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US Trade Representative Claims TPP Talks Are Progressing—But Are They Really?

eff.org - Wed, 29/10/2014 - 05:39

Trade delegates and ministers held another week of secret, back-room meetings over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in Australia, which ended yesterday with seemingly little advancement towards a final deal. The most recent leak of the TPP Intellectual Property chapter revealed that on top of the many threats to user rights we've already known about, negotiators are proposing new provisions on trade secrets—and they're among the most atrocious, overreaching provisions in the entire text of the TPP. Since we don't know what has been decided or changed since the May 2014 meeting from which this leak came, we have no way of knowing if the worst of these provisions still remain in the agreement or if they were discussed at all at this latest meeting in Australia.

If you've been following the news about TPP, it can be hard to read the mixed signals coming from different parties involved in the negotiations—most say it's at a standstill, while some others claim they're making progress. But if you look at the political motivations behind these claims, it's clear that even official statements should be read with a high degree of skepticism.

The US Trade Representative (USTR), one of the leading voices in touting the advancement of these TPP meetings, has an interest in boasting about their progress even if there hasn't been any. The USTR needs Congress to pass fast track authority, which would limit Congress' own ability to debate or hold hearings on the provisions of this deal, and restrict them from amending any of the TPP's terms. In that case, in the end, it would all come to an up-or-down vote to pass the entire pact. There is a strong incentive for the USTR to play up any movement being made in the TPP so that they can convince US officials that there is some kind of momentum going for this deal. By playing up the progress that is being made, the USTR can increase its pressure on Congress to pass fast track authority sooner rather than later.

Trade ministers, including USTR head Michael Froman, released a joint statement following their weekend meeting in Sydney. It states that they have made "significant progress" during these talks and that they are crystallizing "the shape" of the agreement. Meanwhile, the Japanese TPP minister had said that there is still no end in sight and other close observers have said the same. It could be likely that the official joint statement from the ministers is exaggerating any notable progress that were made in the talks, in order to avoid accusations that the deal is stalling.

But even if it were stalling now, that doesn't mean we can let our guard down. There are powerful interests at play who have a strong desire to see this thing passed. They've already spent five years negotiating it, likely spending millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars sending delegates around the world to hammer out a deal that would benefit their most influential industries. Congress could pass fast track during the lame duck session after the November elections, or in January during the new Congressional session. If that were to happen, the USTR can then turn around and guarantee to its trading partners that Congress will no longer have the authority to change any of the terms of the deal once its signed. That could be enough to renew the USTR's bargaining power to get those other countries to cave in and concede to the provisions that they now resist and conclude the deal.

The future of the TPP could be decided in the coming months. The ongoing secrecy, paired with the privileged access to texts afforded to corporate advisors, both point to an agency that does not respect the democratic process nor the concerns of the broader public interest. If the USTR is so myopic to believe that it has the authority to carry on the way it has, there's no way of knowing what it, along with its friends in Congress, will do to legitimize this whole process. The most obvious way this could happen is if the USTR and the White House can convince Congress to quickly and sneakily pass fast track without the public having the opportunity to stop it.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceInternationalTrans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
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Categories: Aggregated News

Ukrainian Electoral Postmortems

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 29/10/2014 - 00:07
Ukrainian Electoral Postmortems
by Stephen Lendman
Obama reacted as expected. He "congratulated the people of Ukraine on holding successful parliamentary elections…"
He "commend(ed)" its government. The same illegitimate fascist putschist one he installed. He lied claiming its electoral process was "largely in line with international standards."
Russia bashing Big Lies followed, saying:
"it is clear that (its) authorities occupying Crimea and Russian-backed separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine prevented many Ukrainian citizens from exercising their democratic rights to participate in national elections and cast their votes."
"The United States will not recognize any election held in separatist-held areas that does not comport with Ukrainian law and is not held with the express consent and under the authority of the Ukrainian government."
Sunday's "parliamentary vote represents another important milestone in Ukraine's democratic development." 
"We look forward to the convening of the new parliament and the quick formation of a strong, inclusive government." 
"The United States stands ready to support the choices of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine's new government as it enacts and implements the reforms necessary to promote further democratic development, strengthen the rule of law, and foster economic stability and growth in Ukraine." 
"The United States also will continue to support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity as it works toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the east and a return of Crimea, and will stand with its people as they seek to build a more secure, prosperous, and democratic future."
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso issued a joint statement.
It disgracefully praised Sunday's sham election. It ludicrously called it "a victory of the people of Ukraine and of democracy." It called on Kiev to initiate "much needed political and economic reforms."
Fact check:
Washington ousted Ukraine's democratically elected president. It elevated fascist putschists to power. They have no legitimacy whatever.
Crimeans and Donbass region Ukrainians reject fascist rule. They want no part of tyranny masquerading as democracy.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reacted guardedly. He hopes Ukrainian officials will honor their commitments.
In line with Minsk protocol September 5 and 19 agreed on terms. What hasn't happened so far.
"We presume that the government will pay attention to its commitments under the Minsk agreements, such as launching a broad nationwide dialogue involving all the regions, political forces of the country to carry out a constitutional reform that has been promised a long time ago but has not still begun,” said Lavrov.
"We wait for the final results. We hope that the election of the new Verkhovna Rada will make it operatively form the government, which will not be aimed at continuing heightening confrontation moods in the society and in Russia but which will be constructive and directed at working with Russia that is indispensable to meet the interests of the Ukrainian people."
"Particularly, the solution of social and economic problems and the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which in addition to the ceasefire and the disengagement of the parties, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry, envision priority attention to humanitarian problems in Donbass and mobilizing efforts for the restoration of the economy and infrastructure in the south-east."
"We leave aside the many violations that occurred during the preparations for the elections and the methods of coercion that were applied to a number of candidates and the measures to bar other political forces from the political process and participation in elections. Nevertheless, the voting did take place."
If not entirely nationwide. With Southeastern Ukrainian regions opting out for good reason. Democracy was nowhere in sight. .Fascists want things their way. They reject government of, by and for everyone equitably. Rogue states operate this way. 
Ukraine is Europe's worst. Its most dangerous. A potential East/West confrontation igniting flashpoint.
Lavrov believes Moscow will recognize electoral results. Because "it is very important for us to see Ukraine at last has authorities not involved in internal rifts or tug-of-war, pulling Ukraine to the West or to the East, but busy with the real problems that the country is facing," he said.
Things able to spill cross-border. Russia shares a 1,500 km land and sea border with Ukraine. Instability affects both countries.
Days earlier Lavrov said:
"No one (can) predict how long" Ukrainian crisis conditions will last. "The main task now is to focus on what has been achieved so far, namely the Minsk agreements and their implementation." 
"The process has not been easy: the parties continue to exchange fire, and unfortunately Kiev continues to use heavy weaponry, destroying the economic and social infrastructure in the southeast of Ukraine."
"It is extremely important to continue to coordinate the disengagement line to ensure a lasting ceasefire." 
"Next, all other provisions of the Minsk agreements should be implemented, including the launch of an inclusive national dialogue on how to live together."
"Remember that Kiev pledged to enter into dialogue on 17 April, when Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the EU adopted a statement in Geneva on the immediate start of a nationwide dialogue with all regions and political forces." 
"This commitment has not been honoured. In Minsk, the representatives of President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine signed a document affirming the need to initiate dialogue. We’ll see if they follow through."
Commenting on Crimea, he added:
"In truth, the opinion of Western countries on this issue doesn't interest me, just like their opinion on other aspects of Russia's internal affairs."
On October 28, he accused Kiev of war crimes in Southeastern Ukraine. He called what continues "impermissible." 
Thousands killed bear testimony to Kiev's brutality. Including mass graves with hundreds of bodies discovered in areas government forces control.
On October 28, Putin commented on the 70th anniversary of Russia's liberation from fascist invaders.
Mindful of how Ukraine's extremist government threatens regional peace and stability, he said:
"In the years of the Great Patriotic War, the power of spirit and unity of our multinational nation, valor and sustaining power of warriors-liberators, guerrillas, resistance movement fighters and workers of the rear was showed in all their grandeur during heavy and bloody battles for Ukraine."
"Our grandfathers and fathers together, in common ranks, were fighting courageously and selflessly for the freedom and independence of the Motherland, were defeating the enemy and were bringing a long-awaited victory closer."
"We should preserve carefully remarkable traditions of fraternal friendship and mutual assistance they left." 
"This is extremely important to raise the growing generation with high patriotic values, actively counteract any attempts at reviving fascist ideology, instigation of inter-ethnic strife and falsification of our common history."
Putin wished “Ukrainian veterans of the Great Patriotic War good health, well-being and strong spirit and peace and prosperity to all fraternal people of Ukraine."
Italian politician/journalist Giuletto Chiesa believes Ukraine's new parliament won't likely change things. It's stacked with old guard operatives and their relatives.
"Stability is still very far away," Chiesa said. "Apparently after the elections, the prevailing presence of right-wing parties inside the Verkhovna Rada will be used as a pretext for an offensive" against Donbas region freedom fighters.
He believes Ukrainian politicians intend involving pro-Western forces. "There is Poland and there are the Baltic republics. Apparently, there are people who may be preparing all this."
Washington most of all. "It engineered crisis…to provoke Russia." It's a dagger threatening its security. A "big stick," said Chiesa.
Its aim "has not yet been achieved yet, so it will be moving further one. I have the impression that the US leadership is determined to stop at nothing," he stressed.
Resolving crisis conditions depends on European "awareness of the danger looming over it…"
Because US meddling "would be an operation not just against Russia, but against Europe as well."
"(T)here will be no stopping the Americans as long as Europe fails to offer a different response."
Western opinion no longer is unanimous. "(T)angible forces (are) eager to cooperate with Russia."
Major European companies deplore sanctions. They want one thing. Their governments another.
Ukrainian lustration legislation requires special scrutiny of “persons empowered to perform state or local self-government functions."
It bans deposed President Viktor Yanukovych allies from politics. It affects all members of his government, law enforcers, civil servants, and local officials, as well as others in power before Soviet Russia's dissolution.
Namely, Ukraine's Communist party. Poroshenko abhors it. On October 26, he said:
It "belongs in the past by decision of the Ukrainian people and not by virtue of some regulation."
"During the presidential campaign, I expressed my strong belief that because of the crimes it committed in the past and present the Communist Party has no right to remain on the political horizon in Ukraine."
It "must exit to the past not by presidential decree or by decision of the Verkhovna Rada or by a judgment of the court. This must happen after the main judgment on the Communists is delivered by the people of Ukraine."
Deputy Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Grigoory Karasin expects official confirmation of elections results shortly. Information on them is "quite controversial," he said.
"But even now it is obvious that the elections have taken place, despite a hard struggle and dirty tricks,” he added.
"he forming balance of forces will probably allow the Ukrainian authorities to deal with some rooted problems in the society."
Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin called campaigning ahead of Sunday's election "dirty and cynical." Results won't exclude Moscow cooperating with Ukrainian officials.
Russia's upper house Federal Assembly monitoring commission head Vladimir Dzhabarov said Moscow will try cooperating with Ukraine's government despite doubts of its legitimacy.
"The southeast has not voted and there were lots of violations,” he said. New Rada members are more radicalized than earlier ones.
"We will attempt to cooperate in any case. We hope that reason would prevail among our new colleagues." Dzhabarov added.
"We cannot but attempt to build cooperation with the Rada because we have common history and we are neighbors."
Federation Council Constitutional Law Committee head Andrey Klishas said Russia intends cooperating with Ukrainian officials to end civil war.
Oppose Nazism's reemergence. And correct intolerable civil and human rights violations.
"Ukrainians themselves cannot fail to notice the mass violations of human rights during the latest parliamentary campaign," he said. 
"These were the ban of free speech, attacks on opposition candidates, mass violence in the form of the so called 'popular gatherings,' even lynch mobs on the side of the pro-fascist political forces."
On Monday, oligarch president Petro Poroshenko's Bloc and putschist prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's People's Front began coalition governance talks.
According to Poroshenko spokesman Yuriy Lutsenko:
They "just beg(an) between the president and prime minister and a meeting on a broader scale with representatives from both political forces" followed later on Monday.
Both sides want government formed as soon as possible. Together they lack a majority. They'll need to enlist a third coalition partner. So far, it's unclear which one.
Around three million Southeastern Donbas region Ukrainians will hold real democratic elections on Sunday, November 2.
They reject illegitimate fascist rule. They want government of, by and for everyone equitably. They intend getting what they fought and died for.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
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. 

Reinventing Vietnam War History

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Tue, 28/10/2014 - 19:51
Reinventing Vietnam War History
by Stephen Lendman
Pentagon commanders initiated it. A duplicitous 2015 50th anniversary commemoration. Honoring one of history's greatest crimes.
Turning truth on its head. Orwell explained saying "(h)e who controls the past control the future. He who controls the present controls the past."
A Pentagon web site headlines "The United State of America Vietnam War Commemoration." Pentagon commanders glorify what demands condemnation.
Providing "the American public with (so-called) historically accurate materials and interactive experiences that will help Americans better understand and appreciate the service of our Vietnam War veterans and the history of US involvement in the Vietnam War."
A Commemorative Partners Program "is designed for federal, state and local communities, veterans' organizations and other nongovernmental organizations to assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring our Vietnam Veterans and their families." 
Thanking them for mass murder. Involvement in genocidal high crimes against peace. Making the world safe for monied interests. More on this below.
In 1971, David Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers. Officially titled "United States - Vietnam Relations, 1945 - 1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense."
Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned it. Convinced America's war was unwinnable.
Wanting an "encyclopedic history of the Vietnam War." Preparing it was important for future scholars, he believed.
In 1969, it was completed. Examining Indochina policy from 1940 - 1968. Forty-seven volumes. Around 7,000 pages. Classified "Top Secret."
Ellsberg believed winning was unlikely. Waging it was bad policy. Lawless. Immoral. Costing thousands of American lives. Millions of Southeast Asian ones. More on this below.
Convinced releasing the Pentagon Papers would make a difference, Ellsbergs did so at personal risk.
Explaining what everyone deserves to know. What Washington systematically suppressed. About secretly expanding Southeast Asia's war. Lying publicly. Deceiving Congress.
Initially charged with conspiracy, espionage and theft of government property, charges against Ellsberg were later dropped. After information surfaced about White House Plumbers using lawless tactics to discredit him.
On May 11, 1973, an Oval Office recording caught Nixon saying:
"(T)he sonofabitching thief is made a national hero and is going to get off on a mistrial, and the New York Times gets a Pulitzer Prize for stealing documents...What in the name of God have we come to?" 
In 1996, The Times said:
The Pentagon Papers "demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public, but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance."
The same Times later featuring Judith Miller's Big Lies. About nonexistent Iraq WMDs. 
Publicizing them in regular Pentagon press release handouts. Substituting for credible journalism. 
Daily front page propaganda rubbish. A Noah's Ark of scam artists promoting war.
Capped by a Pulitzer Prize. Responsible journalists want it rescinded. With full defrocking.
Times editors don't apologize. They're in lockstep with all US wars. Ongoing or planned. Legal or illegal. WW II was Washington's last legitimate one.
Current ones rage with no end. More are planned. Permanent war is official US policy. 
Obama has lots of death and destruction in mind. Media scoundrels support his worst crimes. 
Ravaging, destroying and plundering one country after another. Millions of corpses attest to America's barbarity.
No nation in world history did more harm to more people over a longer duration. None matched its savagery. Homicidal viciousness. 
Ongoing without end. Risking the unthinkable. Possible global war. Mushroom cloud denouement. Armageddon.
Terror bombing is longstanding US practice. Targeting civilians and combatants alike.
Geneva and other international laws prohibit attacking non-combatants. Article 25 of the Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (1907 Hague IV Convention) states:
"The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited."
Article 26 states "(t)he officer in command of an attacking force must, before commencing a bombardment, except in cases of assault, do all in his power to warn the authorities."
Article 27 says "(i)n sieges and bombardments, all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes." 
The besieged should visibly indicate these buildings or places and notify an adversary beforehand.
Fourth Geneva protects civilians in time of war. Prohibiting violence in any form against them. Requiring treatment for sick and wounded. 
In September 1938, a League of Nations unanimous resolution prohibited "bombard(ing) cities, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings not in the immediate neighborhood of the operations of land forces…"
"In cases where (legitimate targets) are so situated, (aircraft) must abstain from bombardment" if doing so indiscriminately harms civilians.
The 1945 Nuremberg Principles prohibit "crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity." 
Including "inhumane acts committed against any civilian populations, before or during the war." 
Indiscriminate killing. "(W)anton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."
The 1968 General Assembly Resolution on Human Rights prohibits attacks against civilian populations. America and Israel do it repeatedly. By land, sea and air.
Gabriel Kolko wrote the definitive Vietnam War history. His "Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience" explains what everyone needs to know.
Imperial America's objectives, strengths, weaknesses, quest for world dominance and miscalculations.
Vietnamese tired of colonial rule. Northern communists gained control. They won peasant support. They did so promising more equal land distribution.
Their top leaders were intellectuals. Good planning and patience defined them. Southern policy was polar opposite.
Washington installed the authoritarian Ngo Dinh Diem regime. It did so to build military strength, crush opposition, and gain a reliable ally.
In the 1950s, military advisors arrived. Escalation followed. Lyndon Johnson wanted war on Vietnam. He got it. 
The August 1964 false flag Gulf of Tonkin incident initiated full-scale conflict. It raged after Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
Authorizing war without declaring it. It's longstanding US tradition. Big lies launch them. 
Manufactured pretexts initiate them. Mass killing and destruction follow. It bears repeating. Vietnam remains one of history's greatest crimes.
In February 1965, Operation Thunder began. War without mercy. Raging through October 1968. For 44 months.
Targeting and indiscriminate bombings. Using over one million tons of ordnance. At issue was destroying Vietnam's economy. Its will to resist.
Curtailing help reaching southern-based National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) fighters.
Over the course of war from 1965 - 1973, eight million tons of bombs were dropped. 
Threefold WW II's tonnage. Around 300 tons for every Vietnamese man, woman, child, infant, the elderly and infirm.
Napalm was used. Other incendiary devices. Terror weapons. Anti-personnel cluster bombs.
Spewing thousands of metal pellets. Hitting everything in their path. Indiscriminate land mines claiming victims to this day.
War targeted Cambodia and Laos. From March 1969 through May 1970. Nixon ordered secret bombings. Without consulting Congress.
Allegedly to destroy North Vietnamese and Viet Cong sanctuaries. Around 3,500 sorties were flown. 
About 600,000 deaths followed. Mostly civilians. Helping Khmer Rouge elements gain power in 1975.  
Cambodia was bombed with over 500,000 tons of ordnance. Until August 1973.
Over 25,000 US ground forces invaded. Dozens of towns, villages and hamlets were destroyed. Many thousands more were killed. Mostly peasants. 
In harm's way. In the line of fire. In the wrong country at the wrong time.
A 1962 Geneva Accord recognized Laos as a neutral state. Banning foreign military personnel from its territory.
Reality was much different. From 1965 - 1973, America flew around 580,000 sorties. Dropping over two million tons of ordinance.
The equivalent of a planeload of bombs every eight minutes. Round-the-clock for nine years.
At issue was destroying North Vietnamese so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail supply lines. Targeting the Pathet Lao government. North Vietnam's army controlling eastern provinces.
Secret bombings again were used. So were terror weapons. Including napalm, white phosphorous and cluster bombs.
Millions of unexploded bomblets remained. Buried in fields, roads, forests, villages and rivers.
Around one-third of Laos's 6.5 million people were killed, injured or displaced. Southeast Asia's wars were devastating.
Killing three to four million. Causing mass destruction. Incalculable human suffering to this day.
On August 10, 1961, America began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Operation Ranch Hand waged herbicidal warfare for 10 years.
Around 20,000 sorties were flown. Other spraying was done from boats, trucks, or soldiers mounted with backpacks. 
Over five million acres were contaminated. About 20% of South Vietnam was sprayed at least once. 
Millions of gallons of dioxin-containing defoliant were used across vast areas. Concentrations were 50 times greater than for other defoliation purposes. Horrific consequences followed. 
Dioxin is one of nature's most deadly substances. It's both natural and man-made. It's a potent carcinogenic human immune system suppressant. Minute amounts cause serious health problems and death.
Agent Orange kills! It accumulates in adipose tissue and the liver. It alters living cell genetic structures. 
Exposure results in congenital disorders and birth defects. It causes cancer, type two diabetes, and numerous other diseases.
In 2009, the US Institute of Medicine reported evidence linking Agent Orange to soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (including hairy-cell leukemia), Hodgkin’s disease, and chloracne.
It's associated with prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, amyloidosis (abnormal protein deposits), Parkinson’s disease, porphyria cutanea tarda (a blood and skin disorder), ischemic heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, cancer of the larynx, lung, bronchea and trachea, as well as spina bifida in offspring of exposed parents.
Vietnam's Red Cross links it to liver cancer; lipid metabolism disorder; reproductive abnormalities; development disabilities; paralysis; and congenital deformities like cleft lip, cleft palate, club foot, hydrocephalus, neural tube defects, fused digits, and muscle malformations.
Dioxin remains toxic for decades. It's not water soluble. Nor easily degradable. It contaminates soil, foliage, air and water. 
It can be inhaled, absorbed through skin, or gain bodily entry through eyes, ears, or other cavity passages. It enters the food chain. Crops, plants, animals, and sea life are poisoned.
Its effects killed millions of Southeast Asians. Many others were disabled and/or suffer from chronic illnesses. Future generations are affected like earlier ones.
Around three million US servicemen and women were harmed. So were many American civilians. Many died. Living victims suffer from diseases, birth defects, and other ill effects.
Agent Orange use was always controversial. Studies confirmed its enormous harm. Ecocide and genocide best describe it. Human studies provided damning evidence.
In the early 1970s, Vietnam veterans reported skin rashes, cancer, psychological symptoms, birth defects, and other health problems.Victims perish to this day. 
Depleted uranium (DU) contamination began in the 1970s. US forces used DU freely since America's Gulf war. Including dirty bombs, shells, missiles, and other munitions.
DU and other toxic weapons are illegal under international law. The 1925 Geneva Protocol and subsequent Geneva Weapons Conventions prohibit use of chemical and biological agents in any form.
The 1925 Geneva Convention Gas Protocol prohibits poison gas. The 1907 Hague Convention bans use of any "poison or poisoned weapons."
Dioxin kills. DU is radioactive and chemically toxic. The US code, Title 50, Chapter 40, Section 2302 prohibits use of "weapons of mass destruction," saying:
"The term 'weapon of mass destruction' means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors, (B) a disease organism, or (C) radiation or radioactivity."
America's use is lawless. Doing so constitutes war crimes. Millions of combatants and civilians were irreparably harmed or killed. In current US direct and proxy wars, others are affected daily.
Washington wants its toxic legacy buried. Its high crimes against peace forgotten. 
Whitewashed from history. Reinvented to make America's ugly past look respectable.
Survivors won't ever forget. Nor should they. Including Vietnamese sufferers. Permanently disabled US war veterans. Many on both sides enduring chronic illnesses.
They want truth and full disclosure maintained. Nothing erased from history. Or reinvented to ignore what happened.
One of history's greatest crimes. Nameless, faceless victims suffering to this day out of sight and mind understand best.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
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. 

Which Service Providers Side With Users in IP Disputes?

eff.org - Tue, 28/10/2014 - 06:55
Wordpress, NameCheap Receive Five Stars in New EFF Scorecard

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released a new report and scorecard that shows what online service providers are doing to protect users from baseless copyright and trademark complaints.

"Who Has Your Back: When Copyright and Trademark Bullies Threaten Free Speech" [PDF] examines how online service providers handle copyright and trademark-based takedown requests. The report expands upon EFF's influential "Who Has Your Back" annual report covering how online service providers protect users' data from government requests.

"When a private citizen or corporation wants to silence speech on a major online platform, the quickest method is often a copyright or trademark complaint," EFF Director of Copyright Activism Parker Higgins said. "EFF has worked for many years to help people whose speech is unfairly targeted by these sorts of complaints, and we've seen how important it is that speech platforms have policies that help protect lawful users."

Click to Enlarge

EFF examined 13 companies and issued stars if they met the baseline standards for what a service can do to defend its users' speech against copyright and trademark bullies. The services could receive a maximum of five stars, based on criteria including publicly documented procedures for responses to DMCA takedown notices and counter-notices, how the services handle trademark disputes, and if the company issued detailed transparency reports.

Automattic's Wordpress.com and NameCheap were the only two companies to receive five out of five stars. However, two other companies were recognized for going the extra mile: Etsy, for providing educational guides, and Twitter, for publishing regular and thorough transparency reports. Overall, 10 companies did not publish adequate transparency reports, highlighting an information black hole for consumers. Additionally, four companies missed a star for their counter-notice practices—a critical procedure for restoring content that may have been taken down without cause.

"Major online platforms are essential to online expression, so their policy decisions can have a huge impact on public discourse," EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry said. "As users choose which platforms will host their updates, writing, images, and videos, they ought to know which of these services have publicly committed to treating their speech fairly and even helping them fight back against bullies that would try to take it down."

For the report:
https://www.eff.org/pages/who-has-your-back-copyright-trademark-2014

For the shareable infographic:
https://www.eff.org/files/who-has-your-back-copyright-trademark-header.png

Contact:

Parker Higgins
   Director of Copyright Activism
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   parker@eff.org


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Categories: Aggregated News

Putin Addresses World Order Rules

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Tue, 28/10/2014 - 05:34
Putin Addresses World Order Rules
by Stephen Lendman
On October 24, he spoke at the Valdai International Discussion Club's (VIDC) 11th session. Dozens of experts, historians and political analysts from 25 countries attended.
Factors eroding current institutions and norms of international law were discussed. Ones affecting global political and economic conditions.
Putin spoke directly and frankly. Unambiguously. Like he always does. Saying what needs to be heard. Polar opposite his Western counterparts. 
Try imagining US politicians matching his straight talk comments. Important ones without equivocation. Telling it like it is. Doing so because it matters.
Obama shames the office he holds. He's polar opposite Putin. Serial lying characterizes his rhetoric. It substitutes for truth and full disclosure. So does demagogic doublespeak duplicity.
"I will…not let you down," Putin stressed. "Some of what I say might seem a bit too harsh, but if we do not speak directly and honestly about what we really think, then there is little point in even meeting in this way." 
"It would be better in that case just to keep to diplomatic get-togethers, where no one says anything of real sense and, recalling the words of one famous diplomat, you realise that diplomats have tongues so as not to speak the truth."
"We get together for other reasons. We get together so as to talk frankly with each other." 
"We need to be direct and blunt today not so as to trade barbs, but so as to attempt to get to the bottom of what is actually happening in the world, try to understand why the world is becoming less safe and more unpredictable, and why the risks are increasing everywhere around us."
VIDC's New Rules or a Game without Rules theme "accurately describes the historic turning point we have reached today and the choice we all face." 
"There is nothing new of course in the idea that the world is changing very fast."
"It is certainly hard not to notice the dramatic transformations in global politics and the economy, public life, and in industry, information and social technologies."
Putin urged remembering history's lessons. Including "world order" changes. Events usually "accompanied by…global war and conflict."
"(G)lobal politics is above all about economic leadership, issues of war and peace, and the humanitarian dimension, including human rights." 
"The world is full of contradictions today. We need to be frank in asking each other if we have a reliable safety net in place." 
"Sadly, there is no guarantee and no certainty that the current system of global and regional security is able to protect us from upheavals." 
Things have become seriously weakened, fragmented and deformed. "The international and regional political, economic, and cultural cooperation organisations are also going through difficult times."
World order mechanisms were created long ago, said Putin. "(A)bove all," post-WW II.
Solidarity then "rested not only on the balance of power and the rights of the victor countries, but on the fact that this system's 'founding fathers' had respect for each other, did not try to put the squeeze on others, but attempted to reach agreements."
Longstanding checks and balances can't be dismantled without replacing them with updated mechanisms, Putin stressed.
Otherwise, brute force alone remains. What's needed is "carry(ing) out out a rational reconstruction and adapt it to the new realities in the system of international relations."
"But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this." 
"Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance."
"The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards." 
"This created the impression that the so-called 'victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests." 
"If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition."
It bears repeating. Putin is geopolitically polar opposite Obama. He's not revanchist. He has no territorial ambitions. He doesn't threaten his neighbors.
He supports multi-world polarity. He believes sovereign independence is inviolable.  
He wants conflicts resolved diplomatically. He deplores war. He champions peace. He's the world's moral leader. 
You'd never know it based on relentless scoundrel media bashing.Irresponsibly denigrating his support for Ukrainian peace and stability. Doing so by going all-out for responsible conflict resolution.
"We have entered a period of differing interpretations and deliberate silences in world politics," said Putin. 
"International law has been forced to retreat over and over by the onslaught of legal nihilism."
"Objectivity and justice have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments have replaced legal norms." 
"At the same time, total control of the global mass media has made it possible when desired to portray white as black and black as white."
"In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes." 
"This group's ambitions grew so big that they started presenting the policies they put together in their corridors of power as the view of the entire international community. But this is not the case."
"The very notion of ‘national sovereignty' became a relative value for most countries. In essence, what was being proposed was the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the world’s sole power centre, the greater this or that ruling regime’s legitimacy."
Measures used against nonbelievers are well known, said Putin. Including "force economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of ‘supra-legal’ legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes." 
"Of late, we have increasing evidence too that outright blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders." 
"It is not for nothing that 'big brother' (spends) billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance."
Leaving no place to hide. Threatening cherished freedoms. Creating conditions unfit to tolerate. America stands guilty as charged.
"(H)ow comfortable are we with this," asked Putin? How safe are we? How happy living in this world?" How unfair and irrational it's become.
Washington imposes its will on others. Opposite results from those intende are achieved. "Instead of (resolving) conflicts," they escalate.
"(I)nstead of sovereign and stable states, we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals."
"Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil." 
"I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia. That is to say, make the same mistake over and over."
"During my conversations with American and European leaders, I always spoke of the need to fight terrorism together, as a challenge on a global scale." 
"We cannot resign ourselves to and accept this threat, cannot cut it into separate pieces using double standards." 
"Our partners expressed agreement, but a little time passed and we ended up back where we started." 
Afghanistan was lawless attacked. Then Iraq for second and third times as well as Libya. 
They're "falling apart." Cauldrons of out-of-control violence and instability. "(T)raining ground for terrorists."  
"In Syria, as in the past, the United States and its allies started directly financing and arming rebels and allowing them to fill their ranks with mercenaries from various countries."  
"(W)here do these rebels get their money, arms and military specialists? Where does all this come from?" 
"How did the notorious ISIL manage to become such a powerful group, essentially a real armed force?"  
"Where do they get new recruits? In Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the state’s institutions, including the army, were left in ruins." 
"We said back then, be very, very careful. You are driving people out into the street, and what will they do there?" 
"Don’t forget (rightfully or not) that they were in the leadership of a large regional power, and what are you now turning them into?What was the result?" 
"Tens of thousands of soldiers, officers and former Baath Party activists were turned out into the streets and today have joined the rebels’ ranks." 
"Perhaps this…explains why the Islamic State group has turned out so effective? In military terms, it is acting very effectively and has some very professional people." 
"Russia warned repeatedly about the dangers of unilateral military actions, intervening in sovereign states’ affairs, and flirting with extremists and radicals." 
"We insisted on having the groups fighting the central Syrian government, above all the Islamic State, included on the lists of terrorist organisations. But did we see any results? We appealed in vain."
Unipolarity shows  "one power center does not make global processes more manageable."
It creates "regional conflicts, terrorism, drug trafficking, religious fanaticism, chauvinism and neo-Nazism." 
"At the same time, it has opened the road wide for inflated national pride, manipulating public opinion and letting the strong bully suppress the weak."
Unipolarity is untenable. It "justif(ies dictatorship over people and countries. (It's) uncomfortable, heavy and unmanageable…even for the self-proclaimed leader." 
"This is why we see attempts at this new historic stage to recreate a semblance of a quasi-bipolar world as a convenient model for perpetuating American leadership." 
"It does not matter who takes the place of the centre of evil in American propaganda…" Soviet Russia's old place as main adversary. It could be any country Washington chooses.
"Today, we are seeing new efforts to fragment the world, draw new dividing lines, put together coalitions not built for something but directed against someone, anyone, create the image of an enemy as was the case during the Cold War years, and obtain the right to this leadership, or diktat if you wish."
Washington seeks hegemonic supremacy. "(I)ncreasingly divorced from reality." said Putin. Out-of-step with world diversity.
Inevitably creating conflicts, instability and insecurity. Opposite of "hoped for goals."
"We see what happens when politics rashly starts meddling in the economy and the logic of rational decisions gives way to the logic of confrontation that only hurts one’s own economic positions and interests, including national business interests."
"Joint economic projects and mutual investment objectively bring countries closer together and help to smooth out current problems in relations between states." 
"But today, the global business community faces unprecedented pressure from Western governments." 
"What business, economic expediency and pragmatism can we speak of when we hear slogans such as 'the homeland is in danger.' 
" 'The free world is under threat,' and 'democracy is in jeopardy?' And so everyone needs to mobilise." 
"That is what a real mobilisation policy looks like." It's how rogue states operate.
"Sanctions…undermin(e) world trade, the WTO rules and the principle of inviolability of private property. They are dealing a blow to liberal model of globalisation based on markets, freedom and competition…"
Notions "primarily benefit(ting) Western countries. And now they risk losing trust as the leaders of globalisation. We have to ask ourselves, why was this necessary?"
Why pursue what's not working? Increasing numbers of nations seek freedom from dollar hegemony. Alternative "financial and payment systems," said Putin."
"I think that our American friends are quite simply cutting the branch they are sitting on. You cannot mix politics and the economy, but this is what is happening now." 
"I have always thought and still think today that politically motivated sanctions were a mistake that will harm everyone…"
"If we do not create a clear system of mutual commitments and agreements, if we do not build the mechanisms for managing and resolving crisis situations, the symptoms of global anarchy will inevitably grow."
"Today, we already see a sharp increase in the likelihood of a whole set of violent conflicts with either direct or indirect participation by the world's major powers." 
"And the risk factors include not just traditional multinational conflicts, but also the internal instability in separate states…"
"The less nuclear weapons we have in the world, the better. And we are ready for the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament -but only serious discussions without any double standards."
Regional conflicts need resolution. They're dangerous. "(T)hey create zones of anarchy, lawlessness, and chaos…"
Given current conditions, it's "time to start agreeing on fundamental things. This is incredibly important and necessary…"
Cooperating on major issues. "(F)inding collective answers to increasing challenges…"
Combined with "reasonable self-restraint. (A)n example of positive and responsible leadership."
What's sorely absent most often. Western countries bear full responsibility.
Prioritizing force. Disdaining peaceful conflict resolutions. Targeting sovereign independent countries.
Ignoring international law. Recklesly pursuing their own interests. Ukraine is Exhibit A.
Creating chaos, economic and social collapse, as well as war without mercy against citizens wanting their inalienable rights. 
Internationally recognized inviolable ones. Irresponsibly called terrorists for pursing justice.
"…Russia made its choice," said Putin. Polar opposite its Western partners. 
'Our priorities are further improving our democratic and open economy institutions, accelerated internal development, taking into account all the positive modern trends in the world, and consolidating society based on traditional values and patriotism."
Prioritizing peace and stability. Going all-out to resolve conflicts responsibly.
Disdaining empire. Respecting sovereign independence. Wanting responsible cooperation with all countries. 
Wanting mutually beneficial policies. Ones advantageous to all equitably. Putin concluded saying "building a more stable world order is a difficult task. We are talking about long and hard work." 
"We were able to develop rules for interaction after World War II, and we were able to reach an agreement in Helsinki in the 1970s." 
"Our common duty is to resolve this fundamental challenge at this new stage of development." The alternative is too intolerable to accept.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
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. 

EFF and ACLU of Tennessee Team Up to Challenge Unconstitutional School District Policy

eff.org - Tue, 28/10/2014 - 02:31

School districts across the country are grappling with how to deal with their students’ use of technology and social media. All too often, in an attempt to protect students, they end up implementing technology polices that give administrators too much power and go too far in restricting what students can do online. Williamson County Schools, a public school district in affluent Williamson County, Tennessee, is one such school district. Recently, a concerned parent, Daniel Pomerantz, brought the policy to the attention of EFF and the ACLU of Tennessee (ACLU-TN). Mr. Pomerantz was right to be concerned.

Earlier today, EFF and ACLU-TN sent a letter to the board on behalf of our client detailing our concerns. As we outline in our letter to the school board, the school district’s technology and Internet policy is troubling in a number of ways. Indeed, the policy violates the First and Fourth Amendment rights of 35,000 Williamson County students across the district's 41 schools. We teamed up with ACLU-TN to demand that the Williamson County School Board immediately suspend the unconstitutional policy.

First, the policy’s social media guidelines impermissibly restrict students’ constitutionally protected off-campus speech. Notably, the policy requires that students get a teacher’s permission before posting photographs of other students or school employees to any social media site. This applies regardless of who took the photo or where the photo was taken.

The policy also vaguely threatens that “[s]tudents are subject to consequences for inappropriate, unauthorized, and illegal use of social media.” Again, this applies to social media use both on and off campus. But the school district does not have authority to punish off-campus speech that is merely “inappropriate” or “unauthorized.” In fact, a district may only punish speech that materially and substantially disrupts the functioning of classrooms. Such off-campus speech is protected under the First Amendment, and the policy violates the First Amendment by threatening to punish social media posts that don’t cause material disruption to the classroom. A student who wanted to steer clear of violations would naturally face pressure to self-censor her posts and the First Amendment’s restrictions on state power are designed to resist exactly those chilling effects.

Second, the policy’s technology guidelines require students to consent to suspicionless searches of any electronic devices they bring to school “at any time” for any “school-related purpose.” This applies regardless of whether or not a school official conducting the search has even “reasonable suspicion” (the very lowest standard) to believe that the search will turn up evidence of wrongdoing. But according to the U.S. Supreme Court, under the Fourth Amendment, suspicionless searches of students are allowed only in very limited circumstances. The policy’s “any time” for any “school-related purpose” language goes far beyond what the Fourth Amendment permits.

Third, the policy’s network security and email guidelines subject students, at all times, to searches of any data and communications they store or transmit on the school district’s network. As above, this applies whether or not the students are even suspected of wrongdoing. The law is clear; students have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their communications and the suspicionless searches authorized by the policy unconstitutionally infringe on this expectation of privacy, again violating the Fourth Amendment.

As we state in our letter to the Williamson County School Board, “Requiring students to sign an agreement waiving constitutional protections in order to participate in fundamental school activities is not permissible.”

Now that the Williamson County School Board is aware of the shortcomings of its technology policy, we hope that it will act swiftly to suspend the policy and replace it with one that respects the constitutional rights of its students. We urge the school board to discuss our letter during its next policy committee meeting on November 3, 2014 and at its next full session meeting on November 17, 2014. Live streaming of the November 17, 2014 board meeting will be available here.

Files:  finalwilliamsoncountyletter.pdf
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MSM Misinformation on Ukraine's Parliamentary Elections

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Tue, 28/10/2014 - 02:18
MSM Misinformation on Ukraine's Parliamentary Elections
by Stephen Lendman
Today's MSM is a lying machine. Inconvenient truths are buried.  Misinformation rubbish substitutes. Upside down reality reflects things.
Illegitimate Kiev fascist putschists are called democrats. Southeastern Ukrainian freedom fighters are called terrorists.
Daily events should scare everyone. Truth-tellers are vilified. So are peacemakers. 
Warmakers win peace prizes. Media scoundrels support what demands condemnation. They deplore government of, by and for everyone equitably.
They support the best democracy money can buy. They glorify war in the name of peace. 
Nations are destroyed to free them. Monied interests alone benefit. Popular interests don't matter. Nor doing the right thing.
Nor rule of law principles. Nor democratic values. Nor fundamental human and civil rights. Wealth, power and privilege mean most.
Madness defines US policy. MSM war on truth supports it. Cheerleading irresponsible policies risks the unthinkable. Forewarned does no good.
A companion article discussed Ukraine's October 28 farcical parliamentary elections. Ones despots love. 
Rigged to exclude democrats. Results mattering most known before voting began. 
Ukraine's sham electoral process substitutes for legitimacy. Don't expect media scoundrels to explain.
The New York Times headlined "Ukraine President Claims Win for Pro-West Parties," saying:
Oligarch president Petro "Poroshenko hailed Sunday’s vote as a resounding endorsement of his government's efforts to break free of Kremlin influence and shift hard toward Europe."
"I asked you to vote for a democratic, reformist, pro-Ukrainian and pro-European majority," he said. "Thank you for having heard and supported this appeal."
Ukrainians "powerfully and permanently supported Ukraine's course toward Europe." According to Poroshenko: 
Results showed "a landslide vote of confidence from the people."
"The results, if confirmed by official tallies expected on Monday, would complete a transformation of the government that began in February when President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled after sustained, bloody street protests over his decision to align more closely with Russia," said The Times.
"Expanded power for pro-Western parties is certain to be cheered by the United States and its European allies, which have staked a huge political and financial bet on Ukraine's ability to emerge from its current crisis as a stable state, and especially to be able to repay its debts."
Irresponsible Putin bashing followed. So did The Times saying Poroshenko prioritizes Southeastern Ukrainian interests."
Times misinformation substitutes for truth and full disclosure. It's longstanding policy. It persists relentlessly. 
Poroshenko cares only about wealth, power, serving his Western masters, and benefitting from doing so.
He doesn't give a damn about Southeastern Ukrainian rights. Rejecting fascist rule. Demanding real democracy. Deserving universal support.
Poroshenko is a convenient imperial stooge. Selected to serve Western interests. So-called "landslide vote of confidence from the people" is pure rubbish.
Democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych fled for his life. Safe haven in Russia likely saved him. Otherwise perhaps he'd be dead. 
Fascists operate this way. Opposition isn't tolerated. Especially anything resembling democracy.
Ukraine is a fascist police state. A tyrannical one and then some. An illegitimate one. A ruthless anti-democratic one. Don't expect The Times to explain.
Instead if quoted putschist prime minister Arseniy Yatsunyuk ludicrously saying:
"We strongly believe that the new government, together with the new Parliament and the president will deliver real changes."
He means perhaps more ruthless than ever. Opposition bloc leader Yuri Boiko called Sunday's elections "the dirtiest ever." Outright fraud characterized things.
Expect same old, same old going forward. Perhaps worse than ever. Cloaked with the veneer of electoral legitimacy. The fake kind with none at all.
It bears repeating. Don't expect The New York times to explain. Or Washington Post, saying:
"…Ukrainians on Sunday elected the most pro-European parliament in their country’s 23-year-old history, firmly backing an effort to steer their nation away from Russia's orbit."
"The work of the new legislature will be critical to Ukraine's prospects for overcoming its towering challenges." 
"The election was a final step to empower President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected in May after protests toppled Ukraine's previous leader and unleashed the worst conflict between Russia and the West since the Cold War."
"The new parliament (includes) a host of new faces." They're clones of entrenched previous ones.
So-called election observers lacked legitimacy. US funded National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute monitors praised Kiev's electoral process.
They called rampant election rigging mostly disruption free. Vote-buying and other electoral fraud didn't matter. Nor entrenched interests. Nor massive corruption.
Business as usual alone matters. Popular interests are verboten. So is real democracy. 
Ukraine's version is pure fantasy. Police states operate this way. Ukraine is Europe's worst by far. Its government has no legitimacy whatever.
Not according to the Wall Street Journal. It praised what demands condemnation. Ukraine's tilt toward Western Europe. "(A)way from Russia."
Challenges remain, it said. "(N)ot least the Kremlin's unwillingness to countenance Ukraine's efforts to forge closer economic and political ties with Europe." 
"Russia annexed Crimea and has supported a separatist insurgency in Ukraine's east after a pro-European protest movement ousted the country's Moscow-backed president in February."
Fact check:
Russia supports Ukraine remaining neutral. Democratically governed. Independent. Not allied with one side against the other.
Crimeans voted near unanimously to join Russia. They rejected fascist governance. 
Moscow justifiably accommodated their wishes. Doing so showed responsible policy. Polar opposite America's, its rogue European partners and Ukraine.
The Wall Street Journal supports capital's divine rights. Popular ones are verboten. Its longstanding WSJ policy.
So is irresponsible Putin bashing. He "cut off fas supplies amid a payment dispute and has given no sign it is pressing separatists to adhere to a peace deal agreed upon last month," the Journal said.
Fact check:
Ukraine's gas payments are hugely in arreas. It owes Russia billions of dollars. 
It rejected generous Moscow discount plans to resolve things. It bears full responsibility for what's ongoing.
On October 29, talks continue in Brussels. At stake in assuring uninterrupted gas supplies to Europe as winter approaches.
The ball is in Kiev's court. Talks last week proved fruitless. So did earlier ones. 
Ukraine is bankrupt. No sources of financing its repayments were found.
According to EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, Kiev's failure to repay debt is key to resolving things.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak believes possible financing sources "include guarantees by top-class European banks, bridge loans and funds from the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) or the European Commission."
They don't include Gazprom's transit payments as an offset for Ukraine's gas debt.
Putin expects resolving things next week. "We'll fulfill all the terms of deliveries accurately and on time, in compliance with all contractual obligations," he said.
It remains to be seen if he's right. Otherwise Kiev might again siphon off Russian gas illegally.
Through its export pipeline. "And then, of course, a crisis is possible, which is very undesirable for us," Putin explained.
Russia contracts with customers longterm. European countries are guaranteed specific gas volumes over specified time periods at agreed on prices.
Moscow is a reliable supplier. It never violated contractual terms, said Putin. It has no intention to do so going forward.
It wants payment assurances. All suppliers operate the same way. Ukrainian demands are unreasonable. Over-the-top. 
Resolving things with Russia remains uncertain. Ukraine will bear full responsibility for failure to do so.
Russia shows "no sign it is pressing (Southeastern Ukrainians) to adhere to a peace deal agreed on last month," said the Journal.
"The elections called by Mr. Poroshenko…aimed at supporting his attempts to end a conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the country's" Southeast.
False! Their intent is solidifying fascist rule. Assuring it nationwide. 
Eliminating Southeastern Ukrainian democracy. Doing so by brute force. 
It bears repeating. Fascist regimes operate this way. Ukraine represents its European reemergence.
Its government threatens regional peace and security. Washington provides support and encouragement.
What happens going forward remains to be seen. Disturbing signs suggest bigger trouble than before. 
Don't expect media scoundrels to explain. Or expose illegitimate Kiev governance.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
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. 

Farcical Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Mon, 27/10/2014 - 20:33
Farcical Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections
by Stephen Lendman
So-called Ukrainian democracy is pure fantasy. Tyranny masquerading as rule by the people.  
Sunday's snap unicameral Verkhovna Rada (parliamentary) elections reflected post-February coup business as usual. 
Ukraine is a US-installed fascist dictatorship. Its so-called government has no legitimacy whatever.
A previous article discussed whole families contesting for seats. Future deputies were known in advance. They're relatives of currently serving politicians. 
Including oligarch president Petro Poroshenko's son, Oleksiy. Running for the same Vinnitsa region's seat his father held previously. Assured of winning before voting began.
According to Itar Tass:
"…Ukraine’s political class is built on the foundation of nepotism and cronyism, as all the political forces display the tradition of nominating candidates on the grounds of kinship."
A closely controlled family affair with no legitimacy. Powerful interests control things Ordinary people have no say.
Stop NATO founder/editor Rick Rozoff calls Ukraine "a Nazi-like victory of US/NATO lawlessness." A US-led takeover of formerly sovereign Ukraine.
Planned and executed by neocons and Zbigniew Brzezinski acolytes, says Rozoff. The driving force behind US unipolarity and quest for unchallenged global dominance.
(T) worst thing…in our lifetime for what it signals," says Rozoff. "(T)he utter triumph of (Western) gangsterism…"
"(A)nd their gutter-snipes and…punks" serving their interests. Fanatical extremists of the worst kind. Usurpers.
Xenophobic, hate-mongering, ultranationalist anti-Semites. Combined representing mob rule. Gangsterism writ large.
Fascism's reemergence in Europe's heartland. Inmates running the asylum. A threat to world peace.
On October 26, Washington's ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and US OSCE representative Daniel Baer commented on Sunday's elections.
"(D)emocracy in action," they said. Phonier than America's. A "historic day," they claimed. "(A)nother step in Ukraine's democratic journey."
The road to hell more accurately explains things. Half the country opted out. According to Ukraine's Central Election Commission, turnout was 52.4%. 
Ukrainian Civil Network Opora reported 51.2%. Turnout was especially low in Russian speaking regions. 
Fifteen Donbass region districts opted out. Around half a million ex-pats were eligible to vote in 72 countries. Many don't bother registering. Overall turnout was extremely low.
A total of 6,436 candidates competed. Half according to party lists. Others by individual districts single mandate. Some 450 seats were up for grabs.
Donetsk People's Republic Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Purgin called Ukrainian elections "farc(cial). They "were not free."
"People are intimidated." Ukraine's Southeast "is not represented. We do not care for the elections results, we are not interested in them." 
"We have our own elections that will make the DPR authorities legitimate."
Purgin expects less "militaristic hysteria." Likely post-electoral short-term only. 
He doubts Kiev's's so-called government can resolve intractable conditions. A combination of political illegitimacy, fascist rule and economic chaos.
"Ukraine is in a deep crisis,"he said. "I doubt that the new Parliament will find a way out of it. They have halted the chemical industry." 
"They have lost the East. Europe is paying for Ukrainian gas...A counter-elite comes to power, which is not interested in solving the crisis."
Lugansk People's Republic President Igor Piotnitsky said "(w)e will organize our own elections. Our people will hold (them). Ukraine will be our neighbor."
According to Russian State Duma lower house Foreign Affairs Committee head Alexei Pushkov:
"After the elections, it will become clear to the Ukrainians: nothing will change for the better. Independence did not change the country, but only provided the redistribution of power."
Andriy Yermolaev heads the "New Ukraine" Institute for Strategic Research.
"Unfortunately, these elections have substituted the task that we were facing in summer - a new national dialogue and national compromise," he said. 
"If we achieved this balance, this truce in summer, this election campaign would have been the answer to the question about (our) future. But now this problem has been substituted."
No one talked about East/West convergence. "Everyone talked about their future victories. Here we are now reaping the fruits of this."
According to British Politics First magazine editor Marcus Papadopoulos:
"Ukraine's Parliamentary elections were a farce, an insult to democracy and an affront to millions of the Ukrainian population."
Petroshenko-led governance "use(s) the tactics of violence and fomenting fear to suppress the voice of our community in Ukraine: for example, neo-Nazi parades, not so long ago took place in Kyiv, Odessa and Kharkiv, the collapse of the Soviet/Russian monuments, as well as among them monuments of the Second world war, and physical attacks on Russian-speaking politicians, such as Petro Symonenko."
US-installed fascists destroyed the former dominant Party of Regions, he said. Ukraine's Communist party is a shadow of its former self.
"While the West - both governments and media outlets - will recognize the outcome of Ukraine's 'elections,' the reality is that millions upon millions of the Ukrainian population did not vote - through fear and/or because there was no choice for them on the ballot paper," Papadopoulos said.
Millions of Ukrainians are intimidated for their cultural background. They're second class citizens. Practically nonpersons in their own country.
According to Russia's National Institute of Modern Ideology Development deputy director Igor Shatrov:
"Most apparently the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, People's Front and Batkivshchyna will form a ruling coalition. This will possibly also include Svoboda and the Radical Party. Or radicals will join the coalition as long as this is needed."
"To my mind, an alarming signal for Kiev should be the success of Samopomoshch (Self-Help) led by (western Ukrainian) Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy." 
"The results (at parliamentary elections) for this political force show that Western regions had shaped their own view on the country's future." 
"Meanwhile, this view differs from what Poroshenko declared, as a voter supported his politician there, but not the president. (A)t this stage, Samopomoshch can also join a ruling coalition."
"(T)he new Rada will have almost no deputies representing the interests of the country’s south-east, and that will not bring stability to Ukraine." 
Nor will formerly dominant Party of Regions have any influence. “Meanwhile, it should not be forgotten that anti-Russian vector and 'European dream' are probably few things in common that unite a majority of those elected…" said Shatrov. “
"Unity in other issues is not expected in the Ukrainian parliament. It should be taken into account that many political forces used this election as a rehearsal and training for more serious battles." 
"They are just waiting for new mistakes made by Poroshenko and his team to make a claim for everything, including the loss of Crimea and Donbass and to take over reins of power."
Powerful pro-Western interests are "behind each more or less noticeable politician in Ukraine." Serious battles remain to be fought. Expect nothing positive from their outcome.
Preliminary results will be announced later on Monday.  Final ones are expected by October 30.
On October 28, Reuters headlined "Ukraine leader wins pro-West mandate but wary of Russia” saying:
"Pro-Europe parties will dominate Ukraine’s parliament after an election handed President Petro Poroshenko a mandate to end a separatist conflict and steer the country further out of Russia's orbit into Europe's mainstream."
"Poroshenko planned to start coalition talks on Monday after exit polls and partial results showed most of the groups that were holding up democratic and legal reforms demanded by the European Union had been swept out of parliament on Sunday."
Early totals showed Poroshenko's bloc and putschist prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's People's Front each getting over 21 percent of votes cast. 
In a field of 29 competing parties. Expect them to form what passes for coalition governance. 
Perhaps including other "parties of the Maidan" extremists. Fascists by any other name. Tyranny masquerading as democracy. Shaming the real thing.
After polls closed Sunday, Poroshenko ludicrously thanked Ukrainians for a "democratic, reformist, pro-Ukrainian and pro-European majority."
Illegitimate by any standard. Dark forces run things. Democracy is nowhere in sight. It's verboten. 
Ordinary Ukrainians have no say whatever. Status quo putschist power runs things. Business as usual continues.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
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. 

Peekaboo, I See You: Government Authority Intended for Terrorism is Used for Other Purposes

eff.org - Mon, 27/10/2014 - 15:05

The Patriot Act continues to wreak its havoc on civil liberties. Section 213 was included in the Patriot Act over the protests of privacy advocates and granted law enforcement the power to conduct a search while delaying notice to the suspect of the search. Known as a “sneak and peek” warrant, law enforcement was adamant Section 213 was needed to protect against terrorism. But the latest government report detailing the numbers of “sneak and peek” warrants reveals that out of a total of over 11,000 sneak and peek requests, only 51 were used for terrorism. Yet again, terrorism concerns appear to be trampling our civil liberties.

Throughout the Patriot Act debate the Department of Justice urged Congress to pass Section 213 because it needed the sneak and peak power to help investigate and prosecute terrorism crimes “without tipping off terrorists.” In 2005, FBI Director Robert Mueller continued the same exact talking point, emphasizing sneak and peek warrants were “an invaluable tool in the war on terror and our efforts to combat serious criminal conduct.”

A closer look at the number of sneak and peek warrants issued (a reporting requirement imposed by Congress) shows this is simply not the case. The last publicly available report about sneak and peek warrants was released in 2010; however, the Administrative Office of the US Courts has finally released reports from 2011, 2012, and 2013.

What do the reports reveal? Two things: 1) there has been an enormous increase in the use of sneak and peek warrants and 2) they are rarely used for terrorism cases.

First, the numbers: Law enforcement made 47 sneak-and-peek searches nationwide from September 2001 to April 2003. The 2010 report reveals 3,970 total requests were processed. Within three years that number jumped to 11,129. That's an increase of over 7,000 requests. Exactly what privacy advocates argued in 2001 is happening: sneak and peak warrants are not just being used in exceptional circumstances—which was their original intent—but as an everyday investigative tool.

Second, the uses: Out of the 3,970 total requests from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010, 3,034 were for narcotics cases and only 37 for terrorism cases (about .9%). Since then, the numbers get worse. The 2011 report reveals a total of 6,775 requests. 5,093 were used for drugs, while only 31 (or .5%) were used for terrorism cases. The 2012 report follows a similar pattern: Only .6%, or 58 requests, dealt with terrorism cases. The 2013 report confirms the incredibly low numbers. Out of 11,129 reports only 51, or .5%, of requests were used for terrorism. The majority of requests were overwhelmingly for narcotics cases, which tapped out at 9,401 requests.

Section 213 may be less known than Section 215 of the Patriot Act (the clause the government is currently using to collect your phone records), but it's just as important. The Supreme Court ruled in Wilson v. Arkansas and Richards v. Wisconsin that the Fourth Amendment requires police to generally “knock and announce” their entry into property as a means of notifying a homeowner of a search. The idea was to give the owner an opportunity to assert their Fourth Amendment rights. The court also explained that the rule could give way in situations where evidence was under threat of destruction or there were concerns for officer safety. Section 213 codified this practice into statute, taking delayed notice from a relatively rare occurrence into standard operating law enforcement procedure.

The numbers vindicate privacy advocates who urged Congress to shelve Section 213 during the Patriot Act debates. Proponents of Section 213 claimed sneak and peek warrants were needed to protect against terrorism. But just like we've seen elsewhere, these claims are false. The government will continue to argue for more surveillance authorities—like the need to update the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act—under the guise of terrorism. But before we engage in any updates, the public must be convinced such updates are needed and won't be used for non-terrorist purposes that chip away at our civil liberties.

Related Issues: Privacy
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Open Access Isn't Just About Open Access

eff.org - Sun, 26/10/2014 - 03:08

This Open Access Week, we are celebrating and advocating for unfettered access to the results of research, a movement that has shown considerable progress over the last few decades. 

Let's all take a step back, though. Much of the open access movement is forward thinking, offering solutions and policy changes that will help improve access to future scholarship and research. This is crucial, but if we want real and meaningful open access, we must look backward as well. Many of us need access to the trove of existing and still very relevant material that is already locked up behind paywalls. This need has driven individuals to try to make such knowledge openly available—whether by sharing research articles with peers, or by doing whatever it takes to access and analyze the corpus of our collective scholarship.

Too often, however, these efforts are stymied by broad, harsh laws that may seem ancillary to publishing politics and academic debates. That's why the fight for open access must include challenges to the web of laws in which such scholarly discourse exists, such as overbearing copyright laws and unjust computer crime laws. We must acknowledge and fix these legal barriers in addition to pursuing open access policies on an institutional, state, and federal level all around the world. While such proactive policy steps are crucial, they must go hand-in-hand with addressing the bad policies that are already in place.

We Need Copyright Laws That Support Open Access to Our Knowledge Commons

Diego Gomez, a biodiversity researcher, could not access the biology papers he needed. Nor could his colleagues—fellow students and scientists in Colombia. Such articles are usually locked up behind expensive paywalls, with prices that add up even when doing a preliminary search. This cost is often mitigated by university subscriptions to journals but even the richest universities can't afford to pay for all the knowledge they need.

So Diego and his colleagues formed an online reading group where they uploaded and shared the latest findings. In an open access world, not only would this be allowed, it would be typical. Unfortunately, Diego soon found himself at the other end of a criminal copyright lawsuit and facing up to eight years in prison.

Paywalls tend to be the issue people point to most often when it comes to academic publishing, but those paywalls depend, in large part, on an elaborate system of copyright licensing. To state an obvious point that nonetheless seems to get lost: the legal key to publishers' ability to control access to knowledge is copyright. Researchers usually assign all their rights to the publisher, and the publisher is then free to parcel out the work as it sees fit.

That's why open access—which means not only availability of scholarly works, but also the ability to share, reuse, remix, and build upon research—relies on flexible copyright policies and open licenses.

Open access today can be divided into two main practices: "gold" open access and "green" open access. Gold open access involves putting research in an open access journal—most of which require publishing the work under a permissive Creative Commons license. The other practice, "green" open access or self-archiving, involves uploading works onto an online repository or a researcher's personal website. In this case, works are still legally bound under an "all rights reserved" scheme. This makes them vulnerable to a copyright claim, such as when giant academic publisher Elsevier sent takedown notices to universities and scholarly websites in late 2013 demanding that "infringing" material—papers uploaded by authors themselves—be removed.

The Elsevier takedowns illustrate an important gap between what researchers want—to be able to archive and share their research—and how copyright laws work. And they remind us that the open access movement must not ignore the underlying problem of over-broad copyright laws. Even with permissive open access policies in place, these inflexible and severe copyright penalties and takedown practices would still exist. The content industries have successfully spread these draconian copyright policies around the world—affecting scientists like Diego, who simply wish to pursue knowledge.

We Need Computer Crime Laws That Make Sense

Activist Aaron Swartz was worried about access to existing knowledge, and particularly the vast amount of work tied up in online repositories like JSTOR. Without paying a hefty fee, how can one access these databases of our collected knowledge? How can we run interesting textual analyses? Or identify trends in research, funding, and culture over the years?

Around January of 2011, Aaron downloaded millions of scholarly files from JSTOR. Soon after, he was slammed by an intense prosecution campaign wielding an outdated, much-reviled computer crime law—the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Were his political activism done in the physical world, he may have faced lighter penalties akin to trespassing. But simply because his actions involved a computer, he found himself staring at a much more severe punishment.

The open access movement cannot ignore these issues. These cases aren't peripheral to the cause; they're an important part of it. In our push for open access, we must recognize that those pushing for institutional policies are exhibiting one form of activism. There are many other open access activists who are exposing kindred faults in the system, and we must recognize and fix those too.

Between October 20 and 26, EFF is celebrating Open Access Week alongside dozens of organizations from around the world. This is a week to acknowledge the wide-ranging benefits of enabling open access to information and research—as well as exploring the dangerous costs of keeping knowledge locked behind publisher paywalls. We'll be posting on our blog every day about various aspects of the open access movement. Go here to find out how you can take part and to read the other Deeplinks published this week.

Related Issues: Open Access
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Automated Mass Surveillance is Unconstitutional, EFF Explains in Jewel v. NSA

eff.org - Sat, 25/10/2014 - 08:05

Today EFF filed our latest brief in Jewel v. NSA, our longstanding case on behalf of AT&T customers aimed at ending the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans’ communications. The brief specifically argues that the Fourth Amendment is violated when the government taps into the Internet backbone at places like the AT&T facility on Folsom Street in San Francisco.

As it happens, the filing coincides with the theatrical release of Laura Poitras’ new documentary, Citizenfour. The Jewel complaint was filed in 2008, and there’s a scene early in the film that shows the long road that case has taken. In footage shot in 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit hears argument in Jewel, and an attorney from the Department of Justice tries to convince a skeptical court that it should simply decide not to decide the case, leaving it to the other branches of government.

But the court did not agree to step aside. EFF prevailed on the issue, and the case continued, albeit very slowly. Now, years later, Poitras’ film underscores just how much the conversation around mass surveillance has changed. Americans are overwhelmingly concerned with government monitoring of their communications, and we hope to (finally) have a constitutional ruling in Jewel soon. (And another in Smith v. Obama, and still another in First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA.)

Even so, the government continues to try to avoid a decision that any of its various means of mass surveillance is unconstitutional. The current procedural context is this: in July, EFF filed a partial motion for summary judgment requesting that the court rely on uncontested evidence that the NSA taps into the Internet backbone and collects and searches ordinary Americans’ communication to rule that the government is violating the Fourth Amendment. The technology at issue, which the government calls “upstream,” is illustrated here

Under this surveillance, the government makes a full copy of everything that travels through key Internet backbone locations, like AT&T’s peering links. The government says that it then does some rudimentary filtering and searches through the filtered copies, looking for specific “selectors,” like email addresses.

The government filed its opposition to our motion in September. In our reply, we note that the government is effectively trying to sidestep the Fourth Amendment for everything that travels over the Internet. We explain:   

The government . . . contends that [Fourth Amendment] principles have no application here, where the government is unequivocally breaching the security and privacy of the papers and effects of millions of individuals. Its position essentially is that it can circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s core principles by copying communications in transit instead of taking physical possession of the originals, and by searching their contents very quickly with computers instead of searching them with humans. The government further contends that if one of its purposes for the copying and searching the communications is foreign intelligence, then the circumvention is complete, and the Internet has for all practical purposes become a Fourth-Amendment-free zone. The government is wrong.  

Our reply brief then unravels the government’s various attempts at constitutional circumvention. Here are some key issues we address:

Tapping into the Fiberoptic Cables is a “Seizure”

We explain that the act of copying entire communications streams passing through splitters at AT&T facilities is an unconstitutional seizure of individuals’ “papers” and “effects.” This should be obvious—our “papers” today often travel over the Internet in digital form rather than being stored in our homes—but the government contends that unless it physically interferes with individuals’ possession of some tangible property, it cannot “seize” anything. This is not so. If it were true that conversations could not be “seized” except by taking possession of physical objects, all warrantless wiretapping (where “recording” is a form of “copying” communications) would be constitutional.

This argument is especially troubling in the Internet age, since the government appears to be claiming that it could make a copy of all Internet communications as long as it did so without physically taking possession of any storage media. No way. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t protect just tree pulp or hard drives. It protects your ability to have control over who sees the information carried in your papers and effects. And by copying everything, the government is plainly “seizing” it.

Searching Quickly is Still a Search

The government also argues that because it is able to conduct its entire seizure and search quickly, there’s no real problem. It claims that the only interest you have in your messages in transit is whether they are delayed—not whether you retain control over them. Again, this isn’t the case. The founders of the United States, in writing the Fourth Amendment and in banning “general warrants,” were concerned about the security of their papers. That concern wouldn’t have simply disappeared had the British troops been able to rifle through their papers at the speed of a computer rather than by hand.

The “Human Eyes” Theory

Relatedly, we explain that the act of using a computer program to scan the contents of the copied communications stream in order to find targeted “selectors” is an unconstitutional search. Although the government concedes that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their Internet communications, thus triggering the Fourth Amendment, it argues that searching through the contents of those communications via an automated computer program does not compromise that expectation of privacy because the communications are not seen by human eyes. In support of this argument, the government compares its scanning of Internet communications to a police officer’s use of a drug-sniffing dog or a chemical drug test to detect contraband in a suspect’s luggage or a suspicious package, which the Supreme Court has found to not constitute a “search.”

But the government misses the point of the “contraband” cases, which turn not on the involvement of humans, but on the fact that no one has a right to possess contraband, and contraband was the only thing the dog sniffs and chemical tests could identify.

The mass, suspicionless surveillance of millions of Americans’ Internet communications is far broader in scope than these limited contraband investigations. First of all, speech just isn’t contraband, and the government’s “selectors” cannot distinguish between potentially illegal and legal speech. That takes humans. Second, the government’s search terms are far from objective, single-criterion searches. Even scanning for hash functions, which are arguably used to identify only illegal computer files like child pornography, have been found to be a search. Here, the scope is much broader, given the government’s stated foreign intelligence goals. What’s more, the act of choosing the selectors involves an exercise of discretion simply not present when teaching a dog to detect drugs. Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their Internet communications, and the government’s act of searching the contents of those communications is a search, irrespective of whether it uses a human being or an automated computer program to do so. 

“Special Needs” Again

Finally, as it did in Smith v. Obama, the government claims that its actions are justified by the “special needs doctrine,” the narrow exception to the warrant requirement that applies to minimally intrusive searches of people with reduced privacy expectations, such as students and those who work with dangerous machinery. While we’re not fans of the doctrine here at EFF, what the government is trying to do with it in this case is truly breathtaking. It argues that it needs no warrant to seize and search every single Internet activity of hundreds of millions of innocent people (who have no reduced expectation of privacy) as long as it does so quickly and a “significant reason” for doing so is collecting foreign intelligence. 

We hit back hard on that argument, noting, first, that far from having a minimal privacy interest, our “plaintiffs’ privacy interests in their Internet activities and communications lie at the heart of the Fourth Amendment.” We also note that the government’s intrusion here, while possibly speedy due to its computing power, is extensive, searching “every word from top to bottom” of those hundreds of millions of innocent Americans’ communications.

The government's dangerous “special needs” argument, which apparently the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review adopted with regard to the targeted surveillance objected to by Yahoo!, is something the Internet public needs to be aware of. The government is essentially claiming that because there are bad foreign actors online, it should get a free pass from complying with the Constitution whenever it claims a “foreign intelligence” need, and that it gets to do so regardless of how many innocent Americans may be caught up in its net. Or to put it more bluntly, the government is basically saying that its intelligence needs should trump the Constitution, and that no one using the Internet should be able to have a private conversation or engage in private web surfing or information gathering without the government having access. 

There's More

There’s more in our brief, including our response to the government’s attack on the evidence presented by Mark Klein and the analysis by our expert witness, J. Scott Marcus.

We also filed a motion to strike a second secret brief the government submitted to the court in opposition to our motion for partial summary judgment. As we explain in our motion to strike, it is an extraordinary violation of due process to let the government make secret legal arguments to the court to which we have no ability to respond.

Next Steps

Now that briefing on our motion in Jewel is complete, the next step is oral argument. The court will hear the motion on December 19, 2014 in Oakland, California, and the public is invited. 

In the meantime, it is the busiest season for hearings in the NSA spying cases yet. First, on November 4, EFF will participate as amicus in the Klayman v. Obama oral argument before the D.C. Circuit in Washington, D.C. concerning the NSA's telephone records collection. Then, on December 8 in Seattle, Washington, the Ninth Circuit will hear argument by our co-counsel Peter Smith and Luke Malek in Smith v. Obama, the telephone records case we’re handling with the ACLU.   

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Two Reports About FBI's Use of National Security Letters Reissued

eff.org - Sat, 25/10/2014 - 03:58

Even the reports that are supposed to provide transparency about the FBI's use of national security lettters (NSLs) are secret—or at least a couple dozen pages of them are. NSLs are nonjudicial orders that allow the FBI to obtain information from companies, without a warrant, about their customers’ use of services. They almost always contain a gag order, which prohibits recipients from even saying they've received the request.

Two Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports reviewing the FBI's use of NSLs from 2007 and 2008 were reissued earlier this week after having portions declassified. You can see the newly released versions of the 2007 report here and the 2008 report here.

Charlie Savage at the New York Times has reviewed and listed the changes. Some of them make sense. For example, one portion of the 2007 report masked references to a "Virginia Jihad network," which might have been redacted because of an ongoing investigation. But some of the previously classified portions are less explicable, such as the classification of the percentage of requests done under particular statutes. It's unclear what purpose keeping that number secret serves. What is clear is that excessive classification and redaction continue to get in the way of much-needed transparency around NSLs.

Related Issues: National Security LettersTransparencyRelated Cases: National Security Letters (NSLs)In re: National Security LetterIn re National Security Letter 2013 (13-80089)In re National Security Letter 2013 (13-1165)
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Cops Need to Obey Facebook’s Rules

eff.org - Sat, 25/10/2014 - 03:06

Facebook scolded the Drug Enforcement Administration this week after learning that a narcotics agent had impersonated a user named Sondra Arquiett on the social network in order to communicate and gather intelligence on suspects. In a strongly worded letter to DEA head Michele Leonhart, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan reiterated that not only did the practice explicitly violate the site’s terms of service, but threatened Facebook’s trust-based social ecosystem.

Sullivan writes:

Facebook has long made clear that law enforcement authorities are subject to these policies. We regard the conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies, and the account created by the agent in the Arquiett matter has been disabled.

Accordingly, Facebook asks that the DEA immediately confirm that it has ceased all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others or that otherwise violate our terms and policies.

So far, it is unclear whether the DEA has responded, although the US Department of Justice has independently launched an investigation into the practice. We commend Facebook for holding the agency accountable.

But we also think Facebook should go further in protecting users and the integrity of its services. The DEA isn’t only law enforcement agency creating fake profiles on Facebook, and fake profiles are not the only way that law enforcement agencies routinely violate the site’s terms of service.

Sock Puppet Investigators

Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” require users to provide their “real names and information” and warn users to “not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.” In other words, this is a ban on sock puppets: fake accounts that someone creates for deceptive purposes.

According to a lawsuit filed against the DEA, Arquiett was arrested in 2010 on drug charges. She allegedly agreed to allow an agent to search her phone. But the agent did much more than that, taking files from her phone—including suggestive photos of Arquiett as well as pictures of her children. The agent then used them to create a Facebook profile in her name. The agent accepted and made friend requests and engaged in conversations with other users.

While this may be the first time we have heard of the DEA impersonating an actual person, two separate independent studies show that creating fake profiles is commonplace in the law enforcement community.

In 2012, LexisNexis researchers surveyed more than 1,200 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and almost 70 percent of agencies surveyed said they use social media to some extent in their investigations. Among those agencies, Facebook was by far the most popular social network site, with 91 percent using it for investigations, 27 percent using it on a daily basis. Alarmingly, the LexisNexis researchers concluded that police “have no concerns around the ethics of creating fake virtual identities as an investigative technique." Approximately 83 percent reported they had no qualms about going undercover online. 

LexisNexis even included an anonymous testimonial on how police were able to track a suspect’s location through Facebook:

I was looking for a suspect related to drug charges for over a month. When I looked him up on FB, and requested him as a friend from a fictitious profile, he accepted. He kept “checking in” everywhere he went so I was able to track him down very easily.

A 2013 study [pdf] from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) mirrored the LexisNexis findings. Out of 500 predominantly municipal law enforcement agencies, more than 58 percent reported that they use fake profiles to gather information.

It’s difficult to determine exhaustively which agencies have adopted this tactic, but some have publicly acknowledged the practice:

  • Cincinnati Police Department admitted to CNN that it used undercover profiles for “targeted enforcements.”
  • In a DOJ-funded report on social media tactics, IACP revealed that the New York City Police Department has created formal policies for creating alias accounts for use in investigations. (The policies are available on page 169 of this report.)
  • The Georgia Bureau of Investigation similarly has a policy (page 157) allowing for aliases to be used in investigations.
  • In its policy on the use of social media, the La Vista Police Department in Nebraska says, “Covert undercover operations on the Internet and Social Networking are an effective investigative technique in establishing admissible, credible evidence in support of a criminal prosecution against suspects.”

Yet most of these agencies explicitly agreed to abide by Facebook’s terms of service when they created their own Facebook pages.

Ignoring ToS

Creating fake profiles is only one way that law enforcement agencies are actively violating Facebook’s terms of service.

Facebook’s terms say that you must not share your password or “let anyone else access your account.” It further states, “you will not solicit login information or access an account belonging to someone else.” Yet, law enforcement agencies are guilty of these activities, particularly when it comes to screening applicants for jobs. According to a recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle, “The standard practice in most California police departments is to require social-media passwords of job applicants, including those applying for dispatch and jail staff positions.” This past session, the California Legislature attempted to clarify the law to extend a prohibition on this practice in the private sector to public employees—including a provision explicitly prohibiting police agencies from soliciting passwords—but the bill failed to make it to the governor’s desk.

Meanwhile, the FBI has been researching ways to data mine on Facebook, which would be a violation of the ToS that says you cannot “not collect users' content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our prior permission.”

Law enforcement agencies have been potentially violating social media networks' terms of service with scraping and "covert accounts" for years (even as far back as when MySpace was the leading social network). We had to go court to find this out, but Facebook has the power to force transparency without litigation.

What Should Facebook Do About This?

Under a White House directive (most recent version here), federal agencies are supposed to sign special, negotiated terms of service with social media providers where they would like to have a presence, including Facebook (example pdf here). Facebook also has special terms of services that are applicable only to state and local government agencies. 

These agreements and special terms of services are opportunities for Facebook to demand more of law enforcement. If cops want to use Facebook for public purposes (and according IACP, most agencies find it a “very valuable” for community outreach, collecting tips and disseminating emergency information), then Facebook should make sure they know they must follow the same rules as everyone else.

We’re asking Facebook to spell out, in no uncertain language, that the terms that apply to regular users apply to government agencies as well, including law enforcement. It should remind law enforcement that violating its terms of service—such as by creating fake profiles, using impersonation, requiring passwords from applicants and employees, and data mining—isn’t OK.

But Facebook could, and should, go a step further to restore the public’s trust in their system and require that any law enforcement agency that wants to use Facebook must first develop and publish departmental policies for social media, including their policies for using social media in investigations and in screening job applicants.

It's great that Facebook sent a letter to the DEA, but for the company to protect its users it needs to do more than simply react after the damage has been done.

Related Issues: Online Behavioral TrackingSocial NetworksTransparency
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Snowden's Motivation: What the Internet Was Like Before It Was Being Watched, and How We Can Get There Again

eff.org - Fri, 24/10/2014 - 09:40

Laura Poitras’ riveting new documentary about mass surveillance gives an intimate look into the motivations that guided Edward Snowden, who sacrificed his career and risked his freedom to expose mass surveillance by the NSA. CITIZENFOUR, which debuts on Friday, has many scenes that explore the depths of government surveillance gone awry and the high-tension unfolding of Snowden’s rendezvous with journalists in Hong Kong. One of the most powerful scenes in the film comes when Snowden discusses his motivation for the disclosures and points to his fundamental belief in the power and promise of the Internet: 

I remember what the Internet was like before it was being watched, and there's never been anything in the history of man that's like it. I mean, you could have children from one part of the world having an equal discussion where you know they were sort of granted the same respect for their ideas and conversation, with experts in a field from another part of the world, on any topic, anywhere, anytime, all the time. And it was free and unrestrained.  

Snowden’s convictions mirror those of many who have adopted the Internet as a second home, and he speaks to the values that motivate fights over issues like net neutrality and online free speech today.

The Internet is unique among revolutionary communications media because it was designed for—and has thus far maintained—interactivity. People can contribute, create their own websites, publish content, and create code as equals across the network. While communication media of the past—like newspapers, radio, and television—generally relied on their audiences to act as passive recipients of information, the Internet upended these conventions. Instead of merely consuming data, the Internet offered millions across the world an opportunity to publish and interact with data, to engage directly with other people across the world, to launch their own websites, and push their own code. It wasn’t just a technological revolution—it was a social revolution that deeply influenced how people interact with news and data.

But there are threats to the decentralized, collaborative architecture of the Internet. We see this often from corporations seeking to control the online experience, whether that is undermining net neutrality, pushing users toward corporate-owned and regulated spaces like Facebook, or the migration from open web to apps.

Edward Snowden highlighted another serious threat to the Internet: surveillance.

And we've seen the chilling of that and the cooling of that and the changing of that model, towards something in which people self-police their own views, and they literally make jokes about ending up on "the list" if they donate to a political cause or if they say something in a discussion. And it's become an expectation that we're being watched.

We couldn’t agree more. As we argue in First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, the First Amendment protects freedom of association. When the government gets access to records of the communications of political and activist organizations and their members, it knows who is talking to whom, when, and for how long. This data trail tracks the associations of these organizations, revealing who is connected to political, religious and social groups of all stripes. The law has long recognized that government access to associations’ private membership lists can create a chilling effect—people are less likely to associate with organizations when they know the government is watching and when the government can track their associations. In short, surveillance threatens free speech.

So what can be done? Even as EFF’s cases against mass surveillance move through the courts, there’s work to be done to harden systems against mass surveillance.

What does that look like? For individual users, that means using privacy tools to protect your communications from snooping eyes. Our Surveillance Self Defense toolkit has suggestions for more private web browsing, emailing, instant messaging, and more.

For those who run websites and applications, we encourage you to join the Reset the Net movement, and commit to hardening your systems against passive surveillance.

CITIZENFOUR is a powerful documentary that is able to put a very human face on the deep technical and legal issues of surveillance. It’s a film that friends of EFF should go see. It’s also a great film to see with a friend or family member who is a surveillance-defender, as few could walk away from the movie with their trust in government intact.

Watch the trailer here:

Privacy info. This embed will serve content from citizenfourfilm.com

 

Check out the website.

Disclosures: I serve on the board of directors of Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit working to champion press freedom, along with filmmaker Laura Poitras, her colleague Glenn Greenwald, and whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

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Where Copyright Fails, Open Licenses Help Creators Build Towards a Future of Free Culture

eff.org - Fri, 24/10/2014 - 09:13

One of the convictions that drew law professor and former EFF board member, Lawrence Lessig, to co-found Creative Commons was that a narrow and rigid application of copyright law made no sense in the digital age. Copying digital information over long distances and at virtually no cost is what the Internet does best; indeed, it wouldn't work at all if copying wasn't possible.

If all online copying requires permission—a worldview that Lessig has termed permission culture— then a huge part of our modern systems for conveying and creating knowledge will always require explicit and prior permission to operate to avoid risk of future lawsuits. It is permission culture that leads to absurd results such as the criminal charges levied against Diego Gomez for sharing an academic publication with colleagues online.

Creative Commons—and by extension, the broader open access movement that often relies on Creative Commons licenses—pushes back against this worldview, in favor of an alternative vision of free culture, in which creative and knowledge works are freely exchanged, and where demanding permission for re-use and sharing can be the exception, rather than the rule.

CC helps copyright law serve its real purpose, making sure that a system intended for narrow permissions and exceptions does not impede  the freedom to share. Creative Commons and similar open access licenses use copyright law to assure users that they have the liberty to copy and share works, and depending upon the choice of license by the author, also the copy to modify them and to distribute modified versions. (Free and open source software licenses work in a similar way.)

But however clever this is, should we be using copyright law—a regulatory system that many believe defaults to requiring authorization —to help guarantee access to knowledge and freedom to share? Some individuals particularly in the free and open source software community have answered “no.” These free and open source software developers reject outright the authority of copyright law to govern the use of the code that they write. This has led to the phenomenon of so-called POSS (Post Open Source Software), whereby developers simply commit their code to openly available code repositories like Github, and express their disdain for copyright law by deliberately refraining from choosing a license. Unfortunately, this practice casts the reuse of the code into a legal grey zone. Code that is not clearly licensed can be confusing for would-be users, because the default assumption is that most copying and reuse will be infringing if the author hasn't permitted it.

In recent years a crop of software licenses have also emerged, such as the Unlicense, and others under more colorful names, that seek to reconcile the fact that programmers and many of their users don't care about copyright law, with the reality that other users of software, and judges, do. For creative works, the CC Zero license serves a similar purpose. Just as the rest of the Creative Commons licenses are an attempt to reflect the desire of authors to do away with the “permission required by default” model of copyright, these licenses attempt to recreate for works the same freedoms users have over material that has passed out of the realm of copyright into the public domain.

These sorts of public domain dedications and licenses are a good compromise, and an important addition to the existing pantheon of free culture and open source licenses that preceded them. As Creative Commons board member Michael Carroll put it before Congress earlier this year, “Some copyright owners feel like they want the option to get out of the copyright system.” Using a legal instrument to opt out of the copyright regime altogether, to the extent the law allows, meets this need.

But those who reject copyright licensing entirely typically do so not because they misunderstand that their code or writing is automatically subject to copyright; rather, they are doing so as a political statement that they don't believe this should be the case. Using a public domain dedication or permissive license that accepts the jurisdiction of copyright law over your work is seen as acceding to the rules of permission culture; refusing to accept this, as quixotic as that may be, is seen as subverting those rules.

Omitting a legally-binding license entirely from a work, while asserting in straightforward language your disavowal of a belief in such licenses, can be a statement about the current state of copyright. In practical terms, however, the existence of modern copyright law works to undo that statement, by dissuading users from taking advantage of such works because of the legal gray area within which they must operate. Copyright law remains a regime to be carefully stepped around, instead of being modernized and fixed at root to offer clearer, simpler choices for creators and users.

Both EFF and Creative Commons have made joint statements aimed at more thoroughly reforming copyright law to make it more fit for purpose in the digital age. As CC's Timothy Vollmer wrote last year:

the existence of open copyright licenses shouldn’t be interpreted as a substitute for robust copyright reform. Quite the contrary. The decrease in transaction costs, increase in collaboration, and massive growth of the commons of legally reusable content spurred on by existence of public licenses should drastically reinforce the need for fundamental change, and not serve as a bandage for a broken copyright system. If anything, the increase in adoption of public licenses is a bellwether for legislative reform — a signal pointing toward a larger problem in need of a durable solution.

We celebrate the open access movement this week, and the work that academics and readers all around the world do to share knowledge as freely as they can. But we must not forget the desire for a future in which the open access movement wouldn't even be necessary, because open access to our knowledge commons, and particularly academic research, will be the default assumption, rather than the other way around.

Between October 20 and 26, EFF is celebrating Open Access Week alongside dozens of organizations from around the world. This is a week to acknowledge the wide-ranging benefits of enabling open access to information and research—as well as exploring the dangerous costs of keeping knowledge locked behind publisher paywalls. We'll be posting on our blog every day about various aspects of the open access movement. Go here to find out how you can take part and to read the other Deeplinks published this week.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceOpen Access
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Research Is Just the Beginning: A Free People Must Have Open Access to the Law

eff.org - Fri, 24/10/2014 - 04:33

The open access movement has historically focused on access to scholarly research, and understandably so. The knowledge commons should be shared with and used by the public, especially when the public helped create it.

But that commons includes more than academic research. Our cultural commons is broader than what is produced by academia. Rather it includes all of the information, knowledge, and learning that shape our world. And one crucial piece of that commons is the rules by which we live. In a democratic society, people must have an unrestricted right to read, share, and comment on the law. Full stop.

But access to the law has been limited in practice. Not long ago, most court document and decisions were only available to those who had access to physical repositories. Digitization and the Internet changed that, but even today most federal court documents live behind a government paywall known as PACER. And until recently, legal decisions were difficult to access if you couldn’t afford a subscription to a commercial service, such as Westlaw, that compiles and tracks those decisions.

The good news: open access crusaders like Public.Resource.Org and the Center for Information Technology Policy have worked hard to correct the situation by publishing legal and government documents and giving citizens the tools to do so themselves.

The bad news: the specter of copyright has raised its ugly head. A group of standards-development organizations (SDOs) have banded together to sue Public.Resource.Org, accusing the site of infringing copyright by reproducing and publishing a host of safety codes that those organizations drafted and then lobbied heavily to have incorporated into law. These include crucial national standards like the national electrical codes and fire safety codes. Public access to such codes—meaning not just the ability to read them, but to publish and re-use them—can be crucial when there is an industrial accident; when there is a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina; or when a home-buyer wants to know whether her house is code-compliant. Publishing the codes online, in a readily accessible format, makes it possible for reporters and other interested citizens to not only view them easily, but also to search, excerpt, and generate new insights.

The SDOs argue that they hold a copyright on those laws because the standards began their existence in the private sector and were only later "incorporated by reference" into the law. That claim conflicts with the public interest, common sense, and the rule of law.

With help from EFF and others, Public.Resource.Org is fighting back, and the outcome of this battle will have a major impact on the public interest. If any single entity owns a copyright in the law, it can sell or ration the law, as well as make all sort of rules about when, where, and how we share it.

This Open Access Week, EFF is drawing a line in the sand. The law is part of our cultural commons, the set of works that we can all use and reuse, without restriction or oversight. Protecting that resource, our common past and present, is essential to protecting our common future. That’s why the open access movement is so important, and we’re proud to be part of it.

Between October 20 and 26, EFF is celebrating Open Access Week alongside dozens of organizations from around the world. This is a week to acknowledge the wide-ranging benefits of enabling open access to information and research—as well as exploring the dangerous costs of keeping knowledge locked behind publisher paywalls. We'll be posting on our blog every day about various aspects of the open access movement. Go here to find out how you can take part and to read the other Deeplinks published this week.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceOpen AccessInternational
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EFF Relaunches Surveillance Self-Defense

eff.org - Fri, 24/10/2014 - 03:08

We’re thrilled to announce the relaunch of Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD), our guide to defending yourself and your friends from digital surveillance by using encryption tools and developing appropriate privacy and security practices. The site launches today in English, Arabic, and Spanish, with more languages coming soon.

SSD was first launched in 2009, to “educate Americans about the law and technology of communications surveillance…” and to provide information on how to use technology more safely. Not long after, in the midst of the 2009 Iranian uprising, we launched an international version that focused on the concerns of individuals struggling to preserve their right to free expression in authoritarian regimes.

In the time since the Snowden revelations, we’ve learned a lot about the threats faced by individuals and organizations all over the world—threats to privacy, security, and free expression. And there is still plenty that we don’t know. In creating the new SSD, we seek to help users of technology understand for themselves the threats they face and use technology to fight back against them. These resources are intended to inspire better-informed conversations and decision-making about digital security in privacy, resulting in a stronger uptake of best practices, and the spread of vital awareness among our many constituents.

We invite you to take a look at SSD, and to provide us with feedback (we’ve made it easy: there’s a feedback dropdown on every page). Right now, the site is available in just three languages, but we soon plan to expand, with Vietnamese, Russian, Persian, and several other languages in our sights. And if you think we’ve missed something, please let us know. The threats are always changing, so our advice should change to keep up.


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Protect Yourself from Electronic Spying with 'Surveillance Self-Defense'

eff.org - Fri, 24/10/2014 - 03:00
EFF Releases Updated Guide to Privacy and Security for Internet Users Worldwide

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) launched its updated "Surveillance Self-Defense" report today, a comprehensive how-to guide to protecting yourself from electronic spying for Internet users all over the world.

"Everyone has something to protect, whether its from the government or stalkers or data-miners," said EFF International Director Danny O'Brien. "Surveillance Self-Defense will help you think through your personal risk factors and concerns—is it an authoritarian government you need to worry about, or an ex-spouse, or your employer?—and guide you to appropriate tools and practices based on your specific situation."

Surveillance Self-Defense includes briefings on important security issues, tutorials on using specific privacy software like PGP and OTR, and guides for specific categories of users, like human rights activists or journalism students. People who are just beginning to upgrade their communications privacy can choose the "Security Starter Pack."

"The Internet and other electronic communications have empowered people all over the globe to speak out and make connections in world-changing ways," said EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York. "But this has also opened new opportunities for tracking and exposure. Surveillance Self-Defense will teach you to think critically about your Internet use and make good choices even as the technology changes around you."

Surveillance Self-Defense was first launched in 2009, aimed at educating Americans about the law and technology of communications surveillance. The new report expands, revises, and updates the old guide for use across the globe with support from the Ford Foundation. EFF spoke and worked with experts and activists from across the world, from MIT to the Middle East, in developing the guide. The entire Surveillance Self-Defense project is available in English, Spanish, and Arabic, with more languages available soon.

For the Surveillance Self-Defense guide:
https://ssd.eff.org

Contacts:

Eva Galperin
   International Freedom of Expression Coordinator
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   eva@eff.org

Danny O'Brien
   International Outreach Coordinator
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   danny@eff.org

Katitza Rodriguez
   International Rights Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   katitza@eff.org.

Jillian York
   Director for International Freedom of Expression
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   jillian@eff.org


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