Detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner approved at highest levels of US and UK governments

Thomas Gaist and Joseph Kishore

The UK government is aggressively defending its decision to detain David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, for nearly nine hours at Heathrow Airport, seizing his laptop, camera, cell phone and other personal items. Miranda was detained under a UK terrorism law while traveling from Berlin to his home in Rio de Janeiro.

The detention of Miranda was a blatant act of political intimidation directed at all those who seek to reveal crimes and conspiracies against democratic rights carried out by the British and US governments, including former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Snowden, who has worked closely with Greenwald, is currently exiled in Russia. He has been the subject of an international campaign of vilification, led by the Obama administration.

According to a report by the Reuters news agency, “One US security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government’s detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden’s materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.”

In other words, the detention had nothing to do with “terrorism” or “national security,” but was, rather, a political decision. This decision clearly involved the highest levels of the US and British governments. On Monday, a White House spokesman acknowledged that the Obama administration had been given a “heads up” about the planned detention. British Prime Minister David Cameron also had advance notice of the plans to detain Miranda, Downing Street confirmed yesterday. The Guardian quoted a source within the government as saying, “We were kept abreast in the usual way. We do not direct police investigations.”

The suggestion from the UK government that somehow the final decision was made by local police agencies is a fraud. The approval of Miranda’s dentition clearly came from No 10 and the White House.

The detention of David Miranda and the “war on terror”

Joseph Kishore

The detention and interrogation by UK authorities of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, is a chilling act of political intimidation.

Miranda was detained and questioned for nine hours—the maximum allowed by the relevant section of the British Terrorism Act of 2000. He was denied the right to a lawyer and the right to remain silent. His personal effects were seized and not returned, including his computer, cell phone, camera, and memory sticks with documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

“They got me to tell them the passwords for my computer and mobile phone,” Miranda told the Guardian. “They said I was obliged to answer all their questions … They were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn’t cooperate.”

These are the acts of political gangsters operating outside of all legal restraint. Miranda, a private citizen, was detained, questioned, threatened and had his property confiscated solely because of his relationship to Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, whom Miranda had been visiting in Berlin. Both Greenwald and Poitras have worked with Snowden to expose secret and illegal spying programs by the United States and its international collaborators, including the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

While Miranda was detained in Britain, the central protagonist was the Obama administration, which has led an international campaign of vilification and persecution against Snowden since he first revealed himself in June. On Monday, a White House spokesman said that the US had been given a “heads up” about the British action before it happened, and that US and British intelligence agencies have had extensive discussions. While the administration claims that it did not ask the British to seize Miranda, a formal request was hardly necessary. The police and spy agencies of the two countries operate on the same wavelength.

Obama cancels summit, escalates tensions with Russia

Joseph Kishore

The US decision to cancel a planned summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin is a major escalation of US pressure on Russia and a ratcheting up of tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries. It is the first time since the end of the Cold War that the US has canceled a publicly announced presidential meeting with leaders in Russia.

The immediate issue behind the move is the decision by the Russian government to grant temporary asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden. There are, however, broader geostrategic issues at stake. Among the factors cited by the White House as driving the decision are “missile defense and arms control,” “trade and commercial relations,” and “global security issues”—a reference to divisions over US policy toward Syria and Iran.

An editorial in the New York Times published Wednesday morning, just before the announcement (“What’s the Point of a Summit?”), calls for canceling the summit. In the editorial, the newspaper lines up squarely behind Washington’s vendetta against Snowden and in support of the police-state spying apparatus that the former National Security Agency contractor has exposed. With this editorial statement, the Times provides yet another demonstration of the integration of the media into the military/intelligence apparatus.

At the same time, the editorial expresses a growing consensus within the American foreign policy establishment that Russia is an obstacle to major US objectives around the world and a more confrontational posture is necessary.

The Bradley Manning verdict: Criminalizing the exposure of crimes

Joseph Kishore

In this courtroom sketch, Bradley Manning, third from left,
stands with lead defence attorney David Coombs, centre, and
his defence team as Judge Col. Denise Lind reads her verdict.

On Wednesday, the day after the conviction of Bradley Manning was handed down by a military judge, the Washington Post published an article under the headline, “Manning’s Conviction Seen as Making Prosecution of WikiLeaks’ Assange Likely.” The Post noted that the prosecutors—that is, the Obama administration—specifically tailored their case against Manning to implicate the founder of WikiLeaks.

“Military prosecutors in the court-martial portrayed [Julian] Assange as an ‘information anarchist’ who encouraged Manning… And they insisted that the anti-secrecy group cannot be considered a media organization that published the leaked information in the public interest,” the Post wrote. The prosecution continually sought to present Assange as a co-conspirator.

Other articles sounded a similar theme, including one by the Associated Press stating that Manning’s conviction “gives a boost to the Obama administration’s aggressive pursuit of people it believes have leaked national security secrets to the media.” In addition to Assange, the AP noted that “the government’s case against National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden” will likely be “similar to the Manning prosecution.”

This is further evidence that the kangaroo-court trial of the young whistle-blower Manning is part of a ruthless government campaign to criminalize all exposures of government criminality. The prosecution of Manning, who faces a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison, is intended as an example and a precedent. Whistle-blowing, the government is declaring, amounts to espionage and treason.

Obama offers tortured defense of targeted killings

Joseph Kishore

In his speech on Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, US President Barack Obama offered a tortured defense of extra-judicial assassinations, for the first time publicly acknowledging the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, in September 2011.

Obama’s remarks were characterized by an essential contradiction. He sought to defend drone assassinations, while at the same time essentially acknowledging their illegality and the illegality of much of what the American government has done over the past decade.

A tone of nervousness and defensiveness pervaded Obama’s remarks, reflecting awareness within the ruling class that what they are doing is not only illegal, but also increasingly unpopular. Significantly, the speech was repeatedly interrupted by a woman who denounced the administration’s policy on drone assassinations and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Obama’s admission that he had ordered the killing of Awlaki is part of an effort by the administration to bring the assassination program “into the open,” to institutionalize it and turn it into a permanent feature of US policy.

The New York Times and terrorism

Joseph Kishore

Syrian state TV reported that PM Wael al-Halqi had escaped
an assassination bid in Damascus. (Syria TV)

In its article yesterday on the failed assassination attempt against Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi in Damascus, the New York Times includes a remarkable, and revealing, passage. After noting that several had been injured (in fact, at least six were reportedly killed) in a blast that left “a car reduced to a charred skeleton and, nearby, a bus with its windows shattered,” the Times goes on to write:

“State television in Syria called the attack a ‘terrorist explosion’ that was ‘an attempt to target the convoy of the prime minister.’ Terrorist is the word used by the authorities to depict their armed adversaries.”

The Syrian government, the Times suggests, is manipulating the word “terrorism” in an effort to tar its US-backed opponents.

What unbridled cynicism! It is precisely the American government and its subservient media that have perfected the use of the term “terrorism” and invented the “war on terror” to justify Washington’s wars abroad. Any armed opposition to these wars—including attacks on US and allied occupying forces—is denounced as “terrorist” by the American government and news media.

A financial dictator for Detroit

Joseph Kishore

Shuttered homes and businesses in downtown Detroit, Michigan.
More than 100 American cities could go bust next year as the debt
crisis that has taken down banks and countries threatens next to
spark a municipal meltdown
(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

With the appointment of an emergency manager on Thursday, Detroit became the largest city in US history to be taken over by the state government. The new manager, bankruptcy lawyer Kevin Orr, will have vast powers and one essential task: to carry out a brutal assault on the jobs and living conditions of the working class.

What is taking place in Detroit has national and international significance. The Financial Times of London cited one person involved in the discussions on the imposition of a financial manager as saying, “This will be the best case study of what it means to restructure a city.” In an editorial, the newspaper called for “radical—and unpopular—action” to address Detroit’s financial woes, a position shared by virtually every mass circulation newspaper in the US.

The “restructuring” of Detroit is a euphemism for a slash and burn policy of destroying city jobs, cutting wages and pensions, gutting social services from sanitation and firefighting to health care and education, and handing over city assets to private bankers and speculators. The very social forces responsible for the city’s present state are utilizing the crisis of their own making to step up their plundering of public resources and further redistribute the wealth from the bottom to the top. Exhibiting the ruthlessness that is a hallmark of American capitalism, the ruling class, in the pursuit of its program of social counterrevolution, is dispensing with the trappings of democracy and imposing a bankers’ dictatorship over the city.

Obama administration claims "right" to assassinate citizens within the US

Joseph Kishore

According to the Obama administration, the president has the right to assassinate American citizens within the United States, without charges or any legal process. This claim, contained in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder, constitutes the most far-reaching abrogation of constitutional rights and is aimed at establishing the pseudo-legal framework for military rule.

Holder’s letter, the first explicit assertion of a power to extrajudicially kill Americans in their homes, was in response to a question delivered to the Obama administration from Republican Senator Rand Paul. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Holder reiterated and expanded on this position, declaring that the authorization to use military force in the “war on terror” extends to the United States.

In the letter to Paul, Holder responds to a question as to whether “the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial.”

Holder’s answers are a series of evasions and absurd rationalizations. He repeats the statement made repeatedly by the administration before, that the “US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention to do so.” He adds that “as a matter of policy”—that is, not as a matter of legality—“we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.”

In other words, under circumstances where the executive branch and military decide that police action is not the “best means” of responding to an undefined threat, the military will be deployed to kill people at will.

US to expand assassination program to northern Africa

Joseph Kishore

The Obama administration is discussing the expansion of its drone program into Algeria and other countries in northwest Africa, according to media reports. The preparations to extend the military and CIA “kill lists” takes place amidst proposals to more securely institutionalize the global program of assassination.

According to a front-page report in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal headlined “Push to Expand US ‘Kill List,’” the immediate target of the extension of the drone program is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian who has claimed responsibility for the operation to seize control of a natural gas facility in Amenas, Algeria in January. An Algerian military raid on the compound—a critical energy facility operated in collaboration with multinational companies—led to the death of 69 people.

According to the Journal, “Some US officials are pressing for a more direct involvement in the hunt for Mr. Belmokhtar, whether with drones, other aircraft or American forces. Such an effort could rely on the military’s special-operations units, with help from the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said.”

Assassinations have thus far focused on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and the northeast African nation of Somalia. The expansion of drone killing to northwest Africa is part of an intensified focus of all the major imperialist powers on northern Africa—including the US-led war in Libya in 2011 and the French-led operation currently underway in Mali. The US government has already secured a status of forces agreement to establish a drone base in Niger, which is bordered by Algeria on the North and Mali on the West.

In bellicose speech, Romney outlines bipartisan drive to war

Joseph Kishore

In a bellicose foreign policy speech Monday, Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney threatened war with Iran, expanded military intervention in Syria, an unending occupation of Afghanistan, and the reintroduction of US troops into Iraq.

While framed as a criticism of the policy of the Obama administration, the main contours of Romney’s speech were in line with the agenda proposed by the current president. Romney’s remarks highlighted the bipartisan conspiracy against the American people, as both candidates plan an aggressive expansion of US militarism abroad, behind the backs of the public.

Romney delivered his speech at the Virginia Military Institute, continuing a tradition, shared by the current president, in which foreign policy speeches are delivered before a military audience. The military is treated as—and indeed is in fact—an independent and overriding power in the American political establishment.

After his speech, Romney held a closed-door meeting with retired generals, in which the war plans of a potential Romney administration were no doubt discussed with even greater candor.

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