The U.S. imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. There is a reason for it — but not a good one. ● Michelle Alexander is a civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar and author of the highly acclaimed 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The book is an impressive work of nonfiction in which Alexander disproves common misconceptions about criminal justice in the United States and paints an appalling picture of where the system stands today.
New documents released by the FBI show that the Bureau is well on its way toward its goal of a fully operational face recognition database by this summer. EFF received these records in response to our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for information on Next Generation Identification (NGI)—the FBI’s massive biometric database that may hold records on as much as one third of the U.S. population. The facial recognition component of this database poses real threats to privacy for all Americans.
The situation in the Ukraine continues to be characterized by complete chaos and a gradual and steady strengthening of the resistance in the East. ● Following the attack by pro-regime forces on a resistance checkpoint in Slaviansk over the week-end Foreign Minister Lavrov has accused the revolutionary regime in Kiev of breaking the terms of the accord. One could argue that this attack was decided by the Right Sector (that is the conclusion that the Russian-speakers have come to based on the weapons and documents they seized) and that the cannot control them. That is probably quite true (even though the Right Sector has denied being involved). But the regime also declared that the demonstrators which are currently occupying the Maidan square in Kiev have a permit and are there legally. Truly, whether the regime does not want to enforce the terms of the agreement or whether it cannot do so make very little difference to the Russian-speakers in the East: they still have to bury the same number of people and they still face the same threat. Take a look at what Right Sector thugs did to a Russian-speaker yesterday: (no translation needed). And this is just one example amongst many. To be really honest, I have the feeling that a negotiated solution is pretty much impossible at this point. The East really has nobody to negotiate with.
Andrew Korybko: Voter Intimidation and Collective Punishment: Western Democracy at Work in Ukraine ■ Ukraine is in the throes of an imminent human rights crisis, as the red flags of oppression are visible to all objective observers that care to acknowledge the obvious. The near-death beating of Oleg Tsarev and the intimidation of Mikhail Dobkin, both Eastern Ukrainian presidential candidates, are proof, if any more was even needed, that the upcoming “elections” in Ukraine will be neither honest nor representative of the population at large. On top of that, the Kiev junta’s military operations against the pro-reform activists in the east accentuate the violent oppression that has become characteristic of EuroMaidan and its coup plotters. With all of this occurring, the West is ignobly turning a blind eye towards the same human rights values it bombastically (in a literal sense) promoted in Resistant and Defiant (R&D) states such Serbia and Libya.
The State Department is vouching for photographic "evidence" that purports to show Russian special forces in eastern Ukraine, despite Vladimir Putin's claims that his operatives are not behind the unrest. ● Ukraine's government has been circulating images over the last several days to international organizations, claiming they show "Russian sabotage-reconnaissance groups" at work in two eastern Ukrainian towns. Their authenticity could not be independently verified, but State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday they help bolster claims of ties between Russia and armed militants in eastern Ukraine. "So these are just further evidence of the connection between Russia and the armed militants," she claimed.
Michael S. Rozeff ■ Singling out the last two presidents as evil is not to let other U.S. government officials, past and present, off the hook. It is only to focus on recent, visible and incontrovertible instances of evil deeds done by evil men. Bush lied the U.S. into a vicious and aggressive war against Iraq. He’s responsible for a huge number of deaths and injuries. Obama attacked Libya based on lies. Hoping to destroy the Syrian military by a bombing campaign, he lied about the gas attack in August 2013. Obama constantly lies. Bush and Obama are wicked men, corrupt men, vicious men who have done profoundly malevolent deeds.
Our nation's singular focus on terrorism has led to various branches of the government and counterterrorism pundits declaring all sorts of things to be warning signs of terrorist activity. Here's a short (but by no means all-inclusive) list of activities that are supposedly indicators of terrorism-in-progress.
• Staying in a hotel and doing any number of "odd" things. Like not using the hotel's wifi, making requests in person at the front desk, not bringing enough baggage, using entrances/exits other than the one in the lobby area or turning down room service.
• Complaining about the TSA.
• Complaining about the water quality.
• Contributing to Wikileaks (or even frequenting the site).
• Deploying glitter during a protest.
• Being a journalist. (UK edition)
• Encrypting your data.
• Expressing dissatisfaction with government policies.
• Having "money problems."
• Operating a food truck.
Now, here's a new one to add to the list. If Lisa Monaco (White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor) is to be believed, nearly every parent, especially those with stereotypical teens in the household, is harboring potential terrorists.
A seemingly routine suppression hearing in a suburban Chicago courthouse last month took an unexpected dramatic turn when video from a police car was introduced that disproved the testimony of five police officers. ● They had said Joseph Sperling was arrested after officers who pulled him over in a traffic stop smelled marijuana, searched the vehicle and found nearly a pound in a backpack lying on the back seat of his car. But the Glenview police video showed the search occurred only after Sperling was taken from his car, frisked and handcuffed, reports the Chicago Tribune . The newspaper dubbed it "a 'Perry Mason' moment rarely seen inside an actual courtroom." Castigating the officers for their "outrageous conduct," Cook County Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn granted a defense motion to suppress the search, which eliminated a basis for his arrest and resulted in a swift dismissal by prosecutors of the felony drug case against the 23-year-old. "All the officers lied on the stand today," said Haberkorn, who herself is a former prosecutor, at the March 31 hearing. "So there is strong evidence it was conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to come up with the same lie." The officers were later put on desk duty as investigations of their conduct proceed.
Police in Peoria, Illinois seized computers and cell phones while attempting to find the person responsible for a satirical Twitter account mocking the town’s mayor. ● The Peoria Journal-Star reported that authorities executed a search warrant on the home on Tuesday night in connection with an investigation into the @Peoriamayor account, which reportedly represented itself as belonging to Mayor Jim Ardis. The account was suspended earlier this year, but not before adding a line stating it was satirical in nature. However, it still used the mayor’s name, email address and biography and posted content related to sexual activity and drugs, including a comparison between Ardis and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who has admitted to using drugs during his time in office. It had around 50 followers and as many posts before being suspended. Police said the person responsible faces charges of impersonating a public official, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum one-year jail term and $2,500 fine. Three people were taken from the residence to police headquarters for questioning. Another two residents were brought in from their workplaces. One of the residents, 27-year-old Michelle Pratt, told the Journal-Star she was put in an interview room alone for three hours before detectives questioned her. “They brought me in like I was a criminal.”
A Tehran resident washes "Yankee Go Home" graffiti
from a wall on August 21, 1953, two days after a U.S.-
backed coup elevated the Shah, M. Reza Pahlavi. (AP)
Nicolas J.S. Davies ■ U.S. efforts to overthrow foreign governments leave the world less peaceful, less just and less hopeful. || Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide's lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami. He began his talk with a riddle: "Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?" The answer: "Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C." This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well. Ukraine's former security chief, Aleksandr Yakimenko, has reported that the coup-plotters who overthrew the elected government in Ukraine, "basically lived in the (U.S.) Embassy. They were there every day." We also know from a leaked Russian intercept that they were in close contact with Ambassador Pyatt and the senior U.S. official in charge of the coup, former Dick Cheney aide Victoria Nuland, officially the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. And we can assume that many of their days in the Embassy were spent in strategy and training sessions with their individual CIA case officers. To place the coup in Ukraine in historical context, this is at least the 80th time the United States has organized a coup or a failed coup in a foreign country since 1953. That was when President Eisenhower discovered in Iran that the CIA could overthrow elected governments who refused to sacrifice the future of their people to Western commercial and geopolitical interests. Most U.S. coups have led to severe repression, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, corruption, extreme poverty and inequality, and prolonged setbacks for the democratic aspirations of people in the countries affected. The plutocratic and ultra-conservative nature of the forces the U.S. has brought to power in Ukraine make it unlikely to be an exception.
Bundy land context: US ‘leaders’ steal land with MERS bankster fraud & War Crimes, hoard CAFR & off-shore trillions
The Bundy land conflict evokes Americans to a local venue to protest crimes of a psychopathic US “leadership” immersed in “Big Lie” crimes centering in war, money, and media (also in ~100 other crucial areas). Perhaps the easiest of these crimes to explain, document, and prove is the history of unlawful US Wars of Aggression all on easily-proved lies known to be false as they were told. Because all of our families sacrificed through two world wars, the damning facts of US “leadership” lies to send US military to commit unlawful Wars of Aggression is enough to demand arrests of those political and media “leaders.”
Documents revealed by Edward Snowden and analyzed by the daily Le Monde reveal the role of French Telecom/Orange in the collection of data by the French intelligence services over a period of decades. France’s General Directorate of the External Security (DGSE) freely obtains the data of all Orange’s customers, apparently in a totally illegal manner. ● Le Monde relied upon British signals intelligence spy network (GCHQ) documents extracted from the American National Security Agency (NSA) by Snowden. They show, according to the newspaper, that the co-operation between the DGSE and Orange was “maintained by people cleared for defence secrets, at the heart of the company, and ongoing for at least thirty years, by engineers who liaise between the two institutions.” In an article titled “The DGSE reportedly has total access to the Orange network,” Reuters stresses that intercepts were carried out within the framework of the July 10 1991 law, which concerns only cases related to the fight against terrorism and organised crime. This procedure operates on the prime minister’s authorisation, after being checked by the National Commission for Security Intercepts (CNIS), for a period of four months on the basis of a documented request.
US-EU legitimacy is crippled as their Kiev regime uses overt, systematic violence and intimidation to consolidate its hold over Ukraine. ● Ukrainian presidential candidate Oleg Tsarev was savagely beaten outside a TV studio after an interview for the Ukrainian talk show, ‘Svoboda Slova.’ The studio was apparently surrounded by armed men in masks earlier, preventing Tsarev from leaving after the interview. When he did finally emerge, masked men with Svoboda Neo-Nazi “Wolfsangel” armbands began throwing objects at, choking, and physically beating Tsarev.
On Monday, the military trial of five 9/11 suspects was put on hold as allegations surfaced that the FBI had enlisted a member of the defense team as a secret informant. This brazen violation of basic democratic norms is a further exposure of an extra-judicial process that has been illegal from the start. Defense attorneys filed a motion late Sunday night calling for a halt to the proceedings, a review of the FBI’s involvement and the appointing of new independent attorneys for the defendants. James Harrington, a civilian attorney for Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the five accused, told the judge, “
We have an impossible situation in terms of representing our client… on any issue.” Harrington added, “To say this is a chilling experience for all of us is a gross understatement.” Harrington explained that the defense security officer serving bin al-Shibh’s defense team had an “ongoing” arrangement with the FBI.
John Chuckman ■ Can you have democracy for only one carefully-defined group? Can you have democracy without the restraints of a Bill of Rights upon an abusive majority? Can you have democracy which holds millions in perpetual isolation and subjects them to countless abuses? Can you have democracy where you prefer dealing with juntas and kingdoms to democratic governments in neighboring states? Can you have democracy which constantly threatens war on those who do not threaten it? Can you have democracy which conducts witch-hunts on a grand scale, just re-naming the witches as terrorists? Can you have democracy which interferes in the internal affairs of other democratic states? And, in the end, can you have democracy founded on the Orwellian principle that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal”?
Ontario’s privacy commissioner has discovered that the mental-health information of some Canadians is accessible to the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. ● Ann Cavoukian said Monday that some Ontario police services routinely uploaded attempted suicide calls to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), to which U.S. border guards and the FBI have access. Cavoukian began investigating how U.S. law enforcement had access to such personal information after last fall's news that some Canadian travellers with a history of mental-health issues had been denied entry into the U.S.
Eric Zuesse ■ "Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, ..." and then they go on to say, it's not true, and that, "America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened" by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead "the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.
The tense stand-off between hundreds of protesters and police has ended in the Nevada desert, forcing the authorities to cancel the round-up of 300 animals and to return the cattle to their owner. ● The standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and the US Bureau of Land Management has lasted over a week, after hundreds of armed agents with the United States Bureau of Land Management and the FBI turned up in the Clark County to execute the court-ordered confiscation of nearly 1,000 cattle. The US government says the animals have trespassed on federal property. This provoked a fierce backlash from anti-government groups, right-wing politicians and gun-rights activists, who gathered near 67-year-old Cliven Bundy’s farmhouse to support him in the standoff against the government. At the height of the protests, there were about 1,000 protesters outside the rancher’s home. Among them were militia members from California, Idaho and other US states, camouflaged, with rifles and side arms.
Until last week, Shuler was the only known journalist in the Western Hemisphere jailed for doing his job. Shuler, a former sports reporter and university editor who developed the political blog Legal Schnauzer, is known as a controversial figure in his community. He has fielded other allegations of falsehoods and has been embroiled in numerous lawsuits over his blogging. But even his critics conceded that a court order banning him from writing anything about the alleged extramarital affair of a man rumored to be running for Congress was likely unconstitutional, and a First Amendment outrage.
Oriental Review ■ The flywheel of political repressions in Ukraine is gaining momentum these days. In sharp contrast with the liberal approach by president Yanukovych to the “Euromaidan” rout, the interim Kievan administration did not hesitate much about cracking down the public uprising against the “neo-Nazi regime” on the rise in the East and South of Ukraine. Today only in Kharkov at least 70 activists have been arrested during the so-called “anti-terrorist operation”. According to the reports, foreign mercenaries presumably from the US Greystone Ltd private military contractor firm were participating in the operation along with the National Guard (majorly consisting of the ultranationalist Pravy (Right) Sector fighters) and some loyal Interior Ministry units. ■ George Orwell was onto something when he coined the phrase, “war is peace,” to describe the groupthink of his fictional future totalitarian society. He would have no trouble recognizing the propaganda on parade during the recent overthrow of the Ukrainian government, during which “peaceful protesters” engaged in killing, burning, and looting … and continue to do so now.
Reuters: Ukraine's east braces for anti-rebel operation as deadline passes
EO Observer: Three EU countries back Ukraine's use of force
RT.com: Ukraine's Slavyansk under siege as Kiev orders crackdown on protests
Alex Lantier: UN Security Council holds emergency meeting over Ukraine
Stephen Lendman: We're All Ukrainians Now
Michael Krieger ■ If you haven’t been following the unfolding drama at the Bundy Ranch about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas you need to start now. The escalating confrontation between irate local residents and federal agents of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the potential to take a very dangerous turn for the worse at any moment, as hundreds of militia members from states across the country are expected to descend upon the area and make a stand with 67-year-old Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. [...] To me, the argument of who is right and who is wrong in this situation is the least interesting part of the story. I have noted time and time again that the feds are becoming increasingly out of control and belligerent to American citizens. We know the stories (think Aaron Swartz) and we know the overall trend trend. However, the reason the Bundy Ranch confrontation is so interesting, is that for whatever reason this particular incident seems to be striking a chord of dissent. It is often times the most random, unforeseen and innocuous things that spark social/political movements. This standoff has it all.
National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden testified before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg this week via video link from Moscow, giving extended remarks on the subject of the US government’s surveillance operations. ● In his testimony, Snowden said the NSA has “specifically targeted the communications of either leaders or staff members in a number of purely civil or purely human rights organizations…including domestically, within the borders of the US.” Snowden said that the NSA has been targeting “peaceful groups, unrelated to any terrorist threat,” citing surveillance operations against the United Nations Children’s Fund. The NSA engages in indiscriminate spying based on a “de facto policy of guilt by association,” Snowden said. Snowden’s remarks come as yet another refutation of the US government’s claims that the surveillance operations are directed exclusively against terrorist plotters. Instead, the spying apparatus targets billions of telephone and Internet users worldwide, with special attention going to critics of, and rivals to, US imperialism.
Bill Van Auken ■ The thrust of the article—and, according to the Times, of the report itself—is summed up in its headline: “Russia failed to share data on suspect, report says.” “
The Russian government declined to provide the FBI with information about one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects that would have likely have led to more extensive scrutiny of him at least two years before the attack,” the inspector general’s report claims, according to the Times account. It quotes one of the unnamed “senior American officials” as stating: “
They found that the Russians did not provide all the information they had on him back then, and based on everything that was available the FBI did all that it could.” This tendentious assertion manages to turn reality inside out, blaming the Russian government for the failure of US authorities to intercept Tsarnaev before he carried out a bombing on American soil. The reality is that Moscow’s intelligence agency, the FSB, cabled the FBI in March 2011 with an explicit warning that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, was associating with Islamist militants and posed a threat of terrorism. [...] The timing of the Times article and the inspector general’s report upon which it is based suggests a preemptive attempt to frame any public discussion on the first anniversary of the Boston bombings. The official narrative—that the FBI did all it could but was hindered by an uncooperative Russia—is designed to suppress any questioning of the links between the bombings, US intelligence and Washington’s covert operations aimed at destabilizing the Russian North Caucasus.
No legal means exist to challenge mass surveillance, said NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, testifying to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. ● A former NSA contractor, Snowden was speaking to the PACE session in Strasbourg via a video link-up from Moscow. Wanted in the US on treason charges, he sparked a huge international scandal last year he leaked to the media classified evidence of American government spying programs. “
I would like to clarify that I have no intention of harming the US government or straining bilateral ties between any nations. My motivation is to improve the government, not to bring it down,” Snowden said. The NSA gathered “
explicit sexual material regarding religious conservatives whose political views it disfavored and considered radical for the purpose of exposing it to damage their reputations and discredit them within their communities,” Snowden told PACE. “
This is an unprecedented form of political interference that I don’t believe can be seen elsewhere in western governments,” he went on. “
But no legal means currently exist to challenge such activities or to see penalties for such abuses,” he said.
Despite Russia's veiled threat that any ongoing action against pro-Russian demonstrators had the potential to instigate civil war and bring action by the Russian forces, Ukraine's interior minister Arsen Avakov has announced, Reuters reports, that Ukraine has launched an "anti-terrorist" operation in the eastern city of Kharkiv and about 70 "separatists" have been arrested for seizing the regional administration building. Is this the red-line that Putin laid down last night? As Russia made clear last night, as ITAR-TASS reports,
The Russian Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine to halt any interior military preparations, which could instigate a civil war in the country, the ministry was quoted as saying on its Facebook.com account. “
According to our information, units of the Interior troops and Ukraine’s national guards as well as militants from the illegal armed formation ‘The Right Sector’ are being amassed in the southeastern parts of Ukraine and in the city of Donetsk,” the ministry said. “
We are particularly concerned that the operation involves some 150 American mercenaries from a private company Greystone Ltd., dressed in the uniform of the [Ukrainian] special task police unit Sokol,” the ministry said.
Independent Science News has decided to reprint in full the March 7th testimony of Edward Snowden to the European Parliament. Snowden’s testimony is vitally important for every citizen in every country to understand, yet it has barely been covered by the commercial or (non-commercial) global media. At stake is the possibility of individuals and organizations (not just the media) to function as checks on executive power. It also demonstrates the ability of a secret agency to become an executive power, able even to control the spy services of foreign countries. Publication here will enable ISN readers to hear from Snowden himself about what he considers the scope and significance of ‘suspicionless surveillance’ and its implications for democratic rights and free-speech. What Snowden shows is that surveillance is both a breach of our personal rights but it also imperils our ability to collectively enforce all of our rights.
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