Tag Archives: NDAA 2012

Wade Hicks in Limbo: how an innocent person lands up on the FBI no-fly list

On October 14th, Wade Hicks was en route to a US Navy base in Japan to visit his wife when he was escorted off his plane during a routine re-fueling stop on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, and detained by armed military guards. Hicks, who has no criminal record, had previously worked as a contractor for the US Department of Defense, and had also undergone recent and extensive background checks in Mississippi in order to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Regardless of his impeccable credentials and without any further explanation, however, Hicks was told by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent that he had been put on the federal no-fly list, and that, as a consequence, he wouldn’t be allowed back on the flight, or to leave the island on any other flight. Suddenly stranded, Hicks was at least able to speak to talk-show host Doug Hagmann, and he told him:

They have given me no reason. They just basically are telling me, ‘You can’t fly because we said so.’ They didn’t know how I even left Travis Air Force Base.

I said, ‘If I could find a way off the island, I could leave’? They said, ‘Yes, as long as you don’t fly.’

In the same interview, Hicks told Hagmann that he believed the reason he had been singled out is down to his vocal opposition to the on-going erosion of civil rights in America and, in particular, to the signing of the NDAA 2012 indefinite detention bill:

I was very, very vocal about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and I did contact my representative.

I do believe that this is tied in some way to my free speech and my political view.

Click here to read a full report on Russia Today.

Hicks says that while trapped in Hawaii, “he called politicians in Mississippi and Hawaii and brainstormed ways to get home with friends, speculating on taking a private plane, a cruise ship or even a fishing boat from Alaska.” Then, on October 18th , almost a week after he had landed up in Hawaii, he suddenly received a phone call saying he had now been removed from the no-fly list. Once again, no explanation was given:

The list can be updated within minutes, so it’s possible Hicks was added to the list while in midair from Travis Air Force Base in California to Hawaii.

A spokesman for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s office said passengers who fly standby on military flights are screened against the FBI’s list only on international flights. Domestic passengers are screened only through an internal military system, not the Advanced Passenger Information System run by Customs and Border Protection.

“It’s scary to know that something like this can happen in a free country. You’re not accused of any crime. You haven’t been contacted by anyone. No investigation has been done. No due process has taken place,” [Hicks] said.1

Click here to read the full report on ABC news.

So could anyone end up on the FBI no-fly list, and if you did, would you even know, and if you did know, is there any way to clear your name again? Here’s what the FBI’s own FAQ has to say about its Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) and the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB):

Who gets included in the TSDB?

Per HSPD-6, only individuals who are known or reasonably suspected to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism are included in the TSDB.

In case you’re wondering, HSPD-6 is the Homeland Security Presidential Direction instituted by George W. Bush in September 2003.

Can I find out if I am in the TSDB?

The TSC cannot reveal whether a particular person is in the TSDB. The TSDB remains an effective tool in the government’s counterterrorism efforts because its contents are not disclosed. If TSC revealed who was in the TSDB, terrorist organizations would be able to circumvent the purpose of the terrorist watchlist by determining in advance which of their members are likely to be questioned or detained.

Are individuals removed from the TSDB?

Yes. The TSC works with partner agencies through a formal process to remove individuals who no longer meet the HSPD-6 terrorism criteria.

How does TSC ensure that the TSDB is accurate?

The TSC has a staff dedicated to redress and quality assurance that conducts comprehensive as well as case-specific reviews of TSDB records to ensure they are current, accurate, and thorough. TSC conducts research and coordinates with other federal agencies to ensure the terrorist record is as complete, accurate, and thorough as possible. TSC’s redress and quality assurance process has resulted in the correction or removal of hundreds of records in TSDB.

A quality assurance process… whatever happened to due process? But then reading through the FBI’s own explanatory notes, there’s something more than a little Kafkaesque about the whole system of self-appointed arbiters at the TSC, running their TSDB, under the framework of HSPD-6. A shadowy, secretive, and tortuously bureaucratic approximation to justice that operates without any public oversight whatsoever.

Here’s what Conor Friedersdorf wrote about the FBI no-fly list in an article published by the Atlantic back in May:

[So] In addition to the hundreds of people put on the list wrongfully and eventually rescued and the unknown number of people who are on it wrongfully to this day, there are thousands more American citizens made so paranoid by their own government that they’re convinced they are on a terrorist list, which the government will neither confirm nor deny. I’m with J.D. Tucille: “Invoking Kafka tends to draw the oh-so-jaded cliché police, but it seems appropriate enough here.”

Click here to read the full article.

1 From an article entitled “No-Fly List Strands Man on Island in Hawaii” from Associated Press, published by ABC news on October 20, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/fly-list-strands-man-island-hawaii-17521926#.UJMYnWdv9hc

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Bahrain, CNN and why Amber Lyon became a media whistleblower

Little more than three months after Tunisian street vendor, Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire on December 17th 2010, and as the Arab Spring was spreading, CNN sent a four-person crew that included investigative reporter, and three times Emmy award-winning correspondent, Amber Lyon, into the region to produce a one-hour documentary.

“iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring” focussed on the use of social media by demonstrators and other pro-democracy activists, and cost more than $100,000, an unusually large sum for an investigative documentary of that length. Broadcast on CNN’s domestic outlet (available only in the US) on June 19th 2011, it received tremendous acclaim, including a Facebook page created by Bahraini activists, entitled “Thank you Amber Lyon, CNN reporter | From people of Bahrain”, that has received more than 8,000 “likes”

The documentary also picked up many awards, including a 2012 Gold Medal from New York Festival’s Best TV and Films. Yet CNN have never aired the documentary since then, and in spite of many complaints from employees within CNN, it has never been released to a worldwide audience on CNN International (CNNi):

CNNi’s refusal to broadcast “iRevolution” soon took on the status of a mini-scandal among its producers and reporters, who began pushing Lyon to speak up about this decision. In June 2011, one long-time CNN news executive emailed Lyon:

“Why would CNNi not run a documentary on the Arab Spring, arguably the the biggest story of the decade? Strange, no?”

Motivated by the concerns expressed by long-time CNN journalists, Lyon requested a meeting with CNNi’s president, Tony Maddox, to discuss the refusal to broadcast the documentary. On 24 June 2011, she met with Maddox, who vowed to find out and advise her of the reasons for its non-airing. He never did.

In a second meeting with Maddox, which she had requested in early December to follow up on her unanswered inquiry, Lyon was still given no answers. Instead, at that meeting, Maddox, according to Lyon, went on the offense, sternly warning her not to speak publicly about this matter.1

To read more about the story of the extraordinary problems that were encountered during the making of the documentary and more on why CNN is still refusing to air its own documentary, I refer you to Glenn Greenwald’s article published in the Guardian on Tuesday 4th September.

A 13-minute long segment of the documentary that featured Bahrain, and which Greenwald describes as “a hard-hitting and unflinching piece of reporting that depicts the regime in a very negative light” has since been posted on YouTube. It is also embedded below:

In March 2012, Amber Lyon was laid off from CNN “as part of an unrelated move by the network to outsource its investigative documentaries”:

Now at work on a book, Lyon began in August to make reference to “iRevolution” on her Twitter account, followed by more than 20,000 people.

On 16 August, Lyon wrote three tweets about this episode. CNNi’s refusal to broadcast “iRevolution”, she wrote, “baffled producers”. Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added that the “censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story.” She posted a picture of herself with [human rights activist Nabeel] Rajab and wrote:

“A proponent of peace, @nabeelrajab risked his safety to show me how the regime oppresses the [people] of #Bahrain.”

The following day, a representative of CNN’s business affairs office called Lyon’s acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.

Click here to read more of Glenn Greenwald’s excellent Guardian article.

Aside from protecting US political and military interests, there also turns out to be a more self-interested reason behind CNN’s reticence in broadcasting their own journalists’ exposure of the Bahraini regime:

At the same time as CNN was covering the regime, Bahrain was an aggressive participant in CNN’s various “sponsorship” opportunities, with official agencies of the regime often boasting of how their extensive involvement with CNN was improving the nation’s image around the world. Beyond that, there are multiple examples of CNN International producing plainly propagandistic coverage of the regime, often without any minimal disclosure of the vested interests of its sources.

The primary regime agency exploiting these opportunities at CNNi is the Bahrain Economic Development Board (BEDB). It describes itself as “responsible for marketing the Kingdom of Bahrain abroad”. The agency is chaired by “His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince”.

In its 2010 annual report, the BEDB – in the section entitled “Spreading the Word – at Home and Abroad” – proudly touted its extensive involvement with CNN.2

Click here to read more about how CNN has blurred the line between journalism and state propaganda in Glenn Greenwald’s companion article published the same day [Sept 4th].

Lyon says she personally knows many journalists who are equally as concerned that major stories such as, and she cites as further examples, construction of the huge NSA surveillence centre at Bluffdale, Utah, and signing of the NDAA 2012 indefinite detention bill, are also not being widely reported on by the mainstream media. Her former colleagues are too intimidated to come forward, Lyon says, and so she now sees it as her duty to encourage all disaffected journalists to break their silence:

“I want to encourage mainstream journalists to speak up when they discover their companies are misleading the people, doing PR for corporations and governments and disguising it as journalism. Many journalists get into this business, for low pay and grueling hours, because they genuinely want to make a difference, expose injustice. But what’s the point if the elephant in the room is the conduct of own company, and you ignore it?”3

For these reasons, Lyon has plans to produce an alternative news network which she hopes will be running by early next year. It will be called muckraker.

To watch other reports by Amber Lyon on subjects ranging from hackers, human and animal rights, to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the nuclear industry, and child sex trafficking, you can also visit her website www.amberlyonlive.com.

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Update:

The day after I posted this article, Wednesday October 3rd, Amber Lyon was also interviewed on Russia Today:

1 From an article entitled “Why didn’t CNN’s international arm air its own documentary on Bahrain’s Arab Spring repression? – A former CNN correspondent defies threats from her former employer to speak out about self-censorship at the network”, written by Glenn Greenwald, published in the Guardian on September 4, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/04/cnn-international-documentary-bahrain-arab-spring-repression

2 From an article entitled “CNN and the business of state-sponsored TV news: The network is seriously compromising its journalism in the gulf states by blurring the line between advertising and editorial”, written by Glenn Greenwald, published in the Guardian on September 4, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/04/cnn-business-state-sponsored-news

3 Ibid

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fight over NDAA indefinite detention bill is telling

On May 16th, District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan made a preliminarily ruling in favour of a group of seven civilian activists and journalists, which included Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, and perhaps most prominently, former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges.

The plaintiffs had argued that a section of the NDAA 2012 bill, which had been signed into law by President Barack Obama late on New Year’s Eve, was in violation of “both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”1

In response, the Obama administration immediately contested the judgement, asking Judge Forrest to reconsider her ruling:

… saying that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to challenge the law and that it was “extraordinary” for her to have restrained future military operations that might be ordered by the commander in chief during wartime.2

In case you’re not sure, by the way, the US commander in chief is the President. And yes, just like Bush, Obama obviously sees himself as a “war president”. After all, he’s still fighting that preposterous “war on terror”, which rumbles mercilessly on and on, forever and ever, as it inevitably must – “terror” being such a deliberately ill-defined adversary.

Bravely, Judge Forrest stood her ground:

As part of that request, the government said in a footnote that it was interpreting her injunction narrowly as applying only to the handful of people specifically named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including Chris Hedges, a journalist who interacts with terrorists as part of his reporting work, and several prominent supporters of WikiLeaks.

But on Wednesday [June 6th], Judge Forrest said that her order still stood — and that, contrary to the government’s narrow interpretation of it, her injunction applied broadly and not just to the named plaintiffs.

“Put more bluntly, the May 16 order enjoined enforcement of Section 1021(b)(2) against anyone until further action by this, or a higher, court — or by Congress,” she wrote. “This order should eliminate any doubt as to the May 16 order’s scope.”3

And then, on September 12th, Judge Forrest made permanent her order that blocked enforcement of the provision within NDAA 2012:

The permanent injunction prevents the U.S. government from enforcing a portion of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act’s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions.4

However, the Obama administration came rushing back again, and on Monday [Sept 17th] won an emergency suspension of the ruling that was now blocking their indefinite detention provisions:

The Justice Department, which represents U.S. President Barack Obama, argued the judge’s September 12 injunction barring enforcement of a portion of the National Defense Authorization Act’s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions would harm U.S. war efforts abroad. […]

Monday night’s order by Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier said the district court’s order is stayed until an appeals panel considers the issue.

Carl Mayer, a lawyer for Hedges, said Tuesday that the order was procedural and “we are confident the district court opinion will be vindicated.”5

On Tuesday [Sept 18th], Democracy Now! covered the issue of the Obama administration’s appeals against Judge Forrest’s rulings on NDAA 2012, as well as Obama’s continuing use of indefinite detention at Guantánamo.

Amy Goodman spoke to Marcy Wheeler, investigative blogger who runs the website emptywheel.net. Wheeler told her:

Just last night, the Second Circuit did issue a stay in that. So, Friday night, the judge issued an injunction saying you can’t hold anybody according to this NDAA. The government immediately said they were going to appeal. There are some interesting legal issues about whether the government appeal—should have been able to appeal, but nevertheless, judges in this country continue to say, you know, “As soon as the president says ‘national security,’ we’re going to do whatever you say.” And they did that in this case. They’ve issued—they’ve issued a stay, which means they can go ahead and use the NDAA.

And what it means is this kind of vaguely defined—the government hasn’t even been able to define it—this vaguely defined category of people who substantially support al-Qaeda, Taliban, other terrorist organizations can be indefinitely detained. U.S. citizens, Obama has said, wouldn’t be held in military custody, but there’s a lot of gray area there, and I think people are right to be concerned.

Of course, Obama is far from alone in endorsing the tyrannical and unconstitutional NDAA 2012. Here’s what presidential rival Mitt Romney had to say when asked if he would have signed the act:

Yes, I would have. And I do believe that it’s appropriate to have in our nation the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country, who are members of al-Qaeda. Look, you have every right in this country to protest and to express your views on a wide range of issues, but you don’t have a right to join a group that has challenged America and has threatened killing Americans, has killed Americans and has declared war against America. That’s treason. And in this country, we have a right to take those people and put them in jail.

The highlight in bold is mine, of course, added to drew attention to what civil rights campaigners and all true constitutionalists are constantly up against – that like it or lump it, America remains at war… Romney being eager to pick up where Obama left off, as the next war president.

So these are the two guys running for office and heaven help us all! As bad as Obama has been during his four years in the White House, we can only expect Romney to be at least as bad, and judging from what we already know, a good deal worse again.

To get some measure of just how bad Romney could be, here’s Marcy Wheeler again, taking a closer look at a few of the people now installed around him:

You know, as problematic as Obama has been on things like indefinite detention, when you look at Romney’s aides, they’ve got people like Cofer Black6, who really invented the counterterrorism program that we’ve been using since 9/11. You’ve got Steven Bradbury”7, who was one of the writers of the—

Amy Goodman: Cofer Black, who used to be an official with Blackwater.

Yeah, he went from the CIA to the State Department to Blackwater. But he’s the guy who invented targeted killing, who invented torture, who invented—I mean, he’s the architect of our entire counterterrorism program—top Mitt Romney aide. You’ve got Tim Flanigan8, who’s another one of the architects of the torture program. So, if you you look at the people who are close to Mitt Romney, and if you look at what he said—he’s also said that he thinks we should bring back torture—it’s clear that, if anything, he’s going to be worse than Obama on these issues. We don’t—we don’t have a great choice on these issues at the top of the ticket in November.

Nothing can really change in America until the “war on terror” is officially ended. A ‘war’ that is without any sense or direction, although undoubtedly useful when it comes to justifying the old wars, and with the dangerous potential for sparking new ones: Iran, very evidently, now in the cross-hairs. And aside from keeping the war machine ticking over, the “war on terror” also continues to provide cover for the escalating assault against all of our individual rights and freedoms – so perfectly encapsulated in the current legal battle taking place over NDAA 2012.

“The war against terror is like the war against dandruff, I mean it’s a metaphor. It doesn’t mean anything…” said the late Gore Vidal, but in truth it’s even less meaningful than that, since when it comes to dandruff we at least know what we’re looking for.

For further information about NDAA 2012 and the Hedges vs Obama legal battle visit www.stopndaa.org

Click here to read more of the transcript or to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

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Update:

Carl Mayer, an attorney with The Mayer Law Group and legal counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, spoke with Russia Today on September 14th:

In brief, Mayer says:

“[The Obama administration] plan to appeal this to the Second Circuit and probably ultimately to the Supreme Court. We think this is ill advised because it contradicts President Obama’s campaign statements, it contradicts his criticism of his own legislation in his signing statement and he knows, as a former constitutional law professor, that this is wholly unconstitutional.” […]

“Because the language is so vague in this law,” Mr. Mayer explains, “if any journalist or activist is seen as reporting or offering opinions about groups that could somehow be linked not just to al-Qaeda but to any opponent of the United States or even opponents of our allies” they could be imprisoned indefinitely.

“I think they are ill advised to appeal this at all,” he tells Russia Today. “The Obama administration has now lost three times. They lost the temporary injunction, they lost the motion for reconsideration and they lost the hearing for permanent injunction. I say three strikes and you’re out.”

Click here to read a more complete transcript or to watch the interview on the Russia Today website.

1 From an article entitled “Federal court enjoins NDAA: An Obama-appointed judge rules its indefinite detention provisions likely to violate the 1st and 5th Amendments”, written by Glenn Greenwald, published in Salon on May 16, 2012. http://www.salon.com/2012/05/16/federal_court_enjoins_ndaa/

2 From an article entitled “Detention Provision Is Blocked”, written by Charlie Savage, published in the New York Times on June 6, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/us/terrorism-detention-provision-is-blocked.html

3 Ibid.

4 From an article entitled “US judge’s rule protects reporters, activists in their Middle East work”, written by Basil Katz, published by Reuters on September 12, 2012. http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/12/usa-security-lawsuit-idINL1E8KCI8N20120912

5 From an article entitled “Government wins temporary freeze of military detention order”, published by Reuters on September 18, 2012. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/18/us-usa-security-lawsuit-idUSBRE88H0X020120918

6 If Mitt Romney wins the presidency, his trusted man inside the intel community will almost certainly be Cofer Black, a retired CIA officer best known for running the agency’s counterterrorism center on 9/11. […] Early in his career, Black was credited with doing much of the street work that led to France’s apprehension in Khartoum, Sudan, of the master terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal. After the 9/11 attacks, according to Bob Woodward’s first book in his series about the Bush presidency, it was Black who briefed the president on the CIA’s war plan for Afghanistan. He’s also the guy who promised to leave al Qaeda’s operatives with “flies walking across their eyeballs.”

Taken from an article entitled “Meet Mitt Romney’s Trusted Envoy to the Dark Side, Cofer Black”, written by Eli Lake, published in The Daily Beast on April 11, 2012. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/11/meet-mitt-romney-s-trusted-envoy-to-the-dark-side-cofer-black.html

7 “Steven G. Bradbury is one of three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos enabling the Central Intelligence Agency to use harsh interrogation methods on terrorism suspects. […] The first of the memos, from August 2002, was signed by Jay S. Bybee, who oversaw the Office of Legal Counsel, and gave the C.I.A. its first detailed legal approval for waterboarding and other harsh treatment. Three others, signed by Mr. Bradbury, sought to reassure the agency in May 2005 that its methods were still legal, even when multiple methods were used in combination, and despite the prohibition in international law against “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment. Mr. Bradbury was serving as the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.”

Taken from an article published by the New York Times and updated on April 22, 2009.

http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/b/steven_g_bradbury/index.html

8 “The torture memos recently released by the Obama administration have focused interest on three of their authors: John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury. However, there’s another lawyer involved in the creation of the torture memos whose name hasn’t yet come into the discussion — Timothy Flanigan.
Flanigan did not work for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel like the others. He was a deputy to then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales in 2001-02, when he helped craft some of the earliest justifications for the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture”

Taken from an article entitled “Timothy Flanigan: The torture memo lawyer no one is mentioning”, written by Muriel Kane, published in The Raw Story on April 22, 2009. http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Timothy_Flanigan_The_torture_memo_lawyer_0422.html

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Kurt Haskell runs for Congress in 2012

If you have been following the story surrounding Michigan attorney Kurt Haskell and his wife, and fellow attorney, Lori, then you will already know them as passengers who were on board the Northwest Airlines Christmas Day Flight 253, and eyewitnesses to “the underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to blow up the plane. Ever since their terrifying ordeal, the Haskells have been trying to pressure the US administration to make a full disclosure of what really took place that day. In particular, they have tried to establish the reason Abdulmutallab, who was already known to the CIA as an al-Qaeda sympathiser, had been escorted through passport and security checks at Amsterdam airport. Having personally witnessed this, and behaving as good citizens are supposed to behave, they immediately reported what they had seen to the authorities. To their astonishment, the authorities didn’t want to hear from them. So began their campaign for truth and justice; a campaign that the mainstream media has almost entirely ignored.

To find out more about the details of the case, there are two previous articles that offer a summary of the Haskells’ two year long battle for justice. Click on the tag at the bottom. Or better, listen to this extended radio interview (there are a few advert breaks) with Kurt Haskell giving his own account of both the failed attack and his subsequent part in Abdulmutallab’s trial:

Unsurprisingly, what happened to Kurt and Lori Haskell has radically shaken the trust they’d formerly held in their government, as well as in the process of American justice. When Obama signed the indefinite detention bill NDAA 2012 into law, just before the stroke of midnight New Years’ Day, they both decided they’d had enough. It was time to pull up sticks and emigrate to Costa Rica. But then something else happened that changed their minds.

In January, the boundaries of the local district for Congress were redrawn, the consequence being that Congressman John Dingell, a Democrat who had been in office for 56 years, was moved out of the district, and in his place, the “very vulnerable incumbent” Republican Tim Walberg, faced no challenge from any Democrat candidate. Kurt Haskell says that although he’d had no desire to run for office before, it was this unexpected circumstance that caused him to reconsider his position. And, as he also says, who better to speak out against the Patriot Act, the NDAA, CISPA and the increasing attack on basic human rights and the American Constitution than someone such as himself.

Click here to reach Kurt Haskell’s own campaign website for election to Congress in Michigan’s 7th District.

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Update:

Unfortunately the embedded radio interview had been removed from youtube and I cannot find a freshly uploaded version. Here instead is an interview Kurt Haskell gave on Infowars a few months earlier in February.

At the time, he was preparing to deliver his victim impact statement at the close of Abdulmutallab’s trial. He also talks about why he has decided not to pursue a civil case, and the reasons his family are planning to exit the United States.

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CISPA: the latest attack on freedom in America

A few months ago many were worrying about PIPA and SOPA, two US bills drafted ostensibly to protect intellectual property rights, but blocked thanks to widespread protests including the blackout of many internet sites – most notably wikipedia. Meantime, we have also seen the European Union attempting to ratify the international ‘anti-piracy’ ACTA treaty, this time ignoring not only public opinion, but the advice of two of their own appointed rapporteurs.1 So there has never been such a conspicuous rush by governments to take control of the internet, and to limit the free sharing of information, as we have seen during the last few months.

Combined with this, we also recently learned that the NSA are constructing a massive new centre for the purpose of the interception and storage of all email and other personal data passing through the United States. Finally, we see how this unlawful intrusion on personal privacy is to be legitimised, by, of course, yet another draft of internet regulation: the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which passed yesterday in the House of Representatives:

On a bipartisan vote of 248-168, the Republican-controlled House backed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa), which would encourage companies and the federal government to share information collected on the internet to prevent electronic attacks from cybercriminals, foreign governments and terrorists.2

Taken from a report in today’s Guardian.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legislative counsel Michelle Richardson has since made the following statement:

“CISPA goes too far for little reason. Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”3

The ACLU is also holding out hope that the Obama administration will now veto the bill as it is threatening to do. The Guardian also reports that The House of Representatives “ignored objections from Barack Obama’s administration” by approving the legislation. But now let us rewind just a little. This is taken from another Guardian article published in December last year:

Barack Obama has abandoned a commitment to veto a new security law [NDAA 2012] that allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay.4

The same article goes on to say:

Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military is not used in domestic policing.

Returning to CISPA, and in contrast to the outcry over SOPA and PIPA, it is interesting to note that all of the major corporations involved with the internet have been supporting the bill. No blackout of wikipedia, or any other major sites. What do these companies have to gain? Here’s Michelle Richardson speaking on yesterday’s Democracy Now! :

[And] frankly, they’re going to make out like bandits. Under this bill, if they share our private information, they get complete protection from liability. Consumers will no longer be able to assert their privacy rights that exist under current law and hold them accountable in court. They can’t be prosecuted by the government like they currently can for illegal wiretapping or sharing information. They’re getting FOIA exemptions, so that no one will ever know about these breaches or the things that they share with the government. They’re really walking away here with maximum flexibility to share our personal information with minimum accountability and no enforcement to make sure that they are not oversharing and infringing on our privacy.5

Click here to watch video and read the full transcript of the Democracy Now! interview

Asked what the prospects are of the legislation passing, Richardson replies:

Well, we were very, very pleased to see that the Obama administration issued a veto threat yesterday and said, in very clear terms, that they believe that control of the internet needs to remain civilian, and the military shouldn’t be routinely collecting information on innocent people.

Very, very pleased to see that the Obama administration issued a veto threat… Why so pleased? Can it be that Richardson and the rest of ACLU are suffering some form of amnesia? Have they forgotten that Obama reneged on his promise not to authorise the NDAA ‘indefinite detention’ act less than four months ago? Are they also oblivious to the fact that the necessary facilities for such widespread domestic surveillance is now being constructed in a heavily fortified centre in Bluffdale, Utah at a cost of $2 billion? So Obama isn’t fighting the same corner. Surely by now that’s obvious, isn’t it?

“But why did he do it?” a friend said to me, soon after Obama had given the go-ahead for indefinite detention without trial. This common response simply reminds me of the question the drowning frog asks the scorpion in the fable.6 The answer being, if you remember, “I couldn’t help it – I’m a scorpion”.

1 Kader Arif resigned in protest on January 26 denouncing the treaty “in the strongest possible manner” for having “no inclusion of civil society organizations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, [and] exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in [the] assembly,” concluding with his intent to “send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation” and refusal to “take part in this masquerade.”

The newly appointed rapporteur, British MEP David Martin, also recommended against the treaty, stating “The intended benefits of this international agreement are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties”.

2 From an article entitled “Cispa cybersecurity bill passed by House of Representatives”, from Associated Press, published in the Guardian on April 27, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/27/cispa-cybersecurity-bill-passed-senate

4 From an article entitled “Military given go-ahead to detain US terrorist suspects without trial: civil rights groups dismayed as Barack Obama abandons commitment to veto new security law contained in defence bill”, written by Chris McGreal, published in the Guardian on December 15, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/15/americans-face-guantanamo-detention-obama

6 A frog and a scorpion are trying to cross a river. “Hello Mr. Frog!” says the scorpion across the water, “Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?”

Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you won’t try to kill me?” asked the frog.

Because,” the scorpion replied, “If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!”

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Chris Hedges is suing Obama over indefinite detention bill

A little over a fortnight ago [on Friday 13th], attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran filed suit in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City against President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2012), which authorises indefinite detention of suspects without charge or trial:

The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.1

Click here to read an earlier post on NDAA 2012.

Mayer and Afran filed the litigation on behalf of plaintiff Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at the Nation Institute and former New York Times foreign correspondent who was part of a team of reporters that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. In an article posted on January 16th entitled “Why I’m suing Barack Obama”, Hedges says:

I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.

Adding that:

[But] I suspect the real purpose of this bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements that threaten the corporate state. The definition of a terrorist is already so amorphous under the Patriot Act that there are probably a few million Americans who qualify to be investigated if not locked up. Consider the arcane criteria that can make you a suspect in our new military-corporate state. The Department of Justice considers you worth investigating if you are missing a few fingers, if you have weatherproof ammunition, if you own guns or if you have hoarded more than seven days of food in your house. Adding a few of the obstructionist tactics of the Occupy movement to this list would be a seamless process. On the whim of the military, a suspected “terrorist” who also happens to be a U.S. citizen can suffer extraordinary rendition—being kidnapped and then left to rot in one of our black sites “until the end of hostilities.” Since this is an endless war that will be a very long stay.

Click here to read Hedges’ full article.

On Jan 17th, Hedges and his attorney Mayer discussed their reasons for taking legal action on Democracy Now! :

CARL MAYER: Well, the purpose of the litigation is to have a federal court declare this act unconstitutional. And that would apply to everyone.

Chris is an important plaintiff in this, because—you just showed the clip from Mitt Romney. I’m not sure that Mitt Romney has read this bill. The act is so broad and vague that it covers, in its writing, any persons who give, quote, “substantial support to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or,” quote, “associated forces,” which are incredibly broad, nebulous terms and could capture, within those—their terms, journalists like Chris Hedges, who courageously has gone around the world to interview members of opposition parties, to interview members of terrorist groups, to report the truth. And so, when Mitt Romney says these are people who are in terrorist organizations, that’s not how the bill is written. It’s written so broadly that it could encompass a journalist like Chris Hedges.

CHRIS HEDGES: President Obama said he was going to veto it, but we now know from leaks out of Levin’s office that that’s because the executive branch wanted to decide. They wanted the power to decide who would be tried, who would be granted exemptions. It wasn’t actually about the assault against due process.

And I think we have to ask, if the security establishment did not want this bill, and the FBI Director Mueller actually goes to Congress and says publicly they don’t want it, why did it pass? What pushed it through? And I think, without question, the corporate elites understand that things, certainly economically, are about to get much worse. I think they’re worried about the Occupy movement expanding. And I think that, in the end—and this is a supposition—they don’t trust the police to protect them, and they want to be able to call in the Army. And if this bill goes into law, and it’s slated to go into law in March, they will be able to do that.

Click here to read a full transcript of the interview.

1 From an article entitled “Why I’m suing Barack Obama”, written by Chris Hedges, posted on Jan 16, 2012. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/why_im_suing_barack_obama_20120116/

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is America moving towards the brink of martial law? — an update

As the mainstream media focuses on the economic collapse in Europe, especially on today’s credit rating attack on France, there are also hugely significant events taking place in America that are receiving next to no coverage.

It is less than a fortnight since Obama signed the NDAA 2012 which opened the door for indefinite detention without trial of those ‘suspected’ of ‘association’ with ‘terrorist groups’. Now that clampdown on freedom looks set to tighten further, the likelihood growing that these new ‘anti-terror’ measures, which are in clear breach of The Constitution, could soon be used against ordinary American citizens:

When Barack Obama inked the National Defense Authorization Act on New Year’s Eve, the president insisted that he wouldn’t use the terrifying legislation against American citizens. Another new law, however, could easily change all of that.

If the Enemy Expatriation Act passes in its current form, the legislation will let the government strike away citizenship for anyone engaged in hostilities, or supporting hostilities, against the United States. The law itself is rather brief, but in just a few words it warrants the US government to strip nationality status from anyone they identify as a threat.

What’s more, the government can decide to do so without bringing the suspected troublemaker before a court of law.

Click here to read the full report from Russia Today.

A summary and the full text of H.R. 3166: Enemy Expatriation Act can be found on GovTrack.

The group Anonymous have already issued a statement against the new act:

THE ENEMY EXPATRIATION ACT – A STATEMENT FROM ANONYMOUS

H.R. 3166: Enemy Expatriation Act (#EEA)

The Enemy Expatriation Act is yet another treasonous bill similar to the National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law by President Obama on New Years’ Eve. The NDAA, which authorizes the indefinite detention of American citizens on U.S. soil, was met with outrage from the American public. The media largely refused to cover the NDAA until it was too late, and the bill had been signed into law. We are now faced with a similar situation. The Enemy Expatriation Act has been introduced in the House, and again, the media refuses to cover it. The American public have the right to know about a bill that could revoke their United States citizenship, and the continuing media blackout poses a serious threat to the freedoms this country pledges to provide its citizens. […]

In order to stop the Enemy Expatriation Act and all future acts of the U.S. government which revoke our freedoms and attempt to shred the last remnants of our Constitution, it begins with you – with all of us. The media refuses to provide us with the information we need to play a part in our own futures. The government refuses to allow any consideration of the direction we, the people, wish for this country to go. We must be the ones to inform the people. We must play an active role in our future. We are trained to be divided by the media, by the government, told that it’s all about petty issues when it’s not. Occupiers, Tea Partiers, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, this is not a partisan issue. The issue at hand is our future, and the reality of the present is that the government is slowly revoking our freedoms and our voice. Inform everyone you know about these acts of Congress, and the government as a whole. Make sure they are getting the information they NEED, and not just what they want us to know. Knowledge is power, and the freedom of information is the key to uniting all of us around the issues that really matter. Spread this message to everyone you know. Speak out against these acts, contact your representatives, senators, congressmen and make sure that they know that these injustices will not be tolerated. United, we will restore the power back to the People.

Click here to read the full statement from Anonymous.

Click here to read my earlier post on the NDAA 2012 “indefinite detention act”.

Additional — Here is Jon Stewart, in a recent episode of his satirical news programme The Daily Show, giving his own take on Obama’s decision to sign into law the “indefinite detention bill”:

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is America moving towards the brink of martial law?

On December 19th, Jonathan Turley, Professor of Law at the George Washington University, was speaking on C-Span about the loss of privacy taking place in America. This included responding to questions from callers. One went as follows:

Caller [15 minutes in]: One question about the President’s expanded powers… I can’t believe that the President can come, pull me out of my house in the dark of the night, and whisk me away, and I have no actions that I can take, I mean, what is that…?

Turley: It’s actually worse than they’re coming into your house – I hate to ruin your day – but President Obama just stated that he is going to maintain a policy that he can have any American citizen killed – without any charge, without any review except his own… If he is satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world, including the United States. Two of his aides were just at a panel a couple of weeks ago and they reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President, anywhere including the United States. That has left civil libertarian’s, you know, heads exploding because what is amazing is that you’ve got a President who now says that he can kill you on his own discretion, he can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion, and the response of the American people is one big, collective shrug and yawn.

Click here to watch the video on C-Span website.

In part, Turley was highlighting the dangerous precedent set by Obama’s order for a drone attack that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn, both American citizens, who were travelling in Yemen in late September. Here is an Associated Press report:

Anwar al-Awlaki, the target of the U.S. drone attack, was one of the best-known al-Qaida figures after Osama bin Laden. American intelligence officials had linked him to two nearly catastrophic attacks on U.S.-bound planes, an airliner on Christmas 2009 and cargo planes last year. The second American killed in the drone attack, Samir Kahn, was the editor of Inspire, a slick online magazine aimed at al-Qaida sympathizers in the West.

“Al-Qaida and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world,” Obama said in announcing al-Awlaki’s death. “Working with Yemen and our other allies and partners, we will be determined, we will be deliberate, we will be relentless, we will be resolute in our commitment to destroy terrorist networks that aim to kill Americans.”

Republicans and Democrats alike applauded the decision to launch the fatal assault on the convoy in Yemen.

Whereas the killing of Samir Kahn was justified as ‘collateral damage’, it transpires that target, al-Awlaki, who has been described variously as “the leader” of al-Qaida [FBI Director Robert Mueller]; “a leader of al-Qaida in Yemen” [The Treasury Department]; “a regional commander for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” [White House spokesman Robert Gibbs]; “the leader of external operations” [Obama after his assassination] had been added to ‘the kill-or-capture list’ in April 2010:

Before al-Awlaki, no American had been on the list.

But the legal process that led to his death was set in motion years a decade ago. On Sept. 17, 2001, President George W. Bush signed a presidential order authorizing the CIA to hunt down terrorists worldwide. The authority was rooted in his power as commander in chief, leading a nation at war with al-Qaida.

The order made no distinction between foreigners and U.S. citizens. If they posed a “continuing and imminent threat” to the United States, they were eligible to be killed, former intelligence officials said.

That Anwar al-Awlaki was a radical Islamist is surely without question, “his sermons in English are posted all over the Internet and his name has been associated with several attempted terrorist attacks”, although his alleged involvement in such plots as the underwear bomber’s failed attempt on Christmas Day will almost certainly never be finally established now that he is dead. By assassinating him, the case is effectively closed and he is thus presumed guilty unless proved innocent:

[But] In taking this step, the Obama administration raised questions about whom else the president has the authority to kill. In principle, such an attack could probably not happen inside the United States because the CIA is forbidden from operating here and the military is limited in what operations it can carry out domestically. But civil rights groups have questioned whether the government has opened the door to that possibility.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney refused to even acknowledge the government’s direct role in killing al-Awlaki. He repeatedly ducked questions about the extent of Obama’s authority and said only that al-Awlaki had been an operational leader for al-Qaida.1

But the killing of al-Awlaki also means closure on any investigation into why, in the months immediately after the 9/11 attacks, Anwar al-Awlaki had been invited to a luncheon at The Pentagon:

Anwar Al-Awlaki may be the first American on the CIA’s kill or capture list, but he was also a lunch guest of military brass at the Pentagon within months of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Fox News has learned.

According to officials, al-Awlaki had been vetted and, at that time, “was considered to be an ‘up and coming’ member of the Islamic community”. That such an alleged high-ranking figure in al-Qaida had been welcomed at The Pentagon during an extraordinarily sensitive period is astonishing enough, and doubly suspicious given that:

Awlaki, a Yemeni-American who was born in Las Cruces, N.M., was interviewed at least four times by the FBI in the first week after the attacks because of his ties to the three hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Hani Hanjour. The three hijackers were all onboard Flight 77 that slammed into the Pentagon.2

And if you’re thinking that any report from Fox News can’t be trusted, then obviously you’re not alone, however, al-Awlaki’s visit to the Pentagon was reported in other places and has never been officially denied. We can be certain too, that the authorities were aware of suspected terrorist links prior to his invitation to dinner. Here is the New York Times:

In fact, the F.B.I. had first taken an interest in Mr. Awlaki in 1999, concerned about brushes with militants that to this day remain difficult to interpret. In 1998 and 1999, he was a vice president of a small Islamic charity that an F.B.I. agent later testified was “a front organization to funnel money to terrorists.” He had been visited by Ziyad Khaleel, a Qaeda operative who purchased a battery for Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone, as well as by an associate of Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheik, who was serving a life sentence for plotting to blow up New York landmarks. […]

The F.B.I., whose agents interviewed Mr. Awlaki four times in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, concluded that his contacts with the hijackers and other radicals were random, the inevitable consequence of living in the small world of Islam in America. But records of the 9/11 commission at the National Archives make clear that not all investigators agreed.

One detective, whose name has been redacted, told the commission he believed Mr. Awlaki “was at the center of the 9/11 story.” An F.B.I. agent, also unidentified, said that “if anyone had knowledge of the plot, it would have been” the cleric, since “someone had to be in the U.S. and keep the hijackers spiritually focused.”3

Click here to read the full New York Times article.

Following the assassination of al-Awlaki, ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner said: “If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the president does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state.”4

Nevertheless, and as Jonathan Turley alludes on C-Span, the precedent is now set that: “If [the President] is satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world, including the United States.”

So what of Turley’s other assertion that the President “can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion”? Well, Turley was speaking just a few days after The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 had been approved by the Senate on December 15th. What Turley says is now causing ‘civil libertarian’s heads to explode’ are the following Sections: 1021, which permits indefinite detention without trial; and 1022, which requires that the detained are held by the Armed Forces. Not merely unconstitutional, but more evidence that America is galloping down a dangerous path which is leading towards the implementation of martial law.

On December 16th, Jason Leopold, deputy managing editor for TruthOut.Org, discussed on Russia Today, the murky and ‘disturbing provisions’ in the latest bill, explaining how they are not only in contravention of civil liberties, but of human rights:

Additional — The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 was signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2011 (the day after I posted this article).

Here are the Democracy Now! headlines for January 3, 2012:

Obama Signs Defense Bill Allowing for Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Without Trial

President Barack Obama has signed into law a $662 billion military spending bill that authorizes the government to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. In a signing statement attached to the bill, Obama said he was signing the bill even though he had “serious reservations” with parts of the bill dealing with detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch: “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.”

Chris Anders, American Civil Liberties Union: “This is so broadly written, it would become a permanent feature of United States law, so that 10 years, 20 years down the road, any president could still use this power to have the military pick up people and indefinitely detain them without charge or trial, potentially for years, potentially for life.”

Controversial Defense Bill Tightens Sanctions on Iran

The newly approved military spending bill also includes a provision to tighten sanctions on Iran by denying access to the U.S. financial system to any foreign bank that conducts business with the Central Bank of Iran. Last week, Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a key Gulf passageway, if new sanctions are enacted. Earlier today, Iran also threatened to take action if an unnamed U.S. aircraft carrier returns to Persian Gulf.

1 From an article entitled “US on uncharted ground as drone kills 2 Americans”, written by Matt Apuzzo for Associated Press, published in the Guardian on September 30, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9873705

2 From an article entitled “EXCLUSIVE: Al Qaeda Leader Dined at the Pentagon Just Months After 9/11” written by Catherine Herridge, published by Fox News on October 20, 2010. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/10/20/al-qaeda-terror-leader-dined-pentagon-months/

3 From an article entitled “Imam’s Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad”, written by Scott Shane and Souad Mekhennet, published in the New York Times on May 8, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/world/09awlaki.html?pagewanted=4

4 From “US on uncharted ground as drone kills 2 Americans” (see above) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9873705

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