Tag Archives: Edward Snowden

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Trump’s Fascism Picks Up Where Obama’s Leaves Off

Related imageDonald Trump wants to deport three million illegal immigrants, and he’s willing to split up families to do it. Expect resistance: street protests, networks of safe houses, American citizens willing to risk prison to hide undocumented workers.

Barack Obama deported two million — more than any other president. Thousands of kids lost their parents. Yet demonstrations were few. Anglo solidarity was nowhere to be found. Same action, different reaction. Why? As we’ve seen under Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, progressives go to sleep when Democrats are in the White House.

Trump will be deplorable. But as the unrest that followed his victory signals, he’ll have a salutary effect on American politics: Liberals will resist the same fascist horrors for which they’ve been making excuses under Obama (and would have continued to tolerate under Hillary Clinton).

Ironically, their struggle will be made all the more challenging due to the fascist moves promulgated by Barack Obama, a president revered by liberals — but whose administration has been characterized by a stream of fascist policies.

Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA and other government agencies are spying on all of our communications: phone calls, email, texts, video, even snail mail. But the fiercest reactions came from people outside the U.S. It was 2013 and Obama was president. For the most part liberals — the political faction you’d expect to raise hell — trusted their charming first black president not to abuse his powers.

Trump will inherit Obama’s Orwellian surveillance apparatus. During the campaign, he said “I wish I had that power.”

When Obama took over from Bush in 2009, he issued a symbolic denunciation of the torture his predecessor had legitimized and institutionalized. In practice, however, nothing changed. Sending a clear message that he approved of their actions, Obama ordered his Justice Department not to prosecute anyone for waterboarding or other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” saying infamously that it was time to “look forward, as opposed to looking backwards.” He went to Langley to tell CIA agents he’d watch their backs. He refused to issue a presidential executive order banning torture by the CIA.

Trump will take over that bureaucratic infrastructure of torture, including the legal opinions issued by Bush’s White House counsel that Obama failed to annul. During the campaign, Trump pledged to bring back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse,” whatever that means.

Upon taking office Obama tepidly attempted to follow up on his campaign promise to close Guantánamo concentration camp. But he caved in the face of congressional opposition. Though Obama has managed to winnow down the number of inmates in America’s Cuban gulag to double digits, his lackadaisical unwillingness to expend political capital on the issue has left the camp open. It has also legitimized the formerly unthinkable practice of holding prisoners indefinitely without charging them with a crime or putting them on trial.

Trump says he’ll keep the camp open, expand it, and “load it up with some bad dudes,” including American citizens whose politics he doesn’t care for.

Part of the justification given for indefinite detention is the Bush-era Military Commissions Act of 2006, which eliminated the right of habeas corpus, the right to a speedy and fair trial enshrined in Anglo-American law for eight centuries. Under the MCA, the U.S. government can throw you into a concentration camp where you’ll never see your family or a lawyer. As far as we know, Obama never availed himself of this power.

Do you trust Trump to exercise similar restraint? Thanks to Obama’s failure to get rid of the MCA, Trump may make good on his promise to disappear U.S. citizens.

Obama has vastly expanded Bush’s program of drone assassinations of political opponents to nasty American client states like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. His Tuesday “kill list” star chamber has issued hits against thousands of people; 98% of the victims have been hapless bystanders.

Could President Trump deploy drones against American citizens (or non-citizens) on American soil? Yes, he could, says Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder. Obama could have declared that he — and future presidents — did not have that power. Better still, he could have asked Congress to pass a law banning domestic drone killings. Instead, he went golfing.

From what we know of Trump’s likely cabinet appointments, the next few years promise to devolve into a dystopian nightmare of authoritarian repression the likes of which few Americans ever imagined possible. As we head into the maelstrom, it will be tempting to look back fondly upon the Obama years as a period of relative calm and liberalism.

But don’t forget the truth. Fascism under Trump will merely continue Obama’s fascism with a smiley face — a fascism that we let him get away with for far too long.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: FBI v. Apple Is Really About Edward Snowden

http://www.newsfoxes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/farooq.jpgThe fight between Apple and the FBI has been framed as an epic battle between big tech and big government. Apple, says the Obama Administration, is siding with “its business model and public brand marketing strategy” ahead of public safety. That’s not it, says Apple CEO Tim Cook. He says his company is “a staunch advocate for our customers’ privacy and personal safety.”

Donald Trump has weighed in on the controversy, ad-libbing a call for a boycott of Apple products including the iPhone, the device at the center of the debate. Two weeks ago, a federal court ordered Apple to write code that would allow the FBI to unlock an iPhone used by one of the gunmen in the San Bernadino mass shooting. Apple refused, saying the code could be used to unlock other iPhones as well, not just the one covered by the order. A Wall Street Journal report that the feds are currently going after a dozen or so iPhones in other cases seems to back up Apple’s argument.

What this is really about — but barely touched upon in corporate media — is Edward Snowden.

A few years ago, no one — left, right, libertarian — would have supported Apple’s refusal to cooperate with a federal investigation of a terrorist attack associated with a radical Islamist group, much less its decision to fight a court order to do so. If investigators hadn’t combed through the data on the phone used by Syed Farook before he slaughtered 14 people, it would have been seen as dereliction of duty. Obviously the authorities need to learn everything they can about Farook, such as whether he ever had direct communications with ISIS or if there were any coconspirators. Looking at evidence like that is what law enforcement is for.

Rather than face Uncle Sam alone, Apple’s defiance is being backed by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo — companies who suffered disastrous blows to their reputations, and billions of dollars in lost business, after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that they spent years voluntarily turning over their customers’ data to the spy agency in its drive to “hoover up” every email, phone call, text message and video communication on the planet, including those of Americans.

Most Americans tell pollsters Apple should play ball with the FBI. But Apple and its Silicon Valley allies aren’t banking on the popular vote. Their biggest customers are disproportionately well-off and liberal — and they don’t want government spooks looking at their personal or business information.

Another underreported aspect of this story is the same sort of interagency squabbling that contributed to the failure of counterterrorism officials to see the whole picture before 9/11, and was supposed to have been fixed by such Bush-era bureaucratic revamps as the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and bringing America’s 16 intelligence agencies under a single director.

When you stop to think about this, it’s insane.

The NSA, specifically chartered to intercept signals intelligence that originates overseas — that is specifically prohibited from gathering data that is sent from one American to another American — continues to do so, probably at an even greater degree of efficiency than the period between 2009 and 2013, the era documented by the Snowden revelations leaked to the news media. Ignoring the anger of the American people, Congress did nothing to rein in the NSA. So they continue to break the law, and violate our privacy, on a massive scale.

Meanwhile, the FBI — the agency that is legally authorized to eavesdrop on American citizens as part of investigations authorized by judicial warrants, can’t get into a terrorist’s smartphone…something everyone agrees it ought to be able to do.

The NSA almost certainly has the contents of Farook’s iPhone — and yours, and mine — on a server at its massive data farm in Bluffdale, Utah. Thanks to a court order and inside-the-Beltway turf battles, however, the NSA can’t/won’t turn them over to the FBI.

This is what happens when government treats citizens with contempt. Citizens return the favor.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Snowden,” a biography of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. “Snowden” is on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

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Sometimes You Feel Like Electing a Nut

Democrats ridicule Republicans for their top two presidential frontrunners, the blowhard Donald Trump and the somnolent ignoramus and proto-fascist Ben Carson. But when you stop to think about it, how is the outwardly cool calm and collected Barack "Kill List" Obama less nutty than Trump or Carson?

Democrats ridicule Republicans for their top two presidential frontrunners, the blowhard Donald Trump and the somnolent ignoramus and proto-fascist Ben Carson. But when you stop to think about it, how is the outwardly cool calm and collected Barack “Kill List” Obama less nutty than Trump or Carson?

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The NSA Loses in Court, but the Police State Rolls On

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Edward Snowden has been vindicated.

This week marks the first time that a court – a real court, not a sick joke of a kangaroo tribunal like the FISA court, which approves every government request and never hears from opponents – has ruled on the legality of one of the NSA’s spying programs against the American people.

Verdict: privacy 1, police state 0.

Yet the police state goes on. Which is what happens in, you know, a police state. The pigs always win.

A unanimous three-judge ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, states unequivocally that the Obama Administration’s interpretation of the USA Patriot Act is fatally flawed. Specifically, it says, Congress never intended for Section 215 to authorize the bulk interception and storage of telephony metadata of domestic phone calls: the calling number, the number called, the length of the call, the locations of both parties, and so on. In fact, the court noted, Congress never knew what the NSA was up to before Snowden spilled the beans.

On the surface, this is good news.

It will soon have been two years since Snowden leaked the NSA’s documents detailing numerous government efforts to sweep up every bit and byte of electronic communications that they possibly can — turning the United States into the Orwellian nightmare of 1984, where nothing is secret and everything can and will be used against you. Many Americans are already afraid to tell pollsters their opinions for fear of NSA eavesdropping.

One can only imagine how chilling the election of a neo-fascist right-winger (I’m talking to you, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker) as president would be. Not that I’m ready for Hillary “privacy for me, not for thee” Clinton to know all my secrets.

Until now, most action on the reform front has taken place abroad, especially in Europe, where concern about privacy online has led individuals as well as businesses to snub American Internet and technology companies, costing Silicon Valley billions of dollars, and accelerated construction of a European alternative to the American dominated “cloud.”

Here in the United States, the NSA continued with business as usual. As far as we know, the vast majority of the programs revealed by Snowden are still operational; there are no doubt many frightening new ones launched since 2013. Members of Congress were preparing to renew the disgusting Patriot Act this summer. One bright spot was the so-called USA Freedom Act, which purports to roll back bulk metadata collection, but privacy advocates say the legislation had been so watered down, and so tolerant of the NSA’s most excessive abuses, that it was just barely more than symbolic.

Like the Freedom Act, this ruling is largely symbolic.

The problem is, it’s not the last word. The federal government will certainly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take years before hearing the case. Even in the short run, the court didn’t slap the NSA with an injunction to halt its illegal collection of Americans’ metadata.

What’s particularly distressing is the fact that the court’s complaint is about the interpretation of the Patriot Act rather than its constitutionality. The Obama Administration’s interpretation of Section 215 “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program,” said the court ruling. However: “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously.”

Well, ain’t that peachy.

As a rule, courts are reluctant to annul laws passed by the legislative branch of government on the grounds of unconstitutionality. In the case of NSA spying on us, however, the harm to American democracy and society is so extravagant, and the failure of the system of checks and balances to rein in the abuses so spectacular, that the patriotic and legal duty of every judge is to do whatever he can or she can to put an end to this bastard once and for all.

It’s a sad testimony to the cowardice, willful blindness and lack of urgency of the political classes that the New York court kicked the can down the road, rather than declare the NSA’s metadata collection program a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Snowden

Publication Date: August 25, 2015

Order at Amazon!

As many as 1.4 million citizens with security clearance saw some or all of the same documents revealed by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Why did he, and no one else, decide to step forward and take on the risks associated with becoming a whistleblower and then a fugitive? Rall’s all-comic, full-color biography delves into Snowden’s early life and work experience, his personality, and the larger issues of privacy, surveys the new surveillance technologies being deployed against the American people, and the recent history of government intrusion. Rall describes Snowden’s political vision and hopes for the future. The book tells two stories: Snowden’s and a larger one that describes all of us on the threshold of tremendous technological upheaval and political change.

Snowden is a portrait of a brave young man standing up to the most powerful government in the world and, if not winning, at least reaching a stand-off, and in this way is an incitation to us all to measure our courage and listen to our consciences in asking ourselves what we might have done in his shoes.

Current Events/Biography, 2015
Seven Stories Press Paperback, 5″x7″, 224 pp., $16.95

To Order A Personally Signed Copy directly from Ted:


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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Two Stories the Same Day Show That the U.S. is Rotten to the Core

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Still think the United States is governed by decent people? That the system isn’t totally corrupt and obscenely unfair?

Two stories that broke April 23rd ought to wake you up.

Story 1: President Obama admitted that one of his Predator drones killed two aid workers, an American and an Italian, who were being held hostage by Al Qaeda in Pakistan. As The Guardian reports, “The lack of specificity [about the targets] suggests that despite a much-publicized 2013 policy change by Barack Obama restricting drone killings by, among other things, requiring ‘near certainty that the terrorist target is present,’ the U.S. continues to launch lethal operations without the necessity of knowing who specifically it seeks to kill, a practice that has come to be known as a ‘signature strike.'”

“Lack of specificity” is putting it mildly. According to a report by the group Reprieve, the U.S. targeted 41 “terrorists” — actually, enemies of the corrupt Yemeni and Pakistani regimes — with drones during 2014. Thanks to “lack of specificity,” a total of 1,150 people were killed. Which doesn’t even include the 41 targets, many of whom got away clean.

Obama’s hammy pretend grief was Shatner-worthy. Biting his lip in that sorry/not sorry Bill Clinton way, the president summed up mock sadness for an event that happened back in January. Come on, dude. You seriously expect us to believe you’ve been all weepy for the last three months, except for all those speeches and other public appearances in which you were, you know, laughing and cracking jokes?

Including, um, the same exact day when he pretend-sadded, when he yukked it up with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots? “That whole story got blown a little out of proportion,” he jibed. (Cuz: “deflate-gate.”) While sad. But laughing.

So. Confusing.

I swear, the right-wing racists are right to hate him. But they hate him for totally the wrong reasons.

Anyway, what took so long for the White House to admit they killed one of our best citizens? “It took weeks to correlate [the hostages’] reported deaths with the drone strikes,” The New York Times quoted White House officials. But in his prepared remarks, Obama said “capturing these terrorists was not possible” — thus the drone strike.

How stupid does the Administration think we are?

The fact that it is possible to find out who dies in a drone fact (albeit after the fact) indicates that there is reliable intelligence coming out of the targeted areas, presumably provided by local police and military sources. If there are cops and troops there who are friendly enough to give us information, then it obviously is possible to ask them to capture the targeted individuals.

Bottom line: the U.S. government is blowing up people with drones willy-nilly, without the slightest clue who they’re blowing up. Which, as political assassinations, are illegal. And which they specifically said was what they were no longer doing. Then they have the nerve to pretend to be sad about the completely avoidable consequences of their actions. They’re disgusting and gross and ought to be locked in prison forever.

Story 2: David Petraeus, former hotshot media-darling general of the Bush and early Obama years, received a slap on the wrist — probation plus a $100,000 fine — for improperly passing on classified military documents to unauthorized people and lying about it to federal agents when they questioned him about it.

Here we go again: more proof that, in the American justice system some people fly first-class while the rest of us go coach.

In this back-asswards world, people like Petraeus who ought to be held to the highest standard because they were entrusted with immense power and responsibility, walk free while low-ranking schlubs who committed the same crime get treated like Al Capone. Private Chelsea Manning, who released warlogs documenting U.S. war crimes in Iraq to Wikileaks, rots in prison for 35 years. Edward Snowden, the 31-year-old systems administrator for a private NSA outsourcing firm who revealed that the U.S. government is reading all our emails and listening to all our phone calls, faces life in prison.

Two years probation. Meanwhile, teachers who helped their students cheat on standardized tests got seven years in prison. To Petraeus, who went to work for a hedge fund, $100,000 is a nice tip for the caddy.

Adding insanity to insult is the fact that Petraeus’ motive for endangering national security was venal: he gave the documents to his girlfriend, who wrote his authorized biography. Manning and Snowden, heroes who in a sane society would receive ticker-tape parades and presidential medals of freedom, weren’t after glory. They wanted to inform the American people about atrocities committed in their name, and about wholesale violations of their basic freedoms, including the right to privacy.

Before he was caught and while he was sharing classified info with his gf, Petraeus had the gall to hypocritically pontificate about a CIA officer who disclosed sensitive information. Unlike Petraeus, the CIA guy got coach-class justice: 30 months in prison.

“Oaths do matter,” Petraeus pompously bloviated in 2012, “and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.”

If you’re a first-classer, the consequences are very small.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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NSA Bombshell: US Is Selling Americans’ Personal Data to Iran, Russia [exclusive]

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

aNewDomain, Moscow, 01.04.2015 — The National Security Agency is selling Americans’ personal data to private corporations in order to raise revenues for stretched federal coffers, according to a blockbuster report to be released by Second Look Media.

It turns out that Second Look, which is 50-percent owned by billionaire eBay founder Iranian-American Pierre Omidyar, is a 25-percent spinoff of First Look Media, known for transcribing NSA documents leaked by former NSA/CIA contractor Edward Snowden.

Second Look is scheduled to publish the details on April 1.

NSA bombshellThe program began during Barack Obama’s first term in office, when congressional Republicans began “cockblocking” Obama’s every move and denying even routine budget appropriations. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is reported to have suggested to the frustrated president that the government should consider “rolling big-data style, like they do in Silicon Valley” i.e., monetizing valuable personal information that is in the hands of its agencies and federal departments.

Attention naturally turned to the NSA, which methodically intercepts, stores and indexes every digital communication on earth, including those between American citizens. The communications include, but are not limited to, email, text messages, voice phone calls, cell phone metadata, faxes, bank wire transfers, and even telegraph, which is still used by remote train stations in Nevada and Utah. “If someone figures out a way to bring back the passenger pigeon, we’ll snag the sucker, Xerox its ass, and implant a chip in his brain just in case someone wants to use him to say something,” said former NSA director Michael Hayden in 2009, prior to his resignation.

According to sources, the NSA held secret online auctions on the so-called “darknet” to offer transcriptions, recordings, bank account numbers and even the sexual habits of Americans to the highest bidder, regardless of whether its country of origin has good relations with the United States.

Most of the gigantic data files ended up in relatively benign hands, such as an affiliate of the Brazilian social network Bazoo, which ran searches on Portuguese-sounding names in order to market spam email offering 35-percent discounts on Brazilian waxes.

However, the Russian energy giant Gazprom, which is closely affiliated with President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, allegedly purchased voice recordings of every phone call in the upper Midwest between February 2012 and January 2013. Although their intent can’t be known positively, analysts believe the Russians wanted to learn more about the fracking industry, both as a form of industrial espionage, and also in order to use shell companies to acquire drilling rights under the homes of registered Republicans.”

Obama administration officials speaking under condition of anonymity confirmed the basic details of this account, but deny that they did anything wrong. “First and foremost, we ran this past the lawyers. There’s a reason that they call people who live in the United States ‘Americans.’ That’s because they live in America. Anything that is in America belongs to America. In other words, people are just like dogs, cats, wild turkeys, worms, what have you – that’s the government’s property. That’s pretty much been the case ever since the Emancipation Proclamation.”

Bob Jenkins of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern about what he called a “novel” interpretation of constitutional law that he said “seems to contradict two centuries of legal precedent and 800 years of Anglo-American common law dating back to the Magna Carta.”

But the administration official says that the data is the president’s to sell, and he will do so as long as there is a huge federal deficit to pay off to China. Says the source, ‘Anyway, section 215(b) of the USA Patriot Act authorizes the president to do anything it takes in order to defeat Al Qaeda, and we won’t be able to take on the terrorists if we are too broke to buy any weapons.’ “

Speaking under condition of anonymity based on threats of this reporter, a representative of the NSA who may or may not work there said that the government takes care to sell American data only to private companies who “we know can pretty much be trusted.”

But that seems to be belied by a $14-million sale of DNA records belonging to Millennials and Generation Xers who make $38,000 to $54,000 a year to FarsiNet. After the sale was complete, the NSA was surprised to learn via Twitter that FarsiNet was, in fact, affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Still, the NSA has no plans to change the program as long as there is no reaction from the public. “We desperately need that extra spending money,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “For example, you know the $14 million everyone’s making such a fuss about? We used that to add a new wing to the NSA’s new data farm in Utah. And will use the data we store there to make another $140 million, and so on and so forth, until we can finance maybe a quarter of our next war.”

For aNewDomain, I’m Red Tall.

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