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

Posts Tagged ‘Secret Court Rulings’

“We Steal Secrets”: Film Commissioned By Comcast-Owned Studio Tries To Smear, Discredit Wikileaks, Assange, Manning

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2013 at 5:04 pm

WikiLeaks top secret mobile information collection unit is pulled over by Secret Service for driving in a no truck zone. They had been peeking in the windows while it was parked during a Bradley Manning rally. (Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/23737633@N02/5813470696/in/photolist-9RHyio-9w7iVz-94dP6i-8XTTDF-8UPVKU-91HnQa-9jUqsu-8XM9Qa-9RV683-91ASm4-8ZbP6r-8Znppw-8vPE7B-91PA3V-9f2y5v-91PzWi-91UVFf-9j95W8-91RPA4-9aAqbo-acVxgm-acVxH1-acSJwP-acVxub-91SGvY-91PzZB-91SFCW-91SG8N-9Wvcrt-91Pz7x-91PzfM-91PztX-91Pzj6-91SGfL-91SFGA-91SFV3-91SGs3-91SGMG-91SGU3-dYLrhn-91Pzmv-91eSvT-9Wvci6-91SFLf-9285iQ-9bnE7j-8Vhdwa-91PzCi-91471X-appWCm-8ZQz4K" target="_blank"> John Penley / Flickr</a>) Oldspeak: “The smear campaign is on. And corporate media is on point. In a macabre irony The Corporatocracy has shrewdly co-opted a formerly independent anti-corporate filmmaker responsible for such gems as “Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room” and “Taxi To The Dark Side”, and chosen him to produce a glitzy propaganda film that assassinates the characters of a government whistleblower and the anti-corporate journalist who dared expose to the public, the evil and anti-democratic actions that are being perpetrated by our government in our names. While corporate media is dutifully focused on diversionary “news scandals”, “immigration reform” (a.k.a. National Biometric Database Implementation),  It’s getting harder and harder for citizens to be informed about the increasingly secret actions of our government. Meanwhile there is no discussion in corporate media of the Orwellian absurdity of secretly inditing a journalist and prosecuting a whistleblower  with the longest and harshest punishment possible, while allowing those whose murder, torture, theft, waste, and a constelation of  wrongdoing they exposed to continue unpunished and unknown. O_o Do not be fooled by this spurious agitpop. It’s purpose is to protect and maintain empire. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.” –Leni Riefenstahl

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

Alex Gibney’s new film, “We Steal Secrets,” is about WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. It dutifully peddles the state’s contention that WikiLeaks is not a legitimate publisher and that Bradley Manning, who allegedly passed half a million classified Pentagon and State Department documents to WikiLeaks, is not a legitimate whistle-blower. It interprets acts of conscience and heroism by Assange and Manning as misguided or criminal. It holds up the powerful—who are responsible for the plethora of war crimes Manning and Assange exposed—as, by comparison, trustworthy and reasonable. Manning is portrayed as a pitiful, naive and sexually confused young man. Assange, who created the WikiLeaks site so whistle-blowers could post information without fear of being traced, is presented as a paranoid, vindictive megalomaniac and a sexual deviant. “We Steal Secrets” is agitprop for the security and surveillance state.

Rebels are typically a bundle of contradictions and incongruities. They are often difficult people whom the dominant systems of power abused at a young age. They have the intelligence needed to dissect the workings of power, and to devise mechanisms to fight back. German Jewish intellectuals in the Nazi era such as Hannah Arendt, writers such as James Baldwin, who was gay as well as black, and the revolutionary Frantz Fanon, a black writer and psychiatrist raised in the French colony of Martinique, all were outsiders, even outcasts. Like these three, Manning and Assange rose out of personal troubles to ask the questions traditional rebels ask, and they responded as traditional rebels respond.

“The initial presentation of the story was that Bradley Manning was a pure political figure, like a Daniel Ellsberg,” Gibney told The Daily Beast in an interview in January. “I don’t think that’s a sufficient explanation of why he did what he did. I think he was alienated; he was in agony personally over a number of issues. He was lonely and very needy. And I think he had an identity crisis. He had this idea that he was in the wrong body and wanted to become a woman, and these issues are not just prurient. I think it raises big issues about who whistleblowers are, because they are alienated people who don’t get along with people around them, which motivates them to do what they do.”

Gibney is unable to see that humans are a mixture of hubris and altruism, cowardice and courage, anger and love. There are no “pure” political figures—including Daniel Ellsberg. But there are people who, for reasons of conscience, discover the inner fortitude to defy tyranny at tremendous personal risk. Manning did this. Assange did this. They are not perfect human beings, but to dwell at length, as Gibney does, on their supposed psychological deficiencies and personal failings, while glossing over the vast evil they set themselves against, is an insidious form of character assassination. It serves the interests of the oppressors. Even if all the character flaws ascribed by Gibney to Manning and Assange are true—and I do not believe they are true—it does not diminish what they did.

The film at many points is a trashy exercise in tabloid journalism. Gibney panders to popular culture’s taste for cheap pop psychology and obsession with sex, salacious gossip and trivia. He shows clips of Assange dancing in a disco. He goes through an elaborate ritual of putting a wig and makeup on one of Assange’s estranged paramours, Anna Ardin, to disguise her although she is a public figure in Sweden.

“When the women went to the police to try to force Assange to take an HIV test, their testimony raised questions about possible criminal charges,” Gibney says in speaking about a Swedish case in which allegations of sexual misbehavior have been made against the WikiLeaks publisher. “The police, on their own, decided to investigate further. The refusal to use a condom took center stage: If Assange had HIV and knew it, it could be a case for assault. The testimony of the women raised another issue: Did he refuse to use a condom because he wanted to make the women pregnant? Some pointed to the fact he had already fathered four children with different women around the world.”

The personal sin is excoriated. The vast structural sin Assange and Manning fought is ignored. The primacy of personal piety over justice is the inversion of morality. It is the sickness of our age. David Petraeus is hounded out of the CIA not because he oversaw death squads that killed thousands of innocents in Iraq or because the CIA tortures detainees, but because he had an extramarital affair. The power elite can draw up kill lists, torture people, wage endless war and carry out massive fiscal fraud on Wall Street as long as they don’t get caught sleeping with their administrative assistants. Assange can lay bare the crimes they commit, but his act of truth-telling is canceled out by alleged sexual misconduct.

Is the most important thing about Martin Luther King Jr. the fact that he was a serial adulterer? Did King’s infidelities invalidate his life and struggle? Do the supposed defects of Assange and Manning negate what they did? Gibney would have us believe they do. Manning, in a just world, would be a witness for the prosecution of those who committed war crimes. Assange would be traveling around the United States collecting First Amendment awards.

The persecution of Manning and Assange is not an isolated act. It is part of a terrifying assault against our most important civil liberties and a free press. Manning and Assange are the canaries in the mineshaft. They did not seek to sell the documents that WikiLeaks published or to profit personally from their release. They are part of the final, desperate battle under way to stymie the security and surveillance state’s imposition of corporate totalitarianism. They and others who attempt to expose the crimes of the state—such as Jeremy Hammond, who admitted in a plea agreement last week that he had hacked into the private intelligence firm Stratfor and who faces up to 10 years in prison—will be ruthlessly persecuted. And the traditional media, which printed the secret cables provided by WikiLeaks and then callously abandoned Manning and Assange, will be next.

The Associated Press recently saw the state seize two months of its emails and phone logs, and the government has admitted seizing Fox News reporter James Rosen’s phone records. Half a dozen government whistle-blowers have been charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act. It is becoming harder and harder to peer into the inner workings of power. And once there are no Mannings or Assanges, once no one is willing to take risks to expose the crimes of empire, there will be no freedom of the press.

The fundamental conceit of “We Steal Secrets” is that Assange’s concern about the possibility of being arrested by U.S. authorities is a product of paranoia and self-delusion. The vast array of intergovernment forces—at least a dozen—dedicated to arresting Assange, extraditing him and destroying WikiLeaks is, Gibney would have us believe, fictional. I detailed these forces in “The Death of Truth.” The refusal to acknowledge the massive campaign against Assange is the most disturbing aspect of the film. There are numerous indications, including in leaked Stratfor emails, that a sealed indictment against Assange is in place. But Gibney refuses to buy it.

“Had the secret-leaker become the secret-keeper, more and more fond of mysteries?” Gibney asks in the film. “The biggest mystery of all was the role of the United States. Over two years after the first leak, no charges had been filed by the U.S. Assange claimed that the U.S. was biding its time, waiting for him to go to Sweden, but there was no proof.”

The sage-like figure in the film is former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who in 2001 lied when he told reporters that the National Security Council was not monitoring U.S citizens without court warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He represents, for Gibney, the voice of reason.

“You’ve got this scene, somebody evidently troubled by the scene—frankly, I’m not—but I can understand someone who’s troubled by that, and someone who wants the American people to know that, because the American people need to know what it is their government is doing for them,” Hayden says of the “Collateral Murder” video released by WikiLeaks that shows a U.S. helicopter shooting to death civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in an Iraqi street. “I actually share that view—when I was director of CIA there was some stuff we were doing I wanted all 300 million Americans to know. But I never figured out a way about informing a whole bunch of other people that didn’t have a right to that information who may actually use that image, or that fact or that data or that message, to harm my country.”

Adrian Lamo, who worked as an FBI informant, faking a friendship with Manning to sell him out, is given a perch in the film to wring his hands like Judas over how agonizing it was for him to turn in Manning. He did it, he assures us, to keep the country safe, although no one has ever been able to point to any loss of life caused by the leak of the secret documents.

“I care more about Bradley than many of his supporters do. … And I had to betray that trust for the sake of all of the people that he put in danger,” Lamo says tearfully. It is one of the most cloying moments in the movie.

Assange, by the end of the film, is the butt of open ridicule. Bill Keller, when he was executive editor of The New York Times, published material from WikiLeaks documents and then trashed Assange, calling him in a 2011 article “elusive, manipulative and volatile” as well as “arrogant, thin-skinned, conspiratorial and oddly credulous.” In the Gibney film, Keller adds to his condemnation of Assange by saying: “He looked like a bag lady coming in. Sort of like a dingy, khaki sports coat, old tennis shoes, with socks that were kind of collapsing around his ankles and he clearly hadn’t bathed in several days.”

Keller was one of the most ardent cheerleaders for the war in Iraq.

Two of Gibney’s previous films, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and “Taxi to the Dark Side,” were masterful explorations into the black heart of empire. This time, Gibney was commissioned by Universal Studios—owned by Comcast—and paid to make a motion picture on WikiLeaks. He gave his corporate investors what they wanted.

WikiLeaks has published a line-by-line critique of the film’s transcript at  http://justice4assange.com/IMG/html/gibney-transcript.html.

In 2009 Obama Administration Committed To Creating An Unprecedented Level Of Openness In Government. In 2012 Government Censorship & Secrecy Hit All Time High

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2013 at 11:29 am

Oldspeak:“In this weeks edition of “Doublethink Theater” We have a quote from President Obama’s First day in office, January 21, 2009 “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”  Then this from his Memo on Transparency and Open Government: “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. Government should be transparent.  Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use.” Fast forward to 2013 and a quote from Alexander Abdo, ACLU National Security Project Attorney: “We’ve seen a meteoric rise in the number of claims to protect secret law, the government’s interpretations of laws or its understanding of its own authority. In some ways, the Obama administration is actually even more aggressive on secrecy than the Bush administration”  And this from Federal Judge Colleen McMahon after ruling against the New York Times and ACLU in its request to see government records providing legal justification for its assassination program: “I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22. I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.” Yes. YET ANOTHER instance of Senator Obama saying and doing one thing & President Obama saying and doing THE EXACT OPPOSITE. After authoring such transparency promoting law as The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act as a Senator, President Obama’s administration has censored & denied more requests for information than ever before, while taking much longer to respond to requests in general. Upholding “secret laws”. Flouting the constitution. Making legally unchallengeable secrecy claims. Prosecuting and jailing more government whistleblowers than any other President in history. While those who’ve engage in the fraud, waste, abuse and malfeasance whistleblowers have reported, continue to do so unmolested with no fear of reprisal;  in fact, in some egregious cases actually being rewarded with promotions.  Given these precedents, you can safely infer that next Administration will be even less transparent in its operations. Less responsive to the people.  America’s Inverted Corptalitarian Kleptocracy, will continue to grow, weakening representative democracy until the country collapses under the weight of rampant greed, criminality and corruption.  All in the name of “National Security”.
“2+2=5”.
“Ignorance Is Strength”.

By Jack Gillum & Ted Bridis @ The Associated Press:

The Obama administration answered more requests from the public to see government records under the Freedom of Information Act last year, but more often than it ever has it cited legal exceptions to censor or withhold the material, according to a new analysis by The Associated Press. It frequently cited the need to protect national security and internal deliberations.

The AP’s analysis showed the government released all or portions of the information that citizens, journalists, businesses and others sought at about the same rate as the previous three years. It turned over all or parts of the records in about 65 percent of all requests. It fully rejected more than one-third of requests, a slight increase over 2011, including cases when it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper.

The AP examined more than 5,600 data elements measuring the administration’s performance on government transparency since Obama’s election.

People submitted more than 590,000 requests for information in fiscal 2012 — an increase of less than 1 percent over the previous year. Including leftover requests from previous years, the government responded to more requests than ever in 2012 — more than 603,000 — a 5 percent increase for the second consecutive year.

When the government withheld or censored records, it cited exceptions built into the law to avoid turning over materials more than 479,000 times, a roughly 22 percent increase over the previous year. In most cases, more than one of the law’s exceptions was cited in each request for information.

The government’s responsiveness under the FOIA is widely viewed as a barometer of the federal offices’ transparency. Under the law, citizens and foreigners can compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas.

The AP’s review comes at the start of the second term for Obama, who promised during his first week in office that the nation’s signature open-records law would be “administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.” The review examined figures from the largest federal departments and agencies. Sunday was the start of Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement that during the past year, the government “processed more requests, decreased the backlog, improved average processing times and disclosed more information pro-actively.” Schultz said the improvements “represent the efforts of agencies across the government to meet the president’s commitment to openness. While there is more work to be done, this past year demonstrates that agencies are responding to the president’s call for greater transparency.”

In a year of intense public interest over deadly U.S. drones, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, terror threats and more, the government cited national security to withhold information at least 5,223 times — a jump over 4,243 such cases in 2011 and 3,805 cases in Obama’s first year in office. The secretive CIA last year became even more secretive: Nearly 60 percent of 3,586 requests for files were withheld or censored for that reason last year, compared with 49 percent a year earlier.

Other federal agencies that invoked the national security exception included the Pentagon, Director of National Intelligence, NASA, Office of Management and Budget, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Communications Commission and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.

U.S. courts are loath to overrule the administration whenever it cites national security. A federal judge, Colleen McMahon of New York, in January ruled against The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union to see records about the government’s legal justification for drone attacks and other methods it has used to kill terrorism suspects overseas, including American citizens. She cited an “Alice in Wonderland” predicament in which she was expected to determine what information should be revealed but unable to challenge the government’s secrecy claim. Part of her ruling was sealed and made available only to the government’s lawyers.

“I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22,” the judge wrote. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

The AP could not determine whether the administration was abusing the national security exemption or whether the public was asking for more documents about sensitive subjects. Nearly half the Pentagon’s 2,390 denials last year under that clause came from its National Security Agency, which monitors Internet traffic and phone calls worldwide.

“FOIA is an imperfect law, and I don’t think that’s changed over the last four years since Obama took office,” said Alexander Abdo, an ACLU staff attorney for its national security project. “We’ve seen a meteoric rise in the number of claims to protect secret law, the government’s interpretations of laws or its understanding of its own authority. In some ways, the Obama administration is actually even more aggressive on secrecy than the Bush administration.”

The Obama administration also more frequently invoked the law’s “deliberative process” exception to withhold records describing decision-making behind the scenes. Obama had directed agencies to use it less often, but the number of such cases had surged after his first year in office to more than 71,000. After back-to-back years when figures steadily declined, as agencies followed the president’s instructions, the government cited that reason 66,353 times last year to keep records or parts of records secret.

The Homeland Security Department, which includes offices that deal with immigration files, received more than twice as many requests for records — 190,589 new requests last year — as any other agency, and it answered significantly more requests than it did in 2011. Other agencies, including the State Department, National Transportation Safety Board and Nuclear Regulatory Commission performed worse last year. The State Department, for example, answered only 57 percent of its requests, down from 75 percent a year earlier.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services drove a dramatic increase in the number of times DHS censored immigration records under exceptions to police files containing personal information and law enforcement techniques. The agency invoked those exemptions more than 136,000 times in 2012, compared with more than 75,000 a year earlier. Even though USCIS is not a law-enforcement agency, officials used the exceptions specifically reserved for law enforcement.

Under the law, a citizen can ask the government to reconsider its decision to censor or withhold materials. In the roughly 11,000 such instances last year where that happened, the government prevailed just under half the time. In about 3,400 cases the government turned over at least some additional information. These administrative appeals took about five months each.

The only recourse after such an appeal is an expensive lawsuit or to ask the government’s FOIA mediator, the U.S. Office of Government Information Services, to intervene.

The AP’s analysis also found that the government generally took longer to answer requests. Some agencies, such as the Health and Human Services Department, took less time than the previous year to turn over files. But at the State Department, for example, even urgent requests submitted under a fast-track system covering breaking news or events when a person’s life was at stake took an average two years to wait for files.

Journalists and others who need information quickly to report breaking news fared worse last year. The rate at which the government granted so-called expedited processing, which moves an urgent request to the front of the line for a speedy answer, fell from 24 percent in 2011 to 17 percent last year. The CIA denied every such request last year.

Under increased budget pressure across the government, agencies more often insisted that people pay search and copying fees. It waived costs in 59 percent of requests, generally when the amount was negligible or the release of the information is in the public interest, a decline from 64 percent of cases a year earlier. At the Treasury Department, which faced questions about its role in auto bailouts and stimulus programs during Obama’s first term, only one in five requests were processed at no charge. A year earlier, it granted more than 75 percent of fee waivers. The CIA denied every request last year to waive fees.

The 33 agencies that AP examined were: Agency for International Development, CIA, Agriculture Department, Commerce Department, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Defense Department, Education Department, Energy Department, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Interior Department, Justice Department, Labor Department, State Department, Transportation Department, Treasury Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Election Commission, Federal Trade Commission, NASA, National Science Foundation, National Transportation Safety Board, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Securities and Exchange Commission, Small Business Administration, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Postal Service.

Follow Jack Gillum on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jackgillum