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On Day of Action Against Police Brutality, Grassroots Group Presents Report on Chicago Police Violence

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 7:11 pm

A grassroots organization setup to bring attention to the “voices and experiences” of young people of color most targeted by police violence in Chicago issued a “shadow report,” which has been submitted to the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

The group, We Charge Genocide (WGC), was formed in June after a young African-American man named Dominique Franklin was killed by Chicago police after a taser was used on him three times. He was already in handcuffs when police used the taser and hit his head on a metal pole, which put him in a coma. He later died.

Franklin had known organizers, and one lead organizer in Chicago named Mariame Naba recognized a feeling of disempowerment among youth, according to Page May, who is a part of WGC. Naba decided youth needed an “outlet” for addressing the injustice being experienced and put out a call.

The name of the organization “comes from a petition submitted by the Civil Rights Congress to the United Nations in 1951, which documented 153 racial killings and other human rights abuses, mostly by the police.” It was delivered to the UN by Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson under the title “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People.”

The United States government worked to thwart the civil rights leaders’ efforts to bring evidence related to tens of thousands of lynchings that had occurred since slavery was abolished. Patterson arrived in Paris and found that copies of the petition he had mailed to London and Paris had never arrived. Patterson was retaliated against for making these allegations against the US government and became the subject of national security state efforts to discredit and label him as disloyal to America.

May presented the report, which WGC put together over the past few months. It was submitted to the Committee Against Torture in Geneva as part of the periodic review process that stems from being a party to the Convention Against Torture.

“We know that there is this long tradition of documenting human rights violations. But as far as we know this is the first youth of color led one which is really important,” May declared.

Civil society organizations are invited to submit reports in addition to what the US government provides. This gives the UN an opportunity to hold the US government accountable by asking questions about issues that officials may not want to discuss openly.

The report examines harassment, use of excessive force, use of deadly force, sexual assault, mass arrest and detention, and inaction and impunity. Data and examples related to this abusive conduct is filtered through the language of articles in the Torture Convention to make the case that the Chicago Police Department is committing routine violations.

“Not only is harassment and abuse taking place,” May explained, but “invasive and degrading harassment is happening at really alarming rates. We’re seeing intimidation. We’re seeing invasive and abusive searches. We’re seeing theft of property. We’re seeing verbal abuse.”

Kobane May Be an Example, Just Not One That the US Intends

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 7:47 am

ISIS claims they captured weapons from US airdrop near Kobane

Only last week, when Turkey refused to assist Kurdish fighters in the Syrian city of Kobane, even as those Kurds were losing ground to ISIS fighters, and the U.S. was directing its airstrikes against far-away targets in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said while the U.S. was deeply concerned about the tragedy in Kobane, Kobane did not define the strategy for the coalition with regard to ISIS.

Shifting Perspectives
As the U.S. sensed Kobane would fall, it tried then to distance itself from the failure. However, domestic media and opinion started to criticise what appeared to be a failure of the Obama plan for Iraq and Syria, air resources were suddenly shifted away from Iraq and onto Kobane. ISIS seemed to have pulled back, the Kurds seemed to have moved forward, and the U.S. began hinting at victory.

Part of the U.S. strategy has been to resupply the Kurds from the air. Such drops don’t always go right, and ISIS fighters seized at least one cache of weapons airdropped by U.S.-led coalition forces that were meant to supply Kurdish militiamen. The cache of weapons included hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

On Tuesday, Islamic State loyalists on social media posted sarcastic thank you notes to the United States, including one image that said, “Team USA.”

And So What?
The badly-aimed weapons drop can be seen as more of a small embarrassment than any great strategic loss. True enough, but looking too closely at a single failed airdrop obscures the larger picture.

Though small in scale, the weapons ISIS received from the United States underscore that the group’s most sophisticated arms, and deadliest weapons, come from the U.S. Unless and until America can get control of the weapons it is pushing into battle (it can’t), the reality of Americans and their allies being killed by their own tools of war is not something to ignore.

Destroy Kobane to Save It
“Winning” in Kobane accomplishes nothing really. The city is nearly destroyed, reminding one of the Vietnam war-era remark that it was necessary to destroy the village of Ben Tre to “save it.” Over 200,000 refugees have left the city, with questions about how they can ever return to resume their lives given such devastation. The decision not to intervene by the Turks exposed the fragility of the hastily assembled U.S. coalition, setting up future confrontations among allies with very different goals and agendas for this war.

Meanwhile, as attention and limited resources are tied up in a battle of questionable strategic import, ISIS launched fifteen near-simultaneous attacks on Kurdish forces in northern Iraq on Monday in what Kurdish government officials said was a fierce and renewed push for territory. ISIS also launched attacks against Mosul Dam, a strategic prize, and also renewed its offensive on the Sinjar mountain range in northern Iraq. This is an organization aware of broader goals, and not focused on symbolic “victories.”

So be suspect if at some future date the U.S. declares Kobane a victory, an example of how ISIS can be beat. The city may very well end up as an example from this war, though perhaps not the one the U.S. intends it to be.

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Peter Van Buren writes about current events at blog. His book,Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now from Amazon

Image via screengrab from Youtube

CIA Agents Reportedly Impersonated Senate Staffers While Torture Report Was Being Produced

By: Tuesday October 21, 2014 5:39 pm

CIA Director John Brennan in March claiming allegations of CIA hacking were “beyond the scope of reason.” (From CSPAN broadcast of Council on Foreign Relations event)

CIA agents “impersonated Senate staffers” while the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was producing its report on the agency’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, according to Huffington Post.

“According to sources familiar with the CIA inspector general report that details the alleged abuses by agency officials,” journalists Ali Watkins and Ryan Grim reported, “CIA agents impersonated Senate staffers in order to gain access to Senate communications and drafts of the Intelligence Committee investigation.”

A source “familiar” with the inspector general report, which remains classified, told Huffington Post, “If people knew the details of what they actually did to hack into the Senate computers to go search for the torture document, jaws would drop. It’s straight out of a movie.”

But Watkins and Grim also quoted another unnamed source “familiar with the events surrounding the dispute between the CIA and Intelligence Committee,” who claimed the agency did not pose as staff to access drafts. Rather, “CIA simply attempted to determine if its side of the firewall could have been accessed through the Google search tool. CIA did not use administrator access to examine [Intelligence Committee] work product.”

In other words, agents did impersonate staffers but not to access a draft of the report. The agents wanted to see if staffers could access documents the CIA did not want them to be able to access.

Previously, Watkins was a national security reporter for McClatchy Newspapers. She and Jonathan Landay reported in July that CIA personnel had “improperly intruded into a protected database” used by the committee staff. In other words, the CIA engaged in hacking, which Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein had alleged in a speech on the Senate floor.

What Watkins and Grim report from their source matches up perfectly with what Feinstein claimed. She suggested CIA employees had conducted searches of committee computers and the network in which they were operating.

The searches “involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee but also a search of the standalone and walled off committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.” But Feinstein did not make any claims about agents impersonating staffers.

At a national security summit in September, CIA Director John Brennan addressed this notion that the CIA had hacked into computers:

At the Council of Foreign Relations, Andrea Mitchell said: Did, in fact, CIA officers hack into the Senate computers to thwart the investigation on detention and interrogation – thwart the investigation hacking in?  No, we did not.  And I said, that’s beyond that scope of reason.  I also said during that same session that if our folks did something wrong, I’m going to make sure that they’re held to account.

And so I submitted this issue to our inspector general.  I said, I want to know exactly what CIA officers did.  And when the inspector general determined that, based on the common understanding between the CIA and the SSCI about this arrangement of computers, that our officers had improperly accessed it, even though these were supposedly CIA facilities, CIA computers and CIA had responsibility for the IT integrity of the system, that I apologized then to them for any improper access that was done, despite the fact we didn’t have a memorandum of agreement. [emphasis added]

That there was no “memorandum of agreement” and the CIA and Senate committee just had a “common understanding” is disingenuous. Feinstein declared on the Senate floor:

Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director [Leon] Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other [CIA] personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”
It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA this past January, and once before which I will later describe.

Certainly, impersonating Senate staffers to use Senate computer systems would not only grossly violate this agreement in writing but also constitute an espionage operation against the Senate.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit by Seattle Police Who Believe Restricting ‘Use of Force’ Violates Their Rights

By: Tuesday October 21, 2014 12:04 pm

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by nearly one hundred Seattle police officers, who claimed a “use of force” policy adopted in response to a Justice Department lawsuit violated their constitutional rights to defend themselves. The Justice Department found that the Seattle Police Department “engaged in a pattern or practice of using unlawful force [...]

State Department Quashed Investigations into Sex Caper

By: Tuesday October 21, 2014 7:25 am

Long-time readers of my blog will remember the name Brett McGurk. Embarrassing emails he sent using a U.S. government computer system in Iraq surfaced in 2012, just as he was heading into confirmation hearings to become America’s ambassador to Baghdad. We now learn that the State Department’s efforts to investigate the incident were quashed, in [...]

Pumpkin Riot, Ferguson & the White Privilege to Turn Down for Whatever

By: Monday October 20, 2014 10:22 pm

"We have pumpkins, we are not armed" #ferguson pic.twitter.com/vrgiL8e88y— stevegiegerich (@stevegiegerich) October 20, 2014 Protesters approached the St. Louis County Justice Center while holding pumpkins marked “racism,” “police brutality” and “white privilege.” They planned to smash the pumpkins in front of the police station to make a point about the disparity in media coverage of [...]

US Government Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit Against ‘Suspicious Activity’ Program Which Keeps Files on Innocent People

By: Monday October 20, 2014 12:47 pm

The United States government has moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of five US citizens who say they were victims of a domestic surveillance program, which involves the collection of “suspicious activity reports” on individuals. According to the ACLU’s filed complaint [PDF], a National Suspicious Activity [...]

State Dept Says I Shouldn’t Write This!

By: Monday October 20, 2014 9:50 am

The State Department says I shouldn’t write this article. They have regulations that tell former employees like me what we should and should not say, and that’s wrong in America. As some readers may know, I am former employee of the Department of State, and after publishing a book critical of State’s efforts in the [...]

Podcast: Guantanamo Prisoner’s Attorney on Importance of Public Seeing Videos of His Forced-Feedings

By: Sunday October 19, 2014 10:00 am

Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab has been pursuing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s administration to force the government stop using force-feeding to punish him while he is on hunger strike and protesting against his continued indefinite detention, even though he has been cleared for release. There were legal proceedings in recent weeks, where a [...]

Ferguson Protesters & Allies Describe ‘American Horror Story’ They’re Experiencing in Open Letter

By: Friday October 17, 2014 5:12 pm

[Editor's note:  The following is an open letter written by protesters and allies in Ferguson, Missouri, where the unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown was gunned down and killed by a white Ferguson police officer named Darren Wilson on August 9. Since then, community members have been taking action. They have demanded justice, especially that [...]

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