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Eight Epic Failures of Regulating Cryptography - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 17:00
They can promise strong encryption. They just need to figure out how they can provide us plain text.
- FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni, September 27, 2010

[W]e're in favor of strong encryption, robust encryption. The country needs it, industry needs it. We just want to make sure we have a trap door and key under some judge's authority where we can get there if somebody is planning a crime.
- FBI Director Louis Freeh, May 11, 1995

As noted in late September, the FBI is on a charm offensive, seeking to ease its ability to spy on Americans by expanding the reach of the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). Among other things, the government appears to be seriously discussing a new requirement that all communications systems be easily wiretappable by mandating "back doors" into any encryption systems.

(Encryption allows users to have private conversations and secure transactions, among other uses, on technologies from cell phones to web browsing to email. Learn more about encryption from EFF's Surveillance Self-Defense guide.)

If this sounds familiar, it's because regulating encryption was a monstrous proposal officially declared dead in 2001 after threatening Americans' privacy, free speech rights, and innovation for nearly a decade. But like a zombie, it's now rising from the grave, bringing the same disastrous flaws with it.

For those who weren't following digital civil liberties issues in 1995, or for those who have forgotten, here's a refresher list of why forcing companies to break their own privacy and security measures by installing a back door was a bad idea 15 years ago. We'll be posting more analysis when more details on the "new" proposal emerge, but this list is a start:

  1. It will create security risks. Don't take our word for it. Computer security expert Steven Bellovin has explained some of the problems. First, it's hard to secure communications properly even between two parties. Cryptography with a back door adds a third party, requiring a more complex protocol, and as Bellovin puts it: "Many previous attempts to add such features have resulted in new, easily exploited security flaws rather than better law enforcement access."

    It doesn't end there. Bellovin notes:

    Complexity in the protocols isn't the only problem; protocols require computer programs to implement them, and more complex code generally creates more exploitable bugs. In the most notorious incident of this type, a cell phone switch in Greece was hacked by an unknown party. The so-called 'lawful intercept' mechanisms in the switch — that is, the features designed to permit the police to wiretap calls easily — was abused by the attacker to monitor at least a hundred cell phones, up to and including the prime minister's. This attack would not have been possible if the vendor hadn't written the lawful intercept code.

    More recently, as security researcher Susan Landau explains, "an IBM researcher found that a Cisco wiretapping architecture designed to accommodate law-enforcement requirements — a system already in use by major carriers — had numerous security holes in its design. This would have made it easy to break into the communications network and surreptitiously wiretap private communications."

    The same is true for Google, which had its "compliance" technologies hacked by China.

    This isn't just a problem for you and me and millions of companies that need secure communications. What will the government itself use for secure communications? The FBI and other government agencies currently use many commercial products — the same ones they want to force to have a back door. How will the FBI stop people from un-backdooring their deployments? Or does the government plan to stop using commercial communications technologies altogether?

  2. It won't stop the bad guys. Users who want strong encryption will be able to get it — from Germany, Finland, Israel, and many other places in the world where it's offered for sale and for free. In 1996, the National Research Council did a study called "Cryptography's Role in Securing the Information Society," nicknamed CRISIS. Here's what they said:

    Products using unescrowed encryption are in use today by millions of users, and such products are available from many difficult-to-censor Internet sites abroad. Users could pre-encrypt their data, using whatever means were available, before their data were accepted by an escrowed encryption device or system. Users could store their data on remote computers, accessible through the click of a mouse but otherwise unknown to anyone but the data owner, such practices could occur quite legally even with a ban on the use of unescrowed encryption. Knowledge of strong encryption techniques is available from official U.S. government publications and other sources worldwide, and experts understanding how to use such knowledge might well be in high demand from criminal elements. — CRISIS Report at 303

    None of that has changed. And of course, more encryption technology is more readily available today than it was in 1996.

  3. It will harm innovation. In order to ensure that no "untappable" technology exists, we'll likely see a technology mandate and a draconian regulatory framework. The implications of this for America's leadership in innovation are dire. Could Mark Zuckerberg have built Facebook in his dorm room if he'd had to build in surveillance capabilities before launch in order to avoid government fines? Would Skype have ever happened if it had been forced to include an artificial bottleneck to allow government easy access to all of your peer-to-peer communications?

    This has especially serious implications for the open source community and small innovators. Some open source developers have already taken a stand against building back doors into software.

  4. It will harm US business. If, thanks to this proposal, US businesses cannot innovate and cannot offer truly secure products, we're just handing business over to foreign companies who don't have such limitations. Nokia, Siemens, and Ericsson would all be happy to take a heaping share of the communications technology business from US companies. And it's not just telecom carriers and VOIP providers at risk. Many game consoles that people can use to play over the Internet, such as the Xbox, allow gamers to chat with each other while they play. They'd have to be tappable, too.
  5. It will cost consumers. Any additional mandates on service providers will require them to spend millions of dollars making their technologies compliant with the new rules. And there's no real question about who will foot the bill: the providers will pass those costs onto their customers. (And of course, if the government were to pay for it, they would be using taxpayer dollars.)
  6. It will be unconstitutional.. Of course, we wouldn't be EFF if we didn't point out the myriad constitutional problems. The details of how a cryptography regulation or mandate will be unconstitutional may vary, but there are serious problems with nearly every iteration of a "no encryption allowed" proposal that we've seen so far. Some likely problems:
    • The First Amendment would likely be violated by a ban on all fully encrypted speech.
    • The First Amendment would likely not allow a ban of any software that can allow untappable secrecy. Software is speech, after all, and this is one of the key ways we defeated this bad idea last time.
    • The Fourth Amendment would not allow requiring disclosure of a key to the backdoor into our houses so the government can read our "papers" in advance of a showing of probable cause, and our digital communications shouldn't be treated any differently.
    • The Fifth Amendment would be implicated by required disclosure of a private papers and the forced utterance of incriminating testimony.
    • Right to privacy. Both the right to be left alone and informational privacy rights would be implicated.
  7. It will be a huge outlay of tax dollars. As noted below, wiretapping is still a relatively rare tool of government. Yet the tax dollars needed to create a huge regulatory infrastructure staffed with government bureaucrats who can enforce the mandates will be very high. So, the taxpayers would end up paying for more expensive technology, higher taxes, and lost privacy, all for the relatively rare chance that motivated criminals will act "in the clear" by not using encryption readily available from a German or Israeli company or for free online.
  8. The government hasn't shown that encryption is a problem. How many investigations have been thwarted or significantly harmed by encryption that could not be broken? In 2009, the government reported only one instance of encryption that they needed to break out of 2,376 court-approved wiretaps, and it ultimately didn't prevent investigators from obtaining the communications they were after.

    The New York Times reports that the government officials pushing for this have only come up with a few examples (and it's not clear that all of the examples actually involve encryption) and no real facts that would allow independent investigation or confirmation. More examples will undoubtedly surface in the FBI's PR campaign, but we'll be watching closely to see if underneath all the scary hype there's actually a real problem demanding this expensive, intrusive solution.

The real issue with encryption may simply be that the FBI has to use more resources when they encounter it than when they don't. Indeed, Bellovin argues: "Time has also shown that the government has almost always managed to go around encryption." (One circumvention that's worked before: keyloggers.) But if the FBI's burden is the real issue here, then the words of the CRISIS Report are even truer today than they were in 1996:

It is true that the spread of encryption technologies will add to the burden of those in government who are charged with carrying out certain law enforcement and intelligence activities. But the many benefits to society of widespread commercial and private use of cryptography outweigh the disadvantages.

Related Issues: Free SpeechAnonymityExport ControlsInnovationPrivacyCALEARelated Cases: Bernstein v. US Department of Justice
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Counter-Surveillance Success Stories to Inspire Digital Rights Advocates - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 10:53

Concerned European Internet users will descend upon Brussels on September 26 to participate in Freedom Not Fear 2014—a European week of action aimed to fight against a widespread surveillance state. Since 2008, a coalition of European organizations has met annually under the banner of Freedom Not Fear to fight against online spying, and to challenge the hyperbolic rhetoric of fear that permeates the security and privacy debate. The Freedom Not Fear movement emerged from widespread outrage to the European Union's 2006 Mandatory Data Retention Directive. Since its origins, Freedom Not Fear’s message has been: fundamental rights like privacy, free expression, due process, and democratic participation are jeopardized when reactionary, fear-driven surveillance systems penetrate our societies.

EFF is joining this year’s Freedom Not Fear campaign by featuring a collection of Counter-Surveillance Success Stories from activists who worked (and continue to work) tirelessly to protect our fundamental rights. These counter-surveillance success stories will be a part of a toolkit provided to the digital rights advocates in Latin America that EFF’s International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez will be collaborating with as she continues her six-month tour of the region this fall. Throughout the trip, she and the other activists will share best practices on how to combat growing surveillance trends in their respective countries and work to create and promote privacy-enhancing solutions. 

As part of this project, we’ve identified some of the best strategies for challenging overreaching proposals that threaten to erode civil liberties. Visit our Counter-Surveillance Success Stories collection to read the case studies that illustrate how digital freedom activists around the world have successfully challenged surveillance practices and proposals. We hope to see this list of examples continue to grow.

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Petition to Obama Administration: End the Harassment and Targeting of Reporters - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 07:42

Imagine the United States without independent reporters. Where would the news come from? Press releases and corporate statements? Government-run media? And more importantly, what would we have missed over the last century? Watergate, COINTELPRO, the CIA’s manipulation of politics in Vietnam—none of these things would be common knowledge without courageous reporters, who were willing to publish stories on scandals that rocked the entire country.

A free press has always been an essential part of any democracy. That’s why repressive governments insist on state control over media. That’s why the very first addition to the Constitution, the First Amendment, protects freedom of speech. 

And that’s why EFF is joining over 60 organizations supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) #RightToReport petition. The petition calls on the Obama Administration to:

1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border

The petition has been signed by intrepid journalists such as Christiane Amanpour of CNN, Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, and Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian. It has also garnered the support of advocacy organizations like the ACLU and EFF, media giants like Associated Press, as well as international signatories like the Bahrain Press Association. This diverse group agrees: it is urgent that journalists be able to do their jobs without fear of being targeted by the government.

Many of the individual and organizational signatories have experienced the very harassment the petition aims to address—especially those involved in national security reporting. Laura Poitras, documentary filmmaker and staff at The Intercept, has been stopped at the border nearly 40 times. Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained at the Heathrow airport for nine hours. Journalist James Risen is currently in legal proceedings for refusing to reveal a confidential source. And the NSA “hacked into Al Jazeera's internal communications system.” These are only a few of the stories about the kind of intimidation and harassment reporters face today.

CPJ’s petition makes it clear: “The free flow of information and the right of journalists to do their jobs in the digital age must be protected.” If you support the right of journalists to keep us all informed world citizens, sign the petition today. Your voice will be in good company.

Related Issues: Free SpeechNSA Spying
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Reactions to Obama's UN Address - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 05:47
Reactions to Obama's UN Address
by Stephen Lendman
A separate article discussed it. He didn't surprise. Demagogic mumbo jumbo Big Lies drowned out truth.
Not according to media scoundrels. The New York Times finds new ways to lie, distort and misreport.
It substitutes managed news misinformation rubbish for hard truths. It's longstanding Times policy.
It ludicrously called Obama a "once-reluctant warrior…" It ignored his war on humanity throughout his tenure. His naked aggression.
His ravaging and destroying one nation after another. His latest Iraq and Syrian aggression. The Times turned truth on its head.
It highlighted Obama's "muscular new course." His vow to "dismantle the Islamic State's 'network of death.' "
He created it. It's a valued US ally. Pentagon special forces and CIA operatives train its fighters in Jordan and Turkey. 
They deploy them cross-border to Syria. They do so to wage war on Assad. 
Obama wants him ousted. He wants US-friendly stooge governance replacing him. 
His latest aggression aims to do it. Don't expect Times correspondents, contributors or editors to explain.
Or Washington Post ones. They headlined "President Obama embraces democracy promotion once again," saying:
His UN address, a previous one in New York, his September 10 statement on IS, and his September 23 memorandum on "civil society('s) (commitment) to democratic governance" potentially "shift(s) the momentum."
They called it "significant that (Obama) recognized that dictators are banding together to promote autocracy and checkmate democracy."
"…(H)e left no doubt…pledg(ing) 'to stand with the courageous citizens and brave civil society groups…"
He's working for equality and opportunity, said WaPo editors. He pursues "justice and human dignity all over the world,' " they added.
"He saluted democracy activists." He "ordered administration officials…to make (defending) freedom fighters a priority."
He opposes "foreign governments (against) freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association," he said.
When Arab Spring failed to bloom in 2011, he ludicrously proclaimed a new chapter in American diplomacy.
Throughout his tenure, he waged war on humanity. It rages out-of-control. He calls it "American leadership. He's "transition(ing) to democracy" worldwide, he said.
WaPo editors lied. They claim he's "forced to confront an aggressive Russia and a rampaging Islamic State…"
"…(H)e may be remembering that the United States and its allies cannot defeat Islamist fundamentalism or Russian neo-fascism without a more hopeful ideology of their own."
He lied claiming "(w)e are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come."
WaPo editors ludicrously called his comments "a sound foundation for a reinvigorated, and more successful, foreign policy over the coming 28 months."
The Wall Street Journal highlighted his "diplomatic pressure…to join an international coalition against Islamic extremism.
To do more to combat what he (called) the most pressing threat to global progress."
"(T)he cancer of violent extremism." Their "only language…is the language of force."
WSJ editors ignored Obama's latest aggression. His support for IS and other Islamic extremists.
Using them regionally for regime change. Ousting sovereign governments. Replacing them with rogue pro-Western ones.
Chicago Tribune editors twisted facts on "Why America is at war."
They omitted explaining what's most important. Washington's hegemonic ambitions weren't discussed. Or its longstanding war on humanity.
Obama's war is not "a skirmish or a mop-up or a brief, sporadic mission," they said. It's "war…Hitting an enemy on foreign soil without an invitation is, unambiguously, war."
Tribune editors support it. Rule of law principles don't matter. It "mark(s) a new chapter in what promises to be a long, complicated war," they said.
They urged more than airstrikes. "Islamic State (terrorists threaten) the entire Middle East," they claimed. Defeating them "will take troops" on the ground. 
"This battle against the Islamic State falls to this generation of Americans, just as the battle against some future threat will fall to the next."
Obama asked world leaders to support his imperial adventurism. To join his coalition against Islamist extremism. He vowed to maintain military pressure against them.
Daily conflict claims scores of lives. Expect death and injury tolls to increase exponentially. Obama's naked aggression assures it.
Syria's Information Minister Omarn al-Zoubi discussed his country's "drama." Some Arab states "dealt with (it) to gain profits, with a clear distinction between th(is) goal, national and pan-Arab identity."
Damascus' UN envoy Bashar al-Jaafari said Syria helped pioneer fighting terrorism. It coped with Israeli state terrorism for decades.
It's battled Western-supported Islamic extremists since conflict erupted in March 2011. It's ongoing.
Damascus supports international efforts for a common cause. It prioritizes saving lives. It wants Syrian sovereignty respected.
It wants international laws, norms and standards conformed to. Al-Jaafari said "participation of Israel in the so-called 'alliance against ISIS' undermines" its credibility.
"Shooting down a Syrian warplane, which (performed) national duty in bombing terrorist organizations, by Israel practically affirms that there is an alliance between Israel and al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations and others."
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Amir-Abdollahian accused Washington of attacking Syrian civilians and vital infrastructure.
He called doing it a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty. He reiterated Iran's support for Syria's fight against terrorism. Its people alone should decide its future, he added.
Addressing the UN's 69th General Assembly session, Iranian President Hassan Rohani spoke forthrightly. He said extremism and violence threaten regional peace and security.
It's a global phenomenon, he said. "All countries (involved) in creating these terrorist organizations should own up to their mistake and apoplexies."
"Our world today is replete with fear and hope. Fear of war and hostile regional and global relations."
"Fear of deadly confrontation of religious, ethnic and national identities. Fear of institutionalization of violence and extremism."
"Fear of poverty and destructive discrimination. Fear of decay and destruction of life-sustaining resources." 
"Fear of disregard for human dignity and rights, and fear of neglect of morality." 
"Alongside these fears, however, there are new hopes. The hope of universal acceptance by the people and the elite all across the globe of 'yes to peace and no to war.' "
"And the hope of preference of dialogue over conflict, and moderation over extremism."
Rohani called Iran's recent elections "a clear, living example of the wise choice of hope, rationality and moderation by the great people of Iran." 
"The realization of democracy consistent with religion and the peaceful transfer of executive power manifested that Iran is the anchor of stability in an otherwise ocean of regional instabilities."
It doesn't matter. Washington targets its sovereign independence. It wants control of its vast oil and gas reserves. 
It wants Israel's main regional rival removed. Netanyahu gives rogue leadership new meaning.
He blasted Rohani's address. He called it "full of hypocrisy." He lied claiming Iran pursues nuclear weapons.
He ignored Israel's longstanding nuclear, chemical and biological weapons arsenals. Its willingness to use them lawlessly. Preemptively.
Its mass slaughter and destruction agenda. Its longstanding terror war on Palestine.
Iranian policy is polar opposite. Rohani knows what he's up against. It doesn't matter how responsibly he governs. 
Or his commitment to world peace, equity and justice. Or his forthright outreach to all nations responsibly. Iran remains regional enemy No. 1.
It's a functioning democracy. It respects all religious beliefs. It treats its small Jewish population lawfully. 
It's polar opposite Israeli state terror. What despotic Gulf State dictatorships inflict on their people and regionally. Their alliance with US state terrorism.
Jordan and Turkey support it. So does Egypt's junta. Libya's sham government. Other regional monarchies.
Things go from bad to worse. Global nuclear war more than ever is possible. It'll be war to end future ones.
There's a choice. Either prevent it or it'll end us. There's no in between.
On Wednesday, Russia and China surprisingly embraced Security Council Resolution 2178. It calls for UN Charter Chapter VII using force against Foreign Terrorist Fighters.
At the same time, Moscow and Beijing said they'll challenge US military operations in Syria without more explicit Security Council approval than already.
They'll veto resolutions authorizing it. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said:
"Military actions must comply with the UN Charter and the relevant Security Council resolutions. No double standards should be adopted."
Russia's Foreign Ministry said:
"There is doubt over the legitimacy of the strikes as such actions can only be carried out with the approval of the United Nations and the unequivocal permission of the authorities of the country where they are taking place, which in this case is the government in Damascus." 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Obama's UN address "failed to deliver if one compares it to real facts."
He presented worldviews polar opposite reality, equity and justice. America is "a country (usurping) right to use force arbitrarily regardless of UN Security Council's resolutions or other international legal acts in its national defense doctrine," Lavrov said.
His address was bizarre and then some. It was outrageously brazen. Obama ludicrously called Ebola the top international threat.
He ranked nonexistent Russian aggression second. At the same time, he nonsensically said world societies today are "freer and safer."
"I didn't understand whether he was serious or not and whether there was an Orwellian element in it," said Lavrov. 
"Because George Orwell invented the Ministry of Truth, and it looks like this philosophy is lingering."
Obama's hegemonic worldview reflects America asserting "its (unilateral) right to use force arbitrarily," Lavrov explained.
It's shockingly over-the-top. It's mindless of core international laws, norms, standards and morality. Moscow wants conflicts resolved diplomatically, Lavrov stressed.
It opposes unilateral "shifting the blame," he added. It's peace, stability, equity and justice agenda is polar opposite America's.
The Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) reports one-sidedly for Israel. It serves hundreds of Jewish community newspapers and media subscribers worldwide.
It said Obama's UN address "hardly mentioned Iran's nuclear program." It was polar opposite last year's focus.
He considered it then one of Washington's two major issues. "On Wednesday, he devoted just four lines to" it.
His "thin coverage…drew immediate notice of Jewish groups." An American Jewish Committee tweet lied saying he "devoted only 78 words (to the) greatest threat to world peace."
By email, Francis Boyle said he's "not going to refute (Obama's litany of) lies, propaganda, half-truths and distortions."
He called nonexistent Russian aggression in Europe "baloney!" He appointed himself "global sheriff." He did so against international terrorism he created.
He's building "an international coalition against Russia. Boyle called  it a "deliberate provocation. A deliberate insult to Russia."
He's using Ebola "as a pretext to invade West Africa…" He's joining with Britain and France to stead its oil, gas," and other resources.
America, Israel and other nations know Iran has no nuclear weapons. It has no program to develop them. 
It wants them abolished worldwide. It wants potential nuclear armageddon avoided.
Obama is trying to "drive a wedge between" China and Russia. He's playing a losing game.
"He shed crocodile tears for Islam while murdering Muslims" worldwide. He "takes out…leaders" like a Mafia hit man.
He's "Godfather to the world." He's an unprecedented menace. World peace hangs by a thread at his discretion.
US stooges run so-called Afghan "transitional government." They violate their own constitution.
Obama has no legal authority to wage war on Iraq or Syria. He ignores international, constitutional and US statute laws.
He pontificates. He lectures Muslims while murdering them. What about "violent Jewish fundamentalists?" What about Christian fascists?
What about "our clash against Muslim civilization? What about direct and proxy wars against Muslim societies? What about pitting Sunnis against Shias?
What about ousting independent sovereign governments? What about replacing them with convenient US-friendly stooge ones?
Puppets serving Washington's interests. Exploiting their own people ruthlessly in the process. 
What about supporting Israeli mass murder and destruction? What about endorsing its killing machine? What about Big Lies substituting for hard truths?
What about decades of involvement in genocidal slaughter? What about official policy endorsing exterminating Muslim societies? 
What about Zionism's global scourge? What about destructive Israeli Lobby Power? What about trashing core human and civil rights?
What about mocking democratic ones? What about violating rule of law principles? What about waging war on humanity perhaps with intent to destroy it altogether?
Obama doesn't give a damn about fundamental rights. An honors Harvard Law grad? "Give me a break," said Boyle.
He reflects hypocrisy writ large. Why would populations anywhere look to America for leadership? People aren't fools.
They know US policies threaten world peace and security. They know Obama represents imperial lawlessness and then some.
He exceeds the worst of history's despots. He elevates rogue leadership to an unprecedented level. 
His permanent war policy threatens humanity. Populations everywhere want peace, equity and justice. They want what Obama's wars prevent.
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. 

Ilham Tohti, Online Voice of China's Uyghurs, Sentenced to Life in Prison - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 03:42

On Tuesday, Chinese Uyghur scholar, Ilham Tohti, was sentenced to life in prison after a court in Urumqi—the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region—found him guilty of the crime of inciting separatism. This is one of the severest sentences given to a political dissenter in communist China that has been seen in recent years.

Mr. Tohti is an economics professor and co-founder of Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to examining the relationship between the Han Chinese—the dominant ethnic group in China—and the Uyghurs—a traditionally Muslim people living primarily in the Xinjiang region of Northwest China.  Since the website’s 2006 inception, Tohti has been a target of Chinese authorities, who consider Tohti’s Uyghur advocacy efforts outspoken and radical.   

Tohti has been critical of Chinese government policies in Xinjiang, but has also attempted to peacefully bring understanding of the Uyghurs to the Han Chinese.  PEN International has been campaigning for Tohti since July 2009 when he was detained for speaking out about ethnic rioting that occurred in Urumqi in July 2009.  After being held and interrogated, he was released over a month later in late August 2009.  After his arrest, Chinese authorities prevented Tohti from leaving the country by detaining him at airports and frequently placing him under house arrest.  

Tohti’s recent trial concluded after only two days; when the final verdict was decided, Tohti was heard proclaiming “It’s not just! It’s not just!.”  The Uyghur American Association released a statement on Tuesday saying it believes “the sentencing is intended to silence peaceful Uyghur dissenters to Chinese state repression and confirms the government’s disregard for meaningful Uyghur participation in solving regional tensions.”

According to the New York Times, China’s shockingly drastic sentencing of Tohti and other moderate Uyghur activists “will only lead to further radicalization of Uighurs and a rise in violence, including the kind encouraged by foreign jihadist groups.”

EFF joins human rights advocates around the globe in calling for the immediate release of Mr. Tohti.

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Obama's Demagogic UN Address - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 21:06
Obama's Demagogic UN Address
by Stephen Lendman
He didn't surprise. His address lasted a mind-numbing 45 minutes. He made painful listening. 
All his speeches feature demagogic mumbo jumbo Big Lies. They drown out truth. 
Two years ago, he lied about Libya. He claimed US-led NATO intervened to "cope with violent conflict, care for the wounded, and craft a vision for the future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected."
He "supported the birth of a new democracy…Libyans held elections…(They) built new institutions…(They) move(d) forward after decades of dictatorship."
Truth is polar opposite Obama's Big Lies. Libya was Africa's most developed country. Most Libyans supported Gaddafi. 
They did so for good reasons. Libya was a model social justice society. 
Gaddafi used its oil wealth responsibly. He provided free healthcare, education and other vital benefits.
His Libya no longer exists. Obama transformed it. He made it a charnel house catastrophe. A dystopian wasteland.
Tens of thousands were ruthlessly slaughtered. Many more were injured and/or displaced. 
Libyans had benefits Americans can't imagine. Obama replaced them with dystopian harshness.
Mostly civilians were harmed. US-led NATO willfully targeted them. Obama destroyed Libyan sovereignty. He replaced it with instability, insecurity, and daily violence.
Last year, he ludicrously said "we come together to reaffirm the founding vision of this institution." 
"For most of recorded history, (the) idea that nations and peoples could come together in peace to solve their disputes and advance a common prosperity seemed unimaginable."
It still does. America bears full responsibility. So does Obama. He deplores peace, stability and security. He wages permanent wars without end. 
He abhors "common prosperity." He spurns social justice. He serves monied interests only. He supports their divine rights.
He permits their grandest of grand theft larceny. He hands them America's wealth.
He gave bankers trillions of dollars. He lets war-profiteers benefit hugely. He supports government of, by, and for America's privileged.
This year, he prioritized selling war. The New York Times shamelessly supports it.
It called Obama's address "much-anticipated." It made stomach-churning listening.
According to The Times, Obama "chartered a muscular new course."   He "laid out a forceful new blueprint on Wednesday for deeper American engagement in the Middle East…"  
He told UN members "that the Islamic State understood only 'the language of force' and that the United States would 'work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.' "
He ignored America's killing machine. His lawless aggression. His culpability for high crimes against peace.
So did The New York Times. It bashed Russia at the same time.  It did so irresponsibly.
It's America's lead disseminator of state/corporate Big Lies. It supports wealth, power and privilege. 
It's an unofficial propaganda ministry. It operates irresponsibly.
It features managed news misinformation garbage. It drowns out vital truths. It betrays its readers in the process.
Obama's address featured beginning-to-end Big Lies. "(M)ore people live under governments they elected," he claimed.
Most so-called elections are more shams than real. Entrenched power runs things. People have no say.
Obama lied suggesting otherwise. "Hundreds of millions of human beings have been freed from the prison of poverty," he said.
Billions are ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and ill-cared for. Human misery is unprecedented. 
Since economic crisis conditions erupted in late 2007, poverty increased exponentially. So did deep poverty. Obama lied claiming otherwise.
He ludicrously said world economic conditions strengthened. Millions of Americans endure protracted Depression conditions.
America isn't fit to live in. It no longer has a functioning economy. Paul Craig Roberts calls it a "house of cards." 
US-style casino capitalism failed. Most of its citizens struggle daily to get by. Welcome to the age of inequality. Poverty is a growth industry.
Over 23% of Americans wanting work can't find it. Most jobs are rotten ones. 
They're temp or part-time low pay/poor or no benefit service ones with no futures. Conditions are getting worse, not better. 
Monied interests run things. Ordinary people suffer. More than ever in modern times. Obama ludicrously claimed otherwise.
He lied accusing Russia of aggression. "Here are the facts," he said. "After the people of Ukraine mobilized popular protests and calls for reform, their corrupt president fled."  
"Against the will of the government in Kiev, Crimea was annexed.  Russia poured arms into eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands."  
"When a civilian airliner was shot down from areas that these proxies controlled, they refused to allow access to the crash for days."  
"When Ukraine started to reassert control over its territory, Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border."  
Washington bears full responsibility for Ukrainian crisis conditions. Rogue EU partners share it.
Crimea wasn't annexed. Its people voted near unanimously to join Russia. They did so in a referendum independent international monitors judged open, free and fair.
Putin responsibly accommodated them. Obama lied claiming otherwise.
No evidence suggests Russia poured arms into Southeastern Ukraine. Washington, its rogue Western partners, and Kiev's putschist government bear full responsibility for months of violence, instability and lawlessness.
Fascist regimes operate this way. Kiev's rogue government shot down MH17. Clear evidence proves it.
Self-defense forces and Russia had nothing to do with it. Or refusing access to its crash site for days.
Russia didn't invade Ukraine. Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov abhor war, violence and instability. They go all-out for peaceful conflict resolution.
Obama deplores it. He pursues permanent wars against humanity. He wants unchallenged worldwide control. 
US policies cause unspeakable human misery. No nation in world history caused more harm to more people at home and abroad over a longer duration than America. 
None exceed its lawlessness. Its disdain for core human and civil rights. None more threaten world peace.
America isn't beautiful. It never was. For sure not now. It threatens humanity's survival. 
Obama represents the worst of rogue leadership. He belongs in prison, not high office.
America's "choice is clear," he hyped. "We choose hope over fear." His hyperbole was polar opposite reality.
"…(W)e come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism," he claimed. US global state terrorism exceeds the worst of all other rogue states in world history.
It's responsible for more genocidal mass slaughter, destruction, and human misery over a longer duration than history's worst dictatorships. 
Their crimes pale by comparison to America's. They do so in terms of:
  • bullying other nations to comply with its diktats;

  • targeting them with regime change for refusing;

  • making the world safe for monied interests;

  • redrawing the world's map to serve them;

  • letting them operate lawlessly;

  • handing them America's wealth;

  • trashing social justice;

  • asserting might over right;

  • waging permanent wars on sovereign nations;

  • doing so for unchallenged global dominance;

  • causing irreparable harm to billions worldwide for generations;

  • violating core rule of law principles;

  • institutionalizing state terror;

  • spreading the scourge of fascism; and

  • making societies unsafe to live in.

Obama lied claiming America supports "freedom of nations and (the right of) peoples (able) to make their own decisions."
He deplores this notion and others related to it. He spurns diplomacy and peace. He prioritizes violence, belligerence and permanent wars of aggression.
He ludicrously claimed America supports "mutual interest and mutual respect." A commitment to work responsibly to solve modern-day problems.
A pledge "to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them."
A dedication to "eradicat(ting extreme poverty by 2030." A promise "to help people feed themselves, power their economies, and care for their sick."
A guarantee to "reduc(e) our carbon emissions (and increase) our investments in clean energy."
America deplores mutual interest and respect. It's responsible for egregious world problems.
Its policies create extreme poverty. They exploit world economies. They cause starvation, homelessness, health problems and unspeakable human misery.
Practically nothing is done to develop clean energy. To work toward replacing polluting fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear energy. 
Obama lied claiming America "is not and never will be at war with Islam. (T)here is no us and them," he said.
No "clash of civilizations" exists, he claimed. "(H)umanity's future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along the fault lines of tribe or sect, race or religion."
America won't "send US troops to occupy foreign lands," he claimed. He ludicrously said it military might is used responsibly.
America is committed to "tak(e) action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished."  
It "will never shy away from defending (its) interests, but we will also not shy away from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights - the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life." 
"…America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems, to make our union more perfect, to bridge the divides that existed at the founding of this nation."
"(W)e hold our leaders accountable," he claimed. We "insist on a free press and independent judiciary."
"…(W)e address our differences in the open space of democracy - with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and every religion; and with an unyielding belief in the ability of individual men and women to change their communities and their circumstances and their countries for the better."
Its "can help light the world…We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we're prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come."
Obama's address was beginning-to-end brazen bald-faced Big Lies. He elevated them to a higher level. 
His presidency gives rogue leadership new meaning. Madness defines it.
Neocon extremists infest Washington. They hugely influence policies. They do so destructively.
Obama promised hope and change. He delivered permanent wars, domestic ruthlessness and betrayal.
He's ideologically over-the-top. He presides over a homeland police state apparatus.
He recklessly advances America's imperium. His quest for global dominance risks the unthinkable. 
Impeaching him is a national imperative. He violated public trust from day one in office.
He did so throughout his tenure. He broke every major promise made.
He wages permanent war on humanity. He risks heading America for WW III. He's guilty of high crimes against peace.
He trashed America's social contract. His policies caused unprecedented levels of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, hunger, homelessness and human misery.
He's beholden to powerful monied interests. They own him. He spurns fundamental civil and human rights. 
He ignores rule of law principles. He mocks democratic values. He's contemptuous of essential needs.
He institutionalized tyranny. It's a hair's breadth from full-blown. It's one major homeland false flag away.
Humanity's survival is uncertain. It's up for grabs. So are fundamental freedoms. 
US state terror threatens them. So do America's permanent wars.
They rage without end. They do so lawlessly. They cause mass slaughter and destruction. 
America's killing machine is the world's most ruthless. Survival hangs in the balance if it's not stopped.
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. 

Australian Government Scrambles to Authorize Mass Surveillance - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 08:50

This week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used recent terrorist threats as the backdrop of a dire warning to Australians that “for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift. There may be more restrictions on some, so that there can be more protection for others.”

This pronouncement came as two of a series of three bills effecting that erosion of freedoms made their way through Australia's Federal Parliament. These were the second reading of a National Security Amendment Bill which grants new surveillance powers to Australia's spy agency, ASIO, and the first reading of a Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill that outlaws speech seen as “advocating terrorism”. A third bill on mandatory data retention is expected to be be introduced by the end of the year.

Whilst all three bills in this suite raise separate concerns, the most immediate concern—because the bill in question could be passed this week—is the National Security Amendment Bill. Introduced into Parliament on 16 July, it endured robust criticism during public hearings last month that led into an advisory report released last week. Nevertheless the bill was introduced into the Senate this Tuesday with the provisions of most concern still intact.

In simple terms, the bill allows law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to access data from a computer—so far, so good. But it redefines “a computer” to mean not only “one or more computers” but also “one or more computer networks”. Since the Internet itself is nothing but a large network of computer networks, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that the bill may stealthily allow the spy agency to surveil the entire Internet with a single warrant.

Apart from allowing the surveillance of entire computer networks, the bill also allows “the addition, deletion or alteration of data” stored on a computer, provided only that this would not “materially interfere with, interrupt or obstruct a communication in transit or the lawful use by other persons of a computer unless … necessary to do one or more of the things specified in the warrant”. Given the broad definition of “computer”, this provision is broad enough to authorize website blocking or manipulation, and even the insertion of malware into networks targeted by the warrant.

Capping all this off, the bill also imposes a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment upon a person who “discloses information … [that] relates to a special intelligence operation”. Although obviously intended to throw the hammer at whistleblowers, the provision would apply equally to journalists. Such a provision could make it impossible for Australians to learn about the activities of their own government that infringe international human rights laws.

All in all, this sweeping bill would hardly be out of place in the NSA's pantheon alongside the USA PATRIOT Act. But unlike the United States, Australia does not have a written Bill of Rights in its Constitution, making its freedom-abridging laws even harder to challenge in court.

Nevertheless Australia is a signatory to all major regional and global human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provides that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy”, and that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression”. Australia, like all other nations of the world, is also addressed by the Necessary and Proportionate Principles that provide more detailed guidance on how to apply international human rights standards in the context of communication surveillance.

It is far from clear that a proper balance can be struck by rushing this draconian bill through Parliament at a time when elevated fear of terrorism may lead to important civil liberties safeguards being forgotten or deliberately overruled. Australians should call on their government, before it is too late, to withdraw this bill for further consideration. If not, this may mark the week in history when it became easier for the Australian government to surveil and manipulate the Internet at will.


Data Retention as Mass Surveillance An Australian Perspective: A contribution to the Necessary and Proportionate Week of Action

13 Principles Week of Action: Fighting Surveillance Law in Australia

13 Principles Week of Action: While Australia Shirks Its International Human Rights Obligations, Australians Wait On The Rest Of The World to Act

Related Issues: InternationalSurveillance and Human Rights
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Scoundrel Media Reactions to Obama's Syrian Aggression - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 05:29
Scoundrel Media Reactions to Obama's Syrian Aggression
by Stephen Lendman
Previous articles explained when America goes to war of plans one, media scoundrels march in lockstep. 
They justify the unjustifiable. They defend the indefensible. Big Lies proliferate. Truth is verboten. It's systematically buried. It's turned on its head.
Rule of law principles don't matter. Supporting might over right takes precedence. 
Benefitting powerful monied interests matters most of all. So does advancing America's imperium. 
MSM media reports, commentaries and editorials support what demands condemnation. It's longstanding major media policy.
UK-based Media Lens editors David Cromwell and David Edwards provide "authoritative criticism of mainstream media bias and censorship, as well as providing in-depth analysis, quotes, media contact details and other resources." 
MSM betray their followers, they explain. Free and open societies are at risk. Fiction substitutes for fact.
News is carefully filtered. Dissent is targeted. It's threatened. Independent voices are systematically shut out.
Aggressive wars are called liberating ones. America and other Western countries are increasingly lawless.
They get away with mass murder and much more. They do so in plain sight. In real time repeatedly. 
On September 24, Cromwell and Edwards "nutshelled media zeitgeist in a single tweet," saying:
ITV political editor Tom Brady said:
"I am not at all religious, but I can't help feeling there may be a seventh circle of hell reserved somewhere for Jihadi John."
He referred to the killer of US journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff and British citizen David Haines.
Bradley's comment highlights MSM duplicity. Their hypocrisy. They focus on Islamic State "pure evil." They ignore longstanding state terrorism. 
Mass slaughter, destruction, displacement, broken lives and unspeakable human misery it inflicts.
Doing so provides cover for lawless US aggression. It ignores how Obama uses IS and other Takfiri terrorists as proxy shock troops against Assad.
The same scheme ousted Gaddafi. Nations posing no threat to America are ravaged and destroyed.
Syria is the latest example. In late August 2013, New York Times editors featured Ian Hurd's op-ed. Similar rubbish followed.
He's a Northwestern University political science professor. He heads its international studies program. 
Students are advised to avoid him. He supports lawless aggression. He shamelessly headlined "Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal."
He called it "urgent…to deter further massacres and to punish Bashar al-Assad." 
He lied claiming he used chemical weapons against his own people. No credible evidence suggests it. Plenty indicts US-supported terrorists.
Hurd turned a blind eye to reality. He supports America's killing machine.
"There are moral reasons for disregarding the law," he claimed. None whatever exist. 
International, constitutional and US statute laws are inviolable. Violators must be held accountable.
America maintains huge stockpiles of illegal chemical and biological weapons. So does Israel. 
Both countries use them at their discretion. They do so illegally. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mandates their elimination.
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits developing, producing, stockpiling and using them. It requires their destruction.
It doesn't matter. America and Israel do what they please. Rogue states operate this way.
Syria voluntarily destroyed it CW stockpile. It did so under OPCW supervision. 
It's still accused of using CWs it doesn't have. Ones it never used. Especially internally. Against its own people.
Post-9/11, Washington systematically violated international laws, treaties and norms. It continues doing so.
It spurned nuclear disarmament efforts. It did so to advance its program. To retain current stockpiles.
It renounced the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It usurped the right to develop and test new weapons.
It intends spending a trillion dollars or more over the next three decades modernizing its arsenal. It wants it able to have more than ever destructive power.
It abandoned the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM). It did so because it prohibits development, testing and deployment of missile defenses.
It spurned a proposed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). Adoption would prohibit further weapons-grade uranium and plutonium production.
It would prevent new nuclear weapons being added to current stockpiles.
Washington spends more on military/defense programs than the rest of the world combined.
It does so with all budgeted and off-the-books secret components of foreign and homeland spending included. 
It does it at the expense of vital domestic needs. They go begging to let Washington wage war on humanity.
It advocates preemptive/proactive/preventive/anticipatory first-strike nuclear wars. 
It does so against non-nuclear states. Against ones posing no threat to America. It claims might is right.
It spurned the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). It prohibits developing, producing, stockpiling and using new biowarfare weapons.
It usurped the right to advance them. It did so lawlessly. It acted in violation of over a century of chemical, biological and radiological weapons prohibitions.
Hurd ignored what demands highlighting. He lied claiming Assad "violated humanitarian principles throughout (months of) conflict."
Since Russia and China oppose Obama's agenda, he should declare core rule of law principles null and void, Hurd said.
He should claim they "evolved." He should declare Security Council authorization no longer is needed.
Throughout Syria's conflict, Times editors featured other op-eds like Hurd's. A rogue's gallery of hardline extremists are featured.
Times editors leave no doubt where they stand. They support Washington's imperial agenda.
They consider lawless aggression just cause. They ignore core rule of law principles, standards and norms in the process. They do it unapologetically.
Washington Post editors march to the same drumbeat. On September 22, they headlined "US airstrikes in Syria signal a new battlefield," saying:
Obama authorized airstrikes in Syria…(T)hey are to be welcomed…Obama (is) justified (in conducting his campaign) to rescue a vulnerable population…"
WaPo editors urge more than airstrikes. They want US combat troops deployed without saying so explicitly.
They ignored Obama's lawless aggression. They endorsed it but want more. So do Wall Street Journal editors.
They headlined "America Bombs in Syria," saying:
Doing so "mark(ed) a welcome offensive…(It) takes the war to the terrorists who beheaded two Americans" and one British subject.
They "threaten US interests in the Middle East and security at home."
"The mistake in the 1990s against Osama bin Laden was to limit the assaults to pinprick strikes and one-time affairs."
"…Obama's stated goal…require(s) ground forces. (They're) needed…to collect intelligence, direct air strikes, and conduct special" operations America does best.
Candidate Obama campaigned against Bush's Iraq war. He pledged to end Afghanistan fighting.
He promised a new era of peace and stability. President Obama exceeds the worst of all his predecessors and then some.
WSJ editors ignore his worst crimes. Presidents should never start wars they can't win, they said.
They want Obama to flex US muscle. Go all the way. Show "America is the strong horse."
No matter how much death and destruction it causes. Regardless of what rule of law principles say.
Or critics. Or fundamental moral standards. Or whatever the cost or duration.
MSM media scoundrels march in lockstep. They support US aggression. They turn a blind eye to right over wrong. 
They ignore their own code of ethics. It prioritizes public trust, credibility, accuracy, and truth.
It mandates fairness, integrity, independence, and accountability. 
MSM scoundrels serve wealth, power and privilege alone. They do so at the expense of principle, honor and trust.
They betray their readers and viewers in the process. They do it unapologetically. They ignore what's right. They act with disdain. 
Famed journalist George Seldes (1890 - 1995) called them "prostitutes of the press." 
Paul Craig Roberts calls them "presstitutes." They "whore for Washington and" corporate America.
They're propagandists, not journalists. They're charlatans. They're scam artists. 
They're scoundrels in the worst sense of the term. They make street whores look respectable by comparison.
Integrity isn't their long suit. They march in lockstep with imperial lawlessness. They misinform people willfully.
They lie for power. They carpet bomb readers and viewers with managed news misinformation garbage.
They generate depoliticized societies. They support wrong over right.
They call mob rule democratic governance. They twist facts to fit imperial policy. 
They believe war is peace. They consistently turn truth on its head. 
They're on the wrong side of history. Don't expect them to explain.
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. 

Reactions to Obama's Naked Aggression Against Syria - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 00:47
Reactions to Obama's Naked Aggression Against Syria
by Stephen Lendman
On Tuesday, Obama attacked another country lawlessly. Syria poses no threat to America. 
Obama bombed multiple sites. He did so with no legal authority. He committed lawless aggression. 
He's done it repeatedly throughout his tenure. It's the highest of high crimes against peace.
He violated international, constitutional and US statute laws. The 1996 US War Crimes Act calls them "grave breaches."
Obama's wars are Nuremberg-level crimes. They demand accountability. Expect none forthcoming.
His so-called coalition allies include a rogue's gallery of despotic regimes. He said he's "proud" to be allied with them.
Syria is the seventh country he bombed in less than six years in office. The others are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
US special forces operate covertly and overtly in over 130 countries worldwide. They're not good will ambassadors. They're trained killers.
CIA elements operate everywhere. They're agents of state terror. Their mission is supporting imperial lawlessness.
Obama acted extrajudicially. Security Council members alone may authorize war. It can do so only in self-defense.
Days earlier, John Kerry lied calling military action against Syria "a matter of national security."
"It’s a matter of the credibility of the United States of America,” he said. "It’s a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region."
Deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes lied claiming terrorists from a so-called Khorasan Group plan "attacks in the United States and Europe."
"We believe that attacking was imminent and that they had plans to conduct attacks external to Syria," he added.
"Plotting…was ongoing from" its territory, he claimed. "(S)trikes (undertaken were) aimed to disrupt" it, he added.
False! Targets struck had little or nothing to do with it. So was their timing.
Khorasan is more fiction than fact. It's a Jahbat al-Nusra (awa as Nusra Front) group. 
It's a valued US/Israeli ally against Syria. Claiming it's America's latest alleged threat turns truth on its head. It's done to justify the unjustifiable.
Washington's only enemies are ones it invents. It does so to wage one war after another. 
To assure instability. To prevent peace. To benefit monied interests. To advance its imperium.
On September 23, Obama's UN envoy Samantha Power addressed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She did so by letter.
She tried justifying the unjustifiable. She fooled no one. She fell woefully short. In part, she said:
"…Iraq…fac(es) a serious threat of continuing attacks from ISIL coming out of safe havens in Syria."
Its government "asked that the United States lead international efforts to strike ISIL sites and military strongholds in Syria in order to end (ongoing attacks), to protect Iraqi citizens, and ultimately to enable and arm Iraqi forces to perform their task of regaining control of the Iraqi borders."
Fact: Its US-installed puppet regime was pressured, bullied and threatened to support Obama's new regional wars, or else!
"ISIL and other terrorist groups in Syria are a threat not only to Iraq, but also to many other countries, including the United States and our partners in the region and beyond," Power claimed.
"The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe-havens effectively itself."
"Accordingly, the United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria to eliminate the ongoing ISIL threat to Iraq…"
It "initiated military actions in Syria against al-Qaida elements known as the Khorasan Group to address threats that they pose to the United States and our partners and allies."
Lt. General William Mayville heads US Joint Chiefs of Staff operations. He called Tuesday's strikes "the beginning of a credible and sustainable, persistent campaign” against IS and other Takfiri extremists.
He expects it to continue for years. Pentagon officials call it America's "long war." 
On Tuesday, US warplanes dropped more ordnance on Syrian targets than during scores of attacks on Iraq to date.
Dozens of civilians died. They included ruthlessly murdered children. US wars show no mercy.
Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Syrians will perish before Obama's campaign ends. It's one of history's greatest crimes. 
The worst is yet to come. Washington bears full responsibility. Rogue NATO partners, Israel, Jordan and Gulf state dictatorships share it.
Dick Cheney said earlier America's wars won't end in our lifetime. They're permanent wars. They're waged when America's only enemies are ones it invents.
Historian Gabriel Kolko calls America's history "violen(t), racis(t), repressi(ve) (and) cultural(ly) mendaci(ous)."
It's been this way from inception. Howard Zinn called it "genocide" against people at home and abroad.
Committed "brutally and purposefully," he said. Done so "in the name of progress…" Buried "in a mass of other facts (like) radioactive wastes…"
America's holocaust continues in new forms. It's unparalleled in scope, ruthlessness and duration.
Reinventing history suppresses it. The worst of its genocidal crimes are portrayed as advancing democratic values. Big Lies repeat with disturbing regularity.
Syria stopped short of condemning US attacks. On Tuesday, Assad said he'll continue waging war on terrorism. He supports international efforts doing so.
Syria's Foreign Ministry said Washington "informed (its UN) representative…that strikes will be delivered at Islamic State positions in Raqqa."
Its Foreign Minister Walid al-Moellem said fighting terrorism requires not supporting, financing and training extremist groups against Syria.
If America intends confronting them effectively, it must do so within a UN framework, he stressed. Syria, Iran, Russia must be involved. All nations must cooperate against a common threat.
"The move to establish an international alliance to face the terrorism of ISIS is not debatable," said al-Moellem.
"For decades, Syria called for holding an international conference on combating terrorism as it has realized (its) danger." 
"Since the beginning of the crisis, (it) said that terrorism will affect its supporters and funders and will spread outside the country to reach even Europe and the US."
"We must distinguish between the international efforts in the framework of the Security Council's resolution No. 2170 to combat the terrorism of the ISIS, Jabahat al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations, and the hidden intentions of the US and its allies as the members of this alliance are the same countries which have conspired against Syria for more than three years."
"Any violation of Syria's sovereignty is aggression," he stressed. 
Russia opposes Wednesday's Security Council resolution under Chapter VII, he said.
It's why Obama authorized bombing before it was tabled for debate.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani condemned US airstrikes. They lack legal authority, he said. Damascus granted no permission. 
On September 23, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said:
"In connection with the missile and air strikes on the positions of the terrorist organization the Islamic State in Syria, launched by the United States with support from a number of other countries, Russia would like to note that such actions can be carried out only within the framework of international law."
"This implies not a formal unilateral notification of the strikes, but the existence of explicit consent of the Syrian government or a relevant decision by the UN Security Council." 
"Russia’s firm position on this issue was confirmed by President Vladimir Putin during a telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 22 September."
"Fighting terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa requires coordinated efforts of the international community under the auspices of the United Nations." 
"Attempts to pursue geopolitical objectives and violations of the sovereignty of states in the region can only aggravate tensions and further serve to destabilize the situation."
"Moscow has repeatedly warned that those who initiate the unilateral use of force bear full international and legal responsibility for its consequences."
Russia's lower house Duma international relations committee chairman Alexei Pushkov condemned Washington’s "strange logic." 
It's trying to enlist Moscow's Security Council support against the Islamic Staten (IS).
He called America a "weakening world hegemon." Its efforts to effectively address international challenges fail. 
It needs Moscow's support, he explained. It does so at a time of irresponsible Russia bashing over Ukraine, its support for Syria, and its opposition to imperial lawlessness.
"The US, Brussels and the European capitals should make a choice  (about) what they think Russia is for them - a country (theyre) trying to make a pariah state or (one) they need to cooperate to control the extremely difficult processes in various parts of the world," he said.
Last week Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said planned US airstrikes would be a "gross violation" of international law and an "act of aggression."
Putin called them unacceptable without Syria's explicit consent. Without strict observance of international law. 
Without recognizing Syrian sovereignty. Without cooperating with its government against a common threat. Without getting Security Council authorization to do so.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is a longtime imperial tool. He failed to denounce US lawlessness. 
He said Obama's bombing campaign is conducted without Syria's consent. But it's government was informed beforehand. 
Doing so is like getting a message from a serial killer saying you're next.
On Wednesday, SC members will consider a resolution to suppress foreign extremist fighters.
Reuters got a draft copy. It's unclear if changes were made.
Obama hopes for unanimous passage. He won't likely get it. 
It calls for UN Charter Chapter VII use of force. According to Reuters, it "gives the Security Council authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or force."
It "does not mandate military force to tackle the foreign fighter issue."
It targets extremists traveling to conflict theaters worldwide.
It "decides all States shall ensure their domestic laws and regulations establish serious criminal offenses sufficient to provide the ability to prosecute and to penalize in a manner duly reflecting the seriousness of the offense."
It mandates all countries prohibit their citizens from involvement in activities "for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts, or the providing or receiving of terrorist training."
It requires them to be "consistent with international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law, prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping" of foreign fighters."
It's Obama's legal cover for force. Russia opposes extrajudicial US bombing. It wants Chapter VI authorization. It prohibits force.
Washington's scheme is thin-veiled. It's so-called war on terrorist groups masks its regime change objective.
It wants Assad ousted. Takfiri extremists are America's proxy shock troops. Bombing Syrian targets provide air support.
On August 15, Security Council members unanimously adopted a UK-introduced resolution targeting IS and Nusra Front.
It condemned foreign fighter recruitment. It threatened sanctions against nations, groups or individuals involved in financing or facilitating foreign fighter travel.
It called on Member States "to require that airlines under their jurisdiction provide advance passenger information to the appropriate national authorities in order to detect the departure from their territory, or attempted entry into or transit through their territory" of UN sanctioned individuals.
It requires nations to prevent anyone believed to be involved with terrorist groups from transiting through their territories.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said America supports terrorism. It's "not morally qualified to lead an anti-terrorism coalition because it is the mother of terrorism…"
It supports its terrorist ally Israel. Its Iraq and Syria wars are illegal. They're pretexts to pursue regional dominance.
Internationally recognized economist Rodrique Tremblay once said "(t)he world should be worried about those who go around the planet with a can of gasoline in one hand and a box of matches in the other, pretending to (be) sell(ing) fire insurance."
Everyone should be worried today, he believes. The "Empire of Chaos and its coalition of terrorism financiers (are) selling fictitious 'security covers' to the people of the Middle East by bombing their own colonies of terror and violence in Syria."
America wants Syria destoyed. "Emperor Obama…has no clothes," said Tremblay. His "bogus coalition" has no legitimacy.
It's a "coalition of the killing." It's so-called "boogeyman" is America's own making. Mossad was very much involved. So were regional terror states.
Stopping terrorism requires not "participating in it," Tremblay stressed. Washington's campaign is madness. 
Iraqis and Syrians alone can defeat the " 'American Caliphate' and rid its medieval/violent ideology from their territories."
On September 23, Moon of Alabama (MOA) headlined "Concealed by US Airstrikes Israel Opens Nusra Path to Lebanon." 
It said US bombing won't work. IS will "gain further legitimacy."
Obama's coalition of Arab dictatorships reveals Washington's dark side intentions. MOA called the Khorasan Group a "Pentagon FUD invention (fear, uncertainty and doubt)."
It's nothing new. It's part of Jabhat al Nusra. 
IS prepared in advance for US attacks. It dispersed its fighters, weapons and other capabilities.
Israel's downing a Syrian fighter aircraft showed support for Takfiri extremists. Its claim about it violating Israeli territory is suspicious at best.
"(T)he reported crash site was far from its border near Kanaker, Syria…(It's) halfway between the demarcation line and Damascus."
Some plane remnants fell into Mediterranean waters. With US support and protection, Israel established a de-facto no-fly zone around surrounding Golan territories.
It lets Jabhat al-Nusra use a safe corridor to south Lebanon. Doing so lets it confront Hezbollah. It "opens space for new attacks on Damascus."
MOA found no credible evidence about US airstrikes hitting IS "major weapons or ammunition depots." None exists.
It bears repeating what other articles stressed. IS is the pretext. So are other Takfiri extremists. 
Syria is the target. Regime change is the objective. Advancing America's imperium matters most.
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. 

Where Books Are Banned, The Internet Can Be a Lifesaver - Wed, 24/09/2014 - 17:44

The censorship or banning of books is a phenomenon that occurs in countries around the world. Books that are considered “scandalous” or inciteful in some way are often targets of censorship by governments, schools, libraries and other entities.

In the United States, as NPR explains, books have historically been banned for violence and sexual content, as well as profanity, and continue to be banned by individual school districts. In Australia, the sale of certain books—such as Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho—is restricted to readers 18 and over. In Egypt, books challenging the political status quo are often targets of censorship. Amazon maintains a list of countries where particular books cannot be shipped. And the list goes on.

For individuals living in countries with high levels of censorship, the Internet has become a means for circumventing restrictions on book sales. Access to online bookstores and platforms like Kindle have, for example, helped people in China get around the infamous Great Firewall. New platforms like Oyster provide reading materials in English that might not be available for purchase, either due to censorship or lack of demand. And free platforms like Project Gutenberg create access where cost or censorship is an issue.

But for some, these workarounds have restrictions as well. Copyright and related licensing restrictions can curtail access to books in certain places; for example, a new book on atheism in the Arab world by journalist Brian Whitaker is unavailable for purchase in the Middle East and Africa, apparently due to international distribution issues. App stores sometimes restrict access to book platforms out of copyright or liability concerns, as well as when faced by government pressure. And restrictions on international banking—not to mention the cost of e-books—can limit people in many countries from taking advantage of online book platforms.

In Sudan, books can be especially hard to come by. Not only does the government confiscate and ban books and harass authors, but high customs taxes have forced numerous bookstores to close over the past few years.

“Online access to books is so important for the new generation,” says Sudanese activist Dalia Haj Omar, but US sanctions prevent individuals from accessing a number of sites and resources that would allow young Sudanese to circumvent restrictions on reading and learning. Among the sites that are unavailable to Sudanese are Khan Academy and the Google Play Store.  

Despite the sanctions, which Haj Omar is working to reform, she says that young Sudanese are finding ways around the various restrictions, and points to an article in the New York Times detailing Khartoum’s literary revival. It describes the work of Abdullah Al-Zain, the man behind a monthly book swap event called Mafroush (“displayed”). "The Internet is not necessarily an enemy of books," says Al-Zain. Indeed.

Related Issues: International
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EFF Asks President Obama To Support Open Innovation - Wed, 24/09/2014 - 10:07

Every few years, the White House updates its Strategy for American Innovation and asks for comments from the public. EFF’s submission explains that overly restrictive intellectual property regimes can stifle innovation by limiting the ability of researchers to build upon existing knowledge. Our comments address three topics on that theme.

Patents: A flood of low-quality software patents has fueled the growth of patent trolling. These lawsuits are especially harmful to innovative small businesses and startups. EFF urges the Administration do more to improve patent quality and to support legislative reform (such as the Innovation Act which passed the House last year) to reduce abusive patent litigation.

Open Access to Knowledge: Our innovative future relies upon understanding the knowledge of the past and present. Unfortunately, scholarly papers are often locked up behind expensive paywalls and stored in unusable formats. For this reason, EFF urges the Administration to not only follow through with its agenda to provide public access to taxpayer-funded research, but also to make sure future policies allow for truly open access, reuse, and innovation.

DMCA Section 1201: The so called “anti-circumvention” provisions of the DMCA were ostensibly intended to stop copyright infringers from defeating anti-piracy protections added to copyrighted works. In practice, however, these provisions have been used to stifle a wide array of legitimate activities. The DMCA has been used to block competition in laser printer toner cartridges, garage door openers, videogame console accessories, computer maintenance services, and mobile phones. We urge the Administration to support legislative reform such as the Unlocking Technology Act, introduced last year by Representative Zoe Lofgren.

President Obama has already taken some positive steps on these issues (particularly to improve the patent system and promote open access). But much more remains to be done. EFF urges the Administration to prioritize reform of overly-restrictive IP regimes. This is essential for a balanced innovation policy that promotes the public interest.

Files:  electronic_frontier_foundation_comments_regarding_strategy_for_american_innovation.pdfRelated Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceDMCAPatentsPatent TrollsInnovationDRMOpen Access
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Big Lies Launch Lawless Wars - Wed, 24/09/2014 - 07:08
Big Lies Launch Lawless Wars
by Stephen Lendman
Obama's Iraq war III is lawless. It has no legal authority. It constitutes cold, calculated, premeditated naked aggression. 
The same holds for his three-and-a-half year proxy war on Syria. It was planned long before March 2011 hostilities began. It's now elevated to direct US intervention. 
On Tuesday, US warplanes bombed multiple Syrian targets. Precise ones aren't clear. 
Multiple civilian deaths followed. At least three children died. Civilians suffer most in all wars. 
US and Israeli ones target them willfully. They're considered legitimate targets. They're murdered in cold blood.
A local Raqqa resident said "(t)here is an exodus out of (the city) as we speak. It started in the early hours of the day after the strikes."
"People are fleeing toward the countryside." Around one-third of Syria's population already is internally or externally displaced.
US bombing threatens thousands more. They're in the line of fire. They're in harm's way
As long as US bombing continues, not a square inch of Syria is safe. The entire country is vulnerable to attacks. 
Expect Washington to take full advantage. Expect Big Lies to conceal its objectives.
They have nothing to do with degrading and destroying ISIS/ISIL/the Islamic state (IS). 
They have everything to do with advancing America's imperium. Previous articles explained.
Its so-called coalition allegedly includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain.
Their precise military roles aren't clear. Or if they have or intend having any.
They're likely US partners in name only. To give Washington pseudo-legitimate veneer cover. None whatever exists.
No Security Council authorization. No congressional OK. Little significant non-Western/Middle East support.
All wars are based on lies. Big ones launch them. They're based on deception.
What worked throughout history applies more than ever now. Instant communications facilitate war-making.
Managed news misinformation circulates with electronic ease. Propaganda wars precede hot ones.
They reflect deception, popular fiction and Big Lies. They repeat with disturbing regularity. 
Ordinary people are carpet-bombed round-the-clock. Truth is systematically buried.
Washington's imperial war machine is humanity's greatest threat. It rages out-of-control. 
It targets one country after another. It ravages and destroys them. 
It leaves tens of millions dead, wounded and/or displaced. It turns nations into dystopian wastelands. 
Throughout its sordid history, America glorified wars in the name of peace. They're waged against invented enemies.
They include mass slaughter and destruction. America refined the art of killing. It's more able to lay waste to vast areas than any nation in history.
It takes full advantage. It manufactures public consent. It transforms peace-loving Americans into raging US enemy haters. Muslims are today's target of choice.
Coalition to Oppose Arms Trade coordinator Richard Sanders explained earlier, saying:
"Throughout history, war planners have used various forms of deception to trick their enemies." 
"Because public support is so crucial (to wage war), the home population is also subject to deceitful stratagems." 
"The creation of false excuses to justify going to war is a major first step in constructing public support..."
"The corporate media (are) central to the success of" manufacturing consent." So is repetition.
It drowns out other narratives. MSM scoundrels are master manipulators. So are PR wizards. Their support is crucial in enlisting public support.
Things work the same way every time. Truth is suppressed. Fear-mongering proliferates.
Patriotism and democratic values are highlighted. People are manipulated to support war. To protect national security.
To keep the world safe for democracy. To fight terrorist threats. To eliminate them altogether. 
America invents them. It's vital for public support. Naked aggression is conducted to combat them. So-called enemies are more fiction than fact.
Pentagon Papers revelations showed Johnson administration officials lied to the public and Congress.
In their book, "Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq," Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber showed how manipulative propaganda sells people on war.
Big Lies work the same way every time. Government deception, media cooperation, and aggressive PR convince people to support what harms their interests and well-being.
Pentagon officials spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually selling wars. Truth is suppressed. Big Lies substitute.
Alternative voices are shut out. War-mongering is standard fare. Pressure is constant to support what demands condemnation.
To back military intervention. Political solutions are alien to US policy. War-profiteers demand conflicts without end.
Over a century ago, William Randolph Hearst hyped the Big Lie. He did so about Spain sinking the battleship Maine. A coal bunker explosion caused it.
It didn't matter. Hearst told his illustrator: "You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war." 
Big Lies launch them every time. Doing so manipulates public minds. People support what they'd never do otherwise.
Most rely on television for news and information. In June 1950, then Boston University president Daniel Marsh said "(i)f (its craze) continues…we are destined to have a nation of morons."
In May 1961, FCC chairman Newton Minow called commercial television a "vast wasteland."
He described a "procession of game shows, formula comedies, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, cartoons, and endless commercials."
He called many of them "screaming, cajoling and offending…If you think I exaggerate," tune in, he said.
When America goes to war or plans one, media giants march in lock step. They regurgitate state-sponsored propaganda.
They manufacture consent. They let America get away with murder and then some.
They substitute Big Lies for vital truths. They ignore Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address warning. 
He cited a "coalition of the military and industrialists who profit by manufacturing arms and selling them to the government."
About the military-industrial complex's "acquisition of unwarranted influence…The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power…"
The fact that "(e)very gun…made, every war ship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, from those who are cold and not clothed…"
The late Canadian Law Professor Michael Mandel explained American lawlessness in his 2004 book titled, "How America Gets Away with Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity."
He discussed Justice Robert's Jackson's Nuremberg supreme crime against peace declaration. It's more than ever relevant now.
World War I was called the war to end all wars. WW II followed. Is WW III next? Either we prevent it or it'll end us. There's no in between.
Are Obama's Middle East wars prelude to greater conflict? Will Ukrainian crisis conditions trigger it? 
Will East/West confrontation follow? Will global conflict erupt? Can humanity survive perpetual wars? Can planet earth sustain them?
On September 23, Obama addressed Speaker John Boehner by letter, saying:
"(O)n September 22, 2014, at my direction, US military forces began a series of strikes in Syria against elements of al-Qa'ida known as the Khorasan Group."
It's Washington's latest alleged terrorist threat. It's unclear if it exists. If it's fake or real.
Obama lied claiming "(t)hese strikes are necessary to defend the United States and our partners and allies against the threat posed by these elements."
He falsely said they protect "national security and (US) foreign policy interests…"
He claimed nonexistent "constitutional and statutory authority as Commander in Chief" to wage war at his discretion. He called it "consistent with…War Powers Resolution" principles.
False! A previous article explained. WPR is clear and unequivocal, stating:
"The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to 
(1) a declaration of war, 
(2) specific statutory authorization, or 
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."
No declaration of war exists. No legal authority. No national emergency.
No existential or other threats. No enemies targeting America. No Security Council authorization. No congressional OK.
No justifiable reason to wage war. No reason ever to do so except in self-defense if attacked.
None occurred. Expect none forthcoming. Except perhaps False Flag deception.
It won't be the first time if it happens. Or the last. They're an American tradition.
It's been 13 years since the mother of all Big Lies. Maybe Obama has another in mind.
Maybe he'll replicate 9/11. Maybe he'll take state-sponsored terrorism to a higher level. 
Maybe he plans much greater mass slaughter and destruction. Maybe he'll launch WW III. Maybe armageddon will follow? 
Stay tuned. Forthcoming articles will explain more.
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. 

Local Use of Military Equipment is Drawing Scrutiny—But Local Use of Surveillance Equipment and Training Needs Attention Too - Wed, 24/09/2014 - 06:02

Since the police shooting of Michael Brown and the response in the streets, militarization of the police, especially with surplus military hardware like armored vehicles, has been a hot topic, both in the news and in Congress. And that's a good thing.

But the equipment we can see on the news isn’t the only thing flowing from our military to local cops. Alongside armored vehicles and guns, local police are getting surveillance technology with help from the federal government. And while we don’t know the full contours of that aid, what we do know is worrisome and should spur further scrutiny, both locally and nationally.

The risks of militarizing the local cops are easy to see—and they’re compounded by folding local law enforcement into homeland security. Military technology, and suspicionless mass surveillance, are based on a military mindset— everyone is a possible enemy and no one deserves privacy. While some lawmakers justify this shift by pointing to the “war on drugs” and “the war on terror,” the United States is not technically a war zone. This raises the specter of the Posse Comitatus Act, passed in the late 1800s to prevent use of the military in domestic law enforcement. 

Congress is Finally Taking a Look into the Transfers of Hardware

Fortunately, Congress is starting to take seriously some parts of this transformation of local law enforcement. On September 9, spurred on by the horrifying use of military technology on the streets of Ferguson, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on “the effectiveness of federal programs that provide state and local police with surplus military equipment and grant funding for exercises and for training.” The hearing looked at the Department of Defense (DOD) 1033 program—which allows the DOD to give away for free surplus equipment to local law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Homeland Security Grant Programs, and the Department of Justice's Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program.

Each of these three programs has transferred millions of dollars of equipment and funding to local law enforcement, from bayonets to drones. This includes funding for fusion centers, the state and local criminal intelligence information clearinghouses that allow local law enforcement to access and input information into federal databases like the FBI’s eGuardian without even meeting a "probable cause" standard

The hearing gave the committee a chance to hear direct testimony from representatives of these three programs, as well as other experts and stakeholders. Written statements from speakers are available here. Senators closely questioned the representatives of each of the three programs, revealing some startling truths:

  • The DOD and DHS do not provide any training to departments that get equipment or money from them, including high tech surveillance equipment like drones and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs).
  • None of the agencies look into whether a state or local law enforcement agency is under active investigation or has a history of civil rights or civil liberties violations.
  • Prior to Ferguson, these three officials had never met, even though they were providing similar equipment and funding for equipment to the same police departments.
  • The total number of pieces of controlled property, such as weapons, currently in the possession of law enforcement agencies is approximately 460,000.

The questions that were not answered, or partially answered, were also revealing:

  • “What (is) the difference between a militarized and increasingly federalized police force and a standing army?"
  • "When was the last time you can recall that equipment from the 1033 program was used for counterterrorism?”

The overall picture that emerged was that the federal officials are willing to fund surveillance and military technologies to local law enforcement but provide little or no training to police officers—and have no policies in place to ensure this equipment isn’t misused. The White House is conducting a review of these programs, and while there is no clear timeline for completion, it's a step in the right direction

Surveillance Deserves a Look Too

Congress and the White House need to include surveillance technologies in their inquiries. The same money that funds MRAPs and night vision goggles also funds intelligence gathering at the local level. DHS's Homeland Security Grant Program directly funds fusion centers. In fact, its 2014 grant announcement emphasized that funding fusion centers and integrating them nationally is a high priority. And DHS Urban Area Security Initiative money funds events like Urban Shield, a 4 day long event that featured "preparedness" exercises as well as a marketplace of military and surveillance technology.

Another possible avenue for review is the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). PCLOB asked for public comments on its proposed mid- and long-term agenda, which includes an examination of the “functional standards" used for Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR),” a program coordinated through fusion centers.1 EFF, along with others, submitted comments encouraging PCLOB to take a close look more generally at fusion centers. The comments emphasized that accountability for fusion centers, like all the programs reviewed in the Senate hearing, is a major problem: 

The bidirectional flow of data in fusion centers, as well as interagency cooperation and jurisdictional blurriness, makes accountability and a clear understanding of the applicability of laws and regulations difficult… In the midst of this ambiguous and opaque environment, fusion centers have access to a staggering amount of data including the FBI's eGuardian database and a variety of other federal databases. They may even potentially have access to unminimized NSA data. And as data gathered under the problematic SAR standards is entered into these databases, the lines of responsibility for unconstitutional invasions of privacy and civil liberties become ever more unclear.

Local Cops, Local Action

There is a silver lining to all of this, though. Unlike the onerous task of reforming the NSA, FBI, and other federal agencies, addressing militarization of and surveillance by local law enforcement is much easier for grassroots activists. Groups like the coalition that helped push the Urban Shield exercise out of Oakland, the coalition that stopped Berkeley from purchasing an armored vehicle, and the coalition that helped to stop the purchase of a drone in Alameda County, are springing up all over the country.

For those concerned about the use of military surveillance equipment domestically, it’s a good time to do some research into your own local government to find out not only whether they are obtaining the kinds of military equipment that you can see, but also whether they are obtaining surveillance technologies that you can’t. Public records act requests are a great way to find out whether your town or city has gotten any of these funds and how it has, or plans to, spend them. Let us know what you find out, and let your elected officials know what you think.

  • 1. Suspicious activity reporting (SAR) is a criminal intelligence report that is generated by law enforcement or private parties and routed through fusion centers.

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Banned Books Week: Celebrating Free Expression and the Open Flow of Information - Wed, 24/09/2014 - 05:55

It’s Banned Books Week! An annual event held in the last week of September, Banned Books Week seeks to draw attention to books being banned or challenged in libraries and schools while promoting free and open access to knowledge.

Here at EFF, we’re celebrating Banned Books Week by revisiting our favorite banned and challenged works and checking out some of the texts at issue in important First Amendment cases. It's directly in line with our work fighting for your rights to free expression and open access to information.

Supporting a movement to call attention to book bans is important, because librarians are often the first line of defense against attacks on intellectual freedom, whether these attacks come in the form of censored speech, invasions of privacy, or restrictions on finding information. EFF recognized that role in 2000 with a Pioneer Award dedicated to "Librarians Everywhere." And libraries and schools are especially vital resources in communities where individuals rely on public computers for access to information, or where students want to explore issues they may feel uncomfortable discussing with adults.

In the US, attempts to ban books have often been found to violate the First Amendment and the rights of the students to access information. They amount to censorship that directly contradicts the spirit of learning and engagement that make libraries so valuable.

These challenges are not just an artifact of the past. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom collects reports of challenges and publishes a list of the top ten most challenged works every year. Each year, they receive hundreds of reports, but 85% of challenges and bans are thought to go unreported.

Just this year, a high school principal canceled the school’s summer reading program rather than have students read Little Brother, EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow’s bestselling young adult novel about challenging a dystopian surveillance state. Though it was published in 2008, elements of the book are scarily prescient given what we now know about mass surveillance technologies. It's an especially apt text for sparking discussion and thought in the context of our current national and global conversations about surveillance and the rule of law, but the principal was concerned about its supposed lauding of questioning authority and “hacker culture.”

To see that sort of argument in 2014 is disappointing. But fortunately, it's easier than ever to learn about this censorship and route around it. Cory and his publisher, Tor Books, publicized the censorship and sent 200 copies of Little Brother to the school, but it's also available for purchase or even free download from his site.

Care to join us in celebrating Banned Books Week? Go ahead and read a new banned book or reread one of your favorites, then check out the great resources and activity ideas available at the Banned Books Week and ALA sites. You can also fight against censorship and for open access in libraries and schools by asking your librarian about filtering software on library computers and signing our Open Access petition.

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Back to School: Get Your Digital Rights Student Group Started Right Away - Wed, 24/09/2014 - 01:31

Watch for it. This year student protest and resistance to mass surveillance might be bursting at the seams. The Internet, which students across the world have grown up with, is under threat. And now more than ever, student leaders are contacting EFF, wanting to know how to get involved to protect our rights online.

Now is the time to organize. We’re calling on all concerned students, whether new organizers or seasoned campus leaders, to join the growing movement to fight for our right communicate and innovate, unhampered by oppressive government surveillance and creativity-stifling copyright law.

Surveillance chills speech. When we know that researching politically controversial topics might make us targets for increased government scrutiny, we are less likely to research. Digital privacy is an intellectual freedom issue. And that’s why we’re thrilled to bring this movement to college campuses.

When we say organize, we mean use your network and institutional resources to create a space for discussion, debate, and campaigns. If there’s already a group of people interested in digital rights, start an official university club so others can find you easily and join. If there’s a professor whose work or interests intersect with the topic, ask her to help plan an event.

Form a Student Group for Digital Freedom

There have always been student groups for those interested in technology and other student groups for those interested in human rights, but now there is an immediate need for these conversations to merge.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Go to the student organization office to find out what is needed to become official
  • Find a faculty sponsor or ally to work with on future events
  • Pick an awesome name
  • Create a website, logo, and mailing list to discuss news and organize campaigns
  • Solidify a regular meeting time so it’s easy for new members to join
  • Hang up posters and flyers to advertise your meetings in the journalism department, the law school, in the political science department, and of course, the computer science department

For your first meeting, consider also offering a skill share or a guest speaker, like a professor who specializes in related field. This might attract even more participants. One event idea is a cryptoparty, where everyone brings their laptop and learns tools and techniques to protect themselves from illegal surveillance.

Organize An Event

One of the best ways to find out who is interested in these topics on campus is to organize an event. At the event, you can collect email addresses from those who come and start a listserve to keep the conversation going. Here’s a email sign-up sheet you can use.

It’s important to always be creative and open to fun ideas, and we have some event ideas that are pretty easy to unpack and get started:

  • Host a screening and discussion of the Internet’s Own Boy, a documentary about the life and trial of Internet activist Aaron Swartz. Use EFF’s discussion guide and tips for organizing a successful screening
  • Organize a speaker or panel discussion on topics like digital privacy, hacking, copyright and remix culture, or net neutrality. EFF is happy to try to send a speaker to your campus, but please be in touch well in advance,
  • Throw a cryptoparty! There’s never a shortage of people who want to learn ways to protect themselves from pervasive surveillance online. Send an email to folks from the journalism and computer science departments to see if they’d like to partner.

These events should be fun and informational. Everyone should feel welcome, so be sure to do lots of diverse outreach, thinking creatively about communities who might be particularly interested in the topic.

Once you find a good room and start doing outreach, be sure you have all the materials you need to make the event a success. This includes technology the room might need, like a microphone or a projector, as well as an information table at the front, where people should be encouraged to sign up for the email list and take handouts. EFF has plenty of one-pagers on digital rights that you can print out and use.

The Time Is Now

There’s no time to waste. The school year has just begun and student groups are forming. Try to get yours together to display at your university’s fall student club fair or in time to get an event together for this semester. Let us know if you get something organized. Email to keep us in the loop!

Reach out to everyone, because no matter what folks are primarily concerned about, the centrality of technology and electronic communication to all organizing for social justice and political change means that digital rights should matter to everyone.

Let’s do this. After all, it’s our Internet, and we have to fight to protect it. We look forward to working with you.

Related Issues: NSA SpyingStudent and Community Organizing
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Israel Part of US Anti-Syrian Coalition - Tue, 23/09/2014 - 23:34
Israel Part of US Anti-Syrian Coalition
by Stephen Lendman
It's unannounced. It's no secret. Israel is heavily involved. It's been so all along. It wants Assad ousted. 
It bombs Syrian targets at its discretion. It supplies weapons to Islamic State terrorists and other extremist Takfiri fighters.
It treats their wounded in Israeli hospitals. It supplies other support overtly and covertly.
On Tuesday, Israel confirmed it shot down a Syrian Sukhoi 24 fighter jet aircraft. It used a surface-to-air missile against it.
It said it "infiltrated into Israeli airspace." It's unclear if Israel's claim is true. Crew members ejected. 
They landed safely in Syrian territory. Reports indicate aircraft remains fell into Mediterranean Sea waters.
Syria was bombing areas around Quneitra. It's near Israeli-controlled Golan. 
Damascus authorities said Israel committed an act of aggression. Syrian state television quoted a military source.
He said downing its aircraft coincides with US-led airstrikes. It's part of Israel's "support for the terrorist (Islamic State) and Nusra Front."
It constituted a flagrant violation of Security Council Resolution 2170. It calls on UN Member States "to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria…"
It "condemned in the strongest terms what it called 'gross, systematic and widespread abuse' of human rights by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front."
It "demanded that ISIL, Al-Nusra Front and all other entities associated with Al-Qaida cease all violence and terrorist acts, and immediately disarm and disband."
It called for "further firm Council action to deal with them." 
SC members welcomed its adoption. So did Iraq and Syria.
It's a resolution for peace and stability. Obama's war sabotages them. So does Israeli complicity.
In the past, it scrambled warplanes against Syrian aircraft approaching its border. It never engaged them in combat.
Israel claimed Syria's fighter jet penetrated about half a mile into its territory. When attacked, it was flying toward Syrian territory, Israeli authorities said.
Entering its airspace was inadvertent. It constituted no threat to Israel's security. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon lied.
On the one hand, he said Syria's aircraft entered Israeli airspace accidentally.
On the other, he claimed it did so in a "threatening way." He vowed retaliation against further type incidents.
"We will not allow any element, whether it is a terror group or a state, to threaten our security and breach our sovereignty," he said. 
"We are committed first and foremost to ensure the security of  Israel's citizens, and we will use all means at our disposal to do so," he added.
Israeli General Ram Shmuli (Res.) said:
"We cannot tolerate any penetration of the Israeli airspace, so we had to shoot him down even though we understand that his intention was not to attack us."
He lied claiming Israel isn't involved in Obama's war in Syria. "(W)e don’t have any intention to be involved," he said.
"We have to keep our borders safe on one side but we have to make sure we are not part of this war," he added.
Israel and Syria are bitter enemies. They've been technically at war for decades. Syria entirely refrains from provocations.
Israel initiates them at its discretion. Tuesday's incident is the latest example. It won't be the last. It's the first time Israel downed a Syrian aircraft since the mid-1980s.
Perhaps it intends greater provocations ahead. It's covertly partnered with Obama's war.
In August, it downed a Syrian drone. It inadvertently entered Israeli airspace on its side of Golan's border.
Tuesday's act was extremely provocative. Perhaps intended to draw Syria into conflict. It tried doing so several times before. 
It didn't work. It won't now. Syria has no intention of confronting Israel militarily. Or engaging US-led warplanes bombing its territory.
Doing so assures greater mass slaughter and destruction than Washington plans. Whatever strategy Damascus chooses looks likely to fail. 
It's between a rock and a hard place. Obama plans regime change. He wants Assad ousted. 
He wants pro-Western stooge governance replacing him. His strategy combines proxy IS and other Takfiri extremist shock troops with US-led shock-and-awe air power.
It involves Gulf states, Jordanian and Israeli participation. On Tuesday, Obama's war on Syria entered a new phase. What follows remains to be seen.
Expect lots more death and destruction. Expect Syrian civilians to suffer most. 
Expect US-led high crimes against peace. Expect Big Lies to conceal them.
On Saturday, an Israeli Skylark drone crashed in southern Lebanon. Israeli sources said it malfunctioned.
Lebanese media reported it entered its airspace illegally. Israel does so virtually daily. Often multiple times.
According to Hezbollah, the drone destroyed an Israeli listening device after it was discovered in Tyre.
Separately, The New York Times said US airstrikes against IS fighters in Iraq did little to "tamp down the conspiracy theories still circulating from the streets of Baghdad to the highest levels of Iraqi government that the CIA is secretly behind the same extremists that it is now attacking."
"We know about who made Daesh," said Bahaa al-Araji…(Hes) a deputy prime minister…"
He "us(ed) an Arabic shorthand for the Islamic State on Saturday at a demonstration called by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to warn against the possible deployment of American ground troops."
He blamed CIA operatives for creating IS. He did so publicly.
A Saturday Baghdad demonstration drew several thousand. Dozens of parliamentary members were involved.
It's the latest in a series of incidents. They warn against deploying US combat troops in Iraq. Participants don't trust Obama for good reason.
He's a war criminal. He's a serial liar. He's a moral coward. He's waging Iraq war III. He's bombing Syria. He's waging war on humanity.
One Saturday demonstrator likely spoke for others, saying:
"The Islamic State is a clear creation of the United States, and the United States is trying to intervene again using the excuse of the Islamic State."
Another participant called it a US/Israeli creation. America uses IS and other terrorist groups strategically as both allies and enemies.
It's part of Washington's global conquest strategy. Obama's war on Iraq and Syria is the latest example. 
He has lots more death and destruction in mind. Large parts of an entire region are threatened.
On Tuesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said:
"(A)ttempts to pursue own geopolitical goals through violating the sovereignty of other states only escalates tensions and aggravates the situation even further."
"Moscow has repeatedly warned that those who initiated one-sided military scenarios bear full international legal responsibility for the consequences."
These and similar comments fall on deaf ears in Washington. Advancing America's imperium alone matters.
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.

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