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Trump's New Stance on NATO? - Sat, 28/01/2017 - 22:22
Trump’s New Stance on NATO?
by Stephen Lendman
Candidate Trump called it “obsolete,” saying the alliance needs reframing, focusing on combating ISIS and other terrorist threats, not targeting countries for regime change.
He suggested America might not defend certain NATO states if attacked, complained about America carrying too great a financial burden, many other members not paying their fair share.
Candidate Trump said one thing, as president apparently another, articulated Friday at a joint White House press conference by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, saying:
“On defense and security cooperation, we’re united in our recognition of NATO as the bulwark of our collective defense, and we reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance. We’re 100% behind NATO.”
Trump added “I agreed to continue my efforts to persuade my fellow European leaders to deliver on their commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense, so that the burden is more fairly shared.”
According to May, he privately expressed full support for NATO, despite earlier comments suggesting otherwise. Appointing the first general as US defense secretary since George Marshall under Harry Truman indicated support for the alliance he disparaged earlier.
It remains to be seen how he intends using it. Will he continue America’s interventionist policy instead of focusing on combating terrorism as he suggested on the stump?
Will he be a warrior president like his predecessors? Will he maintain Washington’s provocative global military footprint - especially in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Pacific?
Will he wind down America’s aggressive wars or continue them, maybe wage new ones? Will he work cooperatively with Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, and other independent leaders - or will his policies be confrontational?
Will he give peace a chance while prioritizing jobs creation, rebuilding the America’s infrastructure, and focusing on other vital domestic issues?
Saturday is his 9th day in office. Much about his agenda remains to be seen. His disturbing first week wasn’t encouraging. It’s cause for great concern about what’s coming next.
Separately, May said she extended an invitation from Queen Elizabeth to Trump and his wife Melania to make a state visit to Britain later this year. Trump accepted the invitation, according to May.
He began the joint press conference, saying “(t)he special relationship between our two countries has been one of the great forces for justice and for peace, and by the way, my mother was born in Scotland.”
The so-called “special relationship” has been responsible for much of the world’s misery during the post-WW II era, especially post-9/11.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Former Soviet Leader Says World Preparing for War - Sat, 28/01/2017 - 22:03
Former Soviet Leader Says World Preparing for War
by Stephen Lendman
Elder statesman, former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev will be age 86 in March.
In 2014, he overcame serious health issues, weeks earlier spoke publicly in Moscow, and continues expressing views on major world issues.
On January 26, Time magazine published his op-ed, expressing concern about world preparations for war, saying “no problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race.” 
“Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.The current situation is too dangerous.”
He cited US-led NATO’s provocative buildup along Russia’s borders. Heavy weapons more distant earlier are now at point-blank range.
While nations struggle to provide vital social services, military spending keeps increasing, weapons of mass destruction produced. Firepower from nuclear-powered submarines can “devastat(e) half a continent.”
“(M)issle defense systems…undermine strategic stability.” Belligerent posturing persists, media scoundrels a go-along echo chamber.
“It looks as if the world is preparing for war,” Gorbachev explained, a hugely dangerous situation. In the 1980s, Russia and America cooperated in reducing the threat of nuclear annihilation without compromising the security of either nation.
“In November 1985, at the first summit in Geneva, the leaders of the Soviet Union and the US declared: Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Our two nations will not seek military superiority. This statement was met with a sigh of relief worldwide.”
Russian officials attending a 1986 Politburo meeting agreed nuclear weapons should only be about preventing war. “(T)he ultimate goal should be a world without” these weapons of mass destruction.
Things are much different today, Gorbachev warned. Possible nuclear war “once again seems real. Relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now.” 
“The advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex are rubbing their hands.” Today’s environment could become the death throes of a world gone mad.
Top priority for global leaders is “preventing war, phasing out the arms race, and reducing weapons arsenals,” Gorbachev stressed.
“The goal should be to agree, not just on nuclear weapons levels and ceilings, but also on missile defense and strategic stability.”
“In (today’s) world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by” nations smashing and destroying each other.
Security Council members must take the initiative. “I propose that a Security Council meeting at the level of heads of state adopt a resolution stating that nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought,” said Gorbachev.
“I think the initiative to adopt such a resolution should come from Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin - the Presidents of two nations that hold over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenals and therefore bear a special responsibility.”
If a way isn’t agreed on to eliminate nuclear weapons, they’ll eliminate us.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

For Data Privacy Day, Play Privacy As A Team Sport - Sat, 28/01/2017 - 10:39

Protecting digital privacy is a job no one can do alone. While there are many steps you can take to protect your own privacy, the real protection comes when we recognize that privacy is a team sport. So as we celebrate Data Privacy Day on January 28, don’t just change your tools and behavior to protect your own privacy—encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to take action, too.

Don’t just install an end-to-end encrypted messaging app like Signal or WhatsApp. Encourage others to join you, too, so that you can all communicate securely. Beyond protecting just your communications, you’re building up a user base that can protect others who use encrypted, secure services and give them the shield of plausible deniability. Use of a small secure messaging app made for activists, for example, may be seen as a signal that someone is engaged in sensitive communications that require end-to-end encryption. But as a service's user base gets larger and more diverse, it's less likely that simply downloading and using it will indicate anything about a particular user's activities.

On WhatsApp in particular, don’t just change your back-up settings to prevent unencrypted cloud storage of your messages. Talk to your contacts about changing their settings, too. If any one participant in a conversation has cloud back-ups turned on, then copies of your conversations with them will be stored in the cloud unencrypted at rest.

The same applies to email service providers. If keeping your email communications away from large tech companies like Google or Yahoo is a concern, don’t just move your email to a different email provider or your own server. Encourage your contacts to do the same, too, otherwise your communications with contacts who use Gmail or Yahoo Mail will be exposed to the companies you may have been trying to avoid.

Don’t just encrypt your own device. Suggest full-disk encryption to your contacts and coworkers, too, so your files are safe after you share them.

Don’t just install Privacy Badger. Show it to your friends and family to download, too, so we can send a louder message together to advertisers demanding responsible ads that do not track users without consent.

Don’t just change your own social media settings and behavior. Talk with your friends about the potentially sensitive data you reveal about each other online. Even if you don’t have a social media account, or even if you untag yourself from posts, friends can still unintentionally identify you, report your location, and make their connections to you public. If you use Facebook for organizing, work with others to keep your Facebook groups private and secure.

Working together for privacy applies in offline situations, too. Don’t just prepare yourself and your own devices for a protest. Whether in the U.S. or internationally, share precautions with organizers and fellow protesters, too, and discuss ahead of time how you can safely document your event with powerful photos, videos, and other media.

Of course, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all privacy advice, and each individual should consider their own threat model when taking the steps listed above. But the more we share information and best practices, the more we can each fine-tune the ways we protect ourselves and each other. It can take a community of privacy-conscious users to protect the privacy of any one individual. Join us in celebrating Data Privacy Day and rallying your community around the privacy stakes we all share.

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Categories: Aggregated News

Putin/Trump Deal to Carve Up Syria? Not Likely! - Sat, 28/01/2017 - 03:03
Putin/Trump Deal to Carve Up Syria? Not Likely!
by Stephen Lendman
Israeli military intelligence-connected DEBKAfile (DF) suggested Putin and Trump struck a deal “to establish US, Russian and Turkish security zones in Syria…transfer(ing) military control of the country to those three powers.”
DF’s credibility blows hot and cold, at times best to take it with a grain of salt, suspect on this issue. It added Iran and Hezbollah would be required to leave Syria under the above scenario.
It makes no sense, Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah certain to oppose it. It’s hard imagining Russia agreeing. Throughout years of Obama’s war, Putin and Sergey Lavrov consistently expressed support for Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Assad insists on it as part of any conflict resolution agreement. So should every responsible leader. Russia is currently involved in helping Syria draft a new constitution, based on suggestions from Damascus, opposition groups and regional countries.
Its draft states, in part, that “the Syrian Republic is an independent democratic sovereign state, based on the principles of people and supremacy of law and equality and social unity and respect of the rights and the liberties of all citizens without any differentiation.”
It says Syrian sovereignty “is united, inviolable and indivisible.” Its territory is “inalienable.” Its state borders can only be changed by national referendum involving “all” its citizens.
It rejects war as a way “to resolve international conflicts.” It prohibits use of its military to suppress its own people. Assad as president and whoever succeeds him is head of state, elected by popular vote, permitted to serve a maximum two seven-year terms.
“The Constitution shall come into force on the day of its official publication following the results of (a nationwide) referendum.”
It says nothing about carving up the country into security zones controlled by Russia, America and Turkey. Any such move would destroy Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

The Best Way to "Knock Hell Out of ISIS" - Sat, 28/01/2017 - 02:50
The Best Way to “Knock Hell Out of ISIS”
by Stephen Lendman
On Thursday, Trump told Fox News “if we can get along with Russia that’s a great thing.”
“It’s good for Russia. It’s good for us. We go out together and knock the hell out of ISIS, because that’s a real sickness.”
Defeating ISIS and other terrorist groups begins by ending all support. Stop recruiting, arming, funding, training and directing their fighters. They can’t exist without foreign support except in very weak form easy to roll over and eliminate.
As long as America uses these groups as imperial foot soldiers, Trump’s talk is demagogic bluster.
Reportedly he’s drafting a presidential directive to hit ISIS harder, including use of heavily armed US forces on the ground along with airpower. 
Defense Secretary (“mad dog”) Mattis is working with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph (‘fighting Joe) Dunford in drafting a plan of action.
Numerous times Trump said he welcomed Putin’s support in combating ISIS. Both leaders will speak by phone on Saturday, their first conversation since Trump’s inauguration.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained the first discussion between both leaders “can hardly (be) expect(ed) (to cover) substantive contacts on all the issues on the agenda.”
He didn’t elaborate on what would be discussed. “So far, I don’t know,” he said. “Let’s wait for the conversation. It will depend on (what topics both) heads of state” wish to cover.
Peskov knows nothing about possible US plans to lift sanctions. Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said he and Putin will discuss a range of issues, including Moscow and Washington cooperating in combating terrorism. 
Trump earlier said “(w)ouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? I am all for it. In mid-January, he told the Wall Street Journal “if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things.”
He said meeting with Putin is “absolutely fine” with him. It’s likely a way’s off. Both leaders speaking on Saturday is a good thing, as Trump himself might say.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Everything Is Terrible But This Will Make You Feel Better (We Hope) - Sat, 28/01/2017 - 02:02
Everything Is Terrible But This Will Make You Feel Better (We Hope)Mary Alice CrimJanuary 27, 2017This week the Trump administration began a blitz of activities, appointments and directives that embrace racism, sexism, xenophobia and other forms of hatred. We need to hold on to the things that inspire us — and fuel ourselves for the long haul.
Categories: Aggregated News

Trump's Disturbing First Week in Office - Fri, 27/01/2017 - 22:49
Trump’s Disturbing First Week in Office
by Stephen Lendman
After responsibly pulling America out of the TPP, it’s been all down hill. His top priority should be do no harm, not America first.
Disturbing anti-China, anti-Iran saber rattling by him and key administration officials bodes ill if not curbed. 
Promising to cut regulations by 75% or more means eliminating vital public protections, freeing business to do what it pleases with little or no oversight.
Authorizing construction of Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline virtually assures major environmental damage to land, waterways and human health - based on the disastrous past history of these projects.
His war on Islam risks continuing the worst of Bush/Cheney/Obama horrors, including saying torture is OK with him, outrageously claiming it works, ignoring fundamental rule of law principles.
His ill-conceived great wall is a lunatic scheme, doomed to fail. Instead of turning skeptics to allies, he’s making more enemies.
Saying he’ll “absolutely do safe zones in Syria” risks direct confrontation with Russia - an illegal scheme without Damascus permission.
His proposal to impose a 20% import tax on Mexican products, if implemented, could start a trade war, especially if he targets China and other countries the same way.
Now comes word he’s preparing executive actions to cut UN funding by at least 40%, end it entirely for any UN agency or other international body doing the following:
  • recognizing Palestinian statehood, granting it full UN membership - what it should have had decades ago;

  • supporting abortion funding programs; or

  • circumventing sanctions on Iran and North Korea - illegally imposed except ones by the Security Council. On January 16, 2016, UN sanctions on Iran were lifted. SC ones on North Korea remain in force.

If information on his executive action is accurate, it also terminates funding for any organization “controlled or substantially influenced by any state that sponsors terrorism” or commits human rights violations.
America and its rogue allies are the leading perpetrators of these high crimes - what Trump, his administration officials, Congress and the Supreme Court won’t admit.
America funds 22% of the UN’s budget. Severely cutting its contribution would hamstring the world body, including its humanitarian operations.
Is cutting UN funding prelude to gutting remaining US social services, accelerating neoliberal harshness, making America more dystopian than already? 
Was Trump’s pledge about serving all Americans smoke and mirrors bluster? Is his real agenda serving business at the expense of the general welfare?
It’s way too early to draw conclusions based on seven days in office. Yet what he’s done and proposed so far gives great cause for concern.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Trump Considering 20% Import Tax on Mexican Products - Fri, 27/01/2017 - 22:36
Trump Considering 20% Import Tax on Mexican Products
by Stephen Lendman
He may have the same idea in mind for China, perhaps other countries, risking a potentially devastating trade war - the last thing America’s fragile economy needs.
Taxing Mexican imports appears to be Trump’s way of paying for his ill-conceived great wall. According to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, “(w)hen you look at the plan that’s taking shape now, using comprehensive tax reform as a means to tax imports from countries that we have a trade deficit (with) like Mexico.”
“If you tax that $50 billion at 20% of imports - which is by the way a practice that 160 other countries do - right now our country’s policy is to tax exports and let imports flow freely in, which is ridiculous.” 
“By doing it that way, we can do $10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall just through that mechanism alone. That’s really going to provide the funding.” 
Border taxes would mean higher prices for US consumers. Spicer claiming it’ll increase wages for American workers is pure nonsense. Taxes and wages are separate issues, unrelated to each other. Trump’s notion is just a proposal, not policy so far, other options being considered.
If instituted, affected countries will retaliate, a lose-lose proposition. According to National Retail Federation senior vice president for government relations David French, retail businesses will see huge tax increases, certain to be passed on to consumers.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto cancelled his scheduled White House visit next week over Trump insisting his government pay for the ill-conceived great wall.
Imposing a border tax further complicates relations. Spicer said lines of communication will be kept open. A future meeting between both leaders will be scheduled.
Nieto said he’s willing to work with Trump “to reach agreements that benefit both nations.” Millions of jobs are linked to bilateral trade.
Mexico is America’s third largest trade partner after Canada and China. Around 80% of its exports are for the US market. Anything disrupting trade hurts both countries, their economies and consumers.
Mexico’s economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo said his country will “mirror” actions by Washington. According to possible 2018 Mexican presidential candidate Margarita Zavala, wife of former president Felipe Calderon:
“When we are talking about building a wall, about deporting migrants, about eliminating sanctuary cities, about threatening to end a free-trade agreement, or to take away factories, we are really talking about causing human suffering.”
“And after today, without a doubt, it is very difficult to negotiate from behind a wall.”
Addressing a GOP policy retreat in Philadelphia yesterday, Trump said “(t)he president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting” next Tuesday. “Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless.”
Respect works both ways. It requires bilateral cooperation and fairness, polar opposite how America operates.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Mixed Signals from Washington on Torture - Fri, 27/01/2017 - 22:24
Mixed Signals from Washington on Torture
by Stephen Lendman
Trump’s Secretary of Defense James (“mad dog”) Mattis said it doesn’t work. His CIA director Mike Pompeo believes it does.
Trump said he’s OK with whatever they want, earlier indicating support for waterboarding (torture by any standard) and much worse - believing torture works despite clear evidence otherwise.
It’s used for control and punishment, not as an information obtaining practice. According to Politico, Mattis and Pompeo were “blindsided” by a draft executive order, calling for use of torture.
Bipartisan lawmakers expressed concern, failing to denounce torture and other forms of mistreatment under Bush/Cheney and Obama.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said “(i)t’s not a White House document,” adding he “ha(s) no idea where it came from.” Trump didn’t order it, he claimed. He hasn’t seen the draft as far as he knows.
It calls for the DNI to consider continued use of overseas CIA black sites, infamous for brutal torture. Its use breaches fundamental international, constitutional and US statute laws.
The order calls for maintaining Guantanamo as a prison for terrorist suspects captured abroad. It requires the defense secretary and other top national security officials to recommend whether enhanced interrogation techniques should be added to the Army Field Manual.
It says US laws should be obeyed. It’s unclear who wrote the draft order. Lawmakers from both parties issued statements denouncing it.
Ranking Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat Mark Warner (VA) said “any attempt by this administration to restart torture is absolutely unacceptable.”
“I intend to hold nominees, including Director Pompeo and Secretary Mattis, to their sworn testimony to follow the law, banning the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” He’ll hold incoming DNI former senator Dan Coats to the same standard.
An amendment to last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) banned torture, limiting interrogation techniques to what approved by the Army Field Manual.
On Thursday, at the GOP retreat in Philadelphia, Senator John Thune said “(w)ith respect to torture, that’s banned.” The 1984 UN Convention against Torture and other international laws prohibited it long ago - at all times, under all conditions, with no allowed exceptions for any reasons.
Separately, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced its doomsday clock to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight.
On January 26, it issued a statement, attributing the move to “the words of a single person: Donald Trump, the new President of the United States.”
It moved its clock less than a full minute for the first time in its history because he’s been president only for a few days.
It expressed concern over his wanting America’s nuclear arsenal expanded, his strident nationalism, his dismissiveness about climate change, his “intemperate statements,” and questionable appointments, potentially “ma(king) a bad international security situation worse.”
His actions during his first few days in office are great cause for concern. They signal more continuity than responsible change when the latter is so badly needed.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Tulsi Gabbard Truth-Telling v. CNN Big Lies on Syria - Fri, 27/01/2017 - 22:07
Tulsi Gabbard Truth-Telling v. CNN Big Lies on Syria
by Stephen Lendman
CNN is a longstanding cesspool of managed news misinformation and Big Lies on all issues mattering most.
Interviewed by Jake Tapper on January 25, her straight talk truth-telling exposed his Big Lies. She explained her “commitment is on ending this war that has caused so much suffering to these Syrian people, to these children, these families, many of whom” she met on a week-long visit.
Tapper lied claiming “Assad used chemical weapons on his own people” - a long ago discredited canard. US-backed terrorists alone used them. 
CNN and other media scoundrels disgracefully blame Assad for their high crimes, including massacring civilians with full US support and encouragement.
Gabbard: Syrians she met in Aleppo and Damascus asked “why is it that the United States, its allies and other countries are providing support, are providing arms to terrorist groups like al-Nusra, al Qaeda, Ahrar ash-Sham, ISIS, who are on the ground there raping, kidnapping, torturing and killing the Syrian people, children, men, women, people of all ages?”
“(W)hy is the United States and its allies supporting these terrorist groups who are destroying Syria…”
Tapper lied claiming Washington and its allies only support so-called moderate rebels.
Gabbard: “Every place that I went, every person that I spoke to, I asked this question to them, and without hesitation they said there are no moderate rebels. Who are these moderate rebels that people keep speaking of?”
They’re all terrorists, “trying to overthrow Assad. The Syrian people…know if President Assad is overthrown, then al Qaeda or a group like al Qaeda that has been killing Christians, killing people simply because of their religion, or because they won’t support their terror activities, they will take charge of all of Syria.”
“This is the reality that the people of Syria are facing on the ground and why they are pleading with us here in the United States to stop supporting these terrorist groups. Let the Syrian people themselves determine their future, not the United States, not some foreign country.”
Tapper cut the interview short. He had no credible response to Gabbard’s hard-hitting, truth-telling - based on her firsthand, fact-finding week-long visit to Syria and Lebanon, discussed in a previous article.
Unlike nearly all others in Washington, when it comes to Syria and US imperialism, she’s on the side of the angels.
What’s badly needed is lots more like her making US policy instead of the usual cast of characters doing so much harm to so many.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

California Databases Must Not Be Used to Target Immigrants and Muslims - Fri, 27/01/2017 - 09:45

The California State Legislature is now considering two bills that would build a database firewall to block the flow of personal information from state and local government to federal efforts to deport immigrants and register people based on their religion, ethnicity, or national origin. EFF supports both bills because they would prevent abuse of law enforcement and other government databases to target vulnerable communities.

The strongest way to protect civil liberties is to fight for privacy protections for all Californians, regardless of their national origin or immigration status. Please support S.B. 54 and S.B. 31 today.


Senate Bill 54, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, would prevent law enforcement agencies in California from sharing department databases or private information with the federal government for immigration enforcement. It would also reduce the amount of personal information that state agencies collect, use, and share about all Californians. Senate Bill 31, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, would prevent local and state government agencies from collecting data, sharing data, or using resources to participate in any program that would create a list or registry of people based on their religion, ethnicity, or national origin—a direct response to Pres. Trump’s call for a Muslim registry. S.B. 31 would also strictly limit law enforcement from collecting information on a person’s religion.

Each bill goes before a legislative committee on January 31.

Organizational supporters of these bills include the ACLU of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the California Immigrant Policy Center, the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

The Perils of Database Abuse of Immigrants and Muslims

Governments gather all manner of personal information from members of the public, often for seemingly benevolent purposes, and store it in databases. All too often, governments proceed to reuse that information in a manner that hurts these same people. Vulnerable subpopulations suffer most frequently from such database abuse.

The original sin at the dawn of our nation’s database era is the shameful use of stored personal information to round up and intern Japanese Americans during World War II. Specifically, the U.S. Census Bureau shared its supposedly confidential data about the names and addresses of Japanese Americans with the military officials in charge of internment. While the government initially gathered this information for a legitimate purpose, the government wrongfully diverted it to an illegitimate purpose.

Today, many immigrants and their allies fear that the Trump administration will abuse government databases to implement his plan to rapidly deport three million people. A ripe target is the federal database for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Under DACA, some 750,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors (often called “Dreamers”) gave their personal information to the federal government in exchange for deferred action from deportation. Now they fear the federal government will reuse the DACA database to find and deport them. Scores of civil rights organizations oppose such database abuse.

Pres. Trump also called for a Muslim registry. Such a database would be illegitimate and illegal at its inception. The Trump administration reportedly is considering the reinstatement of the infamous Bush-era NSEERS database of Muslim immigrants. Civil rights advocates oppose this registry, too.

State and local governments in California possess myriad databases that the Trump administration might try to use to locate and deport immigrants and to register Muslims. Many government agencies (including police, human services, and universities) gather and store a host of personal information (including names, addresses, and social security numbers) from vast numbers of people. Federal data miners could abuse these state and local databases to pursue immigrants and Muslims.

How S.B. 54 and S.B. 31 Would Build a Database Firewall

The time is now to batten down the hatches to prepare for the coming storm.

S.B. 54 would prohibit California law enforcement agencies (including state, local, and school police) from making their databases available to any entity for purposes of immigration enforcement. This ban includes databases maintained for agencies by private vendors. Any entity that obtains database access would be required to certify in writing that they will not use the database for immigration enforcement.

S.B. 54 would also limit how California police agencies gather and share personal information. Specifically, agencies would be barred from collecting information about people’s immigration status. They also would be barred from providing nonpublic personal information (such as home or work address) for immigration enforcement purposes. These rules would advance a data privacy best practice: government agencies should not collect or share personal information except to the extent strictly necessary to do their jobs.

Of equal importance, S.B. 54 would require every state agency in California (not just police) to overhaul their confidentiality policies and identify necessary changes to ensure  they do not collect any more personal information than they need to perform their duties or use or disclose it for any other purposes. Agencies would have six months to generate this review, and the California Attorney General would have three months to draw up model policies for contracts with private vendors. This bill would have an immediate effect on protecting immigrants and Muslims, and would also protect the privacy of all Californians.

S.B. 31, in turn, would prohibit all of California’s state and local agencies from providing personal information from their databases to the federal government for purposes of creating or enforcing a list, registry, or database based on religion, ethnicity, or national origin. Law enforcement also would be barred from collecting information on an individual’s religious beliefs or practices if there isn’t a clear nexus with a criminal investigation. Law enforcement agencies would still be allowed to collect religious information to provide special accommodations, such as religiously appropriate meals in a corrections facility.

In sum, these two bills would block federal efforts to commandeer state and local databases for purposes of deporting immigrants and registering Muslims. While EFF suggested ways to build the California database firewall even higher, we fully endorse the current bill as-is.

Next Steps

For many years, EFF has fought government use of cutting-edge technology to target immigrants. Among other things, we oppose biometric surveillance of immigrant communities, rapid DNA analyzers as a tool of immigration enforcement, and social media monitoring of citizenship applicants and foreign visitors. Likewise, we resist street-level surveillance, such as the broken CalGang database, which all too often has an unfair disparate impact against immigrant communities, as well racial, ethnic, and religious minorities.

In the wake of the Trump inauguration, EFF has redoubled its opposition to high-tech government attacks on our immigrant and Muslim friends and neighbors. The first step is to block database abuse by passing both of these bills.

Please join the coalition to protect our data and tell your lawmakers to support S.B. 54 and S.B. 31 today.

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Categories: Aggregated News

ABC News Interviews Trump - Fri, 27/01/2017 - 04:29
ABC News Interviews Trump
by Stephen Lendman
Trump took time off from authorizing executive actions and justifiable scoundrel media bashing to sit down with ABC News’ David Muir at the White House.
Admitting the enormity of his job, he said his responsibility is clear when “talking to the generals about problems in the world.”
They earned stars by being warriors, the more belligerent in multiple conflict theaters, the more they got, the more they want. They advise Trump on wars, lots of them, not peacemaking - not a formula for advancing in rank.
Trump stressed “bring(ing) jobs back to America, like I promised on the campaign trail,” he said. What’s gone isn’t likely coming back. His job ahead is changing the practice of offshoring by working with companies to create more good ones domestically, especially in manufacturing.
Asked about his ill-conceived great wall, he said Mexico will pay for it “in a form…which I will say…(W)e’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico.”
Not according to Mexican President Pena Nieto - in a nationally televised address, saying “I've said time and again; Mexico won’t pay for any wall.”
"I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us.”
He instructed all 50 Mexican consulates in America to aid his country’s immigrants in the US as needed. On Thursday, he cancelled his scheduled Washington visit next week, tweeting “(t)his morning we informed the White House that I will not attend scheduled work meeting for next Tuesday with @POTUS.”
Separately, he called Trump’s great wall “an offense to Mexico, (a) slap in the face, (a) monument of lies.” Strong stuff! Opposition leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged Nieto’s government to sue Washington at the UN for “human rights and racial discrimination” violations.
Trump: “We have to build the wall. We have to stop drugs from pouring in. We have to stop people from just pouring into our country. We have no idea where they're from. And I campaigned on the wall. And it’s very important. But that wall will cost us nothing.”
Fact: Great walls or other barriers won’t stop illicit drugs or people from “pouring into” America. 
Fact: US taxpayers will be stuck with the cost of building a monument to Trump along the 2,000-long mile border with Mexico - wasting billions of dollars vitally needed for healthcare, education and other social services.
Trump: “(W)hat I’m doing is good for the United States. It’s also going to be good for Mexico.”
Fact: Walls repressively divide. Sound policies unite, what’s sorely lacking from Washington.
According to Trump, planning on wall construction began, work to begin in months. “We’re gonna have a very solid border,” he stressed.
He claimed three to five million undocumented immigrants voted illegally, offering no evidence proving it. Plenty of evidence proves longstanding electoral fraud in America - dating at least from the 1824 “Corrupt Bargain,” depriving Andrew Jackson of the office he won, handed to John Quincy Adams.
Jackson got a second chance, becoming America’s seventh president in 1828, defeating Adams decisively, winning a second term in 1832.
It’s likely considerable electoral fraud occurred last November, not enough to deprive Trump from the office he won. Lots of evidence showed Hillary stole the Democrat party nomination from Sanders. He knew it, yet yielded without a whimper, supporting Hillary, instead of forthrightly denouncing her.
Trump plans an investigation to determine if electoral fraud occurred. “(W)e’re gonna find out,” he said.
Throughout the interview, Muir badgered him relentlessly, asking too many of the wrong questions. Nothing about Washington’s permanent war agenda. Nothing about its bloated military budget Trump wants increased.
Nothing about Washington serving its privileged class at the expense of most others. Nothing about protracted Main Street Depression conditions. Nothing about repressive police state laws.
Trump accused Muir and US media of “demeaning” him, noting they have a low approval rating among Americans. At CIA headquarters, he said “(t)hey are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” True indeed!
He suggested he’ll authorize torture as an interrogation method. Earlier he said he’d OK waterboarding and much worse. Yesterday, he said “we have to fight fire with fire,” claiming torture works, despite clear evidence showing otherwise.
If war secretary Mattis and CIA director Pompeo want torture, “it’s 100% OK with me,” he said. “Do I think it works? Absolutely” - a disturbing indication of what lies ahead, perhaps back to the future, repeating horrific Bush/Cheney/Obama abuses.
Trump denied his refugee policy constitutes a Muslim ban. Claiming it’s only for countries with a terrorist problem ignores its US creation. Resolving it requires ending support, no longer supplying these fighters with weapons, munitions, funding, training and direction.
Stop importing them from scores of countries. Stop using them as imperial foot soldiers. Fully cooperate with Russia in combating them.
“I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria” and surrounding areas, he said, with little further elaboration - a disturbing revelation, risking direct confrontation with Russia, depending on what he has in mind.
Days after his inauguration, policies he authorized by executive orders and memoranda give pause for concern - after a good start, straightaway pulling out of TPP, the right thing thing to do, an array of deplorable actions following, a troublesome sign to watch to see what comes next.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Mass Foggy Bottom Exodus - Fri, 27/01/2017 - 04:02
Mass Foggy Bottom Exodus
by Stephen Lendman
According to the Washington Post, incoming Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job just got tougher, saying:
“The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.”
Once confirmed, he’ll command a ship minus key crew members. His first order of business is replacing those departing - an inauspicious beginning, maybe prelude for turbulent times ahead if adversarial relations with Russia, China, Iran and other independent countries continue.
Leaving are under secretary for management Patrick Kennedy, assistant secretary for administration Joyce Anne Barr, assistant secretary for consular affairs Michele Bond, and office of foreign missions director Gentry Smith.
All are career foreign service officers. In addition, assistant secretary for diplomatic security Gregory Starr retired on January 20. Bureau of overseas building operations Lydia Muniz left the same day.
These officials are responsible for managing the State Department, its overseas posts and staff, WaPo explained. According to John Kerry’s chief of staff David Wade, “(i)t’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate.”
“Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”
These departures “are a big loss. They leave a big void. These are very difficult people to replace.”
What’s going on? Will the pattern repeat at other federal agencies? Is it part of a scheme to undermine Trump’s ability to govern effectively? Is it a shot across the bow, warning him against going his own way on key domestic and geopolitical policies?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Trump at War with Islam - Thu, 26/01/2017 - 22:56
Trump at War with Islam
by Stephen Lendman
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted “(b)ig day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among other things, we will build the wall.”
He also temporarily (likely indefinitely) banned Muslim immigration from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen on the phony pretext of preventing Islamic terrorist attacks - Judeo/Christian immigration from these countries permitted, clear state-sponsored racism.
No terrorist attacks occurred on US soil in modern memory. Ones attributed to Muslims were state-sponsored false flags, including 9/11.
America needs enemies to justify its imperial agenda. None exist, so they’re invented. Muslim Arabs are the nation’s enemy of choice, wrongfully portrayed as stereotypically violent, fanatical and dangerous.
Trump’s actions on border security and immigration enforcement wrongfully states undocumented “aliens…present a significant threat to national security and public safety.”
Separately, he said it’s not a blanket Muslim ban, falsely claiming “(y)ou’re looking at people that come in many cases with evil intentions. I don’t want that.” 
“They’re ISIS. They’re coming in under false pretense. I don’t want that…We are excluding certain countries but for others (including Afghanistan) we’ll have extreme vetting.”
“I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria,” he said - with little further elaboration. Anything interfering with Russian and Syrian operations against terrorists risks direct confrontation between the world’s two dominant nuclear powers.
Saying he’ll create “a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding regions in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third country resettlement” sounds ominously like what Hillary Clinton proposed, along with instituting a no-fly zone, an illegal scheme Russia won’t tolerate.
Commenting on Trump’s actions, Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Nihad Awad minced no words, saying “(t)hese orders are a disturbing confirmation of Islamophobic and un-American policy proposals made during the presidential election campaign.”
“Never before in our country’s history have we purposely, as a matter of policy, imposed a ban on immigrants or refugees on the basis of religion.”
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights president Wade Henderson explained “(a)ctions to build a wall around us, criminalize a religion, and to strike fear in the heart of immigrants make Trump’s America look more like a police state than (a) republic…”
Washington created and supports ISIS, al-Nusra and other terrorist groups, using their fighters as imperial foot soldiers. It’s unknown if Trump intends continuing what his predecessors began or going another way as his campaign rhetoric suggested.
In December 2015, he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” maintaining a ban “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” adding:
“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
There’s no mystery about what’s going on. As long as Washington and its rogue allies support these groups, violence will rage where they’re located.
Candidate Trump pledged to wage war on terrorism. Ending support for this scourge is the best way to do it. Otherwise, expect phony war and lots of it.
Separately, AP News said his administration is reviewing how it’ll wage war on terrorism, including using CIA black site torture prisons abroad - “according to a draft executive order obtained by the Associated Press.”
It orders “the Pentagon to send newly captured ‘enemy combatants’ to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, instead of closing the detention facility…”
It could continue Bush/Cheney/Obama administration horrors. It “instructs top national security officers to ‘recommend to the president whether to reinitiate a program of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States and whether such program should include the use of detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.’ “
It says US laws should be obeyed and rejects “torture.” CIA black sites aren’t known for kinder, gentler treatment. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment accomplish nothing. Victims say anything to stop pain.
While campaigning, Trump said he’d authorize waterboarding (torture) and a “hell of a lot worse.” If AP’s report is accurate, cruel and inhuman treatment may be part of his agenda - strictly prohibited by international law, automatically US law under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2).
The draft document AP obtained said Guantanamo remains “a critical tool in the fight against international jihadist terrorist groups who are engaged in armed conflict with the United States, its allies and its coalition partners.”
Candidate Trump promised to “load it up with some bad dudes.” His agenda is slowly unfolding. Targeting Muslims unfairly is a very disturbing sign, a policy vital to oppose.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Trump's Ill-Conceived Great Wall - Thu, 26/01/2017 - 22:42
Trump’s Ill-Conceived Great Wall
by Stephen Lendman
Fortress Israel reveals the delusion and folly of great wall protection, encircling the country irresponsibly, spending billions of dollars, escalating apartheid ruthlessness, accomplishing nothing except greater hostility between Arabs and Jews.
Trump’s proposed great wall along America’s southern border is ill-conceived. It risks harming relations with Mexico. 
It’s counterproductive, unlikely to stem the immigration tide. Desperate people, harmed by the ravages of NAFTA and other issues, will continue heading north. 
They’ll breach the great wall, tunnel under it, or travel by water to reach America’s west or gulf coasts - the way Middle East and North African refugees and asylum seekers reach Europe.
Trump saying “(a) nation without borders is not a nation. Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders” is demagogic bluster. His 10-point plan includes:
“1. Begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border, on day one. Mexico will pay for the wall.
2. End catch-and-release. Under a Trump administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.
3. Move criminal aliens out day one, in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement. We will terminate the Obama administration’s deadly, non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.
4. End sanctuary cities.
5. Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties. All immigration laws will be enforced - we will triple the number of ICE agents. Anyone who enters the US illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country.
6. Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.
7. Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported.
8. Ensure that a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system is fully implemented at all land, air, and sea ports.
9. Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet. Many immigrants come to the US illegally in search of jobs, even though federal law prohibits the employment of illegal immigrants.
10. Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.”
Separately saying “(t)he day is over when they can stay in our country and wreak havoc. We are going to get them out, and we’re going to get them out fast” is a declaration of war on Latino and Muslim immigrants, human beings deserving respect and compassion.
He wants 5,000 more Border Patrol agents (increasing their numbers to 26,000), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents tripled to 15,000 - money misspent, vitally needed for healthcare, education and other vital social services.
His executive order states his Homeland Security secretary “shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.”
It includes a detailed menu of what he wants accomplished. His actions against Latinos and Muslims assure making more enemies than friends. They’re ill-conceived, likely doomed to fail.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Against Imperial War on Syria - Thu, 26/01/2017 - 22:22
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Against Imperial War on Syria
by Stephen Lendman
If Washington had more Gabbards and less neocons, world peace might break out all over - polar opposite America’s longstanding permanent war agenda, humanity’s scourge.
On Wednesday, she issued a press release, calling for ending Washington’s “regime change war in Syria now.” She spent a week-long fact-finding visit to Damascus, Aleppo and Beirut, learning firsthand what’s been going on, so adversely affecting the lives and welfare of millions of devastated Syrians - victims of US imperial viciousness.
She met with refugees, opposition leaders, Lebanon’s president and prime minister, religious figures, humanitarian workers, students, small business owners and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, among others.
“My visit to Syria has made it abundantly clear: Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people,” she stressed.
“As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, ‘Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.’ I had no answer.”
“I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act.” 
“We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists - directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups.” 
“We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.”   
“From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the US has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.”
“The US must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The US and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war.”
In a separate commentary, she explained Syrians “desperately want peace…Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent.”
“There is no difference between (so-called) ‘moderate’ rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS - they are all the same,” they said…They cr(ied) out for the US and other countries to stop supporting those who are destroying Syria and her people.”
“I heard this message over and over again from those who have suffered and survived unspeakable horrors,” Gabbard said. 
“They asked that I share their voice with the world; frustrated voices which have not been heard due to the false, one-sided biased reports pushing a narrative that supports this regime change war at the expense of Syrian lives.”
Strong words, virtually unheard in Washington throughout six years of US naked aggression against a nation threatening no one, responsible for mass slaughter, vast destruction and unspeakable human misery - one of history’s great crimes.
Candidate Trump opposed US interventionism, said he wanted to combat terrorism, not topple foreign governments.
It’s put up or shut up time. Is he a man of his word or just another dirty politician - promising one thing, doing another?
Nothing is more important than ending America’s war on humanity - in Syria, elsewhere abroad, and right here at home against the nation’s most vulnerable.
Ending this scourge should be his top priority, along with working cooperatively with all nations, as well as pursuing equity and justice for everyone.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Racist Lunatics Run the Israeli Asylum - Thu, 26/01/2017 - 22:00
Racist Lunatics Run the Israeli Asylum
by Stephen Lendman
With Trump’s election, Netanyahu and likeminded extremists are free to do whatever they please - no matter how ruthless, lawless, or viciously undemocratic, and make no mistake. They intend taking full advantage.
Netanyahu called authorizing 2,500 new West Bank settlement units on Tuesday, a “taste” of things to come. “We are going to be doing many things differently from now on,” he roared.
Maybe he intends escalating slow-motion genocide against defenseless Palestinians. Nothing he does surprises, a world-class thug turned loose with full Trump backing.
Last Sunday, a Jerusalem planning committee approved construction of 566 housing units in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian part of the city being ethnically cleansed to accommodate greater numbers of Jews.
In its early days, the Trump administration failed to condemn announced settlement expansions on stolen Palestinian land. “We’re building and will continue to build, Netanyahu blustered.
Palestinians condemned newly announced construction, calling it “land theft and colonialism.” Peaceful conflict resolution looks more distant now than in recent memory - occupation harshness toughened with US approval.
On Tuesday, war minister Avigdor Lieberman previewed what may be coming, saying no “matter where the next conflict breaks out,” Israel will wage it “full strength” - code language for mercilessly, defenseless civilians harmed most in all Israeli wars of aggression, blockaded Gazans the prime target.
Lieberman criticized what he called the “over-involvement of world powers, especially Europe,” calling it “disrupting (and) complicat(ing) things.”
Lunatics running Israel want no one interfering in their ruthlessness. Media scoundrels largely ignore it. The world community does nothing to stop it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Fear Materialized: Border Agents Demand Social Media Data from Americans - Thu, 26/01/2017 - 14:42

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently filed complaints against U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for, in part, demanding social media information from Muslim American citizens returning home from traveling abroad. According to CAIR, CBP accessed public posts by demanding social media handles, and potentially accessed private posts by demanding cell phone passcodes and perusing social media apps. And border agents allegedly physically abused one man who refused to hand over his unlocked phone.

CBP recently began asking foreign visitors to the U.S. from Visa Waiver Countries for their social media identifiers. Last fall we filed our own comments opposing the policy, and joined two sets of coalition comments, one by the Center for Democracy & Technology and the other by the Brennan Center for Justice. Notably, CBP explained that it was only seeking publicly available social media data, “consistent with the privacy settings the applicant has set on the platforms.”

We raised concerns that the policy would be extended to cover Americans and private data. It appears our fears have come true far faster than we expected. Specifically, we wrote:

It would be a series of small steps for CBP to require all those seeking to enter the U.S.—both foreign visitors and U.S. citizens and residents returning home—to disclose their social media handles to investigate whether they might have become a threat to homeland security while abroad. Or CBP could subject both foreign visitors and U.S. persons to invasive device searches at ports of entry with the intent of easily accessing any and all cloud data; CBP could then access both public and private online data—not just social media content and contacts that may or may not be public (e.g., by perusing a smartphone’s Facebook app), but also other private communications and sensitive information such as health or financial status.

We believe that the CBP practices against U.S. citizens alleged by CAIR violate the Constitution. Searching through Americans’ social media data and personal devices intrudes upon both First and Fourth Amendment rights.

CBP’s 2009 policy on border searches of electronic devices is woefully out of date. It does not contemplate how accessing social media posts and other communications—whether public or private—creates chilling effects on freedom of speech, including the First Amendment right to speak anonymously, and the freedom of association.

Nor does the policy recognize the significant privacy invasions of accessing private social media data and other cloud content that is not publicly viewable. In claiming that its program of screening the social media accounts of Visa Waiver Program visitors does not bypass privacy settings, CBP is paying more heed to the rights of foreigners than American citizens.

Finally, the CBP policy does not address recent court decisions that limit the border search exception, which permits border agents to conduct “routine” searches without a warrant or individualized suspicion (contrary to the general Fourth Amendment rule requiring a warrant based on probable cause for government searches and seizures). These new legal rulings place greater Fourth Amendment restrictions on border searches of digital devices that contain highly personal information. 

As we recently explained:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in U.S. v. Cotterman (2013) held that border agents needed to have reasonable suspicion—somewhere between no suspicion and probable cause—before they could conduct a “forensic” search, aided by sophisticated software, of the defendant’s laptop….

The Supreme Court held in Riley v. California (2014) that the police may not invoke another exception to the warrant requirement, the search-incident-to-arrest exception, to search a cell phone possessed by an arrestee—instead, the government needs a probable cause warrant. The Court stated, “Our holding, of course, is not that the information on a cell phone is immune from search; it is instead that a warrant is generally required before such a search, even when a cell phone is seized incident to arrest.”

Although Riley was not a border search case, the Riley rule should apply at the border, too. Thus, CBP agents should be required to obtain a probable cause warrant before searching a cell phone or similar digital device.

Both Riley and Cotterman recognized that the weighty privacy interests in digital devices are even weightier when law enforcement officials use these devices to search cloud content. A digital device is not an ordinary “effect” akin to a piece of luggage or wallet, but rather is a portal into an individual’s entire life, much of which is online.

The Ninth Circuit wrote:

With the ubiquity of cloud computing, the government’s reach into private data becomes even more problematic. In the “cloud,” a user’s data, including the same kind of highly sensitive data one would have in “papers” at home, is held on remote servers rather than on the device itself. The digital device is a conduit to retrieving information from the cloud, akin to the key to a safe deposit box. Notably, although the virtual “safe deposit box” does not itself cross the border, it may appear as a seamless part of the digital device when presented at the border.

And the Supreme Court wrote:

To further complicate the scope of the privacy interests at stake, the data a user views on many modern cell phones may not in fact be stored on the device itself. Treating a cell phone as a container whose contents may be searched incident to an arrest is a bit strained as an initial matter…. But the analogy crumbles entirely when a cell phone is used to access data located elsewhere, at the tap of a screen. That is what cell phones, with increasing frequency, are designed to do by taking advantage of “cloud computing.” Cloud computing is the capacity of Internet-connected devices to display data stored on remote servers rather than on the device itself. Cell phone users often may not know whether particular information is stored on the device or in the cloud, and it generally makes little difference.

The Riley Court went on to state:

The United States concedes that the search incident to arrest exception may not be stretched to cover a search of files accessed remotely—that is, a search of files stored in the cloud…. Such a search would be like finding a key in a suspect’s pocket and arguing that it allowed law enforcement to unlock and search a house.

Thus, the border search exception also should not be “stretched to cover” social media or other cloud data, particularly that which is protected by privacy settings and thus not publicly viewable. In other words, a border search of a traveler’s cloud content is not “routine” and thus should not be allowed in the absence of individualized suspicion. Indeed, border agents should heed the final words of the unanimous Riley decision: “get a warrant.”

We hope CBP will fully and fairly investigate CAIR’s grave allegations and provide a public explanation. We also urge the agency to change its outdated policy on border searches of electronic devices to comport with recent developments in case law. Americans should not fear having their entire digital lives unreasonably exposed to the scrutiny of the federal government simply because they travel abroad.

Related Cases: United States v. Saboonchi
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Vote for EFF on CREDO's January Ballot - Thu, 26/01/2017 - 10:38

EFF is one of the three non-profits featured in CREDO's giving pool this month. If you're a CREDO customer or member of its action network, vote for EFF before the end of the month to help direct as much as $150,000 to support the defense of digital civil liberties!

Since its founding, CREDO members have raised more than $81 million for different charities. Each month, CREDO selects three groups to receive a portion of donations that the selected nonprofits then use to drive positive change. CREDO customers generate funds as they use paid services—like making phone calls or using credit cards—and members can vote on how to distribute donations among the selected charities. The more votes a group receives, the higher its share of that month's donations.

EFF is proud to stand alongside organizations that defend users' rights. Last fall, CREDO revealed that EFF had been representing them in a long legal battle over the constitutionality of national security letters (NSLs). The FBI has issued unknown numbers of NSL demands for companies' customer information without a warrant or court supervision; NSLs are typically accompanied by a gag order, making it difficult for the recipients to complain or resist. Until recently, such a gag prevented CREDO from disclosing it had received two NSLs in 2013. However, in March, a district court found that the FBI had failed to demonstrate the need for this particular gag, allowing CREDO to explain why the legal challenge is important to the company and its customers.

We are honored to be one of January's charities, and we hope you will vote for us. You can also support our work by spreading the word on Twitter and Facebook or just becoming an EFF member!

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Shadow Regulation Around the World - Thu, 26/01/2017 - 07:24
A Look at Copyright Enforcement Agreements

For close to 20 years, online copyright enforcement has taken place under a predictable set of legal rules, based around taking down allegedly infringing material in response to complaints from rights holders. In the United States, these rules are in Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and in Europe they are part of the E-Commerce Directive. In a nutshell, both sets of rules protect web platforms from liability for copyright infringement for material that they host, until they receive a formal notice about the claimed infringement from the copyright holder. This system is imperfect, and has resulted in many mistaken or bad faith takedowns. But as imperfect as the rules are, the fact that they are established by law at least means that they are pretty clear and well understood. That may be about to change.

Around the world, big media lobbyists are pushing for changes to the way copyright is enforced online, and they're focusing on new codes of conduct or industry agreements, rather than new laws. In particular, we have written in depth about Europe's plans to force platforms to enter into private agreements with copyright holders to filter files that users upload to the web, something that copyright holders would also like to see done in the United States. They're pushing this new upload filtering mandate through private agreements to avoid the long and divisive process of developing such requirements through laws debated in parliaments, regulations made on public record, or a balanced multi-stakeholder process.

The problem with this approach is that the more that we rely on private agreements to create a regime of content regulation, the less transparent and accountable that regime becomes. That's why EFF is highly skeptical of this backdoor approach to regulating, which we call Shadow Regulation. Copyright enforcement measures through Shadow Regulation are taking shape around the world. Here are a few examples:

  • Tracking peer to peer downloads
    The United Kingdom is about to launch a new industry program that requires participating ISPs to deliver educational emails to users who are accused of using their connection to share copyright infringing files. This program is the UK's equivalent of the United States' Copyright Alert System, and just like that system, it subjects users to intrusive tracking of their online behavior by the private agents of copyright holders. Unlike the U.S. system, the educational emails to users will not result in any action to slow or suspend the accounts of accused users. 
  • DNS blocking
    Since 2015, Portugal has had a code of voluntary enforcement for copyright infringement that requires ISPs to institute DNS-level blocking of allegedly copyright-infringing websites. No court order is required to verify the websites put forward for blocking, which are identified by copyright associations and rubber-stamped by Portugal's General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC). If this sounds a little like SOPA, you'd be right—and it's even worse because it wasn't passed by elected Portuguese lawmakers, but by a shadowy private agreement.
  • Privatized notice and takedown
    Numerous other countries including Belgium [PDF, French], Malaysia, and South Africa, have industry codes of conduct detailing procedures for the removal of allegedly unlawful content by Internet content hosts. In some cases this includes copyrighted material, and in other cases it's reserved only for other types of unlawful content (for example, Europol’s Internet Referral Unit focuses on the voluntary removal of terrorist material). Because these removals are negotiated under a private and notionally "voluntary" agreement, they are not subject to judicial review as removals ordered by a court would be.

These agreements, and others like them, have established a bad precedent, giving a veneer of respectability to the movement in Europe to establish upload filtering system through similar "voluntary" agreements. Indeed, the more we rely on such private agreements to construct our copyright enforcement system, the more difficult it becomes to push back against further such agreements and to demand that copyright enforcement take place within a predictable, balanced, and accountable legal framework.

Copyright enforcement online is already plenty tough already, and the level of infringement that remains poses no real threat to the record profits of the movie and music industries. Therefore, there's no need for new copyright enforcement measures at all—indeed, dealing with the problems of the enforcement measures that we already have is keeping EFF busy enough.

But, the reality is that proposals for more copyright enforcement measures are already on the table in Europe, and looming in the United States. If we have to face such new copyright enforcement proposals, we would much rather do this in a forum that is inclusive, balanced and accountable than by having these proposals emerge fully-formed from an impenetrable black box, negotiated by industry insiders and lobbyists. Shadow Regulation is never an appropriate mechanism for crafting new copyright enforcement rules. If new rules ever become necessary, their only legitimacy can come from the inclusion of user representatives and other affected stakeholders at every step of the process.

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