Tag Archives: Transportation Security Administration (US)

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan or London 2012: spot the difference

You have probably already heard that G4S failed to fulfill their contractual obligations for providing security at the Olympics. If not, then here’s yesterday’s [July 12th] BBC news:

Theresa May [Home Secretary] said it was discovered only on Wednesday — 16 days before the Games begin — that contractor G4S did not have enough trained security staff. […]

G4S was contracted by the London 2012 Organising Committee to supply 10,400 staff out of the 23,700 security staff needed for the Games.

It said it had 4,000 people already working across 100 venues.

It also said there were a further 9,000 people going through the final stages of extensive training, vetting and accreditation.

The same BBC report also includes a more detailed breakdown of the shortfall as follows:

The remaining security staff were to be made up of 7,500 from the military, and about 5,800 students and volunteers.1

So this huge private security firm have been relying not only on military personnel but also on the recruitment of volunteers, and let’s face it, what self-respecting individual would work for nothing in the service of a highly profitable global corporation?

I have Craig Murray to thank for drawing my attention to the penny-pinching truth behind this particular side-plot in the unfolding London Olympics farce. Murray, who was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan before he resigned his position over issues of human rights violations, writing yesterday on his blog that:

The extra 3,500 military personnel it was today announced will be used at the games cover a shortfall in Group Four personnel. Group Four were providing 4,000 paid staff and 6,000 unpaid volunteers. It is the unpaid volunteer numbers which are short by 3,500.

Most people are not stupid. They may volunteer happily for sport or for charity, but to work for nothing to make tens of millions of pounds of profit for Group Four as it exploits them, plainly does not have universal appeal. Those 2,500 who have volunteered to work for nothing for G4S are the idiots in this story. How gullible can you be?

In the same post, which is bluntly entitled “Martial Law Britain”, Murray also offers his unflinching personal and (given his former role as a high ranking diplomat) professional opinion regarding what visitors to London are about to face:

Those coming from Central Asia, Bahrain, Qatar or Saudi Arabia to the Olympics, interested to see what life in a democracy feels like, will find it seems exactly like life at home in their dictatorship. 17,000 soldiers will be glowering over the venues, checking identity documents, stopping and searching. The military will occupy residential buildings, be buzzing overhead, rolling down the streets and patrolling the river. There will be missiles on land, sea and air, though nobody knows what the threat is that this is supposed to counter.

What will make our dictatorship resident visitors feel especially at home is the contempt for the ordinary citizen. Not only will they have the military all over them and be subject to frequent stopping and questioning, they will be expected continually to get out of the way of their betters. Special VIP lanes on the road will allow officials to sweep by, while normal citizens will simply have to sit in gridlock and stew. Who cares? The military will stick missiles on your roof if they wish. What they are going to shoot down, and which bit of London it will land on, is not to be questioned.

I couldn’t agree more. So apologies for repeating myself (see my post from July 8th), but here’s another reminder of that banner we need to hang above the arrivals lounge at Heathrow. The message again, captioned in big, bold letters: “Welcome to Airstrip One!”

Click here to read more of Craig Murray’s latest post.

*

Additional:

As if that wasn’t enough to be dealing with, Sky News reports on July 17th that the now notorious US Transportation Security Agency [TSA] “will arrive one week before the Olympics, and leave around a week after the end of the Paralympics”:

US security agents are to be based at Heathrow and some other UK airports for the duration of the Olympic‬ Games, according to Sky sources.

The Department for Transport has reached an agreement with the US Transportation Security Administration for specialist agents to be working at several UK airports.

Click here to read the full article.

A few days earlier on July 13th, Sky News also reported that in spite of more than £1.5 billion spent on security, many of the newly recruited staff have received such poor levels of training that there are “so many security loopholes” and “a 50-50 chance someone could carry a bomb into one of the Olympic venues”:

The whistleblower, who contacted Sky News, has extensive military and professional security training and is an expert in weapons and IED detection.

He said: “I can see so many security loopholes for this event. Security staff are given a very short time to achieve their training and there is a very slack approach.

“During my employment I planted pretend IEDs, decommissioned weapons, knives and other large metallic objects on students and sent them through the metal detectors.

“They’re not being seen by X-ray staff and they’re not being picked up during physical searches, so the training is completely insufficient.

“The people making these mistakes are then given a tick in the box at the end of the day, sent round the corner to collect their uniform and sent home to await an email with their start date.

Click here to read the full article.

1 From a BBC news article entitled “Olympics security not compromised, Theresa May says”, published on July 12, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18813729

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Filed under Britain, Craig Murray, police state

key witnesses will be excluded from the trial of the underwear bomber

On Christmas Day 2009 Northwest Airlines (although in Delta Airlines livery) Flight 253 to Detroit Michigan took off from Amsterdam. The 300 passengers aboard the flight included 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Umar had checked in with only hand luggage, but, it is alleged, had explosives stitched into his underpants, and about 20 minutes before the plane landed, had attempted to set off his bomb. As it happened, his attempt was unsuccessful, the device failing to detonate and only causing a relatively small fire that was quickly dealt with.

Two of the many eyewitnesses were Kurt and Lori Haskell. They say the events of that day, which took place a few seats away from them, have changed their lives forever, although “not in the way most would think”:

The Underwear Bomber attack has fundamentally changed my life. Not in the way most would think, but it has destroyed any faith I’ve had in the U.S. Government, the media and this country as a whole. To say that I believe the government is corrupt and the media is complicit doesn’t fully explain my beliefs. Not only have I come to those conclusions, but I’ve witnessed that an ordinary person who sees something important can be silenced despite his efforts to spread the truth. Such is the Underwear Bomber case. I can do nothing but laugh at the TSA’s new policy of “If you see something say something.” That is exactly what I did, and not only did the U.S. Government not want to hear what I had to say, but it actively lied about it, attempted to get me to change my story, and hid, by withholding (secret government) evidence or putting a protective order on the evidence and nearly everything that would support my eyewitness account.

Taken from a post on the Haskell Family blog entitled “The Colossal Deceit Known As The Underwear Bomber Case”.

Here is the account that Kurt Haskell gave on Fox News on the day of the attack:

And here is a local new report in the days following the attack:

A Newport couple had a Christmas they never will forget.

Kurt and Lori Haskell sat seven rows behind a 23-year-old Nigerian man on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam who now has been charged with trying to destroy the plane in what is believed to be an attempted act of terrorism.

The Haskells were coming home from a safari vacation in Uganda and were on layover in Amsterdam on Christmas. While sitting on the floor waiting to board, Mr. Haskell said he noticed something unusual.

An Indian man who “looked wealthy and was dressed in a nice suit” approached the ticket counter with a young man.

“They looked like an odd couple because the Indian man was dressed so nice and the person, who I thought was a teen, was a scraggly dressed black guy,” Mr. Haskell said. “… The Indian man said he needed to get (the Nigerian man) on the plane, but he had no passport.”

Mr. Haskell, 38, said the Indian man told the woman at the ticket counter that “the man was from Sudan and that it was typical (to let him on the plane without a passport).”1

Their account continues:

Once he saw the smoke, Mr. Haskell unbuckled his beat and took a few steps forward.

“I saw the flames shooting up and saw the wall was on fire,” he said. “I thought we were going to die.”

A male flight attendant put out the flames. Fear took over as passengers realized the situation they just had faced.

“People were yelling ‘terrorist’ and ‘fire’,” Mr. Haskell said. “The flight attendants, who are usually calm, were screaming, and it was scary.”

That was when Mr. Haskell noticed the man who started the fire was the same man who he saw at the Amsterdam ticket counter.

The Haskells gave the same account on CNN:


As responsible citizens, and as it happens also lawyers, Kurt and Lori provided all this evidence to the authorities; their testimony being easily verifiable from security camera footage at the airport. They had seen something and so they said something. But the authorities didn’t want to know, and in particular, they didn’t want to know about “the smart dressed man”, possibly of Indian descent, who had helped Umar through the security checks without a passport.

Here is a post from the Haskell’s blog almost a year on, September 13th 2010:

For the first few months, Lori and I were very vocal over the media blackout and corresponding cover up to the real story of the Christmas Day events. If anyone is not familiar with our experience, our story can be read here in this blog. For the past few months, we have chosen to sit back and watch as the trial, or lack thereof, plays out in the courthouse we regularly practice in. While the media blackout to the true events continues, the failed attack on our credibility has been replaced with deafening silence as to our eyewitness account. To us, this matter has never been about seeking vengeance against the Underwear Bomber. When taking our eyewitness account and adding it to the small amount of honest facts that have come out, one can only recognize the Underwear Bomber as a mere patsy. It is quite shocking that, thus far, the Underwear Bomber hasn’t been forever silenced as other patsies that have come before him. What has led me to write this update is the following article:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100913/NEWS01/100913036/1318/Terror-suspect-fires-his-lawyers

It seems as though the Underwear Bomber has now decided to fire his attorneys and represent himself. I am actually not too surprised by this event. Being an attorney myself, I can see his attorneys trying to stuff a settlement down his throat while he argues in opposition that he was set up.

In the same post, Kurt Haskell continues:

It seems to me, that now that the Underwear Bomber is representing himself, or possibly using new attorneys, that the use of an entrapment defense is not out of the question. The use of such a defense could be one of the greatest moments in the history of the United States of America. Only through a defense such as this, could the full involvement of the U.S. Government be fully discovered and divulged. Please consider the following:

1. The Underwear Bomber was escorted through security without a passport by the Sharp Dressed Man who by all accounts, appears to be a government agent.
2. Congressional hearings have confirmed that the Underwear Bomber was likely let on flight 253 intentionally.
3. The bomb failed to detonate, and by many accounts, was designed so that it would not detonate.
4. The entire terrorist attack was filmed from before it started until after it ended.
5. The bomb was obtained in Yemen where the CIA has been known to have agents interacting with Al Qaeda.

Once you accept the above, it is not so far fetched to believe that the U.S. Government planted a defective bomb on the Underwear Bomber to:

1. Renew the Patriot Act
2. Get body scanners in the airports
3. Further the U.S. involvement in strategically located Yemen
4. Further the fraudulent war on terror
5. Provide further profit to the military industrial complex

Only through an entrapment defense that is fully litigated in open court could the American citizens get what they deserve, an open honest investigation into the Christmas Day events of 2009. Such a trial could possibly wake up the millions of American citizens that fail to even consider that its government is corrupt, dishonest, and working for those who only seek to consolidate their power and wealth.

Kurt Haskell also made the same allegations on Fox News:

Jury selection has now begun. Umar’s trial is set to commence on October 11th. So where are we now? asks Kurt Haskell in his latest post (in which he also outlines 33 anomalies2 in the case):

We now have The Underwear Bomber (Umar) representing himself with the help of standby attorney Chambers. Attorney Chambers has indicated to me that if he were Umar’s attorney, that the defense would be entrapment and that I would be a key witness. Of course, such a defense would expose the U.S. Government’s involvement in the plot. It is much too convenient to have Umar represent himself and be in charge of what the defense will be, what evidence is presented, what witnesses are called and what questions each witness is asked. A trial with Umar representing himself will leave the relevant facts of this case unknown for generations.

1 From an article entitled “Newport couple witnesses to airliner attack”, written by Danielle Portteus, published by Monroe News on December 26, 2009. http://www.monroenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091227/NEWS01/712279987/-1/NEWS

2 Anomalies of the case in no particular order:

1. In December 2010, Chambers told the Detroit Free Press that the Government’s own explosives experts indicate that the bomb was impossibly defective. The Free Press later erased this article from its online site, but did not erase earlier underwear bomber stories.


2. The FBI has admitted to supplying the Portland Christmas Tree Bomber and the Wrigley Field Bomber with intentionally defective bombs shortly after the underwear bomber event.


3. Janet Napolitano’s comment that “the system worked” was a Freudian slip.


4. The plane taxied to the gate. The passengers were not allowed off of the plane for 20-30 minutes (Was the bomb still on the plane?). There was bomb material that was supposedly explosive all over the cabin of the plane. Nobody took any action to make sure the passengers were safe or that the “explosives” were of no danger to the passengers. This is evidence of foreknowledge that there was no danger to the passengers.


5. TSA admitted knowledge of the threat while the flight was over Canada/Atlantic Ocean. No measures were taken to notify the pilot or to divert the flight for an emergency landing elsewhere.


6. My eyewitness account of the sharp dressed man and the related evidence as to this man. There is no other likely explanation for this man except for government involvement. The airport video has never been released and remains under protective order of the court.


7. The government’s continued release of Umar’s passport picture through the media. This was done for no other reason that to attempt to discredit me. Why such an effort to show a passport picture all over the media? In no other case has a passport picture been shown in the media. A copy of the supposed “passport” of Umar, however, was not released to Chambers until June 2011. The release of the passport to standby defense counsel was delayed 19 months in order to limit the amount of time Chambers would need to have experts verify its authenticity.


8. The explanation for the cameraman is near unbelieveable. He started filming the sky just before the attack started and then he turned to film the entire attack from beginning to end. We all thought we were going to die. The last thing on anyone’s mind at that time was to film something.


9. On 1-5-10 Breibart posted an article that indicated the Government had viewed over 200 hours of video from the airport and it showed no evidence of an accomplice. This article is contradicted by the 1-22-10 article of ABC News by Brian Ross that indicated that “The government is looking into the identity of a man that helped Umar at Schiphol.” The article fails to mention that this “sharp dressed man” escorted Umar through security without a passpot and instead tries to paint this man as Al Qaeda. The government is contradicting itself in both of these stories and is attempting weak coverups in each story.


10. Umar is charged with conspiracy. The accomplices names or contributions are never mentioned. They are not listed as wanted and they are never discussed. This is because they are U.S. Intelligence agents.


11. Customs spokesperson Ron Smith changed the official story about the 2nd man taken into custody in Detroit 5 times. Then he sent a half hearted apologetic email to the media. My story as to this man has never changed. Ron Smith eventually gave up lying and quit talking about this man who was witnessed by nearly all of the passengers.


12. Why were pictures of Umar’s underwear constantly released to the media? These pictures show Umar’s underwear is largely intact. I have information from a credible source that due to this incident, Umar “Will never have any kids”. This fact is not in line with undamaged underwear. The continued release of the underwear was used as a propaganda piece to reinforce the deceit.


13. The prosecution has continued to block evidence from Umar’s standby attorney and in some cases, has provided it late. Why? If Umar was a terrorist nut, what is it that the government does not want the defense to see? It seems to me that if the official story is true, then this is an open and shut case. It appears that the government feels a need to insulate itself from civil cases filed by the passengers.


14. Why has Chambers repeatedly indicated that Umar has a very valid defense? The answer is the entrapment defense.


15. Portions of the Patriot Act were set to expire just before Christmas Day 2009. The Congressional vote to extend them was delayed until February. Body scanning machines were already built and sitting in warehouses. Michael Chertoff, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security has ties to the body scanning manufacturers. The U.S. had no terrorist attacks from 2001 until Christmas Day 2009. A new terrorist attack was needed to get the body scanning machines in the airports.


16. If flight 253 had crashed, nobody would know that the bomb was in Umar’s underwear. An unsuccesful staged attack was necessary to show where the bomb was held. This was needed to sell the American public that body scanners were needed to prevent similar future attacks.


17. The story of Umar obtaining his bomb in another country and wearing it to Schiphol is not logical. It is much more likely that he was given the defective bomb at or near the airport. It is likely that the second man taken into custody in Detroit gave him the bomb at Schiphol. My theory is that the bomb sniffing dog (which we witnessed) in Detroit sniffed bomb residue in his bag after we landed.


18. Umar could have been stopped in Amsterdam after boarding and been charged with various charges that would have resulted in a life sentence. Instead he was allowed to fly into U.S. airspace and light his bomb there, over Detroit, on Christmas Day in order to make this a MUCH large media story to usher in the body scanners.


19. How did Umar pick his window seat over the gas tank when he paid cash for his ticket? (You must buy your ticket with credit in order to pick your seat).


20. Other terrorist attack videos are released within hours. The relevant video in this case has never been released. Note that Schiphol airport has more cameras than any airport in the world.


21. The bomb was lit in the cabin and not in the bathroom so that it could be filmed and make more of a media event than a dud bomb lit in a bathroom.


22. Obama’s “failed to connect the dots speech” is discredited by the Congressional testimony of Patrick Kennedy of the State Department. Kennedy indicated that, in so many words, that the government was tracking Umar and did not revoke his visa in order to track him into the U.S. This is almost, but not quite an admission that he was let into the U.S. on purpose.


23. The Congressional testimony of Michael Leiter indicated that the U.S. Government frequently lets terrorists into the U.S.


24. In early 2010, a Mr. Wolf appeared on the Keith Olberman Show and indicated that the Obama administration was looking into the possibility that this was an intentional plot by a U.S. intelligence agency.


25. Watch the Congressional testimony of Patrick Kennedy (available on the internet) and watch how he does vocabulary gymnastics to avoid saying that this was an intentional plot by U.S. intelligence.


26. Dutch military police initially indicated that Umar did not go through normal security measures. This was only reported once.


27. Why did a passenger call me in early January 2010 and attempt to convince me that I did not see Umar being escorted around security, but I instead witnessed a minor child being taken through security. This was untrue. I later found out that such passenger works for a contractor that receives a great deal of business from the Department of Defense.


28. Why does the mainstream media continue to not investigate this story and continue to not report my eyewitness account?


29. A second passenger contacted me and confirmed my account of the Sharp Dressed Man. She is scared and refuses to come forward.


30. Why have nearly all of the passengers refused to talk about this case?


31. Why were a great deal of the passengers, military personnel, government workers and government contractors?


32. Why did the prosecution indicate at a recent hearing that it was still withholding some evidence that was deemed to be secret (top secret?). What could be so secret if the government was not involved in the plot?


33. Why has the online Detroit Free Press site erased all underwear bomber articles that support my theory on the case, but retained older articles that support the official story?

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Filed under Uncategorized, USA, Yemen

12 steps to tyranny — the state of America under Obama

In April 2007, Naomi Wolf published an article in the Guardian entitled: “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps”.1

Her article began:

If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways.

But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy – but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Click here to read Naomi Wolf’s full article

Of course, we no longer have the spectre of a Bush administration, and barely a year had elapsed after the publication of Naomi Wolf’s wake-up call, before the election of Barack Hussein Obama meant we should worry no longer.

Obama, with his offers of “change we can believe in”, and mantra of “hope” and “progress”. Surely, he would undo the damage of the Bush years. Surely those 10 steps that Wolf outlined would begin to be retraced. However, with the tenth anniversary of the events of 9/11 fast approaching, has anything really changed?

Let me begin from Wolf’s own analytical breakdown of the Bush Years, applying her same criteria to Obama’s term in office, point by point, before considering what, if any, new threats we may now be facing.

1 Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a “war footing”; we were in a “global war” against a “global caliphate” intending to “wipe out civilisation”.

We still live in a world deformed by the events of 9/11. John Ashcroft’s so-called Patriot Act still stands, and on February 27th 2010, Obama signed a one-year extension of the act.

The three sections of the Patriot Act that Obama agreed to extend included:

  • Authorize court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones.
  • Permit surveillance against a so-called lone wolf, which is a non-US citizen engaged in terrorism who many not be part of a recognized terrorist group.
  • Allow court approved seizure of records and property in anti-terrorism operations2

Then, on May 26th, 2011, just minutes before another deadline, Obama approved a further four-year extension of the Patriot Act powers, maintaining provisions for roving wiretaps, searches of business records and conducting surveillance of “lone wolves”.3

Where Bush played up the threat from Al Qaeda, according to Obama, the bigger threat is now from “lone wolves”. So whereas the Bush administration justified civil rights infringements on the grounds that it needed to protect America from Al Qaeda, Obama is saying that America’s most wanted are no longer external enemies, but those with altogether more domestic grievances, and with a very different agenda than Holy Jihad. In making this claim he has widened the net, and set the stage for even tighter restrictions on the civil liberties.
2 Create a gulag

Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal “outer space”) – where torture takes place.

At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, “enemies of the people” or “criminals”. Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders – opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists – are arrested and sent there as well.

In spite of Obama’s election pledge, Guantánamo remains open. But Guantánamo is, in any case, just one of many secret (or at least out-of-sight) US detention centres still operating around the world. There is, thankfully, less talk of the need for torture. Torture is almost a dirty word again. The Obama administration prefers to talk of “enhanced interrogation” and “debriefing”. But does anyone seriously believe that torture (by whatever name it chooses to call itself) is no longer sanctioned at Guantánamo and in those other darker corners.

Undoubtedly, the most high-profile case of the Obama years involves the detention of alleged wikileaks source Bradley Manning, who has been held for over a year in the Quantico marine base in Virginia awaiting court-martial in what have been described as “degrading and inhumane conditions”:

Under the terms of his detention, he is kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, checked every five minutes under a so-called “prevention of injury order” and stripped naked at night apart from a smock.4

However, and as Mehdi Hasan writing for the Guardian in April of this year points out, the case of Bradley Manning represents only the tip of the iceberg:

[But] it wasn’t a Republican Congress that forced [Obama], for instance, to double the size of the Bagram facility – where human rights groups have documented torture and deaths – and deny prisoners the right to challenge their detention. He did that on his own. Bagram is Obama’s Guantánamo.5

More recently, Jeremy Scahill has also shone light on CIA operations at secret sites in Somalia:

Meanwhile, Obama has consistently refused to allow the prosecution of those who openly called for and approved the use of torture, and has thus failed to draw a necessary line under the crimes of the previous administration.6

3 Develop a thug caste

When leaders who seek what I call a “fascist shift” want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.

The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America’s security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad.

It’s hard to get precise numbers here due to the covert nature of many US operations, but it seems that the Obama administration has actually increased the use of “military contractors”. For instance, by June 2009, although the number of military contractors in Iraq was reduced, in Afghanistan, it rose to almost 74,000, far outnumbering the roughly 58,000 U.S. soldiers on the ground at that point.7 Under Obama, the use of mercenaries has also spilled over into neighbouring Pakistan.8 In March 2011, there were more contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq than “uniformed personnel”.9

4 Set up an internal surveillance system

In Mussolini’s Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China – in every closed society – secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.

In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens’ phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.

In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about “national security”; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

So that was Naomi Wolf in September 2007, and here is Charlie Savage reporting for The New York Times in June 2011:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.

The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents.

The article continues:

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.10

More generally, as National Journal correspondent, Shane Harris, explained to Democracy Now! in February 2010, spying on US citizens has actually become easier under the Obama administration’s national security strategy:

Click here to read the full transcript of the interview.
5 Harass citizens’ groups

The fifth thing you do is related to step four – you infiltrate and harass citizens’ groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.

Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 “suspicious incidents”.

The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track “potential terrorist threats” as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as “terrorism”. So the definition of “terrorist” slowly expands to include the opposition.

And again, here is Charlie Savage from the same article of June 2011:

The new manual will also remove a limitation on the use of surveillance squads, which are trained to surreptitiously follow targets. Under current rules, the squads can be used only once during an assessment, but the new rules will allow agents to use them repeatedly. Ms. Caproni said restrictions on the duration of physical surveillance would still apply, and argued that because of limited resources, supervisors would use the squads only rarely during such a low-level investigation.

The revisions also clarify what constitutes “undisclosed participation” in an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant, which is subject to special rules — most of which have not been made public. The new manual says an agent or an informant may surreptitiously attend up to five meetings of a group before those rules would apply — unless the goal is to join the group, in which case the rules apply immediately.

Click here to read the full article.

6 Engage in arbitrary detention and release

This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a “list” of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.

In 2004, America’s Transportation Security Administration [TSA] confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela’s government – after Venezuela’s president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens. […]

It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can’t get off.

About a year after Obama took office, in January 2010, the “watch” and “no-fly” lists were expanded to “improve our watchlisting system as well as our ability to thwart future attempts to carry out terrorist attacks”.11

There are videos all over youtube which show how searches conducted by TSA contractors are in direct violation of the fourth amendment. Even children are now subjected to routine harassment. Here, for example, a distraught mother watches as her six-year-old girl is searched, presumably for explosives, by TSA ‘officers’:

7 Target key individuals

Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don’t toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile’s Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.

Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not “coordinate”, in Goebbels’ term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically “coordinate” early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.

Perhaps the most high-profile case since Obama took office has been attempts to prosecute National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake. According to The New Yorker, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to press criminal charges in a total of five alleged instances of national security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined.12

Democracy Now! spoke to former Justice Department whistleblower, Jesselyn Radack, about the case of Thomas Drake in May 2011:

Click here to read the full transcript of the interview.

In June 2011, on the eve of the trial, the whole case against Thomas Drake was dropped:

Days before his trial was set to begin, former National Security Agency manager and accused leaker Thomas A. Drake accepted a plea deal from the government Thursday that drops the charges in his indictment, absolves him of mishandling classified information and calls for no prison time.

In exchange, Drake, who was facing 35 years in prison if convicted of violating the Espionage Act, will plead guilty to a misdemeanor of exceeding authorized use of a computer. He will pay no fine, and the maximum probation time he can serve will be capped at one year.13

8 Control the press

Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. […]
You won’t have a shutdown of news in modern America – it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth.

In a fascist system, it’s not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can’t tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.

“Who cares what the media says about anything? They are bought and paid for a thousand times over. They couldn’t tell the truth if they could find it.” So said Gore Vidal in October 2006.14

Five years on, and the mainstream media is no less bridled; the same small corporate cartel, that is bent on privileging the special interests of a few powerful owners and sponsors, maintains its dominance. And although, in the meantime, the challenge from independent voices has been steadily on the rise via the internet, it is in precisely these areas of the “new media” where controls are now being brought in.

But applying restrictions requires justification, and so these latest attacks against freedom of speech are couched as a necessary response to what the government deems, and thus what the public is encouraged to believe, to be a threat. The following extract is taken directly from the wikipedia entry on Cass Sunstein, who, in September 2009, was appointed as Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (the original footnotes to references are preserved)15:

[Cass] Sunstein co-authored a 2008 paper with Adrian Vermeule, titled “Conspiracy Theories,” dealing with the risks and possible government responses to false conspiracy theories resulting from “cascades” of faulty information within groups that may ultimately lead to violence. In this article they wrote, “The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be.” They go on to propose that, “the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups”,[22] where they suggest, among other tactics, “Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action.”[22] They refer, several times, to groups that promote the view that the US Government was responsible or complicit in the September 11 attacks as “extremist groups.”

Sunstein and Vermeule also analyze the practice of recruiting “nongovernmental officials”; they suggest that “government can supply these independent experts with information and perhaps prod them into action from behind the scenes,” further warning that “too close a connection will be self-defeating if it is exposed.”[22] Sunstein and Vermeule argue that the practice of enlisting non-government officials, “might ensure that credible independent experts offer the rebuttal, rather than government officials themselves. There is a tradeoff between credibility and control, however. The price of credibility is that government cannot be seen to control the independent experts.” This position has been criticized by some commentators,[23][24] who argue that it would violate prohibitions on government propaganda aimed at domestic citizens.[25] Sunstein and Vermeule’s proposed infiltrations have also been met by sharply critical scholarly critiques.[26][27]

So which is the greater threat, a few people with alternative views and accounts, or the kinds of subversion of (or even outright clampdown on) free speech proposed, and now being put into effect by Cass Sunstein?

Simply being out of step with the official line is now enough to get you categorised as an “extremist”, and so a distinction that was once reserved for those who threatened the use of violent overthrow, is now directed against anyone who merely disagrees.

9 Dissent equals treason

Cast dissent as “treason” and criticism as “espionage’. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of “spy” and “traitor”.

wrote Wolf back in 2007, and as we have seen the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 on more occasions than any other administration.

There is also the continuation of the “Threat Fusion Centers” created under Bush, which been found guilty of targeting, amongst other groups, anti-war activists:

In late February[2009], the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized a leaked intelligence bulletin from the North Central Texas Fusion System asking law enforcement officers to report on the activities of Islamic and anti-war lobbying groups, specifically the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the International Action Center (IAC). CAIR is a national Muslim advocacy group, while IAC is an American activist organization that opposes all U.S. military intervention overseas.16

Wolf’s analysis continues:

And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year – when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 – the president has the power to call any US citizen an “enemy combatant”. He has the power to define what “enemy combatant” means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define “enemy combatant” any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.

Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin’s gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo’s, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)

We US citizens will get a trial eventually – for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. “Enemy combatant” is a status offence – it is not even something you have to have done.

In 2009, the Military Commissions Act was amended to “remove some of its worst violations of due process”, but, according to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “the legislation still falls far short of the requirements imposed by the Constitution and Geneva Conventions.”17:

[The Military Commissions Act of 2009 ] continues to apply the military commissions to a much broader group of individuals than should be tried before them under the United States’ legal obligations, it does not completely bar all coerced testimony as required by the Constitution and does not even prohibit military commission trials of children.

Click here to read the full ACLU press release.

After legal challenges and pressure from federal judges, in March 2009, the Obama administration “jettisoned the Bush-era term ‘enemy combatant’ but maintained a broad right to detain those who provide ‘substantial’ assistance to al-Qaeda and its associates around the globe.” A report from the Washington Post continues:

Many human rights groups expressed dismay yesterday that the administration had not made a more radical change in tactics and policies.

Tom Parker, Amnesty International advocacy director for terrorism, counterterrorism and human rights, said, “It’s symbolically significant that he’s dropped the term ‘enemy combatant,’ but the power to detain individuals within the ‘indefinite detention without charge’ paradigm remains substantially intact.”

The legal filing is the latest signal that Obama’s team is not radically departing from many of the terrorism-related legal policies of the previous administration.18

Click here to read the full article.
10 Suspend the rule of law

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency – which the president now has enhanced powers to declare – he can send Michigan’s militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state’s governor and its citizens. […]

Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act – which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch’s soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias’ power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.

Section 1076, which allowed the President to declare a public emergency and station the military anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, was repealed in 2008. But then, on January 11th 2010 “in order to strengthen the partnership between federal and state governments in protecting the nation against all manner of threats, including terrorism and natural disasters,” President Obama signed an Executive Order, which established a body of ten state governors directly appointed by Obama to work to help advance the “synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities in the United States” (see item (d) from section 2).

So does this open the door again for US troops to be brought in to control civil unrest in the aftermath of a national emergency? Well, the US Patriot Act is still in operation, which means that the US remains in a state of emergency.

*

Obama then has not substantially moved away from the policies he inherited from Bush. Nearly everything that Bush & co put into place following the 9/11 attacks remains in place, and so if Wolf is right, then America is just as close to tyranny as it was before his election. But actually there are reasons to belief that the situation is even worse, and that brings me to steps 11 and 12.

11 Collapse of the economy

Wolf wrote her article in April 2007. But it was only later, and in the wake of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, when the seriousness of the current banking crisis first became apparent to most people. The response of the Bush administration was the shameless and underhand Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) which was signed into law on October 3rd 2008.19 But we should also remember that the whole TARP, which came in two stages, involved a total banker bailout of $700 billion, and the second half of this money was cleared by Obama’s incoming administration.20

Bailing out the “troubled assets” hasn’t worked and never could. It was intended to save the bankers, or at least prop them up a while longer, but following the TARP and then quantitative easing QE1 followed by QE2, America, along with the rest of the developed world, is still heading towards outright financial meltdown. As Alan Greenspan correctly pointed out at the time of all the hoo-hah about raising the debt ceiling, there is no danger of a debt default because the US can always print more money. But how much more is needed? And how long before QE3 or even QE4? If they print enough then America faces the prospect of hyperinflation, and of course hyperinflation was precisely the final straw that collapsed the Weimar Republic and allowed Hitler to come to power. The lesson from history is a stark one.

12 Rule by a Super Congress

Another piece of the fallout of last month’s raising of the debt ceiling fiasco, was the largely unreported establishment of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. This new “Super Congress” which consists of twelve members of Congress, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with Obama retaining an overall right to veto, is mandated to make proposals to reduce the federal budget deficit by a total of at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years. In the event that Congress then refuses to pass those proposals, “a trigger mechanism” will enact $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts:

This “Super Congress” of twelve will recommend cuts that will basically go unchallenged. They must make their recommendations by Thanksgiving, then the congress must have up or down votes with no changes. A simple yes or no vote to enact new law with vast implications on the lives of every American. That this group will be appointed and not elected is bad enough, but if their cuts hopefully done with a scalpel are not voted in, there will be a trigger that takes effect and makes even more draconian cuts, most likely with a butcher knife or ax.21

So an unelected committee eager to dish out some more “austerity” is now determining America’s economic future, and thus, by extension, forcing decisions in every area of governance. Why bother having coups when you can take control so sneakily?

Going back to Naomi Wolf, she writes:

Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini’s march on Rome or Hitler’s roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere – while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: “dogs go on with their doggy life … How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster.”

All of this is absolutely right, of course, and unfortunately under Obama the ‘process of erosion’ that began after 9/11 has continued; and, perhaps more importantly, it has become normalised. Bush was an obvious tyrant, whereas Obama is more the persuader. And the big difference between Bush and Obama has really been style, with Obama, by virtue of being far the more stylish, also arguably the more dangerous. In any case, the stage remains set for whoever comes to power next, because as Wolf put it in 2007:

What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack — say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani — because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.

*

In 2008, Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stein produced a documentary film based on Naomi Wolf’s book “The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot”, on which her 2007 Guardian article had been based. Released on DVD and online in October 2008, the film offers a chilling warning of the dangers that America still faces. As Naomi Wolf concluded in her 2007 article:

We need to look at history and face the “what ifs”. For if we keep going down this road, the “end of America” could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before – and this is the way it is now.

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands … is the definition of tyranny,” wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.

1 “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps” by Naomi Wolf, published in the Guardian on April 24, 2007.

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2064157,00.html

2 Taken from an article entitled: “President Obama Signs One-Year Extension of Patriot Act”, by Julie Kent, published on February 28, 2010 in Cleveland Leader. http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/13183

3 “Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension” published on May 27, 2011 from msnbc.

Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43180202/ns/us_news-security/t/obama-europe-signs-patriot-act-extension/#.Tk6Wk10neaI

4 Taken from an article entitled: “Bradley Manning; top US legal scholars voice outrage at ‘torture’” by Ed Pilkington, published on April 10, 2011 in the Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/10/bradley-manning-legal-scholars-letter

5 Taken from an article entitled, “Forget Sarah Palin and Donald Trump: Obama needs a challenge from the left”, written by Mehdi Hasan, published on May 11, 2011 in the Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/may/11/barack-obama-primaries-palin-trump

6 “Despite overwhelming evidence that senior Bush administration officials approved illegal interrogation methods involving torture and other ill-treatment, the Obama administration has yet to pursue prosecutions of any high-level officials or to establish a commission of inquiry.” from Human Rights Watch, World Report 2011, p. 624

7 According to an article entitled: “Afghanistan Contractors Outnumber Troops” by August Cole, published August 22, 2009 in The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125089638739950599.html

8 For more information read Jeremy Scahill’s article entitled “The Secret US War in Pakistan”, published December 7, 2009 in The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-us-war-pakistan

9 According to a Congressional Research Service report entitled “Department of Defense Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background and Analysis” by Moshe Schwartz & Joyprada Swain, published May 13, 2011:

10  From an article entitled “F.B.I Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds” by Charlie Savage, published June 12, 2011 in The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/us/13fbi.html?_r=1

11  See BBC News article “US steps up flight security lists”, published January 5, 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8440591.stm

12  See the New Yorker article “The Secret Sharer: is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?” by Jane Mayer, published on May 23, 2011. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/23/110523fa_fact_mayer

13  See the Washington Post article “Ex-NSA official Thomas Drake to plead guilty to misdemeanor”, by Ellen Nakashima, published June 9, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/ex-nsa-manager-has-reportedly-twice-rejected-plea-bargains-in-espionage-act-case/2011/06/09/AG89ZHNH_story.html

14  Taken from an interview he gave at the Texas Book Festival on October 29th, 2006. In response to a question about the government cover-up surrounding the September 11th attacks and the indifference of the media response.

15  Taken from the section entitled: “’Conspiracy Theories’ and government infiltration” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Sunstein#.22Conspiracy_Theories.22_and_government_infiltration

16  From an article entitled, “Fusion Centers Under Fire in Texas and New Mexico”, written by Matthew Harwood from March 9, 2009.

http://www.securitymanagement.com/news/fusion-centers-under-fire-texas-and-new-mexico-005314

17 “While this bill contains substantial improvements to the current military commissions, the system remains fatally flawed and contrary to basic principles of American justice. While the bill takes positive steps by restricting coerced and hearsay evidence and providing greater defense counsel resources, it still falls short of providing the due process required by the Constitution. The military commissions were created to circumvent the Constitution and result in quick convictions, not to achieve real justice.

“Because of their tainted history, these proceedings, if carried on in any form, would continue to be stigmatized as unfair and inadequate, would be plagued by delay and controversy and would keep alive the terrible legacy of Guantánamo. As long as we are using anything but our time-tested federal court system, the military commissions will remain a second class system of justice.”

From American Civil Liberties Press Release of October 8, 2009.

http://www.aclu.org/national-security/house-passes-changes-guantanamo-military-commissions

18  From an article entitled, “U.S. Retires ‘Enemy Combatant,’ Keeps Broad Right to Detain, by Del Quentin Wilber and Peter Finn, published on March 14, 2009 in the Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/13/AR2009031302371.html

19  “The man charged with monitoring the $700 billion financial rescue has launched more than a dozen investigations into possible misuse of the money, according to a report sent to Congress today.

“In findings that are not likely to soothe agitated taxpayers who are wondering what return they are getting from the bailouts, Neil Barofsky — Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP — said billions of taxpayer dollars are vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse.

“Barofsky — who detailed the bailout fund perils in a 250-page tome [pdf] — said that the criminal probes are looking into possible public corruption, stock, tax, and corporate fraud, insider trading and mortgage fraud. There would be no details on the targets, according to the report, ‘until public action is taken.'”

From an article entitled, “TARP Fraud Probes Begin” written by Elizabeth Olson, from April 21st 2009.

http://www.portfolio.com/views/blogs/daily-brief/2009/04/21/tarp-fraud-probes-begin/

20  “In a decisive and hard-fought victory for President-elect Barack Obama, the Senate cleared the way today for Obama’s incoming administration to spend the second $350 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“A measure to block the funds was voted down 42 to 52 after an intense lobbying campaign by the Obama economic team and by Obama himself.

“Just hours before the vote, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers wrote a letter promising the Senate that the Obama administration would take specific steps to ensure the money is spent more responsibly and with more transparency than the Bush Administration spent the first $350 billion in TARP cash.”

Taken from an article entitled, “Obama Wins $350B Senate TARP Vote”, written by Jonathan Karl on January 15, 2009 for ABC World News.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Economy/story?id=6654133&page=1

21 From an article entitled, “The Super Congress We Did Not Elect” written by R.W. Sanders, published on August 2, 2011 by The Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rw-sanders/the-super-congress-we-did_b_914635.html

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Ralph Nader on body scanners and the erosion of civil liberties

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now runs full body scans on passengers at airports throughout the United States. These detailed, three-dimensional images of individuals have been described by security experts as the equivalent of “a physically invasive strip-search”, and although the scans are not mandatory for all travellers, passengers who decline are subjected instead to extremely invasive body searches euphemistically referred to as “enhanced pat-downs”.

On July 2, 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)  filed a lawsuit to suspend the deployment of body scanners at US airports, pending an independent review. They said that the program is “unlawful, invasive, and ineffective.” EPIC argue that the federal agency is in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as the Fourth Amendment.

On June 13, Democracy Now! spoke to civil rights campaigner and four-time Presidential candidate Ralph Nader who also says that these new security initiatives are unnecessary and in violation of the Constitution, whilst posing potentially serious health risks related to either x-ray or microwave radiation exposure:

“Well, first of all, physicists have shown that the backscatter, which is the x-ray — there are two kinds [of body scanners], the backscatter and the millimeter — expose people to twice as much as what the TSA had been telling the public. There have been known malfunctions of these machines, where people, without their knowledge, have been exposed to even more of these harmful radiations.”

Amy Goodman also asked Ralph Nader for his opinion on the FBI giving its agents new “proactive” powers to infiltrate organisations, to sift through household trash, and to covertly search databases during domestic investigations, without the statutory requirement of providing firm evidence for suspicion of terrorist or merely criminal activity. A New York Times report published on 12th June provides further details of the changes. 1

Here is Nader’s response:

“This is part of Obama-Bush, as I call it. It’s the extension of illegal activities, violation of constitutional rights, that were made worse under the Bush administration and extended and expanded under the Obama administration. So you’ve got a national security state that doesn’t think it has to obey the Constitution or federal statutes, and it’s just running amok. And that’s going to lead to more and more abuses, more and more fear among people, more and more innocent people being accused inaccurately. And here we go again.”

Democracy Now! also spoke with Amie Stepanovich of EPIC and actress (former Miss USA) Susie Castillo, who has recently become a vocal critic of such security procedures:

1 The following extracts are taken from an article entitled “F.B.I Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds” by Charlie Savage from New York Times, published on 12th June.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.”

“The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.”

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.”

Click here for full article: www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/us/13fbi.html?_r=1

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worldwide war resolution could grant US president “dictatorial powers”

House Votes to Authorize Worldwide War
You read that right: Yesterday, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision to authorize worldwide war, which has no expiration date and will allow this president — and any future president — to go to war anywhere in the world, at any time, without further congressional authorization. While this was a loss, we’re confident that the momentum against this provision is on our side.

That was the headline story from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “Blog of Rights” posted on Friday 27th May. Click here to read more.

On Tuesday 24th May, Democrat Congressman Dennis Kucinich also challenged the extraordinary new provisions granted by the latest amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would open the way for permanent and global war, whilst also reauthorising the Orwellian provisions of the Patriot Act:

“The annual re-authorization contains unprecedented and dangerous language which gives the President virtually unchecked power to take this country to war and to keep us there. The bill substantially undermines the Constitution, the institution that the Constitution set up that is Congress, and sets the United States on a path to permanent war.”

Kucinich also spoke against the escalating use of force in Libya:

“I am offering an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill which would defund the war in Libya.

“The war is unconstitutional. The President did not come to this Congress, he went to the U.N. Security Council, he went to a number of international bodies, but he didn’t come to the United States Congress. Last week, the President did not observe the tolling of the War Powers Act, so he’s in violation of the statute.

“The action over in Libya has already exceeded the U.N. mandate; it’s in violation of the U.N. mandate and there have been violations of international law. […]

“People are saying it’s not the United States, it’s NATO. The Guardian in the U.K. did a study which showed that 90% of the cruise missiles are paid for by the U.S. Sixty-six percent of the personnel working against Libya are from the U.S., 50% of aircraft, 50% of all ships – and our government is saying this is a NATO operation? We have to recognize what’s going on here, which is an expansion of the war power by the Executive and it’s time we challenge that.”

Here is Kucinich’s full address to the House:

Then, on Wednesday 25th May, in another speech to Congress, Republican Ron Paul detailed the authoritarian powers already held by the President and described the new bill as “the last nail” in the coffin of the American Republic:

“Our Presidents can now, on their own:
1. Order assassinations, including American citizens,
2. Operate secret military tribunals,
3. Engage in torture,
4. Enforce indefinite imprisonment without due process,
5. Order searches and seizures without proper warrants, gutting the 4th Amendment,
6. Ignore the 60 day rule for reporting to the Congress the nature of any military operations as required by the War Power Resolution,
7. Continue the Patriot Act abuses without oversight,
8. Wage war at will,
9. Treat all Americans as suspected terrorists at airports with TSA groping and nude x-raying.

And the Federal Reserve accommodates by counterfeiting the funds needed and not paid for by taxation and borrowing, permitting runaway spending, endless debt, and special interest bail-outs. And all of this is not enough.

The abuses and usurpations of the war power are soon to be codified in the National Defense Authorization Act now rapidly moving its way through the Congress. Instead of repealing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), as we should, now that bin Laden is dead and gone, Congress is planning to massively increase the war power of the President.

Though an opportunity presents itself to end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Congress, with bipartisan support, obsesses on how to expand the unconstitutional war power the President already holds. The current proposal would allow a President to pursue war any time, any place, for any reason, without Congressional approval. Many believe this would even permit military activity against American suspects here at home.”

“Characteristic of this epic event is the casual acceptance by the people and political leaders of the unitary presidency, which is equivalent to granting dictatorial powers to the President. The proposed authority does not reference the 9/11 attacks. It would be expanded to include the Taliban and “associated” forces—a dangerously vague and expansive definition of our potential enemies.

“And now the final nail is placed in the coffin of Congressional responsibility for the war power, delivering this power completely to the President—a sharp and huge blow to the concept of our Republic. In my view, it appears that the fate of the American Republic is now sealed—unless these recent trends are quickly reversed.”

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