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A More Private Browsing Experience: Mozilla Ships Tracking Protection for Firefox - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 10:47

Good news for Firefox users sick of online trackers shadowing their every click: Mozilla just released Tracking Protection for use with their private browsing mode.  

As we wrote previously, we think it's important for users to be able to protect themselves from non-consensual online tracking. That's why we created Privacy Badger, which enforces Do Not Track around the Web. But it's also important for browser vendors to join in the fight to protect user privacy. Mozilla has done just that with today's announcement.

The new Tracking Protection option in Firefox uses Disconnect's blacklist to block requests to known trackers. Sometimes this will stop invisible 'tracking pixels' or calls to analytics engines. More noticeably it will also block ads that are trying to track you around the Web. While Firefox isn't trying to take a strong stance on Web ads, we agree with them that as long as these ads are invading user privacy for profit, they don't deserve to be displayed.

Ad blockers have often caused contention on the mobile phone ecosystem, and in fact Disconnect's own ad blocker was booted off of the Android app store earlier this year. So we're happy to see that this feature will be released with all versions of Firefox, including mobile versions, allowing users to protect their browsing no matter where they do it.

This is happening on the heels of Apple's support for ad blockers in iOS 9, so it seems that real solutions for addressing the problem of nonconsensual tracking are starting to gain momentum. With tracking blocking as a built-in functionality, it will reach more users. That means no more navigating through the large and confusing ecosystem of third party ad blockers. And that's a win for users.

This is a first step, but Mozilla could do more to be a leader in protecting user privacy. Right now, tracking protection is available only in private browsing mode. Ideally, Mozilla would also commit to protecting people outside of private browsing mode by turning on Tracking Protection for users that have enabled the Do Not Track setting in their browser. Mozilla could also join the Do Not Track coalition, and commit to not blocking the ads of those companies that agree to abide by Do Not Track.  

We look forward to seeing other browsers and mobile platforms follow in Firefox's footsteps. We hope that this will also send a strong message to advertisers—if you track users nonconsensually, you're not welcome on the Net.

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Consumer Review Freedom Act Would Protect Customers’ Right to Post Reviews - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 06:40
Businesses should not be able to restrict customers’ speech

Are there limits to what a company can put in a standard form contract, like a click-through agreement? Can a company take away its customers’ freedom of speech?

The Consumer Review Freedom Act, now pending in Congress (S.2044, H.R.2110), would limit several ways that companies attempt to keep their customers from criticizing them on the Internet.

The first route vendors take is adding clauses to their form contracts that say that customers can’t write negative reviews of them online. Every few months, stories about these clauses go through the news cycle. Perhaps you heard last year about Union Street Guest House, a hotel whose standard contract for weddings included a $500 fine for every negative review left by any member of the wedding party. After what sounds like a disastrous weekend, the hotel threatened to keep several thousands of dollars from the couple’s deposit on account of their guests’ reviews.

The other way that a company might use form contracts to silence its customers is a little more complicated. The company uses a clause that assigns the copyright for any review customers might write to the company. Then, when the company finds a review it doesn’t like, it files a DMCA notice to take the content down. A few years ago, we wrote about Medical Justice, a company that advised doctors to use that tactic. We thought then—and still think now—that it’s an offensive practice: not only does it unfairly seek to restrict patients’ freedom of speech; it does it through a gross misuse of copyright law. (There’s a great resource called Doctored Reviews with more information on these contracts, and advice for doctors on how to respond to negative reviews ethically.)

For any customer-vendor agreement that one party can’t realistically negotiate or make changes to, the CRFA would void any clause that:

  1. Restricts the customer’s ability to post a review of the vendor,
  2. Imposes a fee against customers for leaving negative reviews, or
  3. Transfers any intellectual property rights in a review to the vendor.

It would also make it illegal for businesses to extend contracts like that to their customers. The CRFA was originally introduced in the House last year, but it went nowhere. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing on it tomorrow.

Is the CRFA necessary?

Here’s the thing about these anti-review clauses: they’re probably already unenforceable. When the clauses are challenged, courts have reliably sided with the customer.

Here’s the other thing about them: for some reason, vendors keep using them.

Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court in New York City forced dentist Stacy Makhenevich to pay back the $110,000 she’d billed patients under the Medical Justice contract. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ordered a doctor’s office to quit using a “mutual agreement to maintain privacy.” Stunningly, the office had told patients that it would comply with its own confidentiality policies only if they signed an agreement not to post negative reviews.

In another high-profile case, a couple in Utah sued Internet retailer KlearGear over the $3,500 fine it had charged them for writing a negative review. The judge awarded them over $300,000. (Californians used the case as a call to arms to pass a state law similar to the CRFA.)

As for the Union Street Guest House, that case didn’t even need to go to court. The Internet’s attention was enough to get the hotel owners to back down. As you’d expect, whenever one of these stories blows up in the media, it provides for ample schadenfreude on the vendor’s Yelp profile.

The specifics of these cases vary, but they all turn on the legal concept of unconscionability. Under this doctrine, if you and I enter an agreement in which I have all of the control over the terms of the agreement—and the terms are overwhelmingly stacked against you or conceal an unfair surprise via fine print or legal jargon—those terms might not be enforceable.

So why do vendors keep using these agreements? Because they work, apparently. When presented with a legal-sounding threat from legitimate-seeming company, a lot of people give up. There are many stories that never make it to a courtroom or show up on the front page of Consumerist, stories of customers that hurried to pay that fine or delete that review. Because legal gray areas are fertile ground for legal bullying, the law should make it very clear that customers have every right to speak their mind, even if a company’s form contract says otherwise.

Does the CRFA go far enough?

We’re glad to see the CRFA back in Congress, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Think of how many times you’re asked to click “I agree” every day.

Those agreements certainly don’t offer consumers any meaningful way to negotiate. And they often intend to restrict all sorts of freedoms that many of us would not intentionally give up: the right to take a product apart and fix it yourself, for example; or the right to share your passwords with your family; or even the right to give a product away after you buy it or lend it to a friend.

Given that those click-through “agreements” offer users no opportunity to negotiate (and, let’s be honest, they almost always go unread), their more egregious anti-user terms shouldn’t pass the unconscionability test. But, like the no-bad-reviews clauses, they’ll keep showing up until courts and legislatures shut them down.

A good bill with a few bugs to fix

It’s great to see Congress addressing skeezy non-disparagement clauses. We think that with a few changes, the CRFA could be an excellent reform.

The greatest problem with the CRFA is a carveout that allows abusive form contracts to transfer ownership of the customer’s copyright in certain conditions. Both bills make an exception for “unlawful” speech. So under the law, a business could use a contract that transfers copyright of reviews if it asserts that those reviews are unlawful.

Businesses could effectively use this loophole to bypass the traditional protections that cover speech offenses, such as defamation, by using the more powerful censorship tools available to copyright owners. For example, the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown regime provides an easy way for a copyright owner to demand that an online platform remove user content, and the platform must comply if it wishes to maintain its safe harbor against potential copyright liability based on that user content. Plaintiffs alleging that speech is defamatory or otherwise harmful ordinarily have no such tool for censorship. If censorship is available as a remedy, it will come only after a judge hears the arguments.

Copyright law also comes with the potential for astronomical statutory damages that have no relation to any harm caused by infringement. The language about unlawful speech in the bills would seriously upset established law regarding speech offenses. We suspect this was unintentional, but it certainly should be removed before the bill moves forward.

Reading the House and Senate bills closely, we also found some potentially troubling language in the Senate version: “It shall be unlawful for a person to offer or enter into a form contract containing a provision described as void…” (emphasis added) That language could seemingly be used to penalize the individual consumer who entered into one of these contracts unknowingly. The House version is superior in that it makes it clear that individuals would not be punished for accepting a form contract, but it should clarify that someone who accepts a form contract on behalf of a business does not create liability for the business.

It’s time to kill unfair contracts

This is the second time the CRFA has been introduced in Congress. We’re glad to see it back: despite the problems with the bill, it’s great to see lawmakers addressing some of the most overtly unfair contract clauses.

The law should make it clear that user freedoms—like the ability to criticize a business—trump the words in a click-through “agreement.” We hope the CRFA is only the beginning of a broader effort to protect user freedoms from these one-sided contracts.

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Second Circuit Refuses to Stop NSA's Telephone Records Program - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 05:40

It’s been a rough few weeks for legal challenges to NSA surveillance. First, a federal district court in Maryland dismissed a lawsuit brought by the ACLU challenging the NSA’s Upstream surveillance of the Internet backbone. Then, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant the ACLU a preliminary injunction against the NSA’s bulk telephone records program, despite having previously found that the program was illegal. Essentially washing its hands of the case, the court refused to even consider the ACLU’s arguments that the phone records program is unconstitutional because the program will stop in its current form at the end of November. 

Back in May, the ACLU won a landmark victory when the Second Circuit declared the government’s interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act—the law used to justify the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ telephone records—was “unprecedented and unwarranted.” However, the court didn't rule on the constitutionality of the program and refused to grant a preliminary injunction at that time, deeming it “prudent to pause to allow an opportunity for debate in Congress that may (or may not) profoundly alter the legal landscape.” That debate resulted in the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which prohibits the use of Section 215 for bulk telephone records collection. The catch is that this section of USA Freedom does not go into effect until the end of this month, and in the meantime the government believes it can continue collecting telephone records in bulk. In June, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) agreed that it’s business as usual until then. 

This prompted the ACLU to renew its attempt to stop the illegal phone records program immediately. The group argued that it was not clear that Congress had intended for the program to continue and, more important, that it is unconstitutional. The Second Circuit did not reach the ACLU’s constitutional arguments in May because it ruled that the program was not authorized under Section 215, although it did note serious “constitutional concerns.” Now that the statute has been amended by USA Freedom, however, those concerns are unavoidable.

Or so it would seem. In the new ruling, the Second Circuit used the “vexing” nature of these constitutional questions as a reason to avoid deciding on a preliminary injunction:

We agree with the government that we ought not meddle with Congress’s considered decision regarding the transition away from bulk telephone metadata collection, and also find that addressing these issues at this time would not be a prudent use of judicial authority. We need not, and should not, decide such momentous constitutional issues based on a request for such narrow and temporary relief. To do so would take more time than the brief transition period remaining for the telephone metadata program, at which point, any ruling on the constitutionality of the demised program would be fruitless.

This is disappointing for several reasons. First, although appellate courts are notoriously slow, the ACLU’s motion for a preliminary injunction has been pending for nearly four months, and it is settled that cases presenting alleged harm to constitutional rights are among the most urgent. Second, the court’s conclusion that a constitutional analysis would be “fruitless” ignores that the government will retain the records it has already collected after the program ends, presenting an indefinite and ongoing harm. On this question, the appeals court remanded to the district court, which only delays the final adjudication of the question further. Finally, there is a value in deciding whether the collection of records is a violation of the Constitution. The old telephone records program may be ending, but the government raises the same arguments about why it is constitutional in many settings, and it’s time we had a definitive rule.

At EFF, we’ve had our own share of delay in our cases dealing with NSA surveillance. We were in court last month, arguing that our appeal in Jewel v. NSA should be go forward, and we’re still waiting for a hearing in First Unitarian v. NSA. We'll keep fighting.

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America's $43 Million Afghan Gas Station - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 02:40
America’s $43 Million Afghan Gas Station
by Stephen Lendman
Remember earlier reports about $7,600 coffee makers, $640 toilet seats, $436 dollar hammers and numerous other US military items, including hugely overpriced weapons systems, some for ones never used or don’t work.
The Pentagon is a notorious sinkhole of waste, fraud and abuse. Trillions of dollars are unaccounted for. Oversight is entirely lacking. America’s war machine does what it pleases.
Since 1996, the Defense Department was never held accountable for over $8.5 trillion. Sweetheart deals, bribes and kickbacks are commonplace. So is routine over-billing. 
DOD has a virtual blank check. Operations are rife with waste and fraud. Abuses go undiscovered for years, accountability entirely absent. Defense contractors cash in hugely - at taxpayers expense.
It doesn’t surprise to hear about another boondoggle - a US built Afghan natural gas station costing around $43 million. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said its cost was 140 times its real value.
So where did the extra money go? Millions of dollars were wasted and/or stolen. Pentagon officials refused to explain. Someone profited hugely at US taxpayer expense.
SIGAR called DOD’s compressed natural gas filling station “an ill-conceived $43 million” boondoggle. “Even considering security costs associated with construction and operation in Afghanistan, this level of expenditure appears gratuitous and extreme,” it said.
Special inspector general John Sopko called it an “outrageous waste of money that raises suspicions that there is something more there than just stupidity. (It smacks of outright) fraud…corruption (b)ut I cannot currently find out more about this because of the lack of cooperation.”
Ironically, Afghanistan is rich in undeveloped natural gas reserves. It’s heavily reliant on energy imports. The Downstream Gas Utilization project overseen by the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (TFBSO) aimed to change things.
After 14 years of US occupation, conditions are more deplorable than ever for the vast majority of Afghans, essentials to life denied or in too limited supply for millions.
The natural gas project was hugely ill-conceived, a likely scheme to steal millions, a few greedy hands profiting at expense of vital needs gone unmet.
SIGAR said a feasibility study would have shown Afghanistan lacks the needed distribution infrastructure to make a market for natural gas possible.
In 2011, Central Asian Engineering was awarded a $3 million contract anyway, ballooned to nearly $43 million by 2014. Sopko called the boondoggle “one of the worst examples of poor planning and just sheer stupidity.”
Awarding it reflects gross “mismanagement. (M)ore serious is the lack of DOD oversight and documentation.” When something exceeds expected costs by this amount, “(i)t raises suspicions.”
Congress appropriated over $820 for TFBSO from 2010 to 2014 - for economic development projects. SIGAR said DOD “hindered” its review process - responding to its requests for information, saying it lacked the “personnel expertise” to comply because a task force handling it was closed down last March.
Sopko scoffed at the comment, saying they claim “they can’t find anybody (knowledgeable) about a billion dollar program. I never encountered anything like this…It’s sort of like - poof! The program disappeared and with it all recollection and memory.”
What’s involved is grand theft. Senate Armed Services Committee member Claire McCaskill called SEGAR’s findings “outrageous.” 
“There are few things in this job that literally make my jaw drop,” she said. “But of all the examples of wasteful projects in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Pentagon began prior to our wartime contracting reforms, this genuinely shocked me. It’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country” costing tens of millions over budget.
McCaskill is a former Missouri state auditor. She demanded DOD provide her committee with a full accounting of the project - including officials associated with it and all related documents.
No matter what actions Congress takes, Pentagon waste, fraud and abuse continue out-of-control, trillions of dollars down a black hole of corruption and unaccountability.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Russia Beating America's Dirty Game in Syria - Wed, 04/11/2015 - 02:13
Russia Beating America’s Dirty Game in Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Syria’s war isn’t civil. Obama launched it in March 2011 to accomplish what Washington achieved in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya - mass slaughter, vast destruction, utter chaos, unspeakable human misery, replacing their independent governments with US-installed puppets, and preventing democratic rule.
After over four-and-a-half years of conflict, Assad remains overwhelmingly popular, he’s still in office, and with Russian air power his military is on the offensive, regaining lost territory, slow-going but moving in the right direction.
Wars aren’t won overnight, especially when the adversary is America, using ISIS and other takfiri terrorists as proxy foot soldiers, giving them air support, bombing Syrian infrastructure and other government targets.
Russia’s intervention changed everything, attacking ISIS and other terrorist elements effectively, destroying their weapons, munitions, command centers, underground bunkers, other facilities, and for many the will to keep fighting.
It takes more than air power to win wars. ISIS still controls vast amounts of Syrian territory. Assad’s military is sorely stretched. It takes time to achieve decisive breakthroughs. The reliable Saker web site cited an unnamed Russian expert estimating 85,000 soldiers lost since fighting began.
It takes time to train new recruits. Weapons lost need replacing. Russian air power gives Syria’s army important breathing room. It’s aided by Hezbollah forces and Iranian advisors.
Putin’s goals include defeating the scourge of terrorism, preventing its spread to Russia and Central Asia, keeping Syria intact, assuring its people alone decide who’ll lead them, and preventing America from controlling another regional country, isolating Iran, then initiating there what it’s done throughout the region.
His intervention accomplished much in a few short weeks, plenty more to come as Russian warplanes batter terrorist positions. Washington has no effective counter-strategy, little more than propaganda war so far.
US media noticed. On November 2, The New York Times headlined “New US-Backed Alliance to Counter ISIS Falters.”
Don’t expect Times reports to explain ISIS and other terrorist groups are US allies, proxy foot soldiers, trained by CIA operatives and special forces to kill with proficiency, commit gruesome atrocities, use chemical weapons blamed on Assad.
The Times report consists of explaining the Pentagon’s failed scheme to train nonexistent moderate rebels - along with saying evidence shows “forces in the (so-called anti-Assad) alliance…exist in name only…”
It’s unclear what fighters The Times means, citing “commander(s)” saying they lack enough of everything: heavy weapons, munitions, other supplies and equipment.
Unreported is how Russian air power destroyed much of what they had, losses mounting daily as sorties flown and targets struck batter them.
Washington Post editors expressed the same frustration, headlining “The US continues its scattered approach to Syria,” saying:
“A flurry of US actions on Syria in recent days not only failed to add up to a coherent strategy, but also did not even support one another.”
On Saturday, administration officials announced a new $100 million aid package for anti-Assad forces - after earlier admitting $500 million spent to train so-called good bad guys accomplished nothing.
Russia is besting America militarily and diplomatically, WaPo editors concluded.
Wall Street Journal editors headlined “Obama’s Syrian Illusions,” ludicrously claiming he “has Putin and Assad right where (he) wants them.”
“(W)e doubt Mr. Putin feels…beleaguered. (He) stabilized Mr. Assad’s (government) and let (his army) go on (the) offense…”
Journal editors support more aggressive US intervention, including balkanizing Syria by establishing illegal no-fly and safe ground zones.
America’s three leading broadsheets expressed a comment lament. Putin is winning the battle of Syria, including growing numbers of hearts and minds supporting his righteous mission.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Irresponsibly Calling Russia's Greatest Threat - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 21:45
Irresponsibly Calling Russia America’s Greatest Threat
by Stephen Lendman
Shameless fear-mongering along with bashing independent countries and their leaders is longstanding US practice. Russophobia rages out-of-control in America. Propaganda substitutes for hard truths. 
How many times have we heard US officials and go-along media irresponsibly accuse Putin of “Russian aggression,” “hybrid” or non-traditional warfare, “cyberwar,” invading Ukraine using (nonexistent) “little green men,” and engaging in other destabilizing, hostile acts.
Obama earlier called ebola, Russia and ISIS America’s greatest threats, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter saying Moscow is a “very, very significant threat,” and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph (“Fighting Joe”) Dunford calling Russia’s “behavior…alarming…an existential threat.”
Big Lies repeated ad nauseam get most people to believe them. Propaganda wars rage because they work. America is the greatest threat to world peace and stability, Russia its best hope to avoid the ravages of catastrophic global war, with weapons able to end life on earth.
Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley is another top US official to bash Russia. Last July, he told Senate Armed Services Committee members its activities are “very, very stressful.”
It’s “the only country on earth that retains a nuclear capability to destroy the United States, so it's an existential threat.” 
On Monday, addressing the Defense One summit in Washington, he repeated the baseless accusation - citing nonexistent Russian “aggressi(on), adversarial to the interests of the United States (as well as) aggressive” ground, air and naval exercises.
He failed to mention they’re all within its own territory, unlike US-led NATO ones provocatively near its borders.
“Russia bears close watching,” Milley warned. He urged contesting nonexistent “Russian aggression” with sanctions and NATO exercises - at the same working with Moscow on matters of mutual interest.
Former US Assistant Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs/Deputy NATO Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow runs things, Jens Stoltenberg a Pentagon-controlled front man.
Vershbow is extremely hawkish, calling Russia “more an enemy than partner.” On October 28, he addressed a NATO conference in Madrid, updating participants on the Alliance’s show of strength - including ongoing Trident Juncture exercises.
They’re NATO’s largest since 2002, involving around 35,000 troops, over 140 aircraft and 60 naval vessels from 30 participating countries - a major anti-Russian provocation, unrelated to protecting European security as claimed.
Vershbow repeated the long ago discredited Big Lie, claiming NATO and allied nations “face a newly assertive Russia.” Ignoring Washington’s coup, replacing democrats with fascists in Kiev, he called Ukraine a “wake-up call.”
“The world woke up to Russia’s actions when it took Crimea by force early last year, denying the actions of its ‘little green men’ every step of the way until the peninsula was firmly under its control,” he blustered like he’s done before.  
“Since then, it has supported separatist fighters in the east of Ukraine with men and with arms - including heavy weaponry - and now effectively controls those forces on the battlefield while implausibly denying that Russian forces are there, hiding in plain sight.”
Fact: The whole world knows Crimeans voted overwhelmingly on their own by referendum to rejoin Russia, correcting a long overdue historic mistake.
Fact: No forceful seizure occurred. No “little green men” invaded Ukraine. No Russian troops are there now. 
Fact: No evidence suggests Moscow supplied Donbass freedom fighters with heavy or other weapons. Hard facts show it continues supplying generous amounts of humanitarian aid - defying Washington and Kiev wanting it blocked.
Vershbow: “Moscow seems to think that Russia can only be secure if its neighbors are unstable, or even dismembered.”
Fact: America prioritizes endless wars of aggression, instability, and chaos globally. Russia is the greatest force for world peace, stability and mutual cooperation among all nations.
Vershbow: “Now Russia has turned its attention to Syria.  But rather than fighting ISIL alongside the US-led coalition of regional countries and NATO Allies, Russia is focussing its firepower on shoring up the position of its client, the regime of President Assad.”  
“In theory, Russia has an opportunity to help destroy ISIL and to end the war in Syria, bringing much needed stability to the region.  But in reality, its actions are only prolonging the war and exacerbating the suffering of its people.”
Fact: Syria is Obama’s war, US aggression against a nation threatening no others, using imported proxy terrorist foot soldiers.
Fact: America’s air campaigns in Syria and Iraq support ISIS and other takfiris, targeting infrastructure and other government targets in both countries, supplying heavy weapons to terrorists on the ground.
Fact: Russia is waging real war on ISIS and other terrorist groups. It supports Syria’s sovereign independence and right of its people to decide who’ll lead them.
Fact: Washington’s agenda is polar opposite, raping and destroying another country it wants dominion over, responsible for millions of deaths and vast destruction post-9/11 alone.
Vershbow lied saying US-dominated NATO’s “primary aim (is) collective defense.” Naked aggression is Washington’s main strategy to achieve unchallenged global dominance, ravaging one country after another, recklessly confronting Russia and China, risking nuclear war if not stopped.
Clearly, America is Russia's greatest threat. To his credit, Putin doesn't stoop to fear-mongering.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Israel's War on Truth - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 21:08
Israel’s War on Truth
by Stephen Lendman
Israel is an apartheid police state, waging war without mercy on fundamental freedoms - politically and belligerently, Palestinians targeted for not being Jews.
Human rights groups blasted new legislation its racist justice minister Ayelet (“little snakes”) Shaked introduced, requiring foreign-funded NGOs to mark their documents, indicating which “foreign entities” finance them, as well as wear badges identifying their backers when visiting the Knesset - the way Nazis forced Jews to wear Star of David patches on their clothing.
Failure to comply would result in a NIS 29,000 ($7,500) fine. The so-called Transparency Bill targets groups critical of Israeli policies. Shaklet said the measure will stop “the blatant intervention of foreign countries in the state of Israel’s affairs.”
Palestinian youth organization Baladna director Nadim Nashif said the bill “is only the most recent attempt to crack down on watchdogs,” groups documenting Israeli high crimes and other human rights abuses.
B’Tselem accused Shaked of “unprecedented…cynicism. (She) uses the word ‘transparency’ to camouflage her (real) objective: maligning and defaming organizations critical of the occupation and opposed to government policy.”
If Shaked and Netanyahu "are so concerned over foreign intervention in Israeli politics, they ought to start by waiving the millions (of dollars gotten) from foreign business tycoons they receive for the benefit of primary elections.”
They “constitute the overwhelming bulk of contributions received by the heads of the (fascist) Likud and Jewish Home parties.”
Shaked’s measure targets Israeli critics, human rights groups exposing its high crimes, aiming to discredit and delegitimize them - one step removed from banning them altogether, the way all fascist regimes operate.
On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers stormed Al-Huriya Radio’s offices, ransacked it, damaged and confiscated equipment, shut it down for a reported six months, perhaps altogether once the period expires.
Staff were warned their facility will be demolished if anyone enters it. Other Palestinian media operations are attacked the same way, at times arrests made, part of Israel’s war on truth.
On Monday, the Palestinian Ministry of Information-Government Media Office (GMO) released a report, documenting Israeli abuses against Palestinian journalists in October - resulting in one death, two arrests, two others harshly interrogated, and dozens injured.
A total of 89 attacks were documented (67 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 27 in Gaza) - incidents involving live fire, potentially lethal rubber/plastic-coated steel bullets, beatings and arrests - journalists targeted for doing their job, revealing information Israel wants suppressed, especially video evidence of its high crimes.
Israel’s war on Palestine continued Monday into Tuesday - more all-out brutality against a people wanting to live free, a right viciously denied them.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Chilling Video Shows Israeli Soldier Assassinating a Wounded Palestinian - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 04:06
Chilling Video Shows Israeli Soldier Assassinating a Wounded Palestinian
by Stephen Lendman
The self-styled world’s most moral army is a mobilized gang of assassins, ignoring fundamental rule of law principles, operating by their own exclusively, killing and brutalizing ruthlessly.
On October 31, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) showed video evidence of an Israeli soldier assassinating 23-year-old Jabal Johar as he lay wounded, bleeding, helpless on the ground.
Two days before the incident, Amnesty International said “Israeli forces have carried out a series of unlawful killings of Palestinians using intentional lethal force without justification.”
“Willful killings of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, over which all states can exercise universal jurisdiction” to prosecute offenders when nations where they reside can’t or fail to do so.
“Mahdi Mohtaseb, who is survived by four brothers, four sisters, and many grieving family and loved ones, joins the daily rising death toll of mostly Palestinian youths gunned down by Israeli forces and Israeli settlers since October 1st,” said ISM.
The video circulated online. Muhtasib was murdered close to the Salaymeh checkpoint in Hebron’s old city, a flashpoint area for numerous Israeli atrocities.
He lay helpless still moving his arms and legs. An Israeli soldier lethally shot him in the back at point blank range. ISM volunteers said he was supposed to meet his fiancee later that day (October 29).
An IDF spokesman lied, claiming the soldier foiled a stabbing attack. Video evidence showed otherwise. Daily cold blooded murders continue. Israel’s racist killing fields show no mercy.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

US Warplanes Kill Defecting ISIS Field Commanders - Tue, 03/11/2015 - 02:57

US Warplanes Kill Defecting ISIS Field Commanders
by Stephen Lendman
On Sunday, Fars News said US warplanes killed 27 ISIS field commanders - 26 in a bombing raid on a Raqqa, Syria command center, the sole survivor eliminated separately.
According to Fars, they “sought to break allegiance with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the…main (ISIS) ringleader, a move (looked on as) surprising (and) suspicious.”
It’s more evidence of ISIS in disarray since Russia’s Syrian air campaign began, as well as Washington unable to do anything about it.
Putin’s determination to smash ISIS has been devastatingly effective. The Pentagon has no counter-strategy able to challenge it.
Syrian ground forces liberated dozens of towns and villages since September 30. They continue making impressive gains.
John Kerry’s scheme in Vienna to get Russia to halt its air campaign, focus instead on diplomacy to resolve years of war (Obama’s proxy aggression), and agree to remove Assad failed.
Moscow wanted things resolved diplomatically all along. Washington obstructed its best efforts. Putin and Sergey Lavrov remain committed to restoring peace and stability politically. 
Defeating the scourge of terrorism comes first. Restoring normality and rebuilding Syria are impossible without eliminating the root cause of conflict on the ground. and getting the Obama administration to stop supporting it.
Iraqi intelligence knows Washington backs ISIS fighters. US helicopters airdrop them weapons, munitions and other supplies.
An unnamed Iraqi official told Fars: “The fighters present at the forefront of fighting against ISIL always see US helicopters flying over the (their) controlled areas and dropping weapons and urgent aids for them.”
They also transport their wounded to hospitals to ISIS controlled areas Syrian areas, Israel and other regional countries for treatment.
Iraqi parliamentary security and defense committee chief, Hakem al-Zameli, said his government has video evidence of its military downing a US and two UK aircraft carrying weapons for ISIS terrorists in Anbar province.
America is Iraq’s enemy in the battle to defeat ISIS and other takfiri terrorists. Russia is a reliable ally.
Separately, polls when taken in Syria indicate Assad is overwhelmingly popular. RT International cited a recent Le Figaro one showing at least 72% of Syrians want him remaining in office as president.
It understates his strong popular support, likely well over 80%. If a new open, free and fair election was held today, he’d win easily hands down.
It’s why Washington wants him eliminated otherwise - either stepping down voluntarily (not as long as he remains popular), or murdered like Saddam and Gaddafi, with a convenient stooge ready to step in and replace him.
In Vienna, John Kerry affirmed Washington’s position, saying “(t)here is no way (he) can unite and govern Syria.” No one can do it better. Syrians would reject a pretender, especially a foreign imposed one. 
Russia opposes US regime change plans. Syrians alone must decide who’ll lead them, free from foreign interference.
A Final Comment
The first twin casualties of war are truth and journalism. Censorship and Big Lies substitute. On Monday, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said claims about Russian air strikes killing civilians and hitting hospitals are false. 
No evidence suggests otherwise. Five out of six hospitals mentioned in fabricated media reports don’t exist. “We’ve checked this information. It turned out that a hospital is only present in the village Sarmin,” Konashenkov explained.
No medical facilities or staff are present in the other villages named. An October 31 photo of Sarmin hospital showed it undamaged. Propaganda reports claimed it was totally destroyed, killing 12 people. 
Russia’s devastating air campaign continues. In the last two days alone, 131 sorties were flown, striking 237 terrorist targets. They’re being systematically battered relentlessly. So are Washington’s hegemonic aims.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

New Book Rips Hillary Clinton - Mon, 02/11/2015 - 21:50
New Book Rips Hillary Clinton
by Stephen Lendman
Make no mistake. A Clinton presidency would be disastrous - the worst of all possible deplorable choices, none worthy of any public office, all aspirants beholden to wealth, power and privilege exclusively. 
Don’t let their duplicitous rhetoric fool you. They’re all cut out of the same cloth. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get public attention. Populist Green Party aspirant Jill Stein gets none. 
A Clinton presidency would be nightmarish for the vast majority of Americans and world peace. It’ll combine the worst of George Bush and Obama, an agenda of endless wars of aggression, maybe targeting Russia, China, and/or Iran, corporate favoritism, destroying social justice, and full-blown tyranny against resisters.
Doug Henwood is editor and publisher of the Left Business Observer. It covers “economics and politics in the broadest sense,” discussing what everyone needs to know, suppressed in mainstream reporting.
In November 2014, his Harpers article headlined “Stop Hillary! Vote no to a Clinton dynasty.” It bears repeating. A second Clinton presidency is the worst of all deplorable choices.
Her qualifications “boil down to this,” says Henwood. “She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn. It’s hard to find any substantive political argument in her favor.”
As first lady, she pushed husband Bill to bomb Belgrade in 1999. The rape of Yugoslavia raged throughout the 1990s, culminating with 78 days of lawless US-led NATO aggression from March 24 - June 10, 1999.
She encouraged her husband to end welfare for needy households. Vital Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) ended. The so-called Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation (PRWORA) followed, changing eligibility rules. 
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) set a five-year time limit - leaving millions of needy households (many with single mothers) on their own when aid was most needed.
As New York senator and Secretary of State, she “bec(ame) increasingly hawkish on foreign policy,” Henwood explained.
“What Hillary will deliver (as president) is more of the same. And that shouldn’t surprise us…American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it.”
No matter who’s elected president, business as usual always continues, hardening, not softening deplorably during Bill Clinton’s presidency, worse than ever post-9/11 under Bush II and Obama - certain to be worse than ever no matter who gets the top job next November, especially if it’s Hillary, a neocon, anti-populist war goddess.
Her self-proclaimed progressivism is pure fantasy. Her record as first lady and in public office exposes her real agenda, warranting condemnation, not praise.
She “has a long history of being economical with the truth,” said Henwood. As New York senator, “she voted for the Iraq war, and continued to defend it long after others had thrown in the towel.”
She echoed the Big Lies about Saddam’s nonexistent WMDs and ties to Al Qaeda. She cozied up to right-wing Republicans to ward off criticism. As Secretary of State, she was “less of a diplomat and more of a hawk,” Henwood explained.
She backed escalated war on Afghanistan, pushed for continued US military presence in Iraq, helped orchestrate lawless aggression on Libya, and urged Obama to bomb Syria without required Security Council authorization.
She was involved in developing “pivot to Asia” strategy. “Since leaving the State Department, (she) devoted herself to…Clinton, Inc…(a) fund-raising, favor-dispensing machine” together with husband Bill, said Henwood.
Their style is self-promotion, including “huge book advances and fat speaking fees… And with an eye to the presidency, (she) kept up her line of neocon patter, while carefully separating herself from Obama.”
She deplorably supports Netanyahu’s high crimes - from naked aggression on Gaza to current war throughout the Territories. Palestinian bloodshed and horrific suffering are of no consequence. Israeli imperial interests alone matter.
Henwood concluded his lengthy article, saying “Eight years of Hill? Four, even? To borrow her anti-McCain jab from the 2008 Democratic convention: No way, no how!”
His new book titled “My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency” covers in greater detail what his article discussed. The cover shows her hawkish image, pointing a gun with her arm outstretched.
Her agenda is pure evil, an anti-populist neocon war goddess corporate shill, pretending otherwise. 
With Biden out as a potential candidate, she looks like a shoe-in Democrat nominee, despite all the exposed baggage about her. WW III looks increasingly likely with her in the White House.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Israeli State Terror Rages - Mon, 02/11/2015 - 19:36
Israeli State Terror Rages
by Stephen Lendman
Palestine is a war zone, pitting an Israeli aggressor against millions of defenseless Palestinians. State-sponsored terror continues unabated.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) reported at least 2,617 Palestinians shot with live fire or potentially lethal rubber or plastic coated steel bullets in October, used indiscriminately - around 760 struck with live fire, 1,857 with rubber bullets often causing injuries, some serious or fatal.
Another 5,400 needed treatment for toxic tear gas inhalation. An 8-month-old infant was suffocated to death from exposure. Through Sunday, 72 Palestinians were murdered in cold blood, around 8,300 injured.
Video evidence in some cases showed premeditated assassinations, knives then planted beside victims to claim attempted stabbing incidents - Big Lies blaming them for Israeli cold blooded murder.
October was the deadliest month in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the Second Intifada - from September 2000 to February 2005.
Its horrific toll included:
  • 4,166 Palestinians killed, including 886 children and 271 women;

  • 554 extra-judicial assassinations, including 253 bystanders;

  • 3,530 Palestinians disabled, maimed, or otherwise horrifically injured;

  • 8,600 imprisoned, including 288 children and 115 women;

  • 576 students killed, including 199 university-level ones and 32 academics;

  • another 4,713 students injured and 1,389 detained;

  • 2,329,659 dunums of land confiscated;

  • another 73,613 dunums razed plus 1,355,290 uprooted trees; and

  • 7,761 demolished homes plus 93,842 others damaged.

Conditions are much worse now under Netanyahu than then under Sharon. Whether years of committed resistance met by Israeli atrocities lie ahead remain to be seen.
Extreme brutality, including extrajudicial assassinations, reflect official Israeli policy - with full support and encouragement from Washington, generously funding its killing machine, partnering in its wars of aggression.
Ramallah-based Birzeit University Political Science Professor Saeed Nimer told Press TV Palestinians are being “killed just on suspicion and without threatening even the Israeli soldiers.”
“They think if they face the Palestinians with more aggression that will bring down the Intifada while it is to the contrary.” 
“The more killing every day by the Israelis and the more atrocities by the Israeli occupation, will bring the Palestinians even more and more and aggravate the Palestinians and give them the ability to fight back against the Israeli occupation.”
“We know the Israelis do not want peace…They left the Palestinians with nothing…Palestinian factions are supporting the Intifada but it is quite clear that on the streets the youngsters are managing themselves so far, and we cannot see that there is a clear leadership…in a political way.”
A combination of justifiable pent up anger against a ruthless occupier, spontaneity, and young people wanting freedom they’re denied drives the resistance.
It’s heroic by any standard - met by Israeli viciousness continuing into November, another Palestinian death reported on Sunday, one more on Monday so far, the total now 74.
Eight Israeli deaths are known, the last one on October 18 - only two from stabbing incidents. Daily claims of knife wielding Palestinians are Big Lies, blaming victims for Israeli high crimes.
Overnight Saturday, soldiers stormed Qusra village south of Nablus, invaded Mayor Hussein Abu Reida’s home, ransacked it, then arrested him and his son, Tariq.
Palestinian officials often are arrested and imprisoned for belonging to the wrong political parties. On October 20, Hamas affiliated lawmaker Hassan Youssef was arrested at home in a pre-dawn raid.
Four PLC members are currently imprisoned, all for political reasons, including Khalida Jarrar, targeted for her courageous activism. A previous article discussed her persecution.
The Addameer prisoner support group called her arrest and imprisonment “vengeful, arbitrary and political, with an aim to punish her for her political opinions and activism for Palestinian human rights.”
One-sided Israeli media reports feature daily fabricated stabbing incidents, including sensationalist commentaries like from right-wing columnist David Horowitz saying to Abbas “you need to tell (your people) to stop stabbing us.”
Not a word about premeditated assassinations of Palestinians threatening no one - legitimately resisting a brutal occupier. Nothing about indiscriminate use of live fire, potentially lethal rubber bullets and toxic tear gas, as well as Palestinians being bludgeoned by batons and rifle butts.
Israel is a ruthless apartheid regime, Palestinians on their own, heroically struggling for freedom, deserving universal support.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Israel Murdering Unarmed "Knife Wielding" Palestinians Daily - Mon, 02/11/2015 - 02:41
Israel Murdering Unarmed “Knife Wielding” Palestinians Daily
by Stephen Lendman
Israel’s endless war on Palestine continues unabated - pitting one of the world’s most powerful militaries against defenseless youths, children, women and others joining their liberating struggle. 
State terrorism rages against courageous freedom fighters, an apartheid rogue state operating mercilessly, victims blamed for its high crimes.
On Saturday, another Palestinian youth died, murdered by Israel in cold blood, alleging another stabbing attempt, fabricated like most others - during what Israeli authorities called a “violent riot,” what Palestinians call resisting tyranny. They alone were injured during the incident, no Israelis.
Palestinian medics were blocked at gunpoint from aiding the victim, forced to leave. A witness told Maan News he saw multiple live rounds fired at a “young man…far from the main street.”
He threatened no one. Soldiers removed his body to an unknown location. Journalists witnessing what happened were assaulted, ordered out of the area. 
As of Sunday morning local time, the Palestinian death toll stands at 72, including 12 children, two infants and a pregnant woman, other female fatalities included in the overall total - everyone victimized by Israeli viciousness.
Scores more resistance victims are being crammed into  overcrowded Israeli prisons, already filled with thousands of Palestinian political prisoners.
Human rights groups condemned Israel’s “shoot-to-kill” policy, adopted by Netanyahu security cabinet officials in September. Palestinian freedom fighters are being ruthlessly gunned down in cold blood.
Others are being beaten and arbitrarily arrested, guilty of protesting for freedom. East Jerusalem neighborhoods are blockaded - no one let in or out without authorization and intrusive searches.
Open warfare against defenseless civilians is virtually ignored by Western officials, one-sidedly supporting Israeli viciousness, mindless of how many Palestinians die, how many others suffer horrifically.
Haaretz shamelessly published former Israeli defense minister/US ambassador Moshe Arens’ Big Lie, rubbish calling Palestinian “violence” another example of “worldwide Islamic terror,” adding “terrorists cannot be appeased’ - outrageously blaming victims for state-sponsored high crimes.
Israeli media have been disgracefully one-sided throughout weeks of state-sponsored brutality. Most everything they report lacks credibility, mimicking US media scoundrels.
Virtually claiming all Palestinian youths are “knife wielding terrorists.” Brave Israeli soldiers murdering defenseless protesters are national heroes - decades of brutal occupation harshness entirely ignored, along with the right of long-oppressed people to live free from apartheid ruthlessness.
Washington’s partnership with Israel is the root cause of regional violence and instability - oppressive Israeli occupation harshness responsible for ongoing heroic resistance. We’re all Palestinians in a common struggle for freedom.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

NYT Editors Support US Hegemony Over Chinese Waters - Mon, 02/11/2015 - 01:36
NYT Editors Support US Hegemony over Chinese Waters
by Stephen Lendman
The Times is a voice of empire, ignoring international, constitutional and US statute laws, one-sidedly supporting America’s hegemonic aim for unchallenged global dominance - no matter the cost in endless carnage and human suffering.
On October 30, its editors headlined “America Challenges Beijing’s Ambitions in the South China Sea,” offensively saying US policy “consider(s) freedom of navigation a vital national interest,” ignoring the Pentagon saying its warships will enter Chinese waters freely - a dangerous provocation risking direct confrontation.
China is within its rights to challenge any vessel entering its waters without permission. Not according to Times editors, claiming “Beijing has been trying to rewrite the rules” of free navigation. They apply only to international waters, not sovereign areas of any country.
America considers all global waters its own. China justifiably considers Nansha (Spratly) as well as three other South China Sea archipelago islands and surrounding waters its historical sovereign territory - no different from America claiming Mexico Gulf, east and west coast waters its own.
An unnamed Pentagon official said US patrols will enter Chinese waters freely. Expect Beijing to respond appropriately.
On October 29, Washington got the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to rule in its favor - in response to US officials getting the Philippines to file suit in 2013 over alleged disputed South China Sea waters. Hearings will follow.
Beijing accused Manilla of “a political provocation under the cloak of law.” The Washington-based law firm Foley Hoag represents the Philippine government.
China claims a historical right to Nansha (Spratly), Dongsha (Patras), Xisha (Paracel) and Zhongsha archipelago islands, as well as surrounding waters. It rejects the PCA ruling, pressured by Washington, a provocative act fooling no one.
Beijing responded sharply to its ruling, its Foreign Ministry saying “China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters, (calling PCA’s action) a political provocation under the cloak of law.” 
“It is in essence not an effort to settle disputes but an attempt to negate China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.” PCA has “no jurisdiction” to act.
Along with Washington and the Philippines, it accused the court of “abus(ing) relevant procedures and obstinately forc(ing) ahead with the arbitration, and as a result, severely violat(ing) the legitimate rights that China enjoys as a State Party to the UNCLOS (UN Law of the Sea), completely deviat(ing) from the purposes and objectives of the UNCLOS, and erod(ing) (its) integrity and authority…”
Beijing rejects its ruling and any to follow. Last week, Chinese Admiral Wu Shengli warned Washington in no uncertain terms, saying:
“If the United States continues with these kinds of dangerous, provocative acts, there could well be a seriously pressing situation between frontline forces from both sides on the sea and in the air, or even a minor incident that sparks war.”
Times editors reject China’s sovereign rights, supporting Washington’s reckless Asia pivot, asserting its right to dominate territory not its own, expanding its military footprint aggressively.
It’s risking direct confrontation on two fronts:
  • Russia in Eastern Europe with hostile military exercises along with deploying increasing numbers of NATO troops belligerently near its borders; and

  • China in its own waters provocatively - both actions hostile belligerent acts, risking nuclear war able to end life on earth.

Times editors ignored what demands featuring, instead accused China of violating “its commitments under international law,” a reckless accusation - mindless of longstanding US policy breaching rule of law principles globally, hegemonic recklessness risking WW III.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Russian Airliner Crash: Phony ISIS Claim of Responsibility - Sun, 01/11/2015 - 21:10
Russian Airliner Crash: Phony ISIS Claim of Responsibility
by Stephen Lendman
On October 31, Kolavia Metrojet (commercial airliner) Flight 7K9268 crashed 23 minutes after takeoff from Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, heading for St. Petersburg, Russia - killing all 217 passengers and seven crew members aboard, including 25 children.
News reports called the crash the worst aviation disaster in Russian history. Putin declared Sunday a day of mourning for its victims.
A criminal investigation began by searching operator Kogalymavia’s offices, checking for possible violations of Russian airliner safety standards.
A separate investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash, most likely a technical failure. Russia’s Air Transport won’t speculate on what happened until more is known - including decoding the recovered black boxes, containing invaluable information.
A Sinai, Egypt based group connected to ISIS claimed responsibility, saying:
“Soldiers of the Caliphate were able to bring down a Russian plane above Sinai Province with at least 220 Russian crusaders aboard.”
“They were all killed, praise be to God. O Russians, you and your allies take note that you are not safe in Muslims lands or their skies.”
“The killing of dozens daily in Syria with bombs from your planes will bring woe to you. Just as you are killing others, you too will be killed, God willing.”
Russian Transportation Minister Maxim Sokolov dismissed the claim, saying it “cannot be considered credible. We are in a close contact with our Egyptian colleagues, with the aviation authorities of this country. At the moment, they have no information that would confirm such fabrications.”
Air France and Lufthansa said they’ll reroute their flights around Sinai until further notice, a temporary precautionary move.
The Russian aircraft was flying at an altitude of 31,000 feet - way above the ability of ground-based terrorist groups to down it. Their shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles (SAMS), known as Manpads, threaten low-flying aircraft only, mainly helicopters - debunking their spurious claim. Expect investigation results to prove it.
French obtained weapons manuals recovered from North African Al Qaeda elements in 2013 showed they may have SA-7 and SA-7b SAMS - able to down taking off and landing aircraft, not the range to strike high-flying ones.
Reports from the crash site indicated debris scattered over at least a four mile area. It’s being closely examined to help determine the cause of the disaster.
Most passengers were Russian, three from Ukraine and one from Belarus. Sharm El-Sheikh is a popular resort town. Most likely they were tourists heading home.
Air traffic control said the plane began descending rapidly at 6,000 feet per minute before it disappeared from radar. Airline officials issued a statement, saying “(i)n 2014, the airplane has undergone factory maintenance in accordance with the factory specifications. All requirements of preflight technical maintenance were fulfilled in full and on time.”
Russian news reports said crew members recently complained about problems with one of the plane’s engines - so far without official confirmation.
RT International interviewed UK security/counterterrorism expert Charles Shoebridge. “As far as it’s known, Islamic State and its affiliate groups don’t have the capability to bring down aircraft flying at the height that this aircraft reportedly was, which is something around 10,000 meters,” he explained.
“That doesn't mean to say though that at least theoretically they couldn't bring the plane down by other means, for example by sabotage at the departing airport or a bomb on board.” 
Most likely,“mechanical failure of some sort (was) the most likely cause, as with most air accidents.” Terrorists like claiming responsibility for propaganda purposes, he added, especially targeting Russia for its ongoing Syrian campaign.
Egypt’s former civil aviation minister, Wail al-Madawi, told RT “(o)nly a state (has) such resources” to strike high-flying aircraft. Asked if a SAM could have downed the Russian plane he said: “No, it is out of the question.”
“I am a former air force officer, and I have the expert knowledge that taking down a plane flying so high requires the kind of capacities only a state can have.”
“It requires some very significant resources: One would need search (three types of) radars, radars to locate the plane, radars to control the fire. Only a state can have such resources. No militant group like that can.”
Addressing reports indicating the plane broke in two, he said “it’s impossible to define how exactly the ground impact occurred. It all depends on the kind of terrain at the impact site.” 
“For instance, if an aircraft were to hit some ridge on the ground, this could cause the plane to break into halves. So it all depends on the terrain.”
“The main thing, however, is to establish why the plane started to lose altitude when it was flying so high. There is a database of air crashes with proven causes of the crash.” 
“Some were due to technical malfunction, some to human error, some even to the psychological state of the crew. So that means there are a lot of possibilities to study.”
Once results of the ongoing investigation are revealed, we’ll know precisely what happened and why.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Deplorable Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Speeches - Sun, 01/11/2015 - 20:38
Deplorable Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Speeches
by Stephen Lendman
Rabin was a career Israeli warrior before serving twice as prime minister - from June 1974 to April 1977, then a second term from July 1992 until his November 4, 1995 assassination.
As Chief of General Staff, he was in charge of Israel’s June 1967 Six-Day War of aggression - premeditated, planned months in advance, falsely claimed to be fought in self-defense.
He may have ordered the June 8, 1967 USS Liberty attack - a clearly identified American intelligence gathering ship in international waters, killing 34 crew members, wounding 171 others, causing major vessel damage, failing to sink it as intended. Lyndon Johnson took no action against this heinous act.
Rabin’s war seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, dramatically changing the dynamic on the ground for Palestinians, placing them under brutalizing occupation harshness, continuing today worse than ever - oppressed by slow-motion genocide, suffocating an entire population unaccountably, waging war on Palestine today.
As prime minister, Rabin’s agreed to September 1993 Oslo Accords was a Palestinian Versailles - unconditional surrender. Theft and colonization of their land followed, continuing unabated today. 
Persecuted people got nothing in return for renouncing armed struggle, recognizing Israel's right to exist, and agreeing to leave major unresolved issues for later final status talks. They're still waiting - while being oppressed, murdered and brutalized daily.
Rabin, Arafat and Bill Clinton bear full responsibility for an atrocity against long-suffering people.
On October 31, the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination was commemorated at a Tel Aviv memorial rally. Tens of thousands attended, bombarded by deplorable addresses, delivered behind a bullet-proof glass screen.
President Reuven Rivlin vowed to continue waging war on Palestine. Israel is “in the crosshairs,” he said. We’re “all…the target. We will not become a sacrifice on your alter of violence and fear.” Thousands cheered in response.
“To those who seek to silence others, to those who threaten, to those who raise their clenched fists, to those who design pictures of SS uniforms, to those who threaten members of the legislature and judiciary, to those who threaten ministers and prime ministers, I want to say to them all: We do not fear you,” he added.
“Even in the midst of the current bloodshed, even in the face of the heinous terrorism…Israel’s democracy has not ceased to realize its strength and resilience, and for this we are today filled with pride” - code language for saying unrestrained slaughter of Palestinian freedom fighters will continue no-holds-barred.
Israel is no democracy. Its fascist police state policies are clear for all to see, left unexplained in Rivlin’s remarks.
Throughout his tenure, Bill Clinton one-sidedly supported Israel, Oslo betrayal the lead example. As a 1991 presidential candidate, he openly supported moving America’s embassy to Jerusalem (not acted on in office). It’s an international city under a UN protectorate, its responsibility ignored as mandated.
As president, Clinton did nothing to support an equitable Israeli/Palestinian peace process - backing then Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s impossible to accept “final agreement,” with no written offer, documents or maps presented, proposed in 2000, one-sidedly benefitting Israel.
Arafat was unfairly blamed for rejecting what no responsible leaders would accept - enslaving Palestinians more than already, assuring continuing conflict, not peace.
Clinton addressed the Rabin memorial crowd, saying “Yitzhak Rabin defended this country, but more importantly, he advanced the values that are fundamental to Israel. He stood for freedom, for peace, acceptance of those different from of us and the preservation of democracy.”
It bears repeating. He was a warrior, not peacemaker. No leader in Israel’s history supported or now supports an equitable, lasting peace, granting Palestinians rights everyone deserves.
“We will (continue to) fight terrorism,” Clinton added, code language for blaming Palestinians for Israeli high crimes.
All Obama remarks make painful listening. He addressed the Tel Aviv crowd by video message, turning truth on its head, claiming Rabin’s “dream of peace will never die.” 
It’s “the only way to ensure true lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians.” - code language for wanting long-suffering people to accept permanent subjugation at the hands of a ruthless occupier, depriving them of all fundamental rights.
Their liberating struggle continues, a generation of youths refusing to be slaves, beholden to a brutal Israeli master.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Israel Imprisoning Palestinian Children Uncharged - Sun, 01/11/2015 - 01:40
Israel Imprisoning Palestinian Children Uncharged
by Stephen Lendman
Israeli viciousness is unrestrained, young children treated as brutally as adults. On October 19, soldiers lawlessly abducted three Palestinian children from their homes pre-dawn. They’re being held uncharged for at least six months, an unprecedented move in East Jerusalem according to human rights groups.
Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) accountability program director Ayed Abu Eqtaish expressed outrage, saying:
“We are deeply disturbed that Israeli authorities have approved the detention of these three boys without charge or trial. Administrative detention must never be used as a substitute for criminal prosecution where there is insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.”
“We believe this is unprecedented by Israeli authorities to put children from East Jerusalem under administrative detention. It’s part and parcel of the ideology and policies of Israeli authorities to suppress the Palestinian people who are living there.”
Abducted were Fadi Hasan Abassi, Kathem Mahmound Sbaih and Mohammad Saleh Ghaith (all aged 17). They’ve undergone brutal interrogations amounting to torture - accused without formal charges lodged of stone-throwing, accusations they deny, no evidence proving them.
Automatic guilt by accusation for Palestinians suffices. The three youths are indefinitely detained. Israel can hold them interminably. if it wishes - uncharged and untried.
In 1948, a state of emergency was declared, remaining in force, authorizing arbitrary detentions of Palestinians based on secret evidence or none at all. 
East Jerusalem’s Emergency Powers law permits them. Anyone Israel calls a threat to public order and security is vulnerable, no evidence required, a classic police state practice.
According to Maan News, “at least 94 administrative detention orders (were) issued against Palestinians” since October 1, 24 in East Jerusalem - a futile attempt to curb justifiable resistance. An entire generation of youths is involved, demanding freedom, accepting nothing less.
Israel denied the three youths the right to counsel during brutal interrogations, keeping them isolated from outside contacts, including family members, customary police state policy.
Every Palestinian youth and child is suspect, subject to harassment and/or arrest any time for any reason. Police absurdly claimed the three children arrested posed an “immediate and severe threat to the national security of Israel.”
DCIP’s advocacy officer Bashar Jamal said “Israel is trying to restore security, but children are losing their freedom and are being denied liberty and their human rights. It violates Israel’s international and domestic obligations.” 
“Children are falling victim to the situation. It’s an escalation in the violation of children’s rights. Their rights are violated on a regular basis, but there has been an escalation in October.”
It’s open season on targeting them, soldiers and police involved. They’re either being injured, killed or abducted and imprisoned - uncharged, untried, on their own under horrific conditions, including denial of treatment for any wounds sustained.
Israeli Military Order 1651 permits administrative detentions of Palestinians for up to six months. Indefinite renewals may follow.
Israel flagrantly violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It prohibits depriving children of their liberty arbitrarily, longstanding Israeli practice, assuring greater resistance than already.
Jewish lives and welfare alone matter. It’s always open season on brutalizing Palestinians, especially a new generation of youths and children wanting freedom from occupation harshness.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Shaker Aamer: Free at Last - Sun, 01/11/2015 - 00:23
Shaker Aamer: Free at Last
by Stephen Lendman
Aamer was lawlessly held in Guantanamo for 13 hellish years, nearly 14 in US captivity - uncharged and untried. He committed no crimes.
US captors knew it all along, but kept him imprisoned anyway - torturing and abusing him, forcing him to confess to things he never did.
He’s a Saudi-born, UK national since 1996, in Afghanistan doing volunteer charity work when abducted and sold for bounty to US authorities, victimized by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, taken to Guantanamo on the same day his youngest child was born.
He hunger struck many times for justice. In retaliation, guards brutally beat and isolated him in solitary confinement. Bush administration officials cleared him for release in 2007. Obama held him captive until Friday.
Over 117,000 supporters signed a petition on his behalf. He’s now home in London, arriving Friday on a private jet aircraft. Amnesty International said “(g)iven the time involved, the lengthy spells in solitary confinement and the torture used against him, Shaker Aamer's plight has been one of the worst of all the detainees held at Guantanamo.”
The UK-based Reprieve human rights group represents him. After the Obama administration announced plans to release him on September 24, its founder attorney Clive Stafford Smith said expect slurs to start once he’s home, Washington’s way of justifying the unjustifiable.
Shaker’s US attorney/Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider said “(w)e are, of course, delighted that Shaker is on his way back to his home and his family here in the UK. It is long, long past time. Shaker now needs to see a doctor, and then get to spend time alone with his family as soon as possible.”
Reprieve explained it took “six US government agencies to agree that he posed no threat to the US or its allies and could be released” - even though it was well known since his abduction in 2001.
He arrived at Guantanamo on Valentine’s Day 2002, unaware of the horrendous ordeal to follow. His first letter home in 2003 said the following:
“My dear wife and lovely kids,
I don’t know when I am coming out but pray for me that it will be soon. I cried a lot when you told me about how the kids talk to their cars and toys as if I am talking to them on the phone. Please try to be easy on them. 
Don’t send any pictures of the kids - it will make it hard on me here in jail. Whatever happens to me be with Allah. I love you all.”
In 2005, he said “I am dying here every day, mentally and physically. We have been ignored, locked up in the middle of the ocean.”
He’s dealing with painful arthritis and other health issues, requiring treatment denied him at Guantanamo, enduring what few can imagine.
He now faces the enormous challenge of rebuilding his shattered life - how after what he’s been through will tax all his mental and physical strength. He’ll get no help from Washington or Britain, Clive Stafford Smith saying:
“You’ve got to remember that the overwhelming majority of people who have been held for many years without trial in Guantanamo Bay by the United States received not one penny of compensation.” 
“And Shaker will never receive a single penny of compensation from the United State for everything that he has gone through.”
“Shaker’s interest is one thing and one thing only - beyond his family and his health - and that is that the world should know the truth.” 
“He does not want to prosecute people. He simply wants people to know what happened to him, the torture he went through. And he hopes that other people can avoid going through that themselves.”
He hopes to set up a Peace and Philanthropy Center - to share his experience with others. On arrival in London Friday, he issued a statement through his lawyers, expressing thanks to everyone helping to bring his Guantanamo ordeal to an end.
“My thanks go to Allah first, second to my wife, my family, to my kids and then to my lawyers who did everything they could to carry the word to the world,” he said. 
“I am overwhelmed by what people have done by their actions, their thoughts and their prayers, and without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Agreement to Disagree in Vienna on Syria - Sat, 31/10/2015 - 20:03
Agreement to Disagree in Vienna on Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Russia’s intervention in Syria changed the dynamic on the ground and regionally, potentially with global implications, a major geopolitical development, the most important one in decades. 
Washington is desperate to keep its imperial agenda on track and unchallenged - why John Kerry met with 17 of his counterparts plus EU and UN envoys in Vienna on Friday, following US, Russian, Turkish and Saudi foreign ministers meeting there on Thursday, Syria so far excluded from discussing its own future.
Washington’s intentions remain unchanged - replacing Assad with a US controlled puppet. Sending special forces to northern Syria (illegally without Security Council or Damascus authorization) with likely more to follow, solely to aid terrorist elements against Assad, along with continued lawless bombing of infrastructure targets, not ISIS as claimed.
It shows Obama wants war, not peace, Washington’s usual solution to everything, a pure evil agenda for global conquest.
More Vienna talks planned for  mid-November may go nowhere, a thinly veiled scheme to convince Russia Washington turned a new leaf - aiming to stop its air campaign, devastating ISIS and other takfiri terrorists, wrecking US hegemonic plans, Moscow determined to defeat the scourge of terrorism, not about to be pressured by America to back off.
Putin is forthright and straightforward, no ambiguity in his comments. Defeating terrorism in Syria and the region is prioritized - then a hoped for political solution once this goal is accomplished, Syrians alone deciding who’ll lead them, not foreign powers, polar opposite US plans.
Hegemons wants things exclusively their way, installing puppets running vassal states they control. Washington and Russia are at loggerheads.
Putin believes sovereign independence is inviolable. Neocon infested Washington rejects it everywhere, waging endless wars of aggression against it, wanting unchallenged US global dominance - two opposing ideologies, a classic good v. pure evil struggle. Humanity’s fate hangs in the balance.
Sergey Lavrov clearly stated Russia’s position, saying “(w)e have a common enemy, and we must not let this enemy gain power in Syria nor in any other state.”
“If a ceasefire is declared, no terrorist organizations should be subjected to it” - combating them to continue until they’re neutralized and destroyed.
Russia remains fully committed to fighting their scourge in full accord with international law principles, polar opposite how America operates, ignoring them altogether, risking global war in the process.
Moscow rejects US demands for Assad to go, Lavrov clearly saying “(t)he Syrian people (alone) should define the future of their country, including Assad’s fate.”
He’s overwhelmingly popular. Syrians want no one else leading them. Expect Washington to keep the Syrian pot boiling no matter what comes out of Vienna.
The statement issued following Friday’s meeting was largely meaningless rhetoric - sounding very much like earlier high-minded Geneva communiques accomplishing nothing.
A Final Comment
In one month of bombing ISIS and other terrorists in Syria, Russia flew around 1,400 sorties, destroying over 1,600 targeted sites - including 249 command posts, 51 training camps, 131 ammunition and fuel depots, and 786 field bases, according to General Staff Col. Gen. Andrey Kartapolov.
Air strikes killed 28 “most odious” terrorist leaders, he added. Syrian ground forces liberated over 50 towns and villages, comprising about 350 square km.
ISIS losses are massive, their forces in disarray, “complete victory” not yet achieved. Much work remains. Terrorists are clearly on the defensive - pummelled by Russian air power and Syrian ground forces.
Moscow’s overtures to Washington to cooperate jointly against ISIS and other takfiris were spurned. America continues supporting them. Defeating them is all the more urgent.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Israel Tear Gases 8-Month-Old Palestinian Infant to Death - Sat, 31/10/2015 - 19:41
Israel Tear Gases 8-Month-Old Palestinian Infant to Death
by Stephen Lendman
Daily Israeli atrocities continue, fully supported by Washington, other Western nations, rogue regional ones and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - complicit with high crimes against peace.
Palestinians are being murdered daily - the latest victim an 8-month-old baby boy. The PA health ministry said Ramadan Mohammad Faisal Thawabta died from toxic tear gas inhalation  - another victim of Israeli state terror.
Since October 1, Israeli forces murdered 71 Palestinians in cold blood, including women (one pregnant), over a dozen children and two infants.
Three died on Friday alone:
  • the 8-month-old infant;

  • East Jerusalem youth Ahmad Hamada Qneibi, shot multiple times at point blank range, left to bleed to death, medics prevented from aiding him; and

  • Qabatia youth Qasse Saba’na, another phony attempted stabbing incident claimed.

Stop the Wall activist Jamal Juma said Israel’s ethnic cleansing scheme and plan to judaize al-Quds (Jerusalem) is being “hit strongly in the heart by the Palestinian youth uprising.”
“It changed the whole equation. The whole Israeli calculation toward what is happening in the West Bank (and East Jerusalem) has been hit in the heart.”
Israel never learns from history, Juma explained. “In all the Intifadas…the thing that makes (them) bigger and bigger…is Israeli violence.”
“This is not going to stop the Palestinians. The more there’s crime, the more the Palestinians will go out to the streets and their resistance will be increasing.”
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahhar urged all Palestinians to unite against Israeli state terror. Ongoing resistance restores the stature of the Palestinian cause, he said.
“The Al-Quds intifada has ended all the occupation's attempts to divide the Aqsa Mosque temporally and spatially,” he added.
Israel’s Channel 10 said Israeli Tel Aviv-Ariel line bus drivers prohibit Palestinians from boarding. Passengers without Israeli IDs are diverted elsewhere.
Segregation thrives in Israel. Even in US Jim Crow south, African Americans travelled on the same buses as whites, consigned to back row seats.
One Israeli driver was heard telling a Palestinian: “I’m not negotiating with you. Go down” - later saying “(t)here’s no such thing as a good Arab. Even one who looks so nice, so quiet, he isn’t. There’s no such thing.”
Ariel settlement mayor Eliyahu Shaviro agreed with keeping Palestinians off buses with Jews, saying:
“Today we're in a reality that anyone can pick up a knife and stab. Would you, or anyone else who watches us, would any father or mother who have a boy or a girl and on a certain bus there are 90 percent Palestinians, would he send his kid on that bus?”
Last May, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon suspended plans to have Jews and Palestinians travel on different West Bank buses after high-level criticism.
President Reuven Rivlin called the proposal “unthinkable.” Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said separation presented legal challenges. Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog called “separating Palestinians and Jews on public buses a warrantless humiliation, (fanning the flames) of hatred toward Israel around the world.”
All Netanyahu ministers and Jewish Knesset members support ongoing Israeli state terror, collectively punishing an entire population - bus segregation minor compared to mass murder and other atrocities.
Palestinian resistance is heroic, challenging a ruthless occupier, a pure evil force.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Crypto Is For Everyone—and American History Proves It - Sat, 31/10/2015 - 09:07

Over the last year, law enforcement officials around the world have been pressing hard on the notion that without a magical "backdoor" to access the content of any and all encrypted communications by ordinary people, they’ll be totally incapable of fulfilling their duties to investigate crime and protect the public. EFF and many others have pushed back—including launching a petition with our friends to SaveCrypto, which this week reached 100,000 signatures, forcing a response from President Obama. 

This is in addition to multiple findings that the government’s “going dark” concern has proven completely unfounded in the past, along with former national security officers disavowing the concern all together. And given law enforcement’s continuing attacks on the public’s use of encryption, we think it’s time for a quick look at the long tradition of encryption use by some ordinary, and some not so ordinary, Americans.

Of course most folks know that cryptography is a critical military tool. In one of NSA’s own published histories [pdf] of cryptology, the government touts its significance, and many folks believe, reasonably, that cryptography played a significant role in the Allies winning WWII. But law enforcement officials have recently made clear that they believe the government—and only the government—should benefit from the routine use of the most secure encryption technologies. And they are currently endeavoring to restrict the widespread use of secure encryption technologies by the public.

But cryptography has always been far more than just a military or government tool. Government officials were never the only ones spending time and resources using and developing new encryption techniques. Indeed, far from being something that has been employed only by reigning officials, encryption has been used by civilians, businesspeople, and revolutionaries—including the Founding Fathers of the United States—for centuries.

One of the earliest (and still unsolved) known encrypted works is the Voynich manuscript, an illustrated codex that has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century. And the first known English-language book on cryptology was published in 1641, entitled Mercury, or The Secret and Swift Messenger by John Wilkins. By the 1800s, knowledge of various ways to conceal the contents of a message was widespread—and many ordinary individuals used cryptology for everything from business communications to love letters.

We’ve noted in previous posts how the Founding Fathers were big users of encryption. You have probably heard of the codes employed by Paul Revere—his “one if by land, two if by sea” lanterns and the warning disseminated during his midnight ride that “the Regulars [were] coming out,” alerting the colonial militia to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord. But the leaders of the young country used not only codes and signals but also ciphers and other techniques to preserve the confidentiality of their communications should a dispatch fall into the hands of the enemy.

As one law review piece published during the first crypto wars noted, “secret communication methods” were widely used in England in the 17th and 18th centuries and “[f]rom the beginnings of the American Revolution in 1775 until the adoption of the United States Constitution, Americans used codes, ciphers and other secret writings to foment, support, and carry to completion a rebellion against the British government.” The article includes numerous examples of civilians, businesspeople, and revolutionaries using encryption to secure the contents of their communications. And no one questioned their right to do so—no matter the context or rationale behind their use of encryption.

One example is the Continental Congress, which recognized the need for secrecy and passed a resolution ordering the use ciphers for all messages that could not otherwise be safely transmitted. And many of the individual founding fathers you likely learned about in grade school used encryption to secure their personal communications:

  • James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights and the country’s fourth president, was a big user of enciphered communications—and numerous examples from his correspondence demonstrate that. The text of one letter from Madison to Joseph Jones, a member of the Continental Congress from Virginia, dated May 2, 1782, was almost completely encrypted via cipher. And on May 27, 1789, Madison sent a partially encrypted letter to Thomas Jefferson describing his plan to introduce a Bill of Rights.
  • Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the country’s third president, is known to be one of the most prolific users of secret communications methods. He even invented his own cipher system—the “wheel cypher” as named by Jefferson or the “Jefferson disk” as it is now commonly referred. He also presented a special cipher to Meriwether Lewis for use in the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
  • Benjamin Franklin invented ciphers used by the Continental Congress and in 1748, years before the American Revolution, published a book on encryption written by George Fisher, The American Instructor.
  • George Washington, the first president of the United States, frequently dealt with encryption and espionage issues as the commander of the Continental Army. He is known to have given his intelligence officers detailed instructions on methods for maintaining the secrecy of messages and for using decryption to uncover British spies.
  • John Adams, the second U.S. president, used a cipher provided by James Lovell—a member of the Continental Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs and an early advocate of cipher systems—for correspondence with his wife, Abigail Adams, while traveling.
  • John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, used ciphers for all diplomatic correspondence made while outside the United States. And John Jay’s brother, Sir James Jay, invited a special invisible ink, also known as sympathetic ink, and sent a supply from London to both his brother and then-General Washington.

The list goes on.

Our founding fathers were not using encryption as reigning governing officials. They were revolutionaries and activists. They were using encryption as a tool to fight for freedom from a repressive governing body and to protect their correspondence from government snooping. And it is well documented that many of them used encryption to protect the secrecy of not only their work-related communications during the revolution, but also their personal letters throughout their lives.

And lots of other folks entirely outside of the government also used codebooks and other forms of early cryptographic technology to protect their business and personal communications—especially communications sent via mail or telegram—since the founding of the United States. Yet, before 1960, there is no evidence that the federal government believed it should exercise its powers to restrict the use of encryption technology by private citizens.

Any suggestion by government officials that encryption is a tool that, until now, has been in the exclusive province of the government is a misconception that furthers an anti-privacy and anti-security agenda. Encryption is—and has always been—a tool for everyone, researched and deployed by people from all walks of life for many purposes, from concealing the contents of private love letters to protecting stock market trades, diplomacy, or political activism. And given the routine security breaches and rampant government surveillance we face today, ensuring the privacy and security of our private communications is as important now as ever—or even more so.

Please join us in acting to SaveCrypto and urge President Obama to commit to supporting strong cryptography for everyone.

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