"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Political Activism’

All DAY! ALL WEEK!: Occupy Wall Street Is Back

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm

OccupyOldspeak:Nothing else in the world… not all the armies… is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” –Victor Hugo.

 

By Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

Occupy Wall Street and the 99% are preparing to rise back up – evolved, re-energized and looking forward to “starting some trouble” to celebrate where it all began. 

Monday, September 17, now dubbed #S17, marks the one-year anniversary of the protest and occupation in New York City – an event that captured the world’s attention and ignited protests, occupations and grassroots community organizing around the globe.

To celebrate and continue challenging the corporate elite, activists in New York City are preparing for three days of teach-ins and direct actions in the heart of the Wall Street financial district, where it all began.

In New York, a weekend of gatherings and free educational events will culminate in a day of action on #S17. Organizers are calling for massive civil disobedience, mobile intersection takeovers and an evening gathering at Liberty Plaza, aka Zuccotti Park, where the original Occupy Wall Street camp was held for two months last year.

Solidarity actions and celebrations also are planned in cities across the country. Activists can use this Wiki to post or find events and network at www.InterOccupy.net.

New York police also are preparing for #S17 and have erected giant concrete walls around Zuccotti park, according to reports from activists.

It remains to be seen if #S17 participants will attempt to establish another campout-style occupation. After confronting police and city officials across the country, activists within the Occupy movement say they are ready to tactically evolve beyond the campout spectacle. In fact, much the movement already has.

“The actual camping was as [a] spectacle to get people who were interested in anti-capitalist action to come together,” said Joan Donovan, an InterOccupy.net and Occupy Los Angeles organizer. Donovan was preparing to travel to New York City for #S17 when Truthout spoke with her on Thursday.

The national network of Occupy campouts established in late 2011 and the spring of 2012 became a media spectacle as well, especially when police at occupations in New York, Oakland and Berkeley started cracking skulls and spraying tear gas in response to protests.

As winter and frustrated police forces closed in, the camps began to disappear, and so did much of the mainstream media coverage.

But the end of the camps did not mark the end of the movement. Local and national networks formed in camps across the country, and Occupy soon gave birth to campaigns addressing a range of pressing issues, such as fighting to save families from foreclosure evictions, challenging the indefinite detention clause in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and, most recently, taking on the infamous genetically engineered seed purveyor Monsanto.

The Occupy meme also influenced movements addressing age-old struggles. Occupy the Hood, for example, established a national network of activists fighting to improve the quality of life for disenfranchised people of color.

“I didn’t see the end of the occupation as the end of what this movement is about; I mean, this movement has generated all sorts of different kinds of protests,” said Donovan, who pointed out that Occupiers in Los Angeles were just recently camped out on a family’s front lawn to protect them from a foreclosure eviction.

The Canadian magazine Adbusters, which heavily backed the original Wall Street occupation, recently addressed the evolving nature of Occupy on its web site:

To put it in a nutshell: the Zuccotti encampment model might have passed its heyday, but the spirit of Occupy is still very much alive … evolving and inspiring, expanding our understanding of the possible, exploding our political imagination.

For Donovan, who is excited about “starting some trouble” in New York City this weekend, the past year has been a great one for direct action.

“This idea that everyone has to converge in [Washington] DC or wherever in order to have a protest is starting to wane away a little bit and people are starting to realize that if you can start enough commotion in many cities at the same time … you can be just as effective and not waste resources or the energy of activists,” Donovan said.

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Newly-Released Documents Confirm Federal Agencies Coordinated Violent Crackdown Occupy Protesters

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Oldspeak:”China violently cracks down on protesters. Iran violently cracks down on protesters. North Korea violently cracks down on protesters. Syria violently cracks down on protesters. The United States violently cracks down on protesters. Ignore the populist rhetoric. The Obama Administration is no friend of the 99%. It has been working actively to quash dissent, restrict protest, and silence whisleblowers. “What these documents are beginning to reveal is also the coordination between federal law enforcement agencies and private corporate entities representing the 1% that wanted to see the Occupy movement removed from public view and shut out of America’s parks.”Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. This is what inverted totalitarian kleptocracy looks like. Government and corporate interests working in concert to deprive the people of constitutionally guaranteed rights.  At some point we’ll have to awaken to the reality that our beloved country is not that much different from the ones we’re told demonize. “Freedom Is Slavery”

Related Stories

Wikileaks: Internal Report Indicates U.S. Department Of Homeland Security Monitoring Occupy Wall Street Protests

Obama Administration Coordinated Local Police Crackdowns On Occupy Encampments Nationwide

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

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

By The Partnership For Civil Justice Fund:

Two days before the NYPD’s eviction of the Occupy Wall Street encampment from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, Brookfield Properties’ security was in direct communications and sharing information with the US Park Police in Washington DC, and communicating with other cities around the country, according to newly released internal documents from the National Park Service.

The documents were released late Friday to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) in response to the civil rights legal group’s FOIA demands to the NPS, FBI, CIA, DHS and other federal law enforcement agencies seeking information about the role of Federal agencies in the coordinated nationwide crackdown that led to the eviction of Occupy encampments in cities throughout the United States. The request was made also on behalf of author and filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee The PCJF is making the documents immediately available for review, and highlighting key initial findings .

“When the PCJF issued this FOIA request we wanted to uncover and expose whether local government and local law enforcement agencies were working in a coordinated way with the federal government to suppress and shut down the Occupy Movement which had inspired the country starting in September, 2011,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “What these documents are beginning to reveal is also the coordination between law enforcement agencies and private corporate entities representing the 1% that wanted to see the Occupy movement removed from public view and shut out of America’s parks.”

These initially released documents show:

  • The private corporate entity Brookfield Properties, which manages Zuccotti Park, had its security agency in communication with cities across the country about police actions designed to evict the Occupy movement and sought information as to Park Police plans to evict in D.C. 48 hours before OWS was evicted.
  • U.S. Park Police were communicating step by step, as they took action in regard to Occupy DC, with the Secret Service, DHS, and other police agencies as well as personnel affiliated with LEO.gov, the FBI’s nationally integrated network and alert system involving all aspects of civilian law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military. As its website states, “LEO supports the FBI’s ten priorities by providing cost-effective, time-critical national alerts and information sharing to public safety, law enforcement, antiterrorism and intelligence agencies in support of the Global War on Terrorism.”

It is also noteworthy that the DHS has not produced the communications they participated in, in response to FOIA demands, confirming the PCJF’s assertion that the search they have conducted is inadequate. The PCJF has refused to narrow its request to DHS’ initial search and is demanding further disclosure.

More documents are being released to the PCJF. Please click here to be sure that you receive notice as documents become available. To read more about OWS FOIA updates visit www.JusticeOnline.org/ows.

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The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a not-for-profit constitutional rights legal and educational organization which, among other things, seeks to ensure constitutional accountability within police practices and government transparency in operations. The PCJF filed the class action suit challenging the NYPD’s October 1 mass arrest of more than 700 protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge. It has brought class action cases in which more than 1,000 persons were falsely arrested during protests in Washington, D.C., resulting in settlements totaling $22 million and major changes in police practices. The PCJF previously brought the successful litigation in New York challenging the 2004 ban on protests in the Great Lawn of Central Park. It is counsel with the National Lawyers Guild in Oakland, CA challenging police mass arrest tactics. It won a unanimous ruling at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finding the MPD’s unprecedented military-style police checkpoint program unconstitutional. The PCJF previously uncovered and disclosed that the D.C. police employed an unlawful domestic spying and agent provocateur program in which officers were sent on long-term assignments posing as political activists and infiltrated lawful and peaceful groups. For more information go to: www.JusticeOnline.org.

 

 

Obama Administration Coordinated Local Police Crackdowns On Occupy Encampments Nationwide

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Oldspeak:“Why is President Obama who ostensibly has expressed understanding and sympathy for Occupy protests, instead surreptitiously allowing federal law enforcement agencies to assist, advise, coordinate and plan tactics to raid and break up Occupy encampments? I wondered why all these ‘crackdowns’ happened in much the same militarized way, around the same day, around the same time in the dead of night in 18 cities.  ‘According to one Justice Department official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies. In several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.”  Given this information, we have to ask ourselves, in the ‘land of the free’; WHY? Why the Gestapo-like tactics? Why the hyper-militarized and violent responses to non-violent civil disobedience? Why the suppression of freedoms of assembly, press and speech? More change I can’t believe in.

Related Stories:

200 Arrested @ NYPD Crackdown On Occupy Wall Street: Zuccotti Park edia Blackout, Pepper Spray, Sound Cannons, Batons Raided Under MUsed, Tents Cleared

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

Related Video:

Michael Moore Connects The Federal Government To Occupy Raids

By Rick Ellis @ The Minniapolis Examiner:

Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.

The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.

According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.

The FBI has so far failed to respond to requests for an official response, and of the 14 local police agencies contacted in the past 24 hours, all have declined to respond to questions on this issue.

But in a recent interview with the BBC,” Oakland Mayor Jean Quan mentioned she was on a conference call just before the recent wave of crackdowns began.

“I was recently on a conference call of 18 cities who had the same situation, where what had started as a political movement and a political encampment ended up being an encampment that was no longer in control of the people who started them.”

At the time this story was updated, Mayor Quan’s office had declined to discuss her comments.

UPDATE: Thursday, 11:30 a.m. CT Two civil rights legal groups have filed a comprehensive Freedom of Information request for any and all communications between federal law enforcement agencies and local police that are related to the “Occupy” protests.

UPDATE: Thursday, 10:15 a.m. CT. I was finally able to get an official response from the Dept. of Homeland Security, although it didn’ address many of my questions. I was also able to speak with several high-ranking DHS officials on background and deep background, which helped answer a few logistical questions (for instance, the role of the department’s Federal Protective Service).

UPDATE: Wednesday, 12:45 p.m. CT.
 Speaking of Homeland Security, the department’s Federal Protective Service (which is tasked with protecting federal buildings) has been spotted at a couple of ‘Occupy’ crackdowns, including one in Portland.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 11:15 a.m. CT. Here are a couple of relevant links that are related to this story.

Filmmaker Michael Moore was on “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” last night talking about this very issue. Click here to see the video.

The Associated Press has published a great piece on another set of conference calls about strategy,  these organized by the Police Executive Research Forum.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 10:10 am CT. I’m working on at least one new story for today, but I wanted to try and clear up a couple of questions I’ve gotten since this original story posted yesterday.

I have a hunch that Mayor Quan might have been referring to a conference call between a number of U.S. mayors in her interview, not one with law enforcement officials. But that’s just a hunch on my part, since her office has so far declined to offer any explanation of her comments to me.

My original source for the story (who still works at the Justice Dept.) stands behind the original story and we’re working to flesh it out in more detail today. I also have some other aspects of the story I’m working on as well.

I’ll post a link to my next story here or if you want to be automatically notified, subscribe to my feed here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at rellisfall@gmail.com


Goldman Sachs Threatens Legal Action, Withdraws Pledged TARP Funds To Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union; Occupy Wall Street’s Bank

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Oldspeak:”Some of the biggest members of the Transnational Corporate Network’s International Banking Cartel are using their vast resources as a political weapon to attack small low-income community banks that support and do business with Occupy Wall Street. And the resources they’re withholding are taxpayer bailout funds they’re mandated to use for community reinvestment.  So they’re retaliating against the people protesting their practices by withholding money, PUBLIC MONEY (the peoples money they took to remain ‘solvent’), that is owed.  “You’ve had basically Goldman has started a kind of run on low-income banks that will associate with Occupy Wall Street. This is a dangerous use of public money. I’ve got to emphasize this: it’s TARP money, that is bailout money that we gave these banks in 2008. They were required, as part of the deal—in Goldman Sachs’ case, explicit—that they give back some of the money to low-income communities and reinvest there. It’s our money. It’s not a donation. And this is just little bits. And they’re withholding these payments. I haven’t seen Goldman put out—they’ve put out less than half a cent on the dollar we gave them, the lowest of any bank. But they are setting a—they’re basically setting a course that all of the other banks are now following, saying, “Hey, you want our money? You have to clear your political positions with us at the big banks.” This is a very dangerous new business.” –Greg Pallast Corporatocracy in action. Only an organization with no fear of reprisal could conceive of so blatantly disregarding actions its been lawfully ordered to carry out. Predictably, very coverage of this in corporate media, and the little there is distorted and inaccurate. If you’ll notice there is no mention of the fact the Goldman is witholding taxpayer money they’ve been ordered to pay. It’s referred to as their money in the wall st. journal article below.” “Ignorance Is Strength

Related Video:

Greg Palast: ‘Goldman Sachs vs. Occupy Wall Street’

Related Story:

Goldman Sachs Sends Its Regrets to This Awkward Dinner Invitation

By Greg Palast @ Democracy Now:

Guest:

Greg Palast, investigative reporter with the BBC and author of the books Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His next book, out in November, is calledVultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a controversy in the banking community around the Occupy Wall Street movement. Recently, the financial giant Goldman Sachs pulled out of a fundraiser for a small Lower East Side bank that caters to poor people after it learned the event was honoring the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. The investment bank withdrew its name from the fundraiser and also canceled a $5,000 pledge.

But did Goldman Sachs actually use U.S. taxpayer bailout money to attack Occupy Wall Street’s not-for-profit community bank? Investigative reporter Greg Palast filed this report from Wall Street.

GREG PALAST: Downtown New York, near Wall Street, these are the towers of Goldman Sachs, the mega-bank. With over $933 billion in assets, nearly a trillion dollars, Goldman has declared war on one of the smallest banks in New York City.

The story begins here at Occupy Wall Street. It all started here, with these buckets. Unexpectedly, the donation buckets were filling up with thousands of dollars in cash, and the anti-bank protesters suddenly needed a bank.

BOBBY “BAILOUT”: We basically started out here just thinking we were going to a protest, and maybe some people would come out. Then, very soon, we were collecting large amounts of donations, and we were in way over our head.

GREG PALAST: Occupy Wall Street chose to bring their bucket of bills to the nearby Latino neighborhood. This is New York’s Lower East Side, and this is the not-for-profit community bank, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union.

Inside, the bank was serving lines of residents from housing projects, bodega owners, other locals, most of whom had been refused service by the big commercial banks. In their cramped back office, the only space to speak with the bank’s leader was inside their vault.

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: So this is our old-fashioned safety deposit boxes that many of our members still use.

GREG PALAST: People’s Credit Union chairwoman, Deyanira Del Rio.

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: So, our membership is 80 percent low income, approximately, and we also have about, I would say, 65 percent or so of our members are Latino.

GREG PALAST: What makes you different—

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: Right.

GREG PALAST: —from Capital One or Goldman Sachs—

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: Yeah.

GREG PALAST: —or any of the other big, giant banks?

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: We started off when the last bank branch in a hundred-block radius of the neighborhood was closing its doors. And community residents came together to initially protest the closure of that bank, and ultimately did something very different, which was start their own institution, an alternative to the mainstream bank.

GREG PALAST: They’re holding a dinner next week, and they’ve announced they’re honoring their new big member owner, Occupy Wall Street, to celebrate Occupy’s call for its supporters to move their money out of big banks to people’s and other community banks.

UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: You were inside with everybody else.

CUSTOMER: I’m a customer. I’m a customer.

WITNESS 1: She is a customer.

CUSTOMER: I’m a customer.

UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: You were inside. Yes, but you were inside with the whole—no, no, no.

WITNESS 2: What are you doing?

WITNESS 1: Hey, what the—hey!

WITNESS 3: What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?

GREG PALAST: Twenty-three protesters protesters were arrested at a branch of Citibank following the call to move their money.

WITNESS 3: Oh, my god! This is wrong! This is wrong! This is wrong! What you’re doing is wrong! This is wrong!

GREG PALAST: And Goldman Sachs, which had donated $5,000 to the credit union, threatened legal action over the little bank’s honoring Occupy Wall Street. When the credit union refused to back down, Goldman took back its $5,000. The credit union members we spoke with backed their little bank.

LYLE WALFORD: I mean, it was a courageous thing to do. It’s their saying, that “We have members who are part of us. We are part of the community. We are people-oriented. We are the people’s institution, not the money’s institution.” So, yes, I think it was a great thing for them to do.

GREG PALAST: We waited all day and night for an answer to our calls to Goldman.

Were you trying to threaten the credit union for its support for Occupy Wall Street? We’re waiting outside your building.

Back at the Wall Street occupation, a street performer showed Goldman’s system of the old give-and-grab-back.

STREET PERFORMER: There you go, buddy!

GREG PALAST: Thank you.

STREET PERFORMER: For your boys. All right, all right, take care. Make sure you spend it the right way. Adios. Excuse me, I want my money back, please. Give me back my money!

GREG PALAST: Oh, no!

STREET PERFORMER: Give me back my money!

GREG PALAST: From the Occupied territory, Wall Street, New York, this is Greg Palast for Democracy Now!, news for the 99 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Palast, investigative reporter with the BBC, author a number of books, including Armed MadhouseThe Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His new book, out in November, is called Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores. We are joined by Greg Palast right now.

Continue to explain what exactly happened.

GREG PALAST: It’s not about $5,000 donation. First of all, it’s not a donation. The issue is about a multi-billion-dollar battle over TARP money and the finance community. Back in 2008, Goldman Sachs, which is an investment bank—that meant that all their losses were there—was turned into a commercial bank, within 24 hours, so they could qualify for $10 billion in bailout funds. But as part of the deal—as part of the deal, Amy—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain commercial bank.

GREG PALAST: OK, commercial bank is the types where you put in your savings, and we, the taxpayers, and the government guarantees the profits, or guarantees the solvency of that bank. So, for Goldman to get into the $10 billion—to get their $10 billion check for bailout, they had to become—go from a gambling house, an investment bank, into a nice commercial bank. But they had to agree that they would then be subject to what’s called the Community Reinvestment Act and return some of that money, a chunk of it—most banks put in a billion dollars—return a chunk of it back into low-income communities. Well, Goldman doesn’t have any branches, so they gave money to the designated low-income bank of New York, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, and—but they’ve been giving out the money in eyedroppers, like this $5,000. Now remember, it’s not a donation. It’s a required payment under the law that they got in return for our $10 billion, OK? So it’s not a donation. This is mischaracterized. It’s a payment required by law, with an eyedropper.

But what they are doing is starting off something very dangerous and new, which is to say—there are literally tens of billions of dollars in these funds for community reinvestment, boosted by the bailout funds. They see this as a political weapon, as a hammer to control the political discussion. These community development credit unions have been joining the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide. It’s about moving your money from the big banks to the small banks. And they’re not worried about losing little deposits. What they are worried about is losing political control of the discussion. Right now, people like Paul Volcker are calling for removing the rights of banks like Goldman, now a commercial bank, to stay in the gambling trading business. Well, Goldman is very much afraid of that. So the Occupy Wall Street movement has put back on the table these issues of bank deregulation, these issues of community reinvestment.

And Goldman, I think they’re actually quite smart. They figured out, “Well, we’ve got—there’s like a hundred billion dollars on the table here. Why don’t we start saying, ’You’re not going to get any of it unless you dance to our tune?’” And I have to tell you, from inside, it wasn’t minor. It wasn’t just, “Oh, take—give us back our donation money.” It was legal threats saying, if you—you cannot—if you’re going to get our money, you may not back Occupy Wall Street and the “move your money” movement, without getting approval from us at Goldman Sachs. That’s a whole new business. So, it’s very dangerous, because it involves billions of dollars in public money. It’s not Goldman’s money. It’s our money. And that’s what they’re doing with it.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain the significance of this credit union.

GREG PALAST: Well, the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, and I—listen, my ex is the CEO, and so I hope she’s not mad at me doing this report. But I’ve got to tell you, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union has been designated by federal charter to be the bank for all New Yorkers of low income, if you own—if you earn less than $38,000 or work or live on the Lower East Side. What’s happened is, is that the big banks give Lower East Side a few dollars and then send all the poor people to that bank. You walk in poor, you say, “I’m in a housing project and on public assistance,” “Oh, go down to Lower East Side.” So they dump the poor there. They can’t even open bank accounts, let alone get loans at these big banks. So it’s a dumping ground so that the—it’s a brilliant bank. It does very well, and it serves all the entire poor community of New York. It’s got branches in Harlem.

But what the banks now want to do is say, as this bank is growing not only as an economic force, but a political force, in the low-income communities in New York, and they are being used as the model nationwide, they are taking a political stance, saying, “We honor Occupy Wall Street, because we are against people putting their money in these commercial banks. It’s time that banking become for the people, not for the money.” And that message is a no-go with the banking community.

So it’s not, by the way, just Goldman Sachs. Capital One said, “Take our name off.” You’ve had basically Goldman has started a kind of run on low-income banks that will associate with Occupy Wall Street. This is a dangerous use of public money. I’ve got to emphasize this: it’s TARP money, that is bailout money that we gave these banks in 2008. They were required, as part of the deal—in Goldman Sachs’ case, explicit—that they give back some of the money to low-income communities and reinvest there. It’s our money. It’s not a donation. And this is just little bits. And they’re withholding these payments. I haven’t seen Goldman put out—they’ve put out less than half a cent on the dollar we gave them, the lowest of any bank. But they are setting a—they’re basically setting a course that all of the other banks are now following, saying, “Hey, you want our money? You have to clear your political positions with us at the big banks.” This is a very dangerous new business. And I hope that with this report here on Democracy Now!, that the regulators are going to step in and say, “No, no. This is not your money. This is our money. This is not a political weapon.” It’s a very dangerous new thing that the banks are doing.

AMY GOODMAN: You tried to speak to Goldman Sachs.

GREG PALAST: Boy, we tried to speak to Goldman. We actually staked them out, if you saw me at night in front of their big office buildings just outside Wall Street on the West Side Highway. So we’ve tried. They won’t speak to us, at all. They certainly won’t speak to Democracy Now! They gave a good spin of a little story that went on the front page of the Wall Street Journal about, “Oh, this little credit union, they were slapping us around by taking our money and then backing Occupy Wall Street.” It’s not about that. It’s about the billions of dollars at stake with community reinvestment funds, out of the bailout money, and who has political control.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re not just a journalist, Greg. You started off in finance. You got your degree in finance.

GREG PALAST: Yeah, believe it or not. I was a protégé of a little guy named Milton Friedman. Pretty strange stuff. Yeah, and I was—

AMY GOODMAN: University of Chicago.

GREG PALAST: And before I was a journalist, as an investigative journalist, I was actually an investigator. And then I said, no one is putting out the news of the real stories, so maybe I’ll do something for U.S. news, and ended up having to leave the country, work for BBC.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think has to happen right now?

GREG PALAST: What has to happen right now is that the regulators in the Obama administration, the Federal Reserve Board, has to step in and tell Goldman, “No, it’s not your money. You may not use the community reinvestment funds as a political hammer to beat up the small community groups, credit unions, community banks, to which you’re giving this money.” It’s a very dangerous thing to be saying, “We’re going to be giving out money based on your political positions and based on whether you are telling people that the banking system has to change,” because community banks like Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union are taking the position that the commercial banking system is rotten and should be replaced by a people’s banking system. So it’s not just—they don’t want to be the little safety valve, “Just send us your poor people.” They want to replace the banking system. And believe me, Goldman, and the other banks following them, don’t want to hear that message.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Palast, I want to thank you for being with us. We will continue to talk to you. His new book coming out just in a few weeks is called Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores. Thank you very much.

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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