White House Responds to ‘Pardon Edward Snowden’ Petition with Character Assassination

Screen shot of Lisa Monaco speaking at Aspen Institute event
Screen shot of Lisa Monaco speaking at Aspen Institute event

The White House finally responded to a popular petition at WhiteHouse.gov urging President Barack Obama’s administration to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. However, the response is a bald-faced attempt to use the petition as a platform to assassinate Snowden’s character.

First off, the petition to pardon Snowden had nearly 168,000 signatures. Only a few petitions responded to by the White House have more signatures (for example, address gun violence through gun control legislation and legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.

The petition was posted on June 9, 2013, and was largely inspired by the revelation that the NSA was collecting the metadata of phone calls of millions of Americans, who have Verizon as their phone carrier. Nevertheless, it took the White House more than two years to respond to this petition.

The response focuses on the “serious consequences” Snowden’s whistleblowing has had on “national security.” It includes a statement from Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

“Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it,” Monaco declares.

“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions,” Monaco adds. “He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”

Monaco concludes, “We live in a dangerous world. We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation that our intelligence community must have all the lawful tools it needs to address. The balance between our security and the civil liberties that our ideals and our Constitution require deserves robust debate and those who are willing to engage in it here at home.”

Jesselyn Radack, a lawyer for Snowden, a Justice Department whistleblower, and the director of the Government Accountability Project’s National Security and Human Rights Division, reacted to the White House’s response.

“The government loves to fear-monger, but has failed to articulate any clear harm from Snowden¹s revelations,” Radack stated. “The closest it has come, ironically, is a fully-redacted Defense Intelligence Agency internal assessment.” (more…)

On Human Rights, UN Committee Gives US Low Grades for Surveillance, Detention at Guantanamo

Screen shot of CCPR grades for United States
Screen shot of CCPR grades for United States

A United Nations committee, which reviews how countries comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), issued grades for the United States government’s implementation of recommendations issued last year. The committee gave the US low grades for surveillance and detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in facilities in Afghanistan.

The ICCPR is an international human rights treaty. Signatories are supposed to undertake measures to ensure the rights in the treaty are protected in their countries. In fact, since the US ratified the treaty in 1992, the government has an obligation to comply with the treaty as it would any other domestic law.

A committee of the UN, the Human Rights Committee, conducts periodic reviews of countries’ human rights records. It gives countries an opportunity to respond to the committee’s concerns. The committee makes recommendations. It then grades how countries implement those recommendations.

Countries, which are signatories, report to the committee every four years. This is the fourth periodic review of the US.

To understand the grades, “B1″ means “substantive action” took place but the committee still wants more information. “B2″ means some initial action was taken. “C1″ means US replied to UN but did not take actions to implement recommendation. “C2″ means US replied, and the reply was irrelevant to the committee’s recommendation. “D1″ means US did not cooperate with the committee on this recommendation.

The US did not receive any “A” grades. It received a high “B1″ grade for declassifying part of the report of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence into the CIA’s detention and torture of detainees and a lower “B2″ grade for investigating cases of unlawful killing, torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful detention, and enforced disappearances, and expediting the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

The committee issued a “C2″ grade for the continued detention of detainees at Guantanamo and in facilities in Afghanistan.

In regards to surveillance, it gave the US a “C1″ grade for ensuring surveillance complies with the treaty, ensuring “interference with right to privacy, family, home, or correspondence” is authorized by law, reforming oversight of surveillance, and refraining from imposing “mandatory retention” of data on “third parties.”

The worst grade given was a “D1″ for failing to ensure persons are able to obtain remedies if they are the victims of surveillance abuse. (more…)

Cleveland Transit Cop Recklessly Pepper-Sprayed Crowd at Bus Stop After Movement for Black Lives Gathering

A transit police officer in Cleveland pepper-sprayed a group of people on July 26 at a bus stop across the street from Cleveland State University. It was about an hour after the Movement for Black Lives gathering concluded.

Video captured by Twitter user @KentaviousPrime shows the white officer in the street rushing into a crowd. He sprays the canister at everyone nearby until it is empty.

The Cleveland transit police apparently believed a 14-year-old black boy was “intoxicated to the point where he was unable to care for himself.” Officers slammed the boy to the ground, detained him, and angered the crowd, which included activists leaving the gathering. The boy was put into a police car, which the crowd surrounded to stop police from taking him.

According to activists at the scene, the boy had a Snapple drink. This was probably the open container the police seized upon as justification for making an arrest.

None of the witnesses at the scene corroborated the police claim that the boy was drunk.

A statement from the transit police declared, “A transit police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to push back the crowd, to no avail.”

Shooting a stream of pepper-spray, especially about an hour after a major conference of freedom fighters, could never be reasonably expected to contain or control a crowd. The one officer spraying is terribly reckless in his attempt to drive people away from the scene, and, as transit police seem to admit, the pepper-spray only inflamed the situation more.

As the local NBC affiliate, WKYC, reported:

 “I was told the police are pepper spraying people down the street, and I’m seeing people run for milk so they can be protected from pepper spray all because people are asking what happening to a young man,” said Rhonda Y. Williams, history professor at Case Western Reserve and member of the Cleveland Eight. “When we have an officer who comes out of nowhere and is pushing people and then takes out and just starts spraying with his pepper spray, that’s not deescalation.”

(more…)

Podcast: In Cleveland, Organizers Gather to Strengthen & Grow Movement for Black Lives

Screen shot from Movement for Black Lives’ gathering website

Following months of numerous actions across the United States, a gathering was held by the Movement for Black Lives from July 24-26 in Cleveland. The goal was to bring black organizers together to create a “collective mission that matches the intensity, scale, urgency, and promise of the moment.” It was also geared toward reflection on the history of struggle and healing from the many traumas, which black Americans have endured.

Waltrina Middleton, a member of the host committee for the gathering and an organizer/co-founder of Cleveland Action, appeared on this week’s “Unauthorized Disclosure” to highlight the critical importance of this event.

“It is important for us to communally strategize for ways that would be best for us to respond to racialized violence that we have been subjected to as a people,” Middleton declares.

She speaks about the setting of the gathering and recalled how two unarmed black people, Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams, were shot by Cleveland police 137 times, Tanisha Anderson, who was killed by Cleveland police after her family called to get her help, and John Crawford, who was killed by police while he was in a Walmart.

“There are other issues that bring us to Cleveland,” Middleton adds. “Violence against women, in particular black women, violence against LGBTQ community, particularly black trans women community, socioeconomic disparities and going into East Cleveland and seeing buildings or houses boarded up and the infrastructure that does not allow for paved roads and sidewalks going uncleared so people in the winter time are pushing wheelchairs and baby carriages in the middle of the street.”

Middleton explained there is a lack of concern for the quality of education and healthcare, basic needs which any person would want to be able to access.

During the discussion part of the show, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola highlight DHS surveillance of Black Lives Matter protests, the firing of a man from a Chicago police review agency for refusing to change his findings against police, and UK’s PREVENT program and anti-Muslim racism. The show’s hosts also talk a little more about the Movement for Black Lives gathering, including the role of white “allies” or white anti-racism activists in movement building.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way by clicking on the player. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Pentagon Threatens to Revoke Security Clearance of Navy Nurse Who Refused to Force-Feed Guantanamo Prisoners

Creative Commons Licensed Photo from DVIDSHUB

Despite a decision to not pursue charges, the Department of Defense has threatened to revoke the security clearance of a Navy nurse, who refused to force-feed prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Physicians for Human Rights condemned this news and called it “backdoor retaliation for his refusal to force-feed Guantánamo detainees on hunger strike.” The advocacy organization also noted that the nurse was recently given an ethics award by the American Nurses Association (ANA).

“The military’s latest action against the nurse is backdoor retaliation for refusing to take part in an unethical and criminal activity,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s medical director. “Even as we speak, the American Nurses Association is honoring him with an ethics award for refusing to force-feed detainees. It is extraordinary that the military would punish the nurse for conduct that his profession recognizes as exemplary ethical behavior.”

In May, the Defense Department declined to push for the discharge of the nurse, who has yet to be identified. However, it was unclear when the Defense Department made this decision whether records related to his act of resistance would at some point be used against him by promotion boards or in security clearance reviews.

The nurse was not permitted to perform medical duties while he faced potential prosecution. He was assigned to “inconsequential administrative tasks,” according to his lawyer, Ron Meister.

ANA defended the nurse in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in October of last year.

“The ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses clearly supports the ethical right of a professional nurse to make an independent judgment about whether he or she should participate in this or any other such activity,” the ANA declared. “This right must be protected and exercised without concern for retaliation.”
country.”

A nurse’s primary commitment must be to the patient, and that means “acting to minimize or eliminate unwarranted, unwanted, or unnecessary medical treatment and patient suffering.” That is what the nurse did in this case.

The American Medical Association (AMA), which also has supported the nurse, condemned the Defense Department’s force-feeding of prisoners as a violation of “core ethical values of medicine” in a December letter [PDF].

“To ask physicians, nurses or other health care professionals to participate in forced feeding puts
professionals in an ethically untenable position,” the AMA stated. “Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions; every health care professional has an ethical responsibility to respect the patient’s decision in such situations.”

The nurse is someone, who has been in the Navy for 18 years, and sought to uphold ethical practices. He is the only known example of a conscientious objector to force-feeding of Guantanamo prisoners, which has been tortuously employed by military personnel.

If the nurse loses his security clearance, it could mean a potential discharged or even a loss of benefits. He may be severely limited in his ability to return to a job if he cannot work in a position considered to be “sensitive” by the Defense Department.

Revoking a government employee’s security clearance is a known tactic for silencing whistleblowers.

Removal from Guantanamo Bay and placement under investigation was punishment enough. It sent a message to other medical officers not to challenge the Pentagon over its unethical treatment of prisoners.

Unfortunately, the Defense Department finds it must protect itself from this nurse by revoking his security clearance because, if he is in any situation that may force him to fall back on his ethics, they know he will be on the side of the patient and not the Pentagon.

Video Shows Iowa Cops Falsely Claimed Black Man Posed Threat When Shot Him 5 Times

securityvideowaterloo
Officer chases after Webb while firing his weapon

After Waterloo police shot Jovan Webb while he was driving his car, officers from the police department in Iowa claimed he struck a police officer with his car. This allegedly led two officers to shoot at Webb’s vehicle multiple times. However, security video shows no officer was ever in danger and one police officer, who shot at Webb, chased after Webb’s car while firing his weapon.

Webb, who is a black man, was severely injured after being shot by police on April 5. Bullets from one or more officers hit Webb “twice in his arm, once in his chest, and twice in [his] abdomen.” He had surgery, but there are two bullets that remain inside him because they could not be removed. Webb suffered a “painful collapsed lung and he still has a breathing machine.” Doctors had to remove part of his intestine.

According to his lawyers, who have filed a lawsuit [PDF], he drove himself to the hospital. Although police did not charge him with a crime, he was handcuffed on arrival. Medical personnel later requested the handcuffs be removed so he could have his injuries treated.

Webb’s lawyers allege he was targeted with deadly force because of his race.

At 1:30 am, police responded to reports of a fight at a bar. Webb was at the business. He came out to watch the fight but did not know anyone involved and did not participate. When police arrived, the fighting had stopped. (more…)

Chicago Police Investigator Fired for Resisting Orders to Change Findings Against Officers

CPD officer

The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) in Chicago, which is supposed to investigate complaints of brutality and misconduct against police , fired one of its investigators after he refused to change findings that suggested multiple police shootings were “unjustified.”

WBEZ reported, “Scott M. Ando, chief administrator of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, informed its staff in a July 9 email that the agency no longer employed supervising investigator Lorenzo Davis, 65, a former Chicago police commander.”

“Davis’s termination came less than two weeks after top IPRA officials, evaluating Davis’s job performance, accused him of ‘a clear bias against the police,'” WBEZ additionally reported. The top IPRA officials “called him ‘the only supervisor at IPRA who resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding with respect to OIS,’ as officer-involved shootings are known in the agency.”

Over 19 months, Davis’ “performance evaluation” reportedly concluded that he displayed a “complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police in spite of his own lengthy police career.” (During Davis’ career, he served as the head of multiple detective units, a district police station, and the public housing unit.)

Davis told WBEZ, “I did not like the direction the police department had taken. It appeared that officers were doing whatever they wanted to do. The discipline was no longer there.”

Several of his performance evaluations since being hired in 2008 show he was seen as an “effective team player.” If his team exonerated officers, top officials would be pleased. It was when he challenged shootings as being unjustified in six particular cases that he experienced pushback.

“They have shot people dead when they did not have to shoot. They were not in reasonable fear for their lives. The evidence shows that the officer knew, or should have known, that the person who they shot was not armed or did not pose a threat to them or could have been apprehended by means short of deadly force,” Davis stated.

Sarah Macaraeg, a journalist based in Chicago, has spent the past months investigating and exposing the IPRA’s role in protecting police officers from prosecution and punishment for violence and other crimes committed.

Since 2010, the IPRA has “conducted 272 investigations of officer-involved shootings over the last five years.” One case has been deemed unjustified.

Macaraeg’s investigation found, “At least 21 Chicago police officers are currently serving on the force, some with honors, after shooting citizens under highly questionable circumstances, resulting in at least $30.2 million in taxpayer-funded City of Chicago settlements thus far.” (more…)

Journalist Barrett Brown Receives 30 More Days of Solitary Confinement in Prison

Barrett Brown

Jailed journalist and activist Barrett Brown has received 30 more days of solitary confinement in the prison, where he is serving a five-year and three-month sentence issued against him in January.

Brown, who had been put in “the hole” at the Fort Worth Correctional Institution previously, was put in solitary confinement in late June after staff “singled” him out “for a search” of his locker and “found a cup of homemade alcohol.”

As the Free Barrett Brown group indicated on July 20, Brown “had a hearing on his infraction and received an extra 30 days in the hole, plus 90 days of phone, visiting, commissary and email restriction.”

Brown was also informed that he was “placed on Central Inmate Monitoring,” which is a program that enables the Bureau of Prisons to apply more scrutiny to prisoners.

Central Inmate Monitoring (CIM) is for prisoners who “present special needs for management.” A copy of the 2007 policy indicates inmates are given this designation “so that critical decisions about their cases are carefully reviewed.” It is supposed to make the “institution environment” more “safe” by “case management decisions based on accurate information and sound correctional judgment.”

For example, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was sentenced to prison for 23 months for confirming the name of a covert agent to a reporter, was designated for CIM after he wrote his first “Letter from Loretto.”

The institution felt it had to apply this designation to Kiriakou because of his ability to have letters from prison published by Firedoglake and covered by various media organizations. Prison officials had mail he received opened. Officers would severely damage mail he received from supporters. His emails were also delayed multiple days.

Kiriakou was considered “dangerous,” according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. One document marked “FOIA Exempt: Do Not Release to Inmate,” warned, “PUBLICITY—Inmate has broad access to the press. Attached are articles in which inmate has been mentioned.”

Like Kiriakou, Brown has broad access to the press. He has been writing satirical columns from prison. This upsets BOP because it makes it harder to isolate and control Brown as a prisoner. (more…)

Human Rights Watch Report Highlights Stories of Palestinian Children Abused by Israeli Forces

As the United States government prepares to increase military aid to Israel by as much as fifty percent, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has put focus on Israeli security forces’ brutal treatment of Palestinian children.

The report includes six stories of questionable arrests and abuse six Palestinian children suffered in recent years. Neither of the children were older than 15 years-old when they were arrested.

According to HRW, there have been numerous reports by local human rights organizations and news media about arrests of Palestinian children. The frequent arrests pushed HRW to identify specific cases, interview abused children, and investigate the abuse, which had occurred.

A fourteen year-old girl, Malak Al-Khatib, was arrested on December 31, 2014, in a village in the West Bank. She was beaten by soldiers with “something like a baton,” according to her mother.

Khatib was kicked and a soldier stepped on her neck. She lost consciousness. She was put in a blindfod and endured further abuse as she was taken to a police station.

Her family had no idea she had been arrested. As Ali, her father, recalled, “She had a final exam that morning, in English, and we thought that as usual she had gone for a walk after an exam. Then the Beitin village council called to say she’d been arrested, but nobody knew where she’d been taken.”

Malak claimed the “interrogator yelled at her for two hours to confess, slammed his hand on the table, and threatened to bring in her mother and sister and arrest her father.” As is typical, if she wanted to return to her parents, she was forced to sign a “confession” that was in Hebrew, which the security forces know a vast majority of Palestinians cannot read.

Her lawyer reached a plea deal on January 14. She pled guilty to “throwing rocks at Road 60, a major road near Beitin used by Israeli settlers,” and received a two-month jail sentence and a three year suspended sentence. Her family paid a $1,560 fine.

HRW was unable to find evidence of stone throwing, and whether Malak did throw stones or not, Israeli authorities violated her rights when they refused to inform her parents she had been arrested or allow Malak to consult her parents or lawyer during her interrogation.

It also is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention to transfer Malak out of the West Bank to Israel. Although the Israeli Supreme Court has upheld this practice as lawful, it is only lawful under domestic law. It violates international standards, which Israel has adopted, and are supposed to supersede domestic law.

This abuse makes it possible for Israel to keep children from seeing their parents during their detention:

Malak’s parents, who have West Bank identification documents and are not permitted to enter Israel, were unable to see her in detention from December 31 until her release on February 12, except during five trial hearings at the Ofer military base and court complex, when they were not permitted to speak with her.

“At the hearings in Ofer, she would be brought in handcuffs. One time there was a boy with her in the dock, he was around 15 years old, also in [handcuffs]. We couldn’t call her on the phone while she was in prison,” her mother said.

(more…)

NSA Spied on German Officials to Help CIA Escape Scrutiny for Torture & Renditions

Screen shot 2015-07-20 at 3.52.33 PM

WikiLeaks has published a list of telephone numbers used by German officials, which were targeted by the National Security Agency to help the CIA avoid scandal over torture and renditions of prisoners in the “War on Terrorism.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other officials in the Foreign Ministry had communications intercepted a few days after Steinmeier visited the United States on November 29, 2005, to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A published NSA intercept summarizing Steinmeier’s communication on December 2 states, “He seemed relieved that he had not received any definitive response from the US Secretary of State regarding press reports of CIA flights through Germany to secret prisons in eastern Europe allegedly used for interrogating terrorism suspects. Steinmeier remarked that Washington is placing great hope in his country’s new government.”

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange described the publication of this information as evidence the “NSA has been used to help the CIA kidnap and torture with impunity.”

“For years, the CIA was systematically abducting and torturing people with the tacit complicity of European governments,” Assange noted. “In 2005, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was thrilled that his tactic of asking Condoleezza Rice no hard questions about CIA renditions had worked. The US said nothing that would require him to do anything. And how do we know about it? Because the National Security Agency was gloating to the US senior executive about intercepting this cowardly display. Nobody comes out of this looking good.”

The information is latest in a string of publications revealing NSA spying on foreign government officials in France and Germany.

Over 125 German phone numbers targeted by the NSA have now been published. The information demonstrates how widespread the spying has been on the German chancellor’s administration as well as German politicians and other officials who analysts targeted for intelligence on economic and trade issues.

In 2010, WikiLeaks published US State Embassy cables from Chelsea Manning, which showed the Bush administration in 2007 had pressured German officials not to prosecute CIA officers involved in the rendition and torture of Khaled el-Masri. (more…)