Category Archives: GWOT

Militarizing academia, a list and an omission

We begin with the latest edition of Days of Revolt, the new weekly broadcast series from Chris Hedges produced by The Real News Network for  Telesur English:

Days of Revolt – Militarizing Education

Program notes:

In this episode of Days of Revolt, host Chris Hedges discusses the militarization of higher education institutions with journalist Alexa O’Brien. They uncover the trail of money and influence from the national security state to college programs. Hedges and O’Brien identify the ways in which this apparatus has long-been in effect, and what it could mean for the future.

While we generally agree with her critique of the military’s increasing grasp on the military, we find one peculiar omission from the list of the 100 most militarized universities she published in VICE News.

Not on the list is the University of California, now headed by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Lest we forget, it was UC Berkeley’s own Robert Oppenheimer who headed the immense World War II scientific research program responsible for developing the atomic bomb. Berkeley is still involved in running Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory, where new nuclear weapons are developed, and appoints three members to the board of Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. And it was UC Berkeley’s John Yoo who provided the guiding legal advice justifying torture in the wake of 9/11.

The University of California also provided nearly half of the scientists of the Jason group, the secret, self-selected cabal of academics who provide research and advice to the Pentagon.

Among the Jasons’ “gifts” to humankind are the border patrolling drone and border-installed remote sensing devices, developed for the Vietnam War under the rubric of the Air-Supported Anti-Infiltration Barrier [PDF].

A 2007 College Quarterly review of Ann Finkbeiner’s 2006 book The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite, noted:

She was able to contact a number of Jasons and succeeded in interviewing thirty-six (published estimates of the total roster range from forty to about one hundred). Some refused to be interviewed. Some agreed only on condition of anonymity. Her book reveals that the $850 a day now paid to Jasons, while worthwhile, seems to be among the least of the motives for joining. More important is the sense of self-importance to be had from playing the part of a confident Washington insider. More likely still are altruistic, if naïve, beliefs that the Jasons make positive contributions to society by, if nothing else, exposing strategic errors or technological flaws in government plans and, of course, also solving real scientific problems in the bargain. They certainly have the skills to do so. Nobel laureates and giants of the intellectual community including Dyson, Hans Bethe, Steven Weinberg and the legendary Murray Gell-Mann have been Jasons. Too often, however, Finkbeiner concludes that their bargain is ultimately Faustian.

Jason has applied its collective braininess to such projects as the “electronic infiltration barrier” that did not, as it happens, protect South Vietnam from North Vietnam’s flow of troops (they tunnelled underground). Jason also worked out puzzles in adaptive optics, allowing telescopes to correct for atmospheric interference – information kept under wraps for a decade until the military found a use for it in Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”). Today, they may be providing advice on the occupation of Iraq; but, we won’t get the details on that soon, if ever.

The Jasons have also served as a model for other nations, as noted in a 10 November 2009 report in Nature, the world’s leading scientific journal:

The British government has recruited a group of academics to tackle tricky scientific problems related to defence, Nature has learned.

The programme is similar to a group known as the JASONs, which the US government has consulted on technical issues since the 1960s. “You hear a lot about the JASONs and how much credibility they have in the United States,” says Mark Welland, the UK Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser. Britain needs a similarly “fast-moving, free-floating entity”, he says.

Scientific advice is frequently sought in Britain, but on security-related issues the advice usually comes from inside the government. Scientists at government labs such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston are consulted on sensitive topics, in part because academic researchers lack the necessary security clearances.

Though the Pentagon created the group in 1958, it was only in 1971 that their existence became known to the public, thanks to the leak of the Pentagon Papers.

While the group’s membership remains a secret, some names surfaced in 1972, thanks to the release of the in-depth report on the group, authored by UC Berkeley Professor Charlie Schwartz and colleagues.

According to one published estimate, fully half of the Jasons have come from the University of California, primarily Berkeley.

The Federation of American Scientists maintains a database of declassified Jason reports.

So any way you look at it, the University of California belongs on any list of the nation’s most militarized universities.

Climate change linked to rising terrorism

Is climate change a critical driver of the rising tide of terrorism?

That’s the plausible contention of New York University geographer/sociologist Christian Parenti, professor in the school’s Global Liberal Studies Program and author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, and the subject of this interview by Jessica Desvarieux of The Real News Network:

The Pentagon and Bernie Sanders Agree: Terrorism Linked to Climate Change

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So Chris, is Bernie Sanders slightly daffy to link climate change and terrorism? I just want your quick response right there.

PARENTI: No, Bernie Sanders is not in error in that regard. And most of the U.S. defense establishment agrees with him. The quadrennial defense review makes an issue of climate change as a threat multiplier, as a dynamic that is going to increase all sorts of threats, including terrorism. There are numerous declassified reports from various branches of the military and from numerous militaries around the world that take climate change seriously as a driving cause of violence.

So it’s very real, and experts really across the political spectrum accept this. The question, then, becomes what do you do? You know, the classic rightist response is, well, then you have to build higher walls and you have to prepare for open-ended counterinsurgency on a global scale forever. And a more progressive response would be no, we have to, one, radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately, mitigate emissions, but also deal with adaptation. And provide technology and capital for people to cope with the new, extreme weather that is already happening.

DESVARIEUX: But I want to still talk about this issue, about linking climate change and terrorism, before we get to alternatives, because there are some experts–I have two authors from the libertarian Cato institute. They came out with a recent article from Huffington Post. They say these drought issues have more to do with serious history of bad water management policies and a population that has tripled in the past 35 years. Don’t they have a point in here, Christian? Don’t 300 percent more people create water scarcity issues?

PARENTI: Well, if there is also a drought. But the fact of the matter is Syria went through the worst recorded drought in terms of lack of precipitation. So Syria, between 2005-2010, was not getting enough rainfall. There’s also the precipitating issues–I wouldn’t blame population. I would blame, as I do in my book, neoliberalism. Free market economics totally undermine people’s ability to adapt to this extreme weather. When the state cuts back on agricultural extension, veterinary services, that means farmers whose crops fail due to drought have to leave the land and go to cities, and there they end up often struggling over state power, which is exactly what happened in Syria.

So the thing about climate change is that it doesn’t ever act in isolation to cause violence. It acts by exacerbating pre-existing crises. Crises that libertarians have, intellectuals like the ones you mentioned, have been important in creating, mainly the, the 30-year legacy of free market economic restructuring pushed by the United States and the Bretton Woods institution, the World Bank and the IMF, on the developing economies of the global south, which have mandated that in exchange for lifeline loans, state assets such as state companies, et cetera, must be sold off. [Inaud.] must be deregulated. State support for health and human services, et cetera, must be cut back. This is austerity, this is the neoliberal restructuring agenda. And it has created increased inequality and increased absolute poverty, which is an endemic crisis in many places.

Headline of the day: Suspicions confirmed, again

From the Guardian:

Obama’s drone war a ‘recruitment tool’ for Isis, say US air force whistleblowers

Four former service members – including three sensor operators – issue plea to rethink current airstrike strategy that has ‘fueled feelings of hatred’ toward US

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.

Boosting the political chances of xenophobes

With the xenophobic parties and candidates on the rise in the U.S. and Europe, today’s front pages are an undisguised blessing for their rabble-rousing rhetoric.

First, the homepage of the Washington Post:


Next, the New York Daily News:


Next, USA Today:

BLOG Paris USA Today

And the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Paris LA Times

Next, on to London, where the immigrant issue is equally volatile, first with the London Daily Mail:

BLOG Paris London Mail

And the London Telegraph:

BLOG Paris London Telegraph

Finally, to France and the homepage of Le Monde:

BLOG Paris Le Monde

UPDATE: Another Parisian paper, Libération, Tweeted an image of the front page of its print edition:

BLOG Paris Liberation

UPDATE II: And the New York Times, a paper we somehow had neglected to include, a very rare full page banner on the website::

BLOG Paris NYT 2

UPDATE III: And our final one for the night, with The Guardian and the latest numbers:

BLOG Paris Guardian

The War on Terror’s small casualties at home

A new study has revealed a new class if victims of the war on terror, and they’re right here at home, sleeping in cribs.

The story, via Newswise:

Children under age two may be at heightened risk for abuse and neglect during the six months immediately following a parent’s return from deployment in the U.S. Army, and the risk may rise among Army families with soldiers who are deployed more than once.

Researchers from the PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) performed one of the largest longitudinal retrospective studies analyzing child abuse and neglect among Army families. Supported by the Defense Health Program, the study appeared today in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Prior research had revealed an increased risk to children while parents were deployed, mostly due to supervisory neglect while parents were overseas,” said the study’s senior author, David M. Rubin, M.D., MSCE, the co-director of PolicyLab. “This study is the first to reveal an increased risk when soldiers with young children return home from deployment. This demonstrates that elevated stress when a soldier returns home can have real and potentially devastating consequences for some military families.”

“While incidents of child abuse and neglect among military families are well below that of the general population, this study is another indicator of the stress deployments place on soldiers, family members and caregivers,” said Karl F. Schneider, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “Since the end of the data collection period in 2007, the Army has enacted myriad programs to meet these kinds of challenges head on, and we will continue working to ensure services and support are available to soldiers, families, and their children.”

The study drew on two different measures of child abuse from Army databases: substantiated child maltreatment reports and medical diagnoses of child maltreatment. The substantiated reports, collected by the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) of the Department of Defense, captured four types of child maltreatment: physical, sexual, and emotional, and neglect. The medical diagnoses were identified from TRICARE, the healthcare program for U.S. service members and their families.

The study included children under age two in Army families of over 112,000 soldiers deployed once or twice during the years 2001 to 2007. The first two years of a child’s life are known to be a period of high stress for families.

The researchers compared patterns of abuse and neglect in Army families of soldiers deployed only once versus those deployed twice. The study focused on the first two years of a child’s life because of the elevated risk for life-threatening child abuse among infants that exceeds risk in all other age groups.

Although the proportion of families whose children were identified with abuse or neglect was low, the researchers found there was an elevated risk of abuse and neglect specifically during the six months immediately following a soldier’s one-time deployment. When soldiers were deployed twice, the highest rate of abuse and neglect occurred during the second deployment, and was usually perpetrated by a non-soldier caregiver. The rate of substantiated child abuse and neglect doubled during the second deployment compared to the first deployment period.

“The finding that in most cases the perpetrators were not the soldiers themselves reveals to us that the stress that plays out in Army families during or after deployment impacts the entire family, and is not simply a consequence of the soldier’s experience and stress following deployment,” said Christine Taylor, the study’s lead author, a project manager at CHOP’s PolicyLab.

The Family Advocacy Program offers a breadth of valuable services to families, such as parenting classes, child care services, and classes focused on a soldier’s reintegration into home life. Ultimately, these findings may inform efforts by the military and civilian systems to standardize care and support military families during all periods of elevated risk.

Here are some more precise numbers from PolicyLab’s website:

METHODS: We conducted a person-time analysis of substantiated maltreatment reports and medical diagnoses among children of 112,325 deployed US Army soldiers between 2001 and 2007.

RESULTS: Risk of maltreatment was elevated after deployment for children of soldiers deployed once but not for children of soldiers deployed twice. During the 6 months after deployment, children of soldiers deployed once had 4.43 substantiated maltreatment reports and 4.96 medical diagnoses per 10,000 child-months. The highest maltreatment rate among children of soldiers deployed twice occurred during the second deployment for substantiated maltreatment (4.83 episodes per 10,000 child-months) and before the first deployment for medical diagnoses of maltreatment (3.78 episodes per 10,000 child-months).

Quote of the day: Snowden on torture hypocrisy

Speaking to Swedish journalists Lena Sundström and Foto Lotta Härdelin for the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter:

It’s really just crazy, the way that the US Government has handled the issue of torture. Because it’s so clear that is what they’ve done. We’ve even had an investigation in the intelligence committee, which almost never does anything meaningful. They usually act more like cheerleaders for the intelligence community, than watch-dogs. When they get a report that’s so clear and when there were indications that there were people in the CIA, who wanted to talk about these things, but who felt stressed. Some even asked to be moved, because they couldn’t cope with the things they were witnessing and they wanted to do something about it. But instead of providing some path for these individuals to report the wrongdoings that they were witnessing, the CIA actually asked them to stop documenting the abuse.

And the only person, who, to this point, has been convicted of this kind of wrongdoings, is the CIA officer who reported the waterboarding.