Guantanamo: The Model for an American Police State
posted by Keito
2012-09-28 10:45:14“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” ~ James Madison
'For most Americans, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay — once the topic of heated political debate by presidential hopeful Barack Obama but rarely talked about by the incumbent President Obama — has become a footnote in the government’s ongoing war on terror.
Yet for the approximately 167 detainees still being held in that godforsaken gulag, 86 of whom have been cleared for release yet continue to be imprisoned at the facility, Guantanamo Bay is a lesson in injustice, American-style. It is everything that those who founded America vigorously opposed: kidnapping, torture, dehumanizing treatment, indefinite detention, being “disappeared” with no access to family or friends, and little hope of help from the courts.
For Adnan Latif — a 30-something-year-old Yemeni native detained at Guantanamo for ten years without a trial, despite a court ruling ordering his release and repeated military clearances ordering his transfer — his cell became his tomb. Latif, who had repeatedly engaged in hunger strikes and suicide attempts while proclaiming his innocence, was found dead in his cell in Guantanamo Bay mere days before the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
If Guantanamo is the symbol of American injustice, Latif’s death is the realization of that injustice, the proclamation of how far we have strayed from the original vision of America as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom and hope for the world. Ten years after opening for business, Guantanamo Bay stands as a manifestation of America’s failure to abide by the rule of law and its founding principles in the post-9/11 era. As Baher Azmy notes in the New York Times, its defining features have been the denial of judicial oversight and its exclusion of lawyers. Making matters worse, “far from closing the prison camp as he promised, President Obama is steadily returning Guantanamo to the secretive and hopeless internment camp that he vilified as a candidate.”
Examples of torture in Guantanamo and other American black site prisons are widely known, including waterboarding, beatings, and sensory deprivation. What is less widely known is that most of those forcibly arrested and tortured in Guantanamo have had nothing to do with terrorist activities. Most prisoners in Gitmo, including Murat Kurnaz, a detainee for five years, were not captured on the “battlefield,” but rather kidnapped and sold to the American government by local tribesmen. Kurnaz fetched $3,000 as a result of American fliers distributed across Afghanistan promising poor Afghans “enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life” in return for prisoners. Kurnaz, who was punched in the gut, dunked under water, and hung from ceiling chains during his imprisonment, was eventually sent back to his native Germany on a C-17 military flight which cost American taxpayers over $1 million.
Lakhdar Boumediene was arrested in late 2001 while working as the director of a humanitarian aid clinic helping the victims of the Balkan conflicts. Despite having no evidence that he was tied to any terrorist activity, he was arrested and shipped to Guantanamo Bay and kept there without charge for seven years. Boumediene eventually challenged his detention. In 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that Guantanamo prisoners are guaranteed a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge their continued imprisonment.
Despite this ruling, indefinite detention is still the norm at Guantanamo. The Obama Administration shares the blame for this state of affairs. Having once promised to abolish Guantanamo, the president has now urged the U.S. Supreme Court to avoid reviewing Guantanamo detainees’ appeals. Incredibly, the Supreme Court has abided by this request, refusing to hear the appeals of any prisoners. As journalist Adam Serwer wrote for Mother Jones, “Gitmo detainees have now lost virtually every avenue – other than dying in detention – for leaving the detention camp.”
And die they do. The most recent detainee to “leave” Guantanamo was Adnan Latif, who spent most of his time at Guantanamo in solitary confinement with his hands in cuffs. He was recommended for transfer out of Guantanamo three times. However, Latif, along with 56 other Yemenis who have been cleared for release, continued to languish in the prison because the Obama Administration has placed an indefinite moratorium on transferring innocent Yemenis back to their native country.
What is the legacy of Guantanamo Bay? 171 men continue to languish there. The Bush torture program has been legitimized by the Obama administration, and indefinite detention has been codified as law. Guantanamo bleeds our coffers, costing $800,000 a year per detainee. And with a government that possesses the awesome power to indefinitely detain whomever it pleases, we are much, much less safe than we were 11 years ago.
Despite these obvious warning signs of a coming authoritarian state, a CNN poll from 2010 indicates that 60 percent of Americans would like Guantanamo to remain open. Yet what most Americans fail to realize, however, is that Guantanamo Bay is no different from every other aspect of America’s military empire, whether it be weaponry or military strategy, which has been tested against so-called “insurgents” abroad only to be brought home and used against American citizens. In this way, we are being conditioned to not only tolerate the government’s constant undermining of our freedoms but to actually condone the increasing assaults of our rights in the name of national security.
To put it more bluntly, we are being conditioned to live as prisoners in an Orwellian police state. Worse, we are being taught to enjoy our prison walls.
Encouraged by politicians and pundits to wade through life in a constant state of fear and apathy while being fed the bread and circuses of the corporate-entertainment complex, Americans have become accustomed to the illusion of security. In the process, we are finding ourselves subjected to a veritable arsenal of military firepower, government surveillance and battlefield tactics.
Such was the case with so-called “non-lethal” weapons of compliance — tear gas, tasers, sound cannons and barf beamers — all of which were first used on the battlefield before being deployed against civilians at home. Similarly, drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — were used exclusively by the military to carry out aerial surveillance and attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan only now to be authorized by Congress and President Obama for widespread use in American airspace.
To anyone connecting the dots, it all makes sense — the military drills carried out in major American cities, the VIPR inspections at train depots and bus stations, the SWAT team raids on unsuspecting homeowners, the Black Hawk helicopters patrolling American skies. All of these so-called training exercises habituate Americans to an environment in which the buzz of Black Hawk helicopters and the sight of armed forces rappelling onto buildings or crashing through doors is commonplace.
The enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in January 2012, which allows the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, only codifies this unraveling of our constitutional framework. Viewed in conjunction with the government’s increasing use of involuntary commitment laws to declare individuals — especially American military veterans — mentally ill and lock them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time, the NDAA appears even more menacing.
Throw in the profit-driven corporate incentive to jail Americans in private prisons, as well as the criminalizing of such relatively innocent activities as holding Bible studies in one’s home or sharing unpasteurized goat cheese with members of one’s community, and you have a 10-step blueprint for how to transform a republic into a police state without the populace cluing in until it’s too late.'
EFF: The Secrecy Must Be Stopped... Congress Members Probe USTR on the Confidential TPP Negotiations
posted by Keito
2012-09-28 10:39:15'The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) threatens to regulate and restrict the Internet in the name of enforcing intellectual property (IP) rights around the world, yet the public and civil society continue to be denied meaningful access to the official text and are even kept in the dark about what proposals countries are pushing in this powerful multilateral trade agreement. With users having sent over 80,000 messages to Congress asking them to demand transparency in the TPP using EFF's Action Center, Congress members have been urged into action to uncover the secrecy.
On September 20th, Representative Zoe Lofgren sent an additional follow-up letter to USTR, which EFF applauds. According to the letter, Rep. Lofgren, who has long been a strong advocate for digital rights and was a vocal opponent of SOPA, met with Ambassador Ron Kirk directly to discuss the TPP and her concerns over the lack of transparency in the process. The letter, which mentions that Ambassador Kirk told her he welcomed feedback on how to address the concerns, asks USTR to: balance TPP IP enforcement provisions with user privileges; diversify the policy perspectives on their Industry Trade Advisory Committee for IP; and be more transparent in its TPP negotiations overall.
Rep. Lofgren stated in her press release for the letter:
“TPP's IP provisions must not undermine the free expression of Internet users, the ability to share and create content online, the free and open character of the Internet, or the freedom of digital service providers to innovate. Lack of transparency and overbroad IP enforcement requirements have held back other international trade agreements in the recent past – these same issues are now undermining the results [USTR seeks] to achieve with TPP."
They have yet to hear back with a response from the USTR.
This is not Congress' first attempt to unveil TPP. As we have reported, Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Darrell Issa are currently working on gathering signatures from their colleagues in Congress to ask the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk to reveal what they are seeking in the TPP's IP chapter, specifically in relation to provisions that would impact the Internet and access to pharmaceutical drugs. And in June of this year, 130 Members of the House of Representatives sent a detailed letter to the USTR asserting Congress' required role in the trade negotiations, making specific requests as to how they could make the process democratic and transparent while emphasizing the ways in which it fails to be neither of those things. Two months later, the USTR responded [PDF] in a letter that did not address any of the specific issues raised by Congress members.
The USTR claims that at the outset of the TPP negotiations in 2009, the participating countries signed a confidentiality agreement. In the June letter from 130 US Representatives, they explicitly asked for "a copy of the confidentiality agreement and an explanation as to what role USTR or other governments played in crafting it." In the USTR's response letter they completely ignored this request.
However, the model confidentiality agreement that served as a base for the TPP negotiators is a public document, available at a page on the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. The model agreement lays out the rules of confidentiality for signatory countries over TPP draft texts, proposals, communications, and other documents relating to the negotiations over the agreement. It is not clear, however, whether the model mirrors the exact agreement USTR signed, and USTR is likely subject to internal confidentiality policies in addition to the agreement.
While the confidentiality “model letter" itself is extremely vague, it does contain some interesting parts:
It states that the negotiating texts, government proposals, emails, and other related documents can be "provided" to government officials.
It states that documents can be accessed by "persons outside government who participate in that government's domestic consultation process and who have a need to review or be advised of the information in these documents."
It holds that "all participants plan to hold these documents in confidence for four years after entry into force of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or if no agreement enters into force, for four years after the last round of negotiations."
It lays out the level of security needed to protect the confidentiality of the agreement, including that it may be kept in a "locked filing cabinet" or within a "secured building". Amusingly, the letter also assures that the documents "do not need to be stored in safes."
If in fact this letter parallels the provisions in the confidentiality agreement, these terms may be flexible enough to allow all government officials to have regular, easy access to the text. As of now however, elected members have not had access to view or comment on the text. Senator Wyden is a member of the Senate Finance Committee (which has jurisdiction over "reciprocal trade agreements; tariff and import quotas, and related matters thereto") and is Chair of its subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness. Neither he nor his staff, who have obtained proper security clearance, have been able to get access to material related to the TPP negotiations from the USTR.
Also unclear is how they make the determination as to whether "persons outside government" should be authorized to review the documents. Trade Advisory Committees (TACs) constitute 100's of individuals who are able to log in from their own computer to a platform to view and comment on the text of the official drafts of the agreement. If the language of the confidentiality agreement is as flexible as it is written in this model letter, it is questionable as to why all nations are bound to the level of confidentiality that is being enacted.
Ultimately, the USTR has an obligation to uphold the public interest. While they keep asserting that they are being as inclusive and transparent as possible in these negotiations, civil society and the public at large recognize that the process is far from embodying any principles of democratic rulemaking. We applaud Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Issa, and Senator Wyden for taking the lead as public representatives in standing up to demand an end to these secretive trade talks. Congress people need to know that breaking open the unnecessary confidentiality around the TPP is a priority, and that users are fed up with closed door tactics to restrict and regulate the Internet in the name of IP enforcement.
Even if you have already taken our Action Alert, please help us continue to send messages to our public representatives to make TPP transparency a political priority:'
Australia moves to buy $3b spy drone fleet
posted by Keito
2012-09-04 21:05:28'The Australian Defence Force is quietly resurrecting plans to buy seven huge intelligence and surveillance drones that could cost up to $3 billion.
The unmanned aerial vehicles will be used for maritime surveillance and intercepting asylum seeker boats.
The decision comes despite claims that the Royal Australian Air Force's top commanders have long opposed the acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles because they will put pilots out of a job and threaten RAAF culture.
The $200 million Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drone is the largest, most expensive unmanned aerial vehicle in the world today.
Its vast wingspan of 39.8 metres can lift the craft to 65,000 feet and stay airborne for 35 hours with a non-stop range of 16,000 kilometres – eclipsing the endurance of similar manned aircraft.
In 2004, the Howard government was so impressed with Global Hawk that plans were announced to buy a fleet of 12 of the spy drones for $1 billion.
But in 2009 the acquisition was cancelled by Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon, who was defence minister at the time.
In May 2010, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced a Coalition government would buy three Global Hawks.
Despite this erratic political flight path, the idea of Australian Global Hawks remained in bureaucratic mothballs until July this year, when the latest Defence Capability Plan was quietly released.
Buried in the document were plans to bring forward by three years the acquisition of "high altitude, long endurance" unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The RAAF now wants seven large UAVs flying by 2019.
The favoured option is a new, maritime surveillance version of the Global Hawk - the MQ4C Triton.
The estimated cost of the project is between $2 billion and $3 billion.
Triton had a shaky take-off in June 2012, when a demonstration version of the maritime drone crashed just three days before the official unveiling ceremony at Northrop Grumman's Californian factory.
A company spokesman insists the demonstrator that went down was an old, worn-out Global Hawk, bearing little resemblance to the new, improved Triton.
When it takes to the skies for the first time later this year, Triton will appear to be a slightly larger version of its cousin, Global Hawk.
However, leading American intelligence analyst and author Matthew Aid says they are two very different drones.
"Global Hawk was designed for pin-point imagery or eavesdropping on land targets, by over flight, or by flying obliquely up to 450 kilometres off an enemy’s coastline," he said.
"Triton was designed for broad area maritime surveillance – following ships from high altitude."
The US Navy expects to start flying the first of 68 Tritons on order by 2015.
Some will be based on the US territory of Guam to cover the Asia-Pacific region, while another detachment will fly out of Diego Garcia to monitor the Indian Ocean.
In March, the Washington Post reported that the US is also considering basing Global Hawk/Triton on Australia's Cocos Islands.
The US Navy claims a single Triton 24-hour surveillance mission can cover nearly 7 million square kilometres of ocean – identifying every vessel in one vast sweep of the ocean.
But Mr Aid remains unimpressed.
"Triton does not have anywhere near the range or payload capability of the Global Hawk, and from what I can gather its imaging sensors are nowhere near as good," he said.
The Royal Australian Air Force now wants Triton to support a new generation of manned maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A, which looks like a converted 737 airliner.
Together, these two systems will replace the RAAF's aging fleet of P3 Orions that have spent decades patrolling the vast expanse of ocean surrounding Australia - about 20 per cent of the world's sea surface.
Capable of being armed with both missiles and torpedos, the 8 P8 Poseidons already on order will also be capable of anti-submarine warfare.
But is Global Hawk/Triton worth the hefty price tag of at least $200 million each?'
Don’t Let Them Trade Away Our Internet Freedoms
posted by Keito
2012-08-29 20:24:36'The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) endangers the Internet and digital freedoms on par with ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA, and it does so in two significant ways: First, its intellectual property (IP) chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedoms and innovation, and second, the entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy. The TPP is a major threat because it will rewrite global rules on IP enforcement and restrict the public domain.
As of now, corporate lobbyists are the only ones who have been officially invited to contribute and access the negotiating text. The Bush administration initiated TPP negotiations back in 2008, but closed door sessions over this powerful multi-national trade agreement have continued under the Obama administration, led by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Governments are characterizing this as a free trade agreement, but its effects will go far beyond trade.
We are fighting back.
Activists, scholars, and individuals around the world are speaking out against the TPP’s onerous intellectual property chapter and the threat it poses to our digital freedoms. Americans and Canadians are protesting at every negotiation round; the Japanese are growing more disaffected; and demonstrations have also occurred in Malaysia, New Zealand, and Australia. Law professors from around the world and over 130 US representatives have raised alarm over the TPP in letters to Representative Ron Kirk, the head of the U.S. delegation.'
Check the article below to see how you can take action against this proposed legislation...
posted by Keito