agency Director John Brennan, who was the deputy executive director in 2002 when the interrogation program was designed and implemented.

The Justice Department defended its decision not to prosecute those involved, saying the report would not trigger reconsideration.

And in Congress, where lawmakers split along party lines over the accuracy of the findings and the wisdom of releasing the 500-page redacted summary, there were few signs of momentum behind legislation.

Techdirt goes down the rabbit hole:

GCHQ Follows NSA Into Paranoia — Just As Julian Assange Predicted

  • from the cognitive-decline dept

One of the knock-on effects of Snowden’s leaks is that the NSA is terrified there might be more whistleblowers, and has taken extreme action in an attempt to reduce the risk of that happening by stripping 100,000 people of their security clearances. In other words, it no longer trusts huge swathes of the people it works with — hardly a healthy situation. Now it seems that GCHQ has succumbed to a similar paranoia about its employees:

GCHQ is sponsoring ways of identifying disgruntled employees and those who might go on to be a security threat through their use of language in things like office emails.

The article in the Gloucestershire Echo — the English county where GCHQ is located — explains how potential whistleblowers will be identified:

“research will investigate the use of techniques from the field of natural language processing to detect the early indicators of an insider’s threat.”

That means changes in the way a person communicates can give a clue that they are unhappy and perhaps prepared to do something to harm the organisation.

On to the year’s other major domestic story, via United Press International:

Medical students across U.S. hold ‘die-ins’ to protest racism

Medical students at the University of Pennsylvania blocked traffic as they joined a national “die-in” to protest the police killings of unarmed black men and racism in health care.

White-coated medical students from Harvard to the University of California held “die-ins” Wednesday to protest the deaths of unarmed black men and racism in health care.

The National White Coat Die-In involved scores of medical schools across the United States.

Lucy Ogbu Nwobodo, one of the organizers of the protest at the UC Davis Medical School in Sacramento, said the national discussion of the shooting of Michael Williams in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York “have affected all of us.”

“We decided to come together as one voice to speak up about these issues,” Nwobodo told Capital Public Radio. “We believe that because it affects our patients outside of the hospital it’s just as important as what we see in the medical clinics.”

At Yale in New Haven, Conn., medical students spent 4 1/2 minutes lying on the ground, a minute for each hour Williams’ body remained on the street, and then, like Garner, shouted “I can’t breathe.” Jessica Minor, a medical student, said the protest was also aimed at the under-representation of minorities and women in medical school.

At the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, protesters stopped traffic. About 100 students blocked Walnut Street by lying down.

The same, this time in Old Blighty, via USA Today:

Londoners hold ‘die-in’ in support of U.S. protests

Hundreds of protesters rallied Wednesday at one of Europe’s largest shopping malls to show solidarity with U.S. demonstrations over the killing of unarmed black men by white officers.

Shouting “black lives matter” and “we can’t breathe,” the multiracial crowd marched through the Westfield center in west London and staged several “die-ins,” echoing recent protests in the U.S. at Macy’s Herald Square and Grand Central Station in New York City, as well as Union Station in Washington. Other protests in recent days have occurred in Berkeley, Calif.

The English protest was called by the London Black Revolutionaries, the National Union of Students Black Students’ Campaign and the London Campaign Against Police and State Violence.

From United Press International, another response:

Columbia Law School postpones exams after Garner, Ferguson grand jury decisions

Columbia Law School is granting final exam postponements to students who say they were traumatized by recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers responsible for killing unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

The school’s interim dean, Robert E. Scott, announced the decision Saturday in an email to the school. He allowed the extensions after a petition was posted by The Columbia Law School Coalition of Concerned Students of Color on the same day.

“Recent events have unsettled our lives as students,” the petition read. “We have struggled to compartmentalize our trauma as we sit and make fruitless attempts to focus on exam preparation. We sit to study with the knowledge that our brothers and sisters are regularly killed with impunity on borders and streets; we sit to study with the understanding that our brothers and sisters are marching to have our humanity recognized and valued by a system that has continually failed us.”

And from Reuters, a win:

Chicago proposes chokehold ban in wake of U.S. protests

Chicago city council members have proposed a ban on the use of chokeholds by police officers working within city limits in an expansive proposal coming in the wake of the chokehold death of an unarmed black man being arrested in New York.

The proposal, which includes all security personnel such as deputy sheriffs, U.S. Marshals and private security guards, is the first among U.S. municipalities attempting to regulate arrest techniques after a grand jury last week declined to indict a New York City police officer in a chokehold death.

Council members in favor of the ban, which was introduced this week to the city’s finance committee, say they want Chicago in front of the issue of excessive police force that has resulted in street protests across the nation.

After the jump, Uncle Sam demands handover of emails in Ireland, then on to the hack of the year, first with FBI doubts about Pyongyang’s responsibility, word that a ransom demand came first, while Homeland Security warned Sony of possible North Korean retaliation, the film in question approved at the top, and a celebrity scandal emerges from the leaks, on to other malware, starting with a new version of an old curse, another new breed of malware, and a high level hacker cabal resurfaces, the FAA gives limited private drone us OK to four companies, another Palestinian tragedy and another provocation from the Israeli government, an African security investigation, on to Asia and American arms sale to Taiwan, Hong Kong braces for Occupy eviction, Brits angry at China for blocking a parliamentary Hong Kong visit, Chinese Game of Zones anger at Washington, and hints of a Beijing secret Game of Zones play, Chinese jets cross a Japanese line, a Chinese ballistic challenger, fears of a South Korean press crackdown, more fears over Japan’s new state secrets act amidst a right wing campaign against the press, while racists continue their Kyoto hate speech campaign, and Abe’s government steps up its campaign to whitewash war crimes abroad, cinematic Hitler love in Thailand, and a facesit-in protest in Old Blighty. . . Continue reading

Noam Chomsky on police, climate, race & more


teleSUR’s Laura Flanders holds an illuminating and wide-ranging conversation with MIT linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky.

While the topics cover a broad gamut, especially notable are Chomsky’s remarks about the long and noxious history of American racism and its still largely unacknowledged role in the rise of the industrial northern States as well in the agrarian South.

Also notable is Chomsky’s discussion of the hidden subtext of the recent U.S./China climate accord.

From the Laura Flanders Show on teleSUR English:

Laura Flanders Show – Noam Chomsky

Program notes:

A wide-ranging discussion with one of the most important intellectuals of the last century or this one. Noam Chomsky discusses the recent climate agreement between the US and China, the rise of ISIL, and the the movement in Ferguson against racism and police violence. Chomsky is the author of more than a hundred books and the subject of several films about his ideas. He is a political theorist and philosopher who has dissected the contradictions of US empire and inspired several generations of activists. This episode also features a special report on successful worker organizing among low-wage workers in New York City.

Teaching reporters what it’s like to be black


And the instructors are the men and women of the Berkeley Police Department.

From the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional [sic*] Journalists:

Open letter: SPJ NorCal responds to reports of police force used on journalists in Berkeley

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates
Berkeley Police Chief Michael K. Meehan

By Email

Dear Mayor Bates and Chief Meehan:

The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the outrageous conduct of law enforcement officers who assaulted members of the media during last night’s (Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014) demonstrations in Berkeley, California. You have an obligation to ensure that all officers, including those providing mutual aid, respect the constitutional rights of the press.

SPJ has been in touch with a number of working journalists who say they were struck with police batons while working and clearly displaying press credentials. In one incident, a journalist who was on assignment tells SPJ that he was holding out press credentials and telling an officer he was a news photographer when struck. This same journalist also reported seeing a colleague take “serious blows” from police who “hit him with impunity,” despite the fact that the colleague was “obviously press.” Other reporters also described witnessing or experiencing similar assaults.

Even more disturbing, several journalists confirm that an officer struck a news photographer in the head with a baton. As you know, this can constitute deadly force and is only justifiable under extremely limited circumstances.[1] (As the California Court of Appeal noted in an unpublished 2010 opinion, even when using a baton as deadly force, “officers should avoid striking a suspect’s head because of the potential for serious injury or death.”)[2]

We are sure that you agree attacks on journalists are entirely unacceptable. Reporters are on scene to report the news as it happens. They are not participants in the protests. Under no circumstances should members of the press be subject to such gratuitous and potentially deadly police violence.

Word is being spread of plans for another protest to begin in Berkeley at 5 p.m. today, Sunday Dec. 7, 2014. We implore you to ensure that all law enforcement officials working tonight’s protest, including those providing mutual aid, adhere to their constitutional obligations and respect the freedom of the press. We also call for a thorough investigation into inappropriate uses of force by officers against members of the news media.

We look forward to your response.

Lila LaHood
President, SPJ Northern California Chapter

Geoffrey W. King
Thomas Peele
Co-Chairs, SPJ NorCal Freedom of Information Committee

[1] See, e.g., Young v. County of Los Angeles, 655 F.3d 1156, 1162 (9th Cir. 2011) [“Furthermore, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department policies instruct officers that ‘[h]ead strikes with an impact weapon are prohibited unless circumstances justify the use of deadly force’]; cf. Thompson v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444, 451 & nn. 18-19 (7th Cir. 2006) [describing Chicago Police Department policies limiting the use of “impact weapons” such as batons to “high-level, high-risk assailants” who “pose[ ] a threat of serious bodily injury or death to officers and the public”].

[2] See McLaughlin v. City of Los Angeles, No. B217198, (July 27, 2010).

One of those injured was a photographer on assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle, who sustained a concussion when struck on the heard by a police officer’s baton — an event captured [at :29] by a CNN video camera.

The Chronicle reports:

Sam Wolson, 25, said a Berkeley police officer struck him about 7:30 p.m. Saturday as he crouched to take pictures between a line of officers and protesters outside Berkeley police headquarters on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The baton strike came after officers had touched Wolson twice, apparently to stop him from moving near the line, he said.

Chronicle Managing Editor Audrey Cooper said Wolson was “exercising a constitutional right to document the dramatic and tense scene between police and protesters. He was clearly identifiable as a member of the press. The officer had no reason to strike Sam with his baton. We are very concerned about this officer’s actions and plan to deal with city leaders and police officials about this incident.”

>snip<

In a statement late Monday to “media friends,” Berkeley police said that because of the chaotic protest environment, “it can be difficult for line officers to quickly differentiate demonstrators from media journalists who need access.” Police recommended that journalists cover protests from the side of police lines and not directly in between police and protesters.

Right, see only things from the police side. Isn’t that what American news media have been doing for far too long? Is that a key reason for the circumstances leading to the protests?

And perhaps it’s not a bad thing for the press to learn what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a police baton. Call it a Black Like Me moment.

Also injured was a San Francisco minister, Cindy Pincus of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, who was struck on the back of the head Saturday night while retreating from the police line.

She Tweeted this picture of her injury:

BLOG Cleric

*And if you wonder why we threw that “sic” after the word Professional in the journalism organization’s name, its because journalism isn’t a profession, in part because the Constitution forbids it, explicitly barring any laws restricting freedom of the press, unlike real professions, such as law and medicine, where state-controlled or supervised credentialing limits the practice of the profession to the accredited. No such laws or organizational mandates can or should apply to those who cover the institutions which would be doing the credentialing.