Category Archives: Deep Politics

Laura Flanders: Surveillance and community

Los Angeles has always been one of the bastions of the surveillance state, where all means, fair and foul, were used to investigate and discredit not only criminals but activists who were deemed a threat to the city’s powerful business interests.

Bombs, sex, blackmail, and — quite possibly — murder were tools in the hands of the city’s “Red Squad” and its successors, the Public Disorder Intelligence Division, the Organized Crime Intelligence Division, and the Anti-Terrorist Division.

We have written before about our own journalistic experience with these organizations, as have other journalists, and the record is indeed grim [see this timeline from the Anderson Valley Advertiser for more details].

While a series of lawsuits forced significant reforms in LAPD’s surveillance regime, they have been significantly undone thanks to the political expediency of the “War on Terror.”

From the Laura Flanders Show via Telesur English:

Hamid Khan: The Surveillance-Industrial Complex

Program notes:

Surveillance, spying, and infiltration has a long history in the United States — from the Police Red Squads in the 1880s to the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to today. This week’s guest says The “surveillance-industrial complex” has profound but poorly understood impacts on our political, structural, economic, and cultural lives. Hamid Kahn is the director of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, and serves on the boards of several organizations, including the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Political Research Associates, and Youth Justice Coalition. Also in this episode, we meet the students that forced Columbia University to divest from private prisons. All this, and Laura discusses US government spying on Black Lives Matter movement activists.

In October, 2011, Larry Aubry described one notorious Los Angeles Police surveillance program for readers of his column in the LA Sentinel, a publication serving that city’s African American community:

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Order 11 (SO 11) is the lead model of the National Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) initiative launched in 2008. SO 11 trains and authorizes LAPD officers to gather street level intelligence and information based entirely on “observed behavior.” Such purely, and/or largely subjective and arbitrary police action signals a “surveillance industrial/governmental complex” at the local level. Through SO 11, LAPD and the Department of Homeland Security have established a vague and ambiguous reporting system combined with vague and virtually unlimited authority. SO 11 solidifies a system that normalizes racial profiling and places the brunt of repressive policies on Blacks, other communities of color and immigrants.

SO 11’s fundamental premise is that each and every person is a suspect, hence, a threat to national security. It codifies “suspicious activities” through a LAPD, Suspicious Activities Report (SAR) that documents “any reported or observed activity or criminal act, or attempted criminal act which an officer “believes may reveal a nexus to foreign or domestic terrorism,” which is downright scary.

Here are excerpts from LAPD Special Order on SAR, APPENDIX B: “Information reported in a SAR may be the result of observations or investigations by police officers, or may be reported to them by private parties. Incidents (over 40 listed) which shall be reported on a SAR include the following: “Engages in suspected pre-operational surveillance (used binoculars or cameras, takes measurements, draws diagrams, etc.); appears to engage in counter-surveillance efforts (doubles back, changes appearance, evasive driving, etc.); engages security personnel in questions focusing on sensitive subjects (security information, hours of operation, shift changes, what security cameras film, etc.);

“Takes measurements (counts footsteps, measures building entrances or perimeters, distances between security locations, distances between cameras, etc.; takes pictures of video footage (with no apparent aesthetic value, i.e., camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.); in possession of, or solicits, sensitive event schedules (i. e., Staples, Convention Center) ” , etc., etc…….” God forbid!

And Darwin Bond-Graham and Ali Winston wrote about the newest twists in LAPD’s panopticon ambitions for LA Weekly in February 2014:

Los Angeles and Southern California police. . .are expanding their use of surveillance technology such as intelligent video analytics, digital biometric identification and military-pedigree software for analyzing and predicting crime. Information on the identity and movements of millions of Southern California residents is being collected and tracked.

In fact, Los Angeles is emerging as a major laboratory for testing and scaling up new police surveillance technologies. The use of military-grade surveillance tools is migrating from places like Fallujah to neighborhoods including Watts and even low-crime areas of the San Fernando Valley, where surveillance cameras are proliferating like California poppies in spring.

The use of militarized surveillance technology appears to be spreading beyond its initial applications during the mid-2000s in high-crime areas to now target narrow, specific crimes such as auto theft. Now, LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff are monitoring the whereabouts of residents whether they have committed a crime or not. The biggest surveillance net is license plate reading technology that records your car’s plate number as you pass police cruisers equipped with a rooftop camera, or as you drive past street locations where such cameras are mounted.

If history teaches anything, it’s that the forces of repression will exploit any tragedy to augment their own powers. The history of the LAPD offers ample proof.

Israel threatens Palestinians with death by gas

An armored sound truck moves slowly down a village street, it’s speakers blaring a message: Stop resisting or we will gas you all to death. “The children, the youth, the old people, we won’t leave any of you alive.”

So where did it happen? And who was broadcasting the lethal warning?

If you guess that, perhaps, the message came from SS troops in a Russian shtetl in the summer of 1942 you would be wrong .

The warning came from the Israeli army on 29 October 2015, and the targets of the message were Palestinians in the Aida Refugee Camp, where youths had been throwing rocks at Israeli troops.

The stunning images are featured in the final seconds of the latest edition of Empire Files, Abby Martin’s show for Telesur English, featuring an interview with Max Blumenthal on the reason for rising Palestinian resistance in Israel and the lands under its occupation.

What is most chilling are the members of the rising Israeli neofascist Right, including a Minister of Justice who has openly called for genocide of Palestinians.

From Empire Files:

Max Blumenthal: Palestine’s Rebellion, Israel’s Fascism

Program notes:

Abby Martin interviews journalist and author Max Blumenthal on the current situation in Palestine and the Israeli occupation. This episode covers what is behind today’s rebellion, the rising dominance of far-right, ultra-racist ideology in Israel, eye-witness accounts of the aftermath of the Gaza war, and the Israeli government’s fear of Palestinian resistance.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times Best Seller “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel”, and the recently-published “The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.”

Allen Dulles, America’s murderous spymaster

David Talbot is a veteran San Francisco journalist who founded Salon, served as a senior editor at Mother Jones and feature editor for the San Francisco Examiner. He’s written to the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Time, and The Guardian, among others, and written four major books.

His latest book, The Devil’s Chessboard, focuses on one of the darkest figures of 20th Century American history, former Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles,

Aaron Wiener of Mother Jones offers a concise synopsis:

Talbot offers a portrait of a black-and-white Cold War-era world full of spy games and nuclear brinkmanship, in which everyone is either a good guy or a bad guy. Dulles—who deceived American elected leaders and overthrew foreign ones, who backed ex-Nazis and thwarted left-leaning democrats—falls firmly in the latter camp.

Dulles killed with impunity, sending his officers and agents out to plot, overthrow, and murder politicians and activists in other lands who failed to hew the Washington line.

And it’s an open question as to whether or not he did the same thing much closer to home.

Perhaps the most controversial claim Talbot makes is one long familiar to esnl, namely that Allen Dulles, fired from his post by President John Kennedy after the failure of the Bay of Pigs, the CIA-planned invasion of Cuba in 1961, played a direct role in Kennedy’s assassination two years later.

Before you dismiss the contention out of hand, esnl heard similar allegations from two sources in the intelligence community more than thirty years ago, and absent convincing evidence to the contrary, Talbot’s contention is certainly well within the realm of possibility.

With that, here’s an extended interview with Talbot by RT America’s Alexey Yaroshevsky:

‘Allen Dulles did whatever he wanted to do,’ whether presidents knew or not – David Talbot

Program notes:

The Devil’s Chessboard, author David Talbot’s new book, presents new insights into the activities of CIA head Allen Dulles during the 1950s. New findings include US Intelligence’s cooperation with Nazis during WWII, CIA targeting of governments such as the Congo, Guatemala, Iran and even allied governments like France. Talbot discusses his book with RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky in this extended interview.

Map of the day: Caution, spooks at work

From the US Forum on Combating Globalization:

BLOG Spooks

Abby Martin on U.S. press subservience to Israel

No other foreign power exercises so tight a hold on American news media as does Israel, as we have learned firsthand [and previously].

So we were pleased to see that Abby Martin has devoted the latest edition of her Telesur English series the Empire Files to a look at how the media spins the conflict between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people.

From the Empire Files:

The Distortion & Death Behind Israel/Palestine Coverage

Program notes:

A crisis in Palestine is again all over the headlines. From stabbings and Molotov cocktails, to killing of protesters and anti-Arab lynch mobs — how much of the mass media coverage can we really trust?

Abby Martin takes a look at how the so-called “Israel-Palestine conflict” has been covered by the mainstream press during the last crisis in the region, and the variety of tactics employed by the state of Israel to control the narrative: from its Hasbara propaganda machine, to outright killing of journalists.

Featuring interviews with Dan Cohen (@DanCohen3000), investigative journalist who just returned from 7 months of reporting from Gaza and the West Bank, and Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhelek) writer and editor with Electronic Intifada.

Technoparasites: We paid, they profit

The “innovative” corporations so admired by neoliberal capitalism and its cheerleaders in the Forth Estate are innovators, but not so much of technology but of ways to package it, then in using some of the profits they’ve made off taxpayer-funded research into changing laws to make ever more profits while those who paid for all that research are driven deeper into economic despair.

If you consider all that a bit harsh, then pay close attention to the dissection of an iPhone during the first part of this latest documentary from the Dutch public television documentary series VPRO Backlight:

VPRO Backlight: The Smart State

Program notes:

We think new technology is developed by hip companies like Google and Apple. But is this true? VPRO Backlight explores the innovation climate in Europe, to find out what role governments and the private sector play in this. Who finances the development, and who profits from it?

What would the iPhone be worth without the internet, GPS and touchscreen technology? All these components didn’t originate from Apple, but from research institutes, universities and government-funded companies. VPRO Backlight explores where new technologies, from medicines to gizmos, come from, who finances their development and who profits from them.

We have gotten used to seeing new technology as something devised by smart, trendy techies at companies like Apple or Google. Italian American economist Mariana Mazzucato delved into the origin of new technology, and found out that governments have more influence than we think.

In her highly acclaimed book The Entrepreneurial State, Mazzucato argues that we should take another look at the source of innovation, and at the role governments actually play in innovation. She claims that technological progress will be seriously delayed if innovation is left only to the private sector. One question is what future governments can still contribute to technological development if they only have the costs, not the benefits. A company like Apple makes a profit with technology co-developed by governments, but like so many other big companies, they barely pay taxes.

VPRO Backlight pays a visit to aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which is teaming up with the European Space Agency for the development of 3D printing. But we also go to the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, where so-called orphan drugs are developed: medicines for rare diseases that would be too costly for companies to develop without additional incentive measures. And finally, in Denmark the government does have an important role in innovation as a direct venture investor in new technology. Not only the costs are for the government, but also the profits, as with Universal Robots, a manufacturer of smart robot arms, which was sold for hundreds of millions. Does Denmark have the ideal system to accelerate technological development?

While we agree with the analysis of the problem, we think the Danish government investment program is only a half-measure.

What’s wrong with cooperative businesses, where ownership is diffused and related directly to those who do the actual work? And what of other forms of economic organization?

Also, that space race deserves a little more consideration, especially in the light of plans contained in long-secret documents eleased last year.

From the 17 September 2014 edition of Newsweek:

[J]ust-released documents from the 1950s and ’60s, many of which were obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, portrays the much messier—and sometimes quite frightening—story playing out behind the scenes in what is arguably the most important international competition in human history.

Many of the plans were prepared by the American military, which focused on how the moon could be used for fighting. Blueprints were prepared for a military base largely buried under the lunar surface. Designs were drawn up for building nuclear reactors there, although no one seemed to have given much thought about where the radioactive waste would be disposed in the vacuum of space. And detailed studies recommended that the United States detonate a nuclear weapon near or on the moon, partly in hopes of setting off a “moonquake” and partly to scare the crap out of the Russians.

The reasons for frantic scheming on both sides of the Cold War were not just the altruistic advancement of science and a chance to feed national pride. Both countries wanted to get to the moon first because they thought it would give them military superiority in their long, bitter and costly Cold War. “The results of failure to first place man on extraterrestrial, naturally occurring real estate will raise grave political questions and at the same time lower United States prestige and influence,” reads one 1959 Army document about a secret program called Project Horizon. “[Moreover], the extent to which future operations might be conducted in space…is of such a magnitude as to almost defy the imagination.… The interactions of space and terrestrial war are so great as to generate radically new concepts.”

Chris Hedges, fervently hoping for revolution

Chris Hedges rose to the summit of American journalism, winning a Pulitzer Prize and working as Mideast Bureau Chief for the New York Times at the time he resigned following discipline for speaking out against the invasion of Iraq, declaring “We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security.”

Since shedding his role as an exemplar of the mainstream media, Hedges has found a new calling as one of the country’s foremost critics of the media, and of the economic system in which they are based — a system which has produced an ongoing unemployment crisis and left most Americans struggling on the bring of poverty.

And now, in this interview with Vice News, Hedges admits to a fervent hope for a second American Revolution, a stance reflected in the title of his latest book,  Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt.

From Vice News:

Chris Hedges on What it Takes to be a Rebel in Modern Times

Program notes:

Bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges sits down with Ben Makuch at the Toronto VICE office to discuss what it takes to be a rebel in modern times. Hedges discusses his new book Wages of Rebellion, an investigation of the social and psychological factors that cause revolution, rebellion and resistance. From Wall Street corruption to why the elites in corporate media have eviscerated traditional investigative journalism, Hedges tries to make sense of the world we live in.

And if you’re wondering about that unemployment figure and why it’s so much higher than the official number, its because the long-term unemployed who have simply given up have been factored out of the data, a decision reached in 1994 under Bill Clinton.

From Shadow Government Statistics, here’s what the real jobless rate would be without the political tweaking: