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Posts Tagged ‘Dissent’

“Take Back The Streets”: Civil Rights Report Finds Police Worldwide Criminalize Dissent, Assert New Powers in Crackdown on Protests

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2013 at 1:17 pm

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Oldspeak: “In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, “Take Back the Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World,” warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain. The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G-20 summit. A senior Toronto police commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention…” – Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzalez

“Ever notice how when you see news of protest, in any particular protest/rebellion/revolution around the world, the police look the same? Dark colored. Armored. Heavily armed. Deploying chemical weapons. And brutal, usually without provacation from peaceful demonstrators.  The response of the State to peace and lawful dissent is violence, brutality, repression and mass arrests. The global control grid is continually growing, taking shape. We can take solace in the fact that our planet cannot continue to support the energy demands needed to maintain it. it is inevitable that the continued unsustainable  growth and complexity of this apparatus will at some point cause it to collapse on itself. in addition to extinguishing life on earth as we know it.” -OSJ

By Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzalez @ Democracy Now:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to a major new report detailing the global crackdown on peaceful protests, both through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report is called “Take Back the Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World.” It was put out by the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations. The name of the report, “Take Back the Streets,” comes from a police report filed in June 2010, when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G-20 summit. A senior Toronto police commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to, quote, “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, over a thousand people—peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents—were arrested and placed in detention.

AMY GOODMAN: According to the report, what happened in Canada is emblematic of government conduct in the face of protest around the world: the tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right—the right to protest—as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, in Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain.

For more, we’re joined by co-editor of the report, Abby Deshman, a lawyer and program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. We’re also joined by Anthony Romero. He is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, author of the book In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror. And still with us, Hossam Bahgat—he is the founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Abby, talk about the report.

ABBY DESHMAN: Sure. This is a collaboration between multiple domestic human rights and civil liberties organizations, that we’ve really come together to group our domestic work, group our national work and identify trends in how we feel the governments are responding to democratic dissent and protest in the streets. And, you know, gathering together this number of practitioners to really provide practitioners’ notes shows that there are very disturbing trends. People are taking to the streets across the world, and governments are responding with excessive use of force, criminalization and repression.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, when you say “disturbing trends,” governments have never looked kindly on dissent within their borders or by their own citizens. What do you see as new about what is occurring now? Because I remember years back when we at Democracy Now! covered the Seattle World Trade Organization protests live, there clearly were some new tactics by both the nonviolent protesters as well as the government response.

ABBY DESHMAN: Well, partly what’s new—I mean, at least for me; I’m young in this game—but partly what’s new is massive uprising in the streets. I think we are seeing, in the past three, five years, record numbers of people, in recent memory, taking to the streets. And we are seeing new police tactics—the numbers of arrests, the massive, hundreds of people rounded up at a time. There are new policing weapons: long-range acoustic devices, sonic cannon, excessive amounts of tear gas being used in Egypt. These are trends that are currently surfacing in multiple countries.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Romero, talk about the United States.

ANTHONY ROMERO: Well, it’s important to put the United States in the global context. And normally when we think about protest and freedom of speech, we think that’s been a right that’s been well established and well respected. And yet, you point out the difficulties we’ve seen with the WTO protesters, the protesters with the Occupy movement and, in particular, this case study that we highlight in Puerto Rico, a place where most Americans don’t think of Puerto Rico as part of the United States, but it is. The Constitution applies. Over four—close to four million American citizens live there. And yet, you have the second-largest police department in the nation, only second to New York City Police Department, and the massive levels of repression and shutdown of—of arrests, of tear-gassing, of beating of students, of labor leaders, the level of impunity that lasted for years, until the ACLU filed a report, lobbied our Justice Department, filed a lawsuit, and then the Justice Department stepped in, only recently, to try to put the Puerto Rico Police Department under better control of rule of law.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this whole tactic of picking people up en masse and then holding them, supposedly while protests continue, basically pulling them out without any real charges just to get them off the streets?

ANTHONY ROMERO: We saw that New York, right? I mean, that’s how they—that’s how they dealt with many of the protests here in New York, especially after the conventions—during the conventions, where they corralled record numbers of people, arrested them in record time, in ways that were just astonishing, held them often incommunicado for 24, 36, 48 hours—a form of preventive detention, if you will.

And I think one of the things we have to bear in mind is like, look, our government is shut down. Our government is not working. People are frustrated. People may take to the streets as an important part of demonstrating their unrest, their unhappiness with our government. And so, how we protect the rights of individuals to protest and to dissent is critically important, especially in our democracy, that’s so fundamentally broken down and at loggerheads at the moment. The people—it’s the government of the people, by the people and for the people. And when the government doesn’t respond to the people, the people have to take the government back.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But to follow up on this, because what the police departments do is they don’t mind having to deal with lawsuits later on. You know, years later they end up paying these settlements to protesters who had their civil liberties violated, but at that moment they’re able to effectively shut down the dissent. So, I’m wondering how can you, as a civil liberties lawyer, find—what ways can the courts be utilized to prevent these kinds of occurrences from repeating themselves over and over again?

ANTHONY ROMERO: I think part of it, you have to—even in cases where they infringe on civil liberties and freedom of speech and expression, you have to sue, to use that as a deterrent for further police departments, to shame them, to cost taxpayers money. We have to work with police departments, those that are open to it, to hear what their concerns are for public safety. They have real concerns around public safety; they can be addressed.

We also have to make sure that we don’t allow the excessive use of less lethal force. I mean, one of the things we’ve seen in the reports on Puerto Rico, as much in Egypt and Canada and Argentina, has been the increased use of police of certain weapons, of certain tactics, which they say is less lethal, but they end up in deaths. We have deaths in the arrests in Puerto Rico. We have deaths in Argentina. We certainly have deaths in places like Egypt. And so we have to make sure that we hold the police accountable for those—for those actions.

AMY GOODMAN: And then the issue of surveillance, like our last headline today—

ANTHONY ROMERO: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —this undercover officer in the infamous West Side Highway videotape of the motorcycle gang and the guy with the SUV, that one of these officers, it turns out, was—one of these motorcycle riders was an officer, undercover, and he was undercover in Occupy Wall Street, as well—

ANTHONY ROMERO: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —picked up at Grand Central.

ANTHONY ROMERO: When you look at the fact that it’s not just what they do at the protest itself, but prior to the protests the surveillance, prior to the protests the infiltration. We have police departments who brazenly brag about sending in undercover cops to pretend they’re part of the protest movements as a way to derail them or to shape them in the ways they want. All of this, in the context after 9/11, where any activity that disagrees with the government is—often vehemently, is seen as potential terrorist activity or a potential terrorist plot, the powers of the government to use of surveillance, infiltration, the police tactics, they all have to be seen as one part of an effort to shut down and to dispel dissent. We see it. We see the fact that there’s a quell on public dissent. Muslims are less likely to express themselves now. We hear that from our clients. We hear that from our—some of the litigation we bring. And so, it’s a very pernicious part that’s very, very real and often not uncovered until we put out reports like this.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Abby, the Canadian example of the G-20 summit, what most surprised you in terms of as you were unearthing what happened there and the civil liberties violations?

ABBY DESHMAN: Well, actually, how high the police orders went. You know, we thought that this was a coordinated response. We saw that there was consistency, a really defined point in time when the policing turned during the G-20. We then had confirmation that there were orders all the way from the top, that these were not random acts by individual commanders panicking under situations, that these really were decisions that were taken by very senior police leaders to violate not only the rights of citizens, but their own policies and procedures about how to deal with protests, and really that they were taking notes from an international scene where this had happened before. We had not seen this technique in Canada. It was clear that it had happened at previous G-20 summits, and they were importing these policies.

AMY GOODMAN: Hossam Bahgat, we were just talking about the level of repression in Egypt, but fit this into this global context.

HOSSAM BAHGAT: Yes. While Egypt might be an extreme case, of course, because we have sort of crossed the threshold from just the violent repression of protests to mass and deliberate killings, really the trend in Egypt fits with the trend identified by the report in all of these case studies. We see, as Abby and Anthony mentioned, that the mass protests are not, of course, a new phenomenon, but they are taking new shapes. And whether it’s the Arab uprisings, the protests in Turkey and Brazil, the anti-austerity mass protests in Europe, the Occupy movement here, they are going to continue.

And we see the right to protest publicly and the right to dissent as an essential part of democracy. There is an attempt on the other side, by governments, to reduce the democratic rights of individuals to just voting, to being called in once every few years to cast a vote and then be sent home and leave the governance to the people that have been elected. The people refuse. The people see that, in many countries, the democratic institutions—and we’re talking in the United States here, but the democratic institutions around the world are not working and are not necessarily reflecting the wills of the people. And the people are going to continue to take their demands, yes, through channels like the media and civil society and labor unions and others, but they are going to go on the street, and they are going to protest publicly. And states need to know that they have a responsibility not just to protect this right, but to even enable people to express these rights, because the only other alternative—the killings that we’re seeing in Egypt or the killings that even started in Syria as just violence in the face of peaceful protests and turned into civil wars—these are recipes for only pushing the situation into very, very dangerous directions. And the violent response only leads to even violent protests.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, and, Abby, I wanted to ask you—much was made, obviously, in Egypt and during the Arab Spring of the impact of social media and the use of the Internet by dissidents to mobilize, to communicate. In your report, did you dwell into the responses of government officials in terms of how they responded to the change in tactics of the popular movements?

ABBY DESHMAN: Yeah, absolutely. Police do say that they need new tactics because people can mobilize more quickly. Things are going out on Twitter, and then a large crowd forms. Things are very mobile on the ground. But the truth is, in my experience, during the G-20, we knew exactly what was going to happen, because it was on the Internet, it was on social media. The protesters themselves had classified their protests in terms of levels of risk. So I actually am very skeptical of those claims that they need new powers in order to try to police these new forms of protest. We knew exactly what was going to happen during the G-20 protests. They followed that pattern. The police simply weren’t prepared and then violated rights as their reaction.

AMY GOODMAN: And how should the state deal with violence?

ABBY DESHMAN: Well, the state does need to respond to violence. But I would say the state overresponds to violence, particularly in protests. So, there may be one or two or even 10 or 30 people in a crowd of thousands, tens of thousands, that commit property damage, that commit violent acts. The state often takes that as an authority to abrogate the rights of every single person in that crowd. They need to respond to violence. They need to protect the rights of all the other people in that crowd who are peacefully protesting and exercising their democratic rights. Their role is to facilitate protest, not to find excuses to shut it down.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the U.S. cutting military aid to Egypt, Hossam? How does that play into what the military government does with the protesters? Does it change?

HOSSAM BAHGAT: I mean, in Egypt, especially after the massacres, of course, our position was that there should be investigations, there should be an independent fact finding, and there should be accountability. And until that takes place and until the government also accepts responsibility for these killings, there should be a suspension of the provision of any arms or tools of repression from any country in the world. We’re not just talking about the U.S. military assistance. And any resumption of the sale of weapons or the provision of weapons or tools of repression to the Egyptian government must be conditioned on accepting the retraining and provision of, you know, new tools for riot control, but that business should not continue just as usual when it comes to Egypt.

Especially when—exactly like Abby said, the problem is now, in all of these demonstrations that we are seeing, in the report, all around the world, there is—there is always a few protesters that are going to use violence. The trend we’re seeing now is that governments use this to dub the entire protest—20,000, 30,000—as non-peaceful or as violent. And that leads to two things: One, the peaceful participants that are not using violence are, again, lumped together with the others and are deprived of their rights as peaceful protesters; and even those that do engage in stone throwing or other violence are robbed of all their other rights, including their right to life, of course. And the states are just using this as an excuse, sometimes through infiltration by provocateurs into these protests, in order to just remove entire protests outside the realm of protection of law.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to get back to Anthony Romero in terms of this whole idea of the Obama administration finally doing something in Egypt to cut off some of the military aid to the—to the coup leaders. How has the Obama administration dealt with the increasing repression by local police on public protesters? Has there been any—any actions by the Justice Department to try to rein this in, or have they basically been supportive?

ANTHONY ROMERO: They’ve basically been supportive. I mean, to be clear, the ACLU doesn’t take positions on foreign policy or the U.S. aid to Egypt, but we do look very closely about how our government, federal government, works with state and local governments. And the level of collusion between the federal agents, the FBI, and local police departments has become very troubling, the way they track and the way they monitor and do surveillance on Muslims. So, one of the key cases we have now is in New York City with the New York City Police Department, but it involves the FBI and the federal government. You see it in the immigration context, if you pull the camera back a little further back, where you find the FBI and the DOJ and Department of Homeland Security working with local sheriffs and police.

AMY GOODMAN: You have a case against Arpaio in Arizona.

ANTHONY ROMERO: Oh, it’s exactly that.

AMY GOODMAN: The sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

ANTHONY ROMERO: The sheriff, Arpaio, who resists a federal order from a federal judge to have a monitor and to have any type of accountability. But Arpaio was created by the policies of Janet Napolitano. I mean, Arpaio is not just a one—

AMY GOODMAN: When she was governor or head of the Department of Homeland Security?

ANTHONY ROMERO: Well, I would say more in the Department of Homeland Security, because it’s exactly that type of collusion that she encouraged—the 287(g) programs, the Secure Communities programs, that insisted that federal government officials work with local law enforcement officials. Now, Sheriff Arpaio has gone off the farm, but the fact is that there are too many local police departments that are working with the federal government on things like surveillance, on immigration, on dissent, on protest. And so, I think actually part of the responsibility does come from the federal government.

Multinational Greed Is Threatening The Stability Of Societies Across the Planet

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Oldspeak: “Around the globe, people are getting increasingly frustrated by governments going out of their way to ensure an enabling environment for big business while making drastic cuts in public spending on social welfare. This is fuelling alienation among electorates, spurring protests. Of great concern, is that those seeking to expose the nexus between governments and big business are being subjected to various forms of persecution with state complicity….. while the power of transnational corporations has expanded exponentially, income and wealth disparities are threatening to tear societies apart. The World Economic Forum’s 2013 annual survey of global risks identifies severe income disparity as a key concern likely to manifest itself over the next decade. The International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director has admitted that the top 0.5 percent of the globe’s population holds 35 per cent of its wealth . Civil society group, Oxfam estimated that in 2012, the world’s top 100 billionaires earned enough money to end poverty four times over.  ….But despite the grave warnings from civil society, governments and financial institutions continue to spin arguments about the need to privatise services when they should be focusing on how to make the public sector fit for purpose. Shockingly, during a global economic downturn, political leaders and captains of industry have together managed to subject ordinary people to double jeopardy: having to pay taxes to the state and then having to fork out profit-adjusted higher costs for privatised health, education, public transport, telecommunications, road works, electricity, water supply and so on. These services are indeed governments’ responsibility to provide as part of the social contract between citizens and the state.” -Mandeep Tiwana

“It seems pretty obvious at this point that the people who’ve profited the most from the 2008 global economic collapse, our corporate citizens who’ve been bailed out and are constantly being supported by monthly taxpayer financed subsidies via “Quantitive Easing” policies are driving the current global economic and ecological  downturn. Depressing wages, eliminating workers, stripping worker protections, destroying food and water supplies, taking ownership of all,  replacing jobs with living wages with jobs with slave wages, asserting supra-governmental control via a number of secret laws, directives, policies, treaties and trade agreements.  Logic dictates that fewer workers with less spending power = failing economy.  Yet this logic is ignored. This is happening world wide for the most part. It’s clear that the governments worldwide are no longer representative of their people. They’re serving as facilitators and gatekeepers of a global neo-feudalist control system being emplaced. The people continue to honor the social contract between them and the state while the state has thrown it out, and entered into a new contract with the 0.5%. How else to explain half the world living in poverty, when the 100 people could end it 4 times over. How else to explain GM and Chrysler being bailed out while the city around them, Detroit, is being allowed to go bankrupt, not mentioned ONCE in Obama’s latest rhetorical master speech on the U.S. Economy, even as he crowed about saving the U.S. Auto Industry. How else to explain Citigroup’s profits increasing by 42% as it cuts its workforce and makes more than 50% of its profits outside of the U.S.? We have to have real conversations about the fatal corruption of the capitalist system by greed for money. The system is irreparably corrupted by money and amorality. What do we do when a computer’s system is corrupted? We fix it, or if it’s beyond repair, we replace it with a new system. This is what must be done with our economic system. We must replace it.” – OSJ

By Mandeep Tiwana @ Al Jazzera English:

The people are angry. In Turkey, Brazil, and most recently again, Egypt, thousands have taken to the streets to voice their anger and frustration at the lack of social and economic justice. Political and economic elites, working in tandem, have managed to neutralise the aspirations of ordinary people, in part spurring the disenfranchisement driving the protests.

Whether it is the removal of subsidies  [3]protecting the poor against inflation and price shocks in Egypt, or the enormous cost of hosting high profile sporting events  [4]in Brazil at the expense of social services, or government plans to commercialise  [5]a beloved public park in the heart of Istanbul, the headlong embrace of neoliberal economic policies by governments is likely to cause further dissatisfaction and unrest across the globe.

Neo-liberalism, using a dictionary definition, as a “modern politico-economic theory favouring free trade, privatisation, minimal government intervention, reduced public expenditure on social services etc.,” reduces the responsibility of the state while promoting privatisation to favour those with access to resources and influence. It is playing havoc with the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people.

Despite mainstream perceptions, the sad reality is that free markets don’t automatically regulate themselves nor do they naturally respect individual or community rights. In Indonesia [6], people are choking from fires set by agricultural companies to clear forests to allow mammoth palm oil plantations to flourish. In the United States [7], popular demands for effective gun control are being blocked by congressmen bankrolled by the arms industry. In Ethiopia [8], thousands have been displaced through forced villagisation programmes to make way for agricultural companies that want to make land more “productive.” In Spain  [9]and inGreece [10], public property such as hospitals and airports are being sold to private players to make the economy more “nimble.” In the UK [11], frustration is mounting about tax evasion by transnational corporations whose turnover exceeds the GDP of many countries, while the average citizen continues to dutifully pay their fair share of taxes.

Around the globe, people are getting increasingly frustrated by governments going out of their way to ensure an enabling environment for big business while making drastic cuts in public spending on social welfare. This is fuelling alienation among electorates, spurring protests. Of great concern, is that those seeking to expose the nexus between governments and big business are being subjected to various forms of persecution with state complicity.

In Cambodia [12], land rights activists opposing official plans to forcibly acquire land for big companies have been subjected to brutal attacks by security forces and lengthy prison terms. In Honduras [13], peasant farmers’ groups involved in land disputes with companies have been subjected to murderous attacks.  InIndia [14], peaceful activists ideologically opposed to the government’s economic policy have been charged under draconian laws of being members of outlawed terrorist organisations. In Canada [15], non-profit groups opposed to the conservative government’s policy of loosening environmental restrictions to enable extraction of oil and gas from ecologically sensitive zones have been subjected to surveillance and funding cuts, while being accused of being obstructive of the country’s economic development.

Widening income inequality

Worryingly, while the power of transnational corporations has expanded exponentially, income and wealth disparities are threatening to tear societies apart. The World Economic Forum’s 2013 annual survey of global risks identifies severe income disparity [16] as a key concern likely to manifest itself over the next decade. The International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director has admitted that the top 0.5 percent of the globe’s population holds 35 per cent of its wealth [17]. Civil society group, Oxfam estimated that in 2012, the world’s top 100 billionaires earned enough money to end poverty four times over [18]. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance has argued in its annual report  [19]that the discourse on inequality is becoming commonplace with the 1 percent vs the 99 percent meme entering the mainstream.

But despite the grave warnings from civil society, governments and financial institutions continue to spin arguments about the need to privatise services when they should be focusing on how to make the public sector fit for purpose. Shockingly, during a global economic downturn, political leaders and captains of industry have together managed to subject ordinary people to double jeopardy: having to pay taxes to the state and then having to fork out profit-adjusted higher costs for privatised health, education, public transport, telecommunications, road works, electricity, water supply and so on. These services are indeed governments’ responsibility to provide as part of the social contract between citizens and the state.

In the past, the political and economic elite have erroneously sought to deride the occupy movements,indignados and anti-corruption protestors as fringe elements without clear vision or majority support. But with greater numbers of people taking to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction against corruption, environmental degradation and top down austerity policies, decision makers have a reality check staring them in the face. But will they right the ship on neo-liberal economic policies when they are privately profiting from it? Perhaps citizen action will help answer that.

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Links:
[1] http://english.aljazeera.net/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/mandeep-tiwana
[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/21/egyptians-held-back-neoliberalism-not-religion
[4] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/06/2013619134555233454.html
[5] http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2013/07/20137112549633235.html
[6] http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/Palm-oil-companies-must-come-clean-on-Indonesian-fire-hotspots—Greenpeace/
[7] http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2013/04/18/gun-control-a-congress-of-cowards/
[8] http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/16/ethiopia-forced-relocations-bring-hunger-hardship
[9] http://iberosphere.com/2013/06/spain-news-private-sector-moves-into-spains-public-hospitals/8701
[10] http://pathfinderbuzz.com/resilience-makes-greek-ports-attractive/
[11] http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/nov/12/starbucks-tax-avoidance-controversy
[12] https://www.civicus.org/media-centre-129/61-press-releases/1030-cambodia-civicus-calls-for-unconditional-release-of-detained-activists
[13] http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR37/003/2013/en/4fabe3f5-648c-4192-9383-06ae42fa9922/amr370032013en.html
[14] http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/06/26/india-stop-misuse-counterterrorism-laws
[15] http://socs.civicus.org/?p=3825
[16] http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2013/
[17] http://www.imf.org/external/np/speeches/2013/051513.htm
[18] http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressrelease/2013-01-19/annual-income-richest-100-people-enough-end-global-poverty-four-times
[19] http://socs.civicus.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/2013StateofCivilSocietyReport_full.pdf
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/neoliberalism
[21] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Rise Up Or Die

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Oldspeak: “A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything—wealth, power and privilege—and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia…. We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses. The Federal Reserve is reduced to printing money for banks and financiers and lending it to them at almost zero percent interest; corporate officers then lend it to us at usurious rates as high as 30 percent. I do not know what to call this system. It is certainly not capitalism. Extortion might be a better word. The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, relentlessly trashes the ecosystem for profit. The melting of 40 percent of the summer Arctic sea ice is, to corporations, a business opportunity. Companies rush to the Arctic and extract the last vestiges of oil, natural gas, minerals and fish stocks, indifferent to the death pangs of the planet. The same corporate forces that give us endless soap operas that pass for news, from the latest court proceedings surrounding O.J. Simpson to the tawdry details of the Jodi Arias murder trial, also give us atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that surpass 400 parts per million. They entrance us with their electronic hallucinations as we waiver, as paralyzed with fear…There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies. The ability of corporations to migrate overseas has decimated our manufacturing base. It has driven down wages, impoverishing our working class and ravaging our middle class. It has forced huge segments of the population—including those burdened by student loans—into decades of debt peonage. It has also opened the way to massive tax shelters that allow companies such as General Electric to pay no income tax. Corporations employ virtual slave labor in Bangladesh and China, making obscene profits. As corporations suck the last resources from communities and the natural world, they leave behind, as Joe Sacco and I saw in the sacrifice zones we wrote about, horrific human suffering and dead landscapes. The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent... Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel West, James Cone and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil.” -Chris Hedges

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

Joe Sacco and I spent two years reporting from the poorest pockets of the United States for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We went into our nation’s impoverished “sacrifice zones”—the first areas forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace—to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism and ceaseless economic expansion no longer have external impediments. We wanted to illustrate what unrestrained corporate exploitation does to families, communities and the natural world. We wanted to challenge the reigning ideology of globalization and laissez-faire capitalism to illustrate what life becomes when human beings and the ecosystem are ruthlessly turned into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And we wanted to expose as impotent the formal liberal and governmental institutions that once made reform possible, institutions no longer equipped with enough authority to check the assault of corporate power.

What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.

Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.

The Department of Justice seizure of two months of records of phone calls to and from editors and reporters at The Associated Press is the latest in a series of dramatic assaults against our civil liberties. The DOJ move is part of an effort to hunt down the government official or officials who leaked information to the AP about the foiling of a plot to blow up a passenger jet. Information concerning phones of Associated Press bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn., as well as the home and mobile phones of editors and reporters, was secretly confiscated. This, along with measures such as the use of the Espionage Act against whistle-blowers, will put a deep freeze on all independent investigations into abuses of government and corporate power.

Seizing the AP phone logs is part of the corporate state’s broader efforts to silence all voices that defy the official narrative, the state’s Newspeak, and hide from public view the inner workings, lies and crimes of empire. The person or persons who provided the classified information to the AP will, if arrested, mostly likely be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. That law was never intended when it was instituted in 1917 to silence whistle-blowers. And from 1917 until Barack Obama took office in 2009 it was employed against whistle-blowers only three times, the first time against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The Espionage Act has been used six times by the Obama administration against government whistle-blowers, including Thomas Drake.

The government’s fierce persecution of the press—an attack pressed by many of the governmental agencies that are arrayed against WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and activists such as Jeremy Hammond—dovetails with the government’s use of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force to carry out the assassination of U.S. citizens; of the FISA Amendments Act, which retroactively makes legal what under our Constitution was once illegal—the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of tens of millions of U.S. citizens; and of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the government to have the military seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them in indefinite detention. These measures, taken together, mean there are almost no civil liberties left.

A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything—wealth, power and privilege—and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia.

We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses. The Federal Reserve is reduced to printing money for banks and financiers and lending it to them at almost zero percent interest; corporate officers then lend it to us at usurious rates as high as 30 percent. I do not know what to call this system. It is certainly not capitalism. Extortion might be a better word. The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, relentlessly trashes the ecosystem for profit. The melting of 40 percent of the summer Arctic sea ice is, to corporations, a business opportunity. Companies rush to the Arctic and extract the last vestiges of oil, natural gas, minerals and fish stocks, indifferent to the death pangs of the planet. The same corporate forces that give us endless soap operas that pass for news, from the latest court proceedings surrounding O.J. Simpson to the tawdry details of the Jodi Arias murder trial, also give us atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that surpass 400 parts per million. They entrance us with their electronic hallucinations as we waiver, as paralyzed with fear as Odysseus’ sailors, between Scylla and Charybdis.

There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies. The ability of corporations to migrate overseas has decimated our manufacturing base. It has driven down wages, impoverishing our working class and ravaging our middle class. It has forced huge segments of the population—including those burdened by student loans—into decades of debt peonage. It has also opened the way to massive tax shelters that allow companies such as General Electric to pay no income tax. Corporations employ virtual slave labor in Bangladesh and China, making obscene profits. As corporations suck the last resources from communities and the natural world, they leave behind, as Joe Sacco and I saw in the sacrifice zones we wrote about, horrific human suffering and dead landscapes. The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent.

More than 100 million Americans—one-third of the population—live in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Yet the stories of the poor and the near poor, the hardships they endure, are rarely told by a media that is owned by a handful of corporations—Viacom, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Clear Channel and Disney. The suffering of the underclass, like the crimes of the power elite, has been rendered invisible.

In the Lakota Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, S.D., in the United States’ second poorest county, the average life expectancy for a male is 48. This is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti. About 60 percent of the Pine Ridge dwellings, many of which are sod huts, lack electricity, running water, adequate insulation or sewage systems. In the old coal camps of southern West Virginia, amid poisoned air, soil and water, cancer is an epidemic. There are few jobs. And the Appalachian Mountains, which provide the headwaters for much of the Eastern Seaboard, are dotted with enormous impoundment ponds filled with heavy metals and toxic sludge. In order to breathe, children go to school in southern West Virginia clutching inhalers. Residents trapped in the internal colonies of our blighted cities endure levels of poverty and violence, as well as mass incarceration, that leave them psychologically and emotionally shattered. And the nation’s agricultural workers, denied legal protection, are often forced to labor in conditions of unpaid bondage. This is the terrible algebra of corporate domination. This is where we are all headed. And in this accelerated race to the bottom we will end up as serfs or slaves.

Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel West, James Cone and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil. In his poem of resistance, “If We Must Die,” Claude McKay knew that the odds were stacked against African-Americans who resisted white supremacy. But he also knew that resistance to tyranny saves our souls. McKay wrote:

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none. It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare. It is time to march to the beat of our own drum. The law historically has been a very imperfect tool for justice, as African-Americans know, but now it is exclusively the handmaiden of our corporate oppressors; now it is a mechanism of injustice. It was our corporate overlords who launched this war. Not us. Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.”

Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” grasps the dark soul of global capitalism. We are all aboard the doomed ship Pequod, a name connected to an Indian tribe eradicated by genocide, and Ahab is in charge. “All my means are sane,” Ahab says, “my motive and my object mad.” We are sailing on a maniacal voyage of self-destruction, and no one in a position of authority, even if he or she sees what lies ahead, is willing or able to stop it. Those on the Pequod who had a conscience, including Starbuck, did not have the courage to defy Ahab. The ship and its crew were doomed by habit, cowardice and hubris. Melville’s warning must become ours. Rise up or die.

 

Occupy Wall Street “Counterinsurgency” Has Infiltrated Protests; Seeks To Diffuse Message

In Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Oldspeak:” If a movement pretends to have no leaders, then it is the corporate media, themselves controlled by Wall Street, who will choose the leaders. A few days ago, a Wall Street protester named Kelly Heresy was anointed as principal honcho by Keith Olbermann, who used to work for the hedge fund called General Electric, and who now works for Al Gore. This is no way to select leaders. The organizers of the Wall Street action say they want to imitate recent protests in other countries. Their favorite is the Tahrir Square agitation in Egypt in February. But if you go to Cairo today, veterans of those demonstrations will tell you that these efforts accomplished relatively little, and mainly had the effect of ousting an oppressive civilian government in favor of an even more oppressive military government of weak CIA puppets which is still operating under martial law, even as benighted religious fanatics gather strength. In a severe world economic depression of the kind we have today, mere protest is not enough. Desperate populations are looking for political leadership with solutions capable of solving the life or death issues facing nations today. A movement which is incapable of specifying what it intends to fight for is an immature movement which no intelligent person will take seriously. The secret of a mass strike upsurge is that crisis conditions will propel many apolitical people into activism. This makes them vulnerable to manipulation by demagogues, including those of the extreme right. The mass strike upsurge by itself solves nothing. The question is whether any coherent group of people can intervene into the mass upsurge and push aside bankrupt and failed leaders with the kind of radical reform program that can actually get the society out of the crisis. The masses cannot discover this program on their own – they are too busy with the struggle for daily existence. College students therefore have a special responsibility to provide ideas for the benefit of the entire society. If an adequate program becomes dominant, the nation can survive. Otherwise, nothing guarantees that civilization itself will not collapse – look at the Tea Party if you don’t believe this. Soros, Koch, and the other finance capitalists have a good working understanding of how these things work, which is why they are sending in their operatives to make sure that this movement will have only the vaguest demands, or no demands at all, to fight for. Let that happen, and Wall Street will rule the day once again. Despite what Michael Moore may think, the political power of Wall Street is considerable, and an effective attack on the bankers will demand the unified efforts of key sectors of the population. This unity must be expressed in the program itself. Students must broaden the sociological scope of the movement to include all walks of life.”-Webster G. Tarpley Something to keep in mind in the nascent stages of this anti-corporate action. The gatekeepers of the status quo are always at work, sabotaging, flummoxing, co-opting, radical movements for change which pose a credible threat to continued operation of the Great Happiness Machine that is Casino Capitalism. Relentlessly grinding up individuality, critical thoughts, hopes and dreams amid gauzy and sensuous clouds of greed, consumption, self-absorption, hedonism, un-reality based entertainment, faux patriotism, faux populism, and infinite variations of pro-corporate education and propaganda.” “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Webster G. Tarpley @ Tarpley.net:

An Emergency Program for Anti-Wall Street Protestors: Don’t Let Soros Hijack the Movement

Political mass strike dynamics have been at work in the United States since the Wisconsin and Ohio mobilizations of February and March. Now, there are demonstrations in lower Manhattan and Boston specifically directed against the Wall Street banks. Another protest demonstration is scheduled for Washington, DC, starting on October 6. Good: a political challenge to Wall Street is indeed long overdue.

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are skeptical in regard to Obama. There is no sizable constituency for Ron Paul, and the crackpot Austrian school of economics is hardly represented. Above all, there is a desire to break the power of Wall Street. This much is promising, but still not enough to win.

The demonstrations appear initially as leaderless groups, engaged in an organic process of discussion from which specific demands are supposed to emerge. But so far, these demonstrations have put forth no specific demands, reforms, or concrete measures whatsoever to fight Wall Street. This is a fatal political weakness. A movement that attempts to go forward with vague slogans like “Freedom” or “Abolish capitalism” is likely to become easy prey for foundation-funded operatives on the left wing of the Democratic Party.

If a movement pretends to have no leaders, then it is the corporate media, themselves controlled by Wall Street, who will choose the leaders. A few days ago, a Wall Street protester named Kelly Heresy was anointed as principal honcho by Keith Olbermann, who used to work for the hedge fund called General Electric, and who now works for Al Gore. This is no way to select leaders.

The demonstrations may appear spontaneous, but it is easy to see gatekeepers and countergangs operating in their midst, often with a frank counterinsurgency agenda. Occupy Wall Street in particular shows the heavy influence of union bureaucrats from the Service Employees International Union, as well as Acorn – both parts of the Obama machine. The goal of these operatives is to keep the focus of the protests vague and diffuse, so that no demands emerge that might be embarrassing to the Wall Street puppet Obama and his reelection campaign. Their ultimate goal is to absorb the protests as the left wing of the Obama 2012 effort. That means supporting an administration which not only refuses to fight Wall Street, but which is packed with Wall Street executives in its highest positions.

Dubious Hollywood figures like Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore are attempting to gain publicity for themselves by showing up at the demonstrations. Michael Moore, who is not very popular with the demonstrators, was instrumental in leading the antiwar and impeachment movements of the past decade back into the Democratic Party to support Obama. Journalist Matt Taibbi, another newly minted expert on the movement, is remembered for his hatchet jobs in favor of the Bush administration theory of terrorism.

The organizers of the Wall Street action say they want to imitate recent protests in other countries. Their favorite is the Tahrir Square agitation in Egypt in February. But if you go to Cairo today, veterans of those demonstrations will tell you that these efforts accomplished relatively little, and mainly had the effect of ousting an oppressive civilian government in favor of an even more oppressive military government of weak CIA puppets which is still operating under martial law, even as benighted religious fanatics gather strength. In Greece, it is true that the trade unions have mounted a dozen general strikes, but all of these have failed to oust Prime Minister Papandreou, the main enforcer of austerity cuts demanded by the International Monetary Fund, and so the brutal austerity continues. The same thing applies to Spain, where the indignados became so self-absorbed in their discussion and consensus process that they never put forward a program to save Spanish society from the bankers. In Iceland too, the anti-bank movement was never able to go beyond mere protest to advance a series of concrete measures that would allow them to contend for power, take power, and hold onto it for the public good.

The lesson of all of these situations is that, in a severe world economic depression of the kind we have today, mere protest is not enough. Desperate populations are looking for political leadership with solutions capable of solving the life or death issues facing nations today. A movement which is incapable of specifying what it intends to fight for is an immature movement which no intelligent person will take seriously.

The secret of a mass strike upsurge is that crisis conditions will propel many apolitical people into activism. This makes them vulnerable to manipulation by demagogues, including those of the extreme right. The mass strike upsurge by itself solves nothing. The question is whether any coherent group of people can intervene into the mass upsurge and push aside bankrupt and failed leaders with the kind of radical reform program that can actually get the society out of the crisis. The masses cannot discover this program on their own – they are too busy with the struggle for daily existence. College students therefore have a special responsibility to provide ideas for the benefit of the entire society. If an adequate program becomes dominant, the nation can survive. Otherwise, nothing guarantees that civilization itself will not collapse – look at the Tea Party if you don’t believe this. Soros, Koch, and the other finance capitalists have a good working understanding of how these things work, which is why they are sending in their operatives to make sure that this movement will have only the vaguest demands, or no demands at all, to fight for. Let that happen, and Wall Street will rule the day once again.

Despite what Michael Moore may think, the political power of Wall Street is considerable, and an effective attack on the bankers will demand the unified efforts of key sectors of the population. This unity must be expressed in the program itself. Students must broaden the sociological scope of the movement to include all walks of life.

In order to fight Wall Street, it is necessary for the American people to understand the basic idea of shifting the cost of the world economic depression off of the backs of working people and the poor where it is now, and onto Wall Street banks and super-rich speculators. Depressions are very expensive. Who should pay for the current depression? The bankers demand that the American people must pay. We want the bankers to pay, and we must specify how. A movement that wants to defend working people against the class warfare of the bankers has the responsibility of putting forward a program to defend middle-class and other working people. In order to win, the anti-Wall Street protests must agitate for a series of demands including the following:

1. Student Loan Amnesty. The common experience of many of the protesters is that of being crushed by an outrageous burden of high interest student loans. Today it is common for graduating seniors to carry $50,000, $75,000, or even $100,000 of debt. Add the costs of an advanced degree in teaching, law, or medicine, and the debt burden becomes astronomical. The exorbitant cost of a college education reflects the increasing immiseration of the United States over the past 40 years, as the overall standard of living has declined by two thirds or more in terms of real wages and other considerations. These debts are owed to the same zombie bankers who cashed in on the Bush bailout of 2008, and the even larger loans issued by Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve over recent years. This is a system of brutal primitive accumulation against the life chances everyone who knows that they need a college degree to be employable in the 21st century. Total students loan indebtedness is now approaching $1 trillion. This grinding debt is destroying the futures, the lives, and the hopes of college students and recent graduates.
When a debtor country like Greece is unable to pay its debts, it is normal to hear talk of a haircut for the bondholders and bankers. It is time for the Wall Street zombie banks to take a haircut on student loan debt. Most of this debt cannot be paid off, but an entire generation can be ruined by a futile attempt to pay it back.

A leading demand must therefore be a total cancellation of all outstanding student loan debt, meaning a total and immediate forgiveness of all payments of principal and interest coming from this category of borrowing. Carter granted Vietnam draft resisters an amnesty. If Obama wants to keep his job, he must deliver a student loan amnesty to save not just a single generation, but the entire future of the United States and beyond. Otherwise, dump Obama in 2012! The zombie bankers have been pampered enough. It is time for them to take a bath, so that a generation might live. This is also the best stimulus program possible.

2. Stop Foreclosures. Since students alone will never be enough to make a revolution, it is necessary to put forward additional measures to defend other parts of the population from the depredations of Wall Street. In the area of home foreclosures, the bankers have trampled on the law to seize millions of homes, some of which never had a mortgage, and many of which were current in their payments. The banks have used corrupt robo-signers, robo-cops, and robo-judges to carry out these fraudclosure thefts. The answer is to make foreclosure a federal crime, so that anyone who throws an American family out on the street will end up in Leavenworth. Again, the zombie bankers can eat the losses, which are unavoidable in any case. This is not an impossible demand: under the New Deal, the Frazier-Lemke Act stopped all foreclosures on homes, provided only that the owners could get a minimal payment plan approved by any judge in any court. With the help of popular pressure and public opinion, foreclosures virtually came to a halt. This is what we need to be demanding today.

3. Defend and fully fund the social safety net. Wall Street and Washington elites agree that the American people ought to be subjected to genocidal austerity – cuts so draconian that they will kill people. The goal is obviously to fund bigger and better bailouts of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase when they go bankrupt the next time around. Real unemployment in the United States is now about 25%, meaning that 30 million people cannot find work, and many have been looking for years. Therefore, we need to extend jobless benefits to all unemployed, including those who have been out of a job for 99 weeks and more. 46 million Americans are now surviving thanks to Food Stamps, but the reactionary Republicans are demanding savage cuts, and Obama is more than likely to cave. We also need to defend programs that specifically help children and young. These include S-CHIP, which gives health care to poor children; Head Start, which provides breakfast and preschool for poor kids; and WIC, which provides high-protein meals for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and infants. Older people have special problems, including that Wall Street speculators have destroyed the value of their 401(k) and IRA retirement plans. This means that Social Security pensions should be increased, and not cut, as the Republicans and Obama both want. Obama has already cut $500 billion out of Medicare, but he wants to cut it even more, and the Tea Party is eager to help him. The best healthcare would be to open Medicare to all Americans, while making the investments needed to maintain quality. Medicaid gives healthcare to poor people of any age, and these payments must be maintained.

4. Pay for healthcare and social services with a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax. When they hear demands like these, Fox news commentators will demand to know how these programs can be paid for. The answer is simple: the Tobin tax or Wall Street sales tax. Today the total financial turnover of the banksters in terms of buying, selling, and other trading comes to well over three quadrillion dollars yearly – that’s more than 3,000 trillion dollars. The rest of us pay sales tax on most purchases, often including the groceries, but Wall Street zombie bankers and hedge fund hyenas pay absolutely zero on that colossal sum. The most unfair aspect of the entire US tax system is that Wall Street pays virtually no taxes. It is time for the bankers to cough up 1% of every stock, bond, and derivatives transaction, be it program trading, high frequency trading, or computerized flash trading at the rate of one million transactions per second. The total revenue could be split between the federal government and the states, and would amount to hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps even trillions – depending on how determined the speculators are to keep up their dirty deals. There is nothing impossible about this demand: the federal government had a financial transaction tax from the time of World War I in 1967. And even today, the largely right wing governments of the European Union are about to enact their own Tobin tax. Why can’t it be done here as well?

These are immediate agitational demands that can be readily understood by any person. They can form the leading edge of a struggle to break the political power of Wall Street. In addition, a full recovery from depression and the attainment of full employment for the first time since 1945 will require the nationalization of the Federal Reserve, and the issuing of successive tranches of $1 trillion of 0%, very long-term Federal credit for the building of infrastructure, with a goal of creating 30 million new productive jobs with adequate capital investment per job.

Another essential point is that Wall Street is the biggest nest of warmongers anywhere in the world. Anyone seeking to gain influence over the anti-Wall Street movement should be willing to condemn and denounce Obama’s wanton aggression against Libya, as well as to call for an immediate pullout of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Anyone who refuses to do this should be regarded with grave suspicion.

The alternative to such concrete demands is, whether we like it or not, to remain in the orbit of Obama’s Democratic Party. Earlier this year, students, workers, and others occupied the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin in response to attacks on working people coming from the fascist governor, Walker. The resistance against Walker was betrayed first of all by the Democratic Party, which announced that it would not fight for wages and benefits, but only for trade union rights in the abstract. That is a good program for trade union bureaucrats, but not so good for working people, who bore the brunt of Walker’s austerity. A president who was on the side of the people would have gone immediately to Madison, Wisconsin to hold a town hall on the occupied grounds of the state capitol, an event that would have looked much different than the canned, pre-screened teleprompter town halls Obama likes to address. A real president would have taken Attorney General Holder and Labor Secretary Solis along to investigate the denial of civil rights and labor violations by Walker. Obama did none of these things. Rather, he damned the movement with a few words of faint praise, and cut it loose. The lesson is that the Democratic Party is more than willing to sell out mass struggles anytime it can. And it is only by having your own program of anti-Wall Street demands that you can become independent of the rotten two-party system.

“Occupy Wall Street” Protest Continues, With Wall Street Declared “Off Limits” By NYPD

In Uncategorized on September 19, 2011 at 11:26 am

People protest during the 'Occupy Wall Street' rally at Bowling Green Plaza on 17 September

Oldspeak:“Freedom of assembly:  the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests. The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political freedom and a civil liberty. EXCEPT when the NYPD says not today. You’re rights to dissent, protest and petition your government with grievences are being continually and relentlessly constricted and eroded. An entire section of NYC was literally declared off limits by the Praetorian Guard of Empire, to dissuade  5,000 people from voicing their displeasure with this malfunctioning monetary/capitalist system that allows billions to starve, millions to be thrown out of their their homes, the perpetual fleecing of the poor, spectacular and immoral inequality, and attacks and silences those who dare to demand something different.” “Freedom Is Slavery”.

By Micah White and Kalle Lasn @ The Guardian U.K

On Saturday 17 September, many of us watched in awe as 5,000 Americans descended on to the financial district of lower Manhattan, waved signs, unfurled banners, beat drums, chanted slogans and proceeded to walk towards the “financial Gomorrah” of the nation. They vowed to “Occupy Wall Street” and to “bring justice to the bankers”, but the New York police thwarted their efforts temporarily, locking down the symbolic street with barricades and checkpoints.

Undeterred, protesters walked laps around the area before holding a people’s assembly and setting up a semi-permanent protest encampment in a park on Liberty Street, a stone’s throw from Wall Street and a block from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Three hundred spent the night, several hundred reinforcements arrived the next day and as we write this article, the encampment is rolling out sleeping bags once again. When they tweeted to the world that they were hungry, a nearby pizzeria received $2,800 in orders for delivery in a single hour. Emboldened by an outpouring of international solidarity, these American indignados said they’d be there to greet the bankers when the stock market opened on Monday. It looks like, for now, the police don’t think they can stop them. ABC News reports that “even though the demonstrators don’t have a permit for the protest, [the New York police department says that] they have no plans to remove those protesters who seem determined to stay on the streets.” Organisers on the ground say, “we’re digging in for a long-term occupation“.

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET was inspired by the people’s assemblies of Spain and floated as a concept by a double-page poster in the 97th issue of Adbusters magazine, but it was spearheaded, orchestrated and accomplished by independent activists. It all started when Adbusters asked its network of culture jammers to flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. The idea caught on immediately on social networks and unaffiliated activists seized the meme and built an open-source organising site. A few days later, a general assembly was held in New York City and 150 people showed up. These activists became the core organisers of the occupation. The mystique of Anonymous pushed the meme into the mainstream media. Their videocommunique endorsing the action garnered 100,000 views and a warning from theDepartment of Homeland Security addressed to the nation’s bankers. When, in August, the indignados of Spain sent word that they would be holding a solidarity event in Madrid’s financial district, activists in Milan, Valencia, London, Lisbon, Athens, San Francisco, Madison, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Israel and beyond vowed to do the same.

There is a shared feeling on the streets around the world that the global economy is a Ponzi scheme run by and for Big Finance. People everywhere are waking up to the realisation that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which speculative financial transactions add up, each day, to $1.3tn (50 times more than the sum of all the commercial transactions). Meanwhile, according to a United Nations report, “in the 35 countries for which data exist, nearly 40% of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year”.

“CEOs, the biggest corporations, and the wealthy are taking too much from our country and I think it’s time for us to take back,” said one activist who joined the protests last Saturday. Jason Ahmadi, who travelled in from Oakland, California explained that “a lot of us feel there is a large crisis in our economy and a lot of it is caused by the folks who do business here”. Bill Steyerd, a Vietnam veteran from Queens, said “it’s a worthy cause because people on Wall Street are blood-sucking warmongers”.

There is not just anger. There is also a sense that the standard solutions to the economic crisis proposed by our politicians and mainstream economists – stimulus, cuts, debt, low interest rates, encouraging consumption – are false options that will not work. Deeper changes are needed, such as a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions; reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act in the US; implementing a ban onhigh-frequency “flash” trading. The “too big to fail” banks must be broken up, downsized and made to serve the people, the economy and society again. The financial fraudsters responsible for the 2008 meltdown must be brought to justice. Then there is the long-term mother of all solutions: a total rethinking of western consumerism that throws into question how we measure progress.

If the current economic woes in Europe and the US spiral into a prolonged global recession, people’s encampments will become a permanent fixtures at financial districts and outside stock markets around the world. Until our demands are met and the global economic regime is fundamentally reformed, our tent cities will keep popping up.

Bravo to those courageous souls in the encampment on New York’s Liberty Street. Every night that #OCCUPYWALLSTREET continues will escalate the possibility of a full-fledged global uprising against business as usual.

 

How The Surveillance State Protects The Interests Of The Ultra-Rich And Ignores The Interests Of Everyone Else

In Uncategorized on August 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Oldspeak:’As a burgeoning international protest movement takes shape, opposing austerity measures, decrying the wealth gap and rising inequality, and in some cases directly attacking the interests of oligarchs, we’re likely to see the surveillance state developed for tracking “terrorists” turned on citizen activists peacefully protesting the actions of their government. And as U.S. elections post-Citizens United will be more and more expensive, look for politicians of both parties to enforce these crackdowns.’ -Sarah Jaffe. “This mind-set has been of full display recently with the abysmal debt deal, the extension of bush tax increases, trillions in giveaways to banking cartels, health care cartels and energy cartels, the vast expansion of  surveillance and security infrastructure, savage austerity cuts to public services and social safety nets, shutting down communications networks to stave off protest and dissent, violation of posse comitatus with  NORTHCOM, it’s very clear whose interests are being protected. Those interested in doing away with the firmly ensconced morally bankrupt and generally unsustainable power structure, will find their government and elected officials are not on their side. They’re basically bought and paid for minions of the Corporatocracy.”

By Sarah Jaffe @ Alter Net:

In the aftermath of the riots that rocked London this summer, the Conservative prime minister’s first response was to call for a crackdown on social networking.

Despite data collected by the Guardian showing a strong correlation between poverty and rioting, the government denied that its brutal austerity policies contributed to the desperation and rage of its young people. A researcher found that the majority of rioters who have appeared in court come from poor neighborhoods, 41 percent of them from the poorest in the country—and 66 percent from neighborhoods that have gotten poorer between 2007 and 2010.

Of course, we don’t have widespread rioting in the US yet. But even at a relatively calm, peaceful protest in San Francisco, Bay Area Rapid Transit shut down cell phone towers in the subway system in order to stymie a mass action planned after another shooting by a BART police officer. (It was the police killing of a young man that kicked off London’s riots as well.)

The techniques that were roundly decried by Western leaders when used by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak against his people’s peaceful revolution are suddenly embraced when it comes to unrest at home. Not only that, but techniques honed in the “war on terror” are now being turned on anti-austerity protesters, clamping down on discontent that was created in the first place by policies of the state.

Glenn Greenwald noted this connection in a recent piece, writing:

“The last year has seen an incredible amount of social upheaval, not just in the Arab world but increasingly in the West. The Guardian today documented the significant role which poverty and opportunity deprivation played in the British riots. Austerity misery — coming soon to the U.S. — has sparked serious upheavals in numerous Western nations. Even if one takes as pessimistic a view as possible of an apathetic, meek, complacent American populace, it’s simply inevitable that some similar form of disorder is in the U.S.’s future as well. As but one example, just consider this extraordinary indicia of pervasive American discontent, from a Gallup finding yesterday.”

That Gallup finding was that only 11 percent of Americans are content with the way things are going in the country.

Greenwald’s point, that the surveillance state is actually designed to protect the interests of the ruling class, is supported by Mike Konczal’s point, in this July piece:

“From a series of legal codes favoring creditors, a two-tier justice system that ignore abuses in foreclosures and property law, a system of surveillance dedicated to maximum observation on spending, behavior and ultimate collection of those with debt and beyond, there’s been a wide refocusing of the mechanisms of our society towards the crucial obsession of oligarchs: wealth and income defense. Control over money itself is the last component of oligarchical income defense, and it needs to be as contested as much as we contest all the other mechanisms.”

Social networking sites are considered wonderful boons to commerce as long as they’re collecting user data to be turned over to advertisers; but when Twitter or Facebook are used to coordinate protests or send warnings about police to fellow activists, they’re suddenly dangers to civilization that must be stopped. And a young activist whose only crime was downloading journal articles from behind JSTOR’s paywall to make them available to all faces 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.

While corporations and banks collect data on all of us, they strongly oppose revealing any of their information to the public, even when they’re quite happy to spend the public’s money. As Bloomberg pointed out in a piece titled “Wall Street Aristocracy Got $1.2 Trillion in Fed’s Secret Loans,” information is just now coming to light about how much money was lent to Bank of America and Citigroup by the Federal Reserve back in 2008.

Bank of America might be breathing a sigh of relief this week, as a breakaway WikiLeaks member told Der Speigel that he had destroyed 5 gigabytes of information from the troubled bank. Daniel Domscheit-Berg claimed that he destroyed the data in order to make sure the sources would not be exposed. Julian Assange claimed this winter to have damning information on the big bank, but held out on releasing it.

But just the threat alone was enough to send BoA to web security firm HBGary—or so we found out when hacker collective Anonymous broke into HBGary’s files and found a file containing a plan to take down WikiLeaks, including attacks aimed at reporters and bloggers like Glenn Greenwald.

Whether it’s government secrets or corporate secrets, the response is the same: more surveillance, more crackdowns on civil liberties, more arrests. As Greenwald notes, Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is sponsoring a bill that would require Internet service providers to keep logs of their customers’ activities for a full year. MasterCard and Visa shut down donations to WikiLeaks back when the information coming out was mostly just embarrassing to the government; the crackdowns on hackers and other techno-activists show the other side of the symbiotic relationship between the national security state and its secrets and corporations and their secrets.

As a burgeoning international protest movement takes shape, opposing austerity measures, decrying the wealth gap and rising inequality, and in some cases directly attacking the interests of oligarchs, we’re likely to see the surveillance state developed for tracking “terrorists” turned on citizen activists peacefully protesting the actions of their government. And as U.S. elections post-Citizens United will be more and more expensive, look for politicians of both parties to enforce these crackdowns.

Despite growing anger at austerity in other countries, those policies have been embraced by both parties here in the States. Groups like US Uncut have stepped into the fray, pointing out the connection between the tax dodging of banks like Bank of America and other corporations and the slashing of the social safety net for everyone else. The new protest movements are led not only by traditional left groups like labor unions, but a generation of young, wired activists using the Internet for innovative protest and revolutionary activism.

Paul Mason of the BBC calls them “the graduates with no future.” Here as well as around the world they have no future—youth are unemployed at nearly double the rate of the rest of the US population and many are laden with student debt, networked, and increasingly in touch with others around the world even as they feel disconnected from the political process here at home.

Laurie Penny wrote of how they’ve been treated in the UK as they fight desperately against the government’s austerity agenda:

“The Metropolitan Police have made their priorities extremely clear. Up to 200 officers have been devoted to hunting down students and anti-cuts activists, knocking on the doors of school pupils and arresting them for their part in demonstrations against education cutbacks that took place nine months ago. Thirty UK Uncut protesters are still facing charges for their part in a peaceful demonstration in Fortnum and Mason, footage from the police recordings of which shows some dangerous anarchists waving placards in the foyer and batting a beach ball over a stack of expensive cheese. Up to 300 activists have been arrested so far, in a joint operation that has already cost the taxpayer £3.65m. By contrast, only eight man-hours were spent in 2009 investigating the allegation that feral press barons were being permitted to run what amounted to a protection racket at the Met.”

As J.A. Myerson explained at Truthout, the revolutions and protest movements around the world in the past year have expressed solidarity with one another, with Egyptians sending pizzas to protesters in Wisconsin’s capitol and the spread of direct action anti-austerity tactics from the group UK Uncut to its spinoff here at home. Americans thrilled to the sight, via Al Jazeera livestream, of Tahrir Square, packed full of peaceful resisters, standing firm in the face of violence. Twitter and Facebook didn’t create the revolutions of the so-called Arab Spring or the protests rocking Europe, but they’ve provided a way for the world’s youth to communicate tactics and exchange ideas.

Matthew Stoller also called attention to the rise of Internet activism, not just the type of social media organizing that can call attention to a protest within hours or even minutes but the “hacktivism” of groups like Anonymous and the work of WikiLeaks in revealing the secrets of the ruling class, and how they connect with the ground protests and labor actions in places like Egypt or even Spain and Greece.

Anger is growing in the US at a stagnant economy, ongoing policies that favor the rich, and little to no help for anyone else. So far we haven’t seen the kind of mass protest that’s hit Europe, let alone the revolutions of the Arab Spring, but if things don’t get any better, the country should prepare for social unrest.

And if that happens, expect more peaceful activists to get caught up in the web of the surveillance state.

 

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.

Free Speech Under Siege In The “West”

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Oldspeak:“Democracies stand for free speech; dictatorships suppress it….The censorship of memory, which we once fondly imagined to be the mark of dictatorship, is now a major growth industry in the “free” West. Indeed, official censorship is only the tip of an iceberg of cultural censorship. A public person must be on constant guard against causing offense, whether intentionally or not.” - Robert Skidelsky. How can knowledge, discovery, and intellectual advancement be achieved without free, unfettered inquiry and constant and rigorous questioning of “accepted truths” based in religion, science or cultural memory?  Political correctness cannot ever usurp freedom of speech, to do so opens the door to authoritarianism, totalitarianism, rigidity of thought and society. There should be no such thing as accepted ways of thinking in a free society. The frightening thing is in the supposedly “free” U.S. much of the population self-censors and acts as thought police to those who think outside the politically correct and accepted spheres of thought. Phrases like “Conspiracy Theorist”, “Radical” “Fringe Elements” or ” ‘Your name here’ Extremists” are used to dismiss un-PC thought and speech as not worthy of serious, critical consideration, as they fly in the face of generally “accepted truths”  There are fewer and fewer public spheres one can introduce ideas which challenge people to actually think and consider facts that don’t jive with what they see in corporate media networks and learn from commodified, corporate controlled for-profit education systems. This has a chilling effect on those interested in engaging in political protest movements, dissent, and challenging and questioning the official narrative of history and objective reality. It’s what leads the Department of Justice to think it’s ok to surveil harass and violate the civil liberties of  law abiding citizens who dare dissent. It that that much different than what goes on in China, Iran, or Israel? If people are discouraged or afraid to engage politically in any way that they wish, state-sanctioned or not, democracy dies.”

By Robert Skidelsky @ Project Syndicate:

Recently, at a literary festival in Britain, I found myself on a panel discussing free speech. For liberals, free speech is a key index of freedom. Democracies stand for free speech; dictatorships suppress it.

When we in the West look outward, this remains our view. We condemn governments that silence, imprison, and even kill writers and journalists. Reporters Sans Frontièreskeeps a list: 24 journalists have been killed, and 148 imprisoned, just this year. Part of the promise we see in the “Arab Spring” is the liberation of the media from the dictator’s grasp.

Yet freedom of speech in the West is under strain. Traditionally, British law imposed two main limitations on the “right to free speech.” The first prohibited the use of words or expressions likely to disrupt public order; the second was the law against libel. There are good grounds for both – to preserve the peace, and to protect individuals’ reputations from lies. Most free societies accept such limits as reasonable.

But the law has recently become more restrictive. “Incitement to religious and racial hatred” and “incitement to hatred on the basis of sexual orientation” are now illegal in most European countries, independent of any threat to public order. The law has shifted from proscribing language likely to cause violence to prohibiting language intended to give offense.

A blatant example of this is the law against Holocaust denial. To deny or minimize the Holocaust is a crime in 15 European countries and Israel. It may be argued that the Holocaust was a crime so uniquely abhorrent as to qualify as a special case. But special cases have a habit of multiplying.

France has made it illegal to deny any “internationally recognized crimes against humanity.” Whereas in Muslim countries it is illegal to call the Armenian massacres of 1915-1917 “genocide,” in some Western countries it is illegal to say that they were not. Some East European countries specifically prohibit the denial of communist “genocides.”

The censorship of memory, which we once fondly imagined to be the mark of dictatorship, is now a major growth industry in the “free” West. Indeed, official censorship is only the tip of an iceberg of cultural censorship. A public person must be on constant guard against causing offense, whether intentionally or not.

Breaking the cultural code damages a person’s reputation, and perhaps one’s career. Britain’s Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke recently had to apologize for saying that some rapes were less serious than others, implying the need for legal discrimination. The parade of gaffes and subsequent groveling apologies has become a regular feature of public life.

In his classic essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill defended free speech on the ground that free inquiry was necessary to advance knowledge. Restrictions on certain areas of historical inquiry are based on the opposite premise: the truth is known, and it is impious to question it. This is absurd; every historian knows that there is no such thing as final historical truth.

It is not the task of history to defend public order or morals, but to establish what happened. Legally protected history ensures that historians will play safe. To be sure, living by Mill’s principle often requires protecting the rights of unsavory characters. David Irving writes mendacious history, but his prosecution and imprisonment in Austria for “Holocaust denial” would have horrified Mill.

By contrast, the pressure for “political correctness” rests on the argument that the truth is unknowable. Statements about the human condition are essentially matters of opinion.  Because a statement of opinion by some individuals is almost certain to offend others, and since such statements make no contribution to the discovery of truth, their degree of offensiveness becomes the sole criterion for judging their admissibility. Hence the taboo on certain words, phrases, and arguments that imply that certain individuals, groups, or practices are superior or inferior, normal or abnormal; hence the search for ever more neutral ways to label social phenomena, thereby draining language of its vigor and interest.

A classic example is the way that “family” has replaced “marriage” in public discourse, with the implication that all “lifestyles” are equally valuable, despite the fact that most people persist in wanting to get married. It has become taboo to describe homosexuality as a “perversion,” though this was precisely the word used in the 1960’s by the radical philosopher Herbert Marcuse (who was praising homosexuality as an expression of dissent). In today’s atmosphere of what Marcuse would call “repressive tolerance,” such language would be considered “stigmatizing.”

The sociological imperative behind the spread of “political correctness” is the fact that we no longer live in patriarchal, hierarchical, mono-cultural societies, which exhibit general, if unreflective, agreement on basic values. The pathetic efforts to inculcate a common sense of “Britishness” or “Dutchness” in multi-cultural societies, however well-intentioned, attest to the breakdown of a common identity.

Public language has thus become the common currency of cultural exchange, and everyone is on notice to mind one’s manners. The result is a multiplication of weasel words that chill political and moral debate, and that create a widening gap between public language and what many ordinary people think.

The defense of free speech is made no easier by the abuses of the popular press. We need free media to expose abuses of power. But investigative journalism becomes discredited when it is suborned to “expose” the private lives of the famous when no issue of public interest is involved. Entertaining gossip has mutated into an assault on privacy, with newspapers claiming that any attempt to keep them out of people’s bedrooms is an assault on free speech.

You know that a doctrine is in trouble when not even those claiming to defend it understand what it means. By that standard, the classic doctrine of free speech is in crisis. We had better sort it out quickly – legally, morally, and culturally – if we are to retain a proper sense of what it means to live in a free society.

Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, is Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University.

 

FBI To Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers As Details Emerge Of Its Spy Campaign Targeting American Activists

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Oldspeak:”While Obama smiles and waves in Puerto Rico, his justice department is wildin the fuck out.  Today in the supposed land of the free, COINTELPRO is on steroids. Political activists who don’t adhere to the status quo are labeled “domestic terrorists”. They are physically and electronically surveiled and intimidated for years, without firm evidence for suspecting criminal activity.  What’s to stop this vast and unaccountable misuse of government power from being turned on non-politically active Americans? “The FBI is giving agents more leeway to conduct domestic surveillance. According to the New York Times, new guidelines will allow FBI agents to investigate people and organizations “proactively” without firm evidence for suspecting criminal activity. The new rules will free up agents to infiltrate organizations, search household trash, use surveillance teams, search databases, conduct lie detector tests, even without suspicion of any wrongdoing.”- Amy Goodman. Best believe the Thought Police are in full effect.

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By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: Civil liberties advocates are raising alarm over news that the FBI is giving agents more leeway to conduct domestic surveillance. According to the New York Times, new guidelines will allow FBI agents to investigate people and organizations “proactively” without firm evidence for suspecting criminal activity. The new rules will free up agents to infiltrate organizations, search household trash, use surveillance teams, search databases, conduct lie detector tests, even without suspicion of any wrongdoing.

The revised guidelines come as the FBI’s existing practices have already come under wide scrutiny. Last month, the New York Times revealed a number of new revelations against activists targeted by domestic spying. One of those activists is 44-year-old Scott Crow, an Austin, Texas resident, self-proclaimed anarchist. He has just learned he was targeted by the FBI from 2001 until at least 2008. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Scott received 440 pages of heavily redacted documents revealing the FBI had traced the license plates of cars parked in front of his home, recorded the arrival and departure of his guests, observed gatherings that he attended at bookstores and cafes. The agency also tracked his emails and phone conversations, picked through his trash to identify his bank and mortgage companies, visited a gun store where he had sought to purchase a rifle for self-defense. Agents monitored—also asked the Internal Revenue Service to examine his tax returns, and even infiltrated activist groups he associated with. While Crow has been arrested a dozen times in his years of activism, he has never faced a charge more serious than trespassing. He is among a growing number of people and groups finding themselves on the receiving end of government spying.

Well, Scott Crow joins us now from Austin, Texas, to tell his story. And we’re also joined from Washington, D.C., by Mike German, national security policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He previously served as an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism from 1988 to 2004.

Mike German, we want to start with you on the most recent news of the new leeway granted to FBI agents, of which you were one years ago, to monitor people, not under any criminal charges or even suspicion. Explain what you understand is happening right now.

MIKE GERMAN: Right. You might remember that in 2008 Attorney General Michael Mukasey altered the attorney general guidelines that govern the FBI’s investigative authorities, and he created a new category of investigations called “assessments.” And these required no factual predicate—in other words, no evidence that anybody had done anything wrong, much less the person who is under investigation. And there are a number of intrusive investigative techniques that were allowed to be used, including physical surveillance, including recruiting and tasking informants, including FBI agents acting in ruse trying to gather information from the subjects of the investigation, conducting interviews, even using grand jury subpoenas to get telephone records.

What the new changes to the FBI’s internal policy is, to allow FBI agents, even without an assessment being open, to search commercial databases—these are subscription services of data aggregators that collect, you know, a broad swath of information and really have a lot of detailed private information about people—and also state and local law enforcement databases. Again, this is without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Without even opening an investigation, agents can start searching for all this private information.

Another increase in their authority is with assessments that they use to determine whether an informant is—whether they can recruit an informant. And one of the things they’re allowed to do is they’re adding trash haul, which means that when you put your garbage out for the garbageman to pick up, it’s an FBI agent picking it up instead, and they go through all this material. And when I asked why they would want to give agents that authority—again, before you have any evidence of wrongdoing—and they said, “Well, it’s often helpful to find something derogatory that could be used to pressure the person into becoming an informant.” So, you know, this is a technique being used specifically to coerce somebody to cooperate against their neighbors or co-workers.

AMY GOODMAN: The FBI declined our interview request today but did send us a statement about the new guidelines. Quoting FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni, saying, quote: “Each proposed change has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of the tools our employees need to accomplish their mission, the possible risks associated with use of those tools, and the controls that are in place. Overall, this is fine tuning, not any major change. The FBI’s authority to use specific investigative tools is determined through the U.S. Constitution, U.S. statutes, executive orders and the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations. The Domestic Investigations Operations Guide cannot and does not confer additional powers to agents beyond that provided by those controlling authorities.” Your thoughts on that, Mike German?

MIKE GERMAN: Well, again, the 2008 attorney general guidelines so loosened the standards for FBI investigations that they’re basically nonexistent. No factual predicate is required. So the idea that agents would be able to start those investigations without even going through an administrative hurdle of opening an assessment, I think, is an expansion of power that is completely unaccountable.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Scott Crow to hear a real-life story. Scott, talk about when you first applied under the Freedom of Information Act to get information about whether the FBI was monitoring you.

SCOTT CROW: Well, there’s a local organization called the Austin People’s Legal Collective. It all came out after Brandon Darby came out as an informant in 2008. Austin People’s Legal Collective decided to put together a FOIA request for about 30 activists, about 40 organizations and about 10 events going back to the year 2000 in Austin. We sent it to multiple field offices around the country and then—to see what we’d get back, to try to build a picture of what kind of surveillance had been going on, if there’s other infiltration. And in that, most—about 50 percent of the documents that came back came back with nothing. About 30 percent came back—people came back with a mention, or a group came back with a mention. And then there was two cases, a case with the woman who organized the Showdown in Texas, which was an event in 2003—there was about 400 pages of documents—and then mine was a case where they had years of extensive documentation going on. And that was kind of the impetus of it all. And through that, I was able to find out that, you know, that I had—there had been five informants in my life. Brandon Darby was just the last one, who had run through our communities. But when we did this, we did it across nine states. And I found out I was investigated in nine states for arsons and other criminal acts that I was never charged with.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Brandon Darby, for those who aren’t familiar, who has become a very familiar name in progressive circles, explain your relationship with him and who he is.

SCOTT CROW: Brandon Darby was a person who had been a friend of mine and been on the edge of the activist community within Austin for a number of years. He and I had gone to New Orleans together, and then I ended up co-founding an organization called Common Ground Relief out of that, out of those actions. And he worked at Common Ground for a couple of years and left, and then he ended up setting up—participating in this case with two men at the Republican National Convention, where he possibly entrapped them, but definitely provoked them into doing actions that they would not normally have done, which they ended up going to prison for. And then he came out as an informant, and it turned out he had been investigating a number of us for a number of years.

AMY GOODMAN: So, when exactly did you get the documents from the FBI? And talk about the extent that they showed of their surveillance of you.

SCOTT CROW: Well, let me—let me backtrack for a second. I first found out that I was listed as a domestic terrorist in 2006. The FBI, in the way that they ended up dealing with a lot of law enforcement around the country is they let the local DAs and the local law enforcement officers know in different cities. So in 2006, they let the DA in Baton Rouge know, and he let the lawyers for the Angola 3 know, and the Angola 3 lawyer told me. And that was the first time I ever heard about it, that I was listed as a domestic terrorist and an animal rights extremist.

And what it did was it opened up this world of possibilities in this kafkaesque world, where I’m not being formally charged with anything, but all of these things are happening. I mean, I could see people sitting out in front of my house for years—I mean, all different kinds of cars. And I’m not a paranoid person. I live a very transparent, open glass house. But I could see all these things happening.

There was a BOLO that was issued, a “be on the lookout” report that was issued in 2008, in the Austin Police Department that said I might injure police officers, burn down police cars, or incite riots. And the way I knew about it is because people from the city that I had worked with told me that they saw this poster with my picture on it. Now, again, I couldn’t do anything about this. Well, finally, in 2010, I get these documents that list me as a domestic terrorist since 2001, and it starts—the picture starts to become clearer on all of the things that the FBI has been doing across states, across multiple states, to investigate me and to sow dissent, basically, amongst local and regional law enforcement.

AMY GOODMAN: Some of the redacted FBI documents that show the surveillance of you, Scott, have been posted on the New York Times website. One FBI report describes the meeting of an activist group that you were a part of, saying, quote, “Most attendees dressed like hippies, had [dreadlocks] (both men and women), and smelled of bad odor.” Another report has the extensive details on the contents of your trash.

SCOTT CROW: I mean, those two incidences just scratch the surface. The infiltration happened over and over again in different groups, in different events. There would be law enforcement and informants and people gathering information at all different levels—city, county, state and federal authorities—and private security, too. It’s a revolving door between that sharing information and all of these things. Going through the trash was part of it.

But really, what was—to me, what I think we should talk about is that—how much money they spent investigating me, and not charging me with anything. You know, like, if I’m the tip of the iceberg and there’s other people in other communities that they’re doing this with, how much is the government spending to do something like this? And what kind of chilling effect does it have on activist communities and on us as citizens in this country?

AMY GOODMAN: How extensive, in terms of throughout the United States, was the monitoring of you, Scott? What have you figured out at this point?

SCOTT CROW: Well, they investigated me in nine states, like I said, in 12 field offices. There was five informants. There was one in Austin, two in Houston, one in Dallas and one in Detroit. I could only identify three of those people. The other ones I can’t even identify who they are, people I might have come in contact with over and over again. But they’re targeting—but what we found out through these FOIAs—

AMY GOODMAN: They went to—they went out—

SCOTT CROW:—and through other FOIAs that—

AMY GOODMAN: They went out to the IRS to investigate you, as well?

SCOTT CROW: Absolutely. They sent a letter to the IRS to see if they could get me for tax evasion. And luckily, my partner Ann and I had always had our taxes done, because we had owned our own businesses for the longest time, and they found—the IRS came back and said they couldn’t—there was nothing they could do about it. And there seemed to be a consternation at the FBI about that.

They also used closed-circuit television on a house in Dallas that I lived in, and then in Austin, where they put cameras across—on poles across the streets from my house. The levels that they went to, I think, are unimaginable to most people, because it’s what you hear about in movies or what people fear the most about it. But pretty much anything that you can think of that they did, except for kicking my door in, happened to me. I was threatened with grand juries, the trash digging, which they did on two occasions on the trash digging, being visited at my work and visited at my home. You know, Mike German spoke to, earlier, how they try to put pressure on people to give information. I was first visited by the FBI in 1999. That was the first time I ever heard the words “domestic terrorism” and “animal rights” used together. And also, not only did they try to implicate me in some crimes in Dallas or say that I had—or suggest that I had some responsibility for those crimes, then they tried to use that pressure to get me to give information on other people.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you were—

SCOTT CROW: And so, how many people is that happening to across the country?

AMY GOODMAN: That is a very important question. Mike German, you’re with the ACLU. There have been a number of raids. These are the obvious—you know, more obvious manifestations of this, raids in Chicago and Minneapolis of activists’ homes. Can you talk about how wide this surveillance is and what you understand is happening in other parts of the country?

MIKE GERMAN: Sure. I think, like Scott said, we only see the tip of the iceberg. But in 2004, 2005 and 2006, the ACLU issued a number of Freedom of Information Act requests for Joint Terrorism Task Force investigations against a number of political—politically active groups who suspected that they were spied on, the same way Scott did. And we uncovered widespread surveillance of different, you know, peace and justice groups, environmental groups, all kinds of different groups. And that, in turn, started an inspector general investigation that was just released in September of 2010 that showed that the FBI was opening these investigations with what they called factually weak predicates, sometimes even speculative predicates. So it wasn’t that they thought that the groups were involved in any criminal activity now, but just that it was a possibility in the future they might be. Well, of course, that’s true for all of us. We all might be future criminals. And that was the sole criteria that the FBI was using to open preliminary inquiries.

Now, these are supposed to be predicated investigations where there is some factual basis. And these investigations, unfortunately, the IG only looked at the cases that the ACLU had already uncovered. He didn’t look beyond those. But what he found was those investigations remained open for years, with no evidence of wrongdoing, that the victims of these investigations would be put on terrorist watch lists. And, you know, you can imagine, for a political activist, you know, kind of like Scott recounted, when the FBI is going around telling local officials that this political activist is a terrorist, that cripples their ability to be effective in their advocacy. And it creates a huge chilling effect that affects not just the people under investigation, but others active on those political issues, and even further, people who want to be active but feel it’s not worth it to come under that kind of surveillance. So it has a real serious effect on our democracy. And that’s really, you know, one of the most dangerous parts about this.

AMY GOODMAN: How has the FBI changed from Bush to Obama? I mean, Robert Mueller has now been head of the FBI for almost 10 years under Bush and Obama.

MIKE GERMAN: You know, this meeting that we were brought to about the expansion of the FBI’s authority last month was really the first opportunity. We were hoping, because we criticized the 2008 guidelines that were put in place in December of 2008—so, literally just a month before the Obama administration took over—we had criticized those heavily, so we were hoping that what we were going to hear was that our criticism had been heard and that they were going to scale back some of the things they were doing. One of the things that we’re still working on is an authority the FBI has given itself in their internal guidelines that allows them to collect racial and ethnic demographic data and to map racial and ethnic communities and collect racial and ethnic behavioral information, whatever that is. And we’re trying to use Freedom of Information Act to get at that information, but it’s difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Crow, what are your plans right now? And I want to ask Mike German also, what kind of recourse does someone like Scott have, now that you’ve learned the extent of the surveillance? Do you even know, Scott, right now if you’re be monitored?

SCOTT CROW: I assume that I am, because my documents ended in 2008. They said that was all that there was. And just to clarify, they gave me 500 pages of 1,200 pages. So there’s still 700 pages more to get. We’re going to sue to try to get the rest of them and try to get the redactions taken away, so we can see what was going on. But my biggest thing is not to—to tell people not to be afraid, because everything that people fear I’ve had happen to me, and I’m still OK. And I don’t mean that in a cavalier way, because it’s been definitely traumatizing at different points, but if we don’t come out and be open about this, then they’ve already won, and the surveillance and the “war on terror” wins against us.

AMY GOODMAN: And Mike German, the kind of recourse people have? How do they even find out if they are the subject of surveillance?

MIKE GERMAN: It’s very difficult. I mean, one of the things that we’re just finding out in a California case is that the FBI and the Department of Justice have been interpreting a portion of the Freedom of Information Act to allow them to falsely say they do not have responsive documents when they do. So it makes unclear whether the government is even being upfront about whether they have documents that they’re not giving you. So it’s very difficult, but we’re working with the Freedom of Information Act the best we can. We’re working through the courts, and we’re working on Capitol Hill, trying to get our elected representatives to realize how important this is to the American public and to our democracy. If people are afraid to engage in political activism, that’s ultimately going to hurt us more than, you know, the waste of resources and other aspects of this that are also untenable.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both very much for being with us, Mike German, national security policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, formerly an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism, and thank you to Scott Crow, Austin-based activist targeted by FBI surveillance. His book Black Flags and Windmills is set to be published in August.

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