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Perpetuating the Myth of Arab Responsibility for 9/11: A US State-Sponsored False Flag - Sun, 24/04/2016 - 02:09
Perpetuating the Myth of Arab Responsibility for 9/11: A US State-Sponsored False Flag
by Stephen Lendman
Media scoundrels continue suppressing what’s most important to explain about 9/11 - the mother of all false flags.
Bin Laden and Riyadh had nothing to do with it. Osama was dying in a Pakistani hospital, expiring in December 2001 of natural causes - Western media reporting his death, including the NYT.
Obama didn’t kill him, one of his many Big Lies. Twenty-eight pages of a congressional investigation (sic) coverup report of the 9/11 attacks remain unpublished.
According to NYT editors, they’re “being withheld amid suspicions that what they contain could implicate the Saudi government and Saudi citizens in the terrorist attack” - despite no evidence suggesting it.
The 9/11 whitewash commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials” were involved in the attacks. 
Times editors called for release of the redacted pages so “all the facts (about what happened can) be known.” Facts if revealed would expose US culpability, maybe Israel’s, not Saudi Arabia.
If Riyadh was involved the 9/11 attacks, why did America wage war on Afghanistan, then Iraq 18 months later while maintaining close ties to the kingdom?
Attacking another nation is an act of war. Suggesting possible Saudi involvement distracts attention from US responsibility, perhaps CIA complicity with Israel’s Mossad.
On 9/11, numerous bin Laden and Saudi royal family members were in America. Despite an FAA ban on private flights after the attacks, they were allowed to leave for home unhindered.
On September 13, 2001, three Saudi nationals flew in a private Lear jet from Tampa, FL to Lexington, KY. They flew home on a Boeing 747 marked with Arabic writing.
Other flights in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 took numerous bin Laden and Saudi royal family members back to the kingdom unimpeded.
The NYT reported bin Laden family members escorted by FBI agents to a secret meeting in Texas, from there to Washington, where they left for home on a private aircraft.
Within days of the 9/11 attack, reports indicated at least six chartered flights took around 140 Saudi nationals, including bin laden and royal family members, home from US locations unhindered.
Would they have been allowed to leave if suspected of 9/11 involvement? Given close US/Saudi ties, what possible motive could the kingdom have to attack its important ally?
The myth of bin Laden’s involvement persists despite months of serious illness followed by his yearend 2001 death - along with the FBI admitting it “h(ad) no hard evidence connecting” him to what happened.
9/11 was Washington’s pretext for waging phony global war on terrorism, enacting police state laws, letting Big Brother watch everyone, criminalizing whistleblowers exposing government wrongdoing, and making America unsafe and unfit to live in.
Full-blown tyranny may be one more major false flag away.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Incoming NATO Commander Militantly Anti-Russian - Sun, 24/04/2016 - 01:56
Incoming NATO Commander Militantly Anti-Russian
by Stephen Lendman
NATO is a global killing machine, a US dominated imperial tool, its mission polar opposite its claim about being a “political and military alliance for peace and security.”
Washington wants worldwide members and partners on all continents, prioritizes endless wars of aggression, wants all independent states replaced by pro-Western vassal ones.
Its agenda threatens world peace and security. Current NATO commander US General Philip Breedlove will step down as soon as General Curtis Scaparrotti’s nomination is approved to replace him.
In Thursday testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee members, he disgracefully called Russia America’s greatest threat - repeating Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s Big Lie, saying military leaders “should keep everything” on the table, including use of force against nonexistent “Russian aggression.”
He ludicrously accused Putin of “deliberately trying to break up NATO,” saying if US European troops are put in harm’s way, he won’t hesitate to respond forcefully.
Maybe he has starting WW III in mind. Asked if Washington told Russia appropriate action would be taken if its forces placed US ones in danger, he said “I think that should be (made) known.”
He urged increased military spending and greater numbers of US combat troops deployed to Eastern Europe near Russia’s borders despite America unthreatened by any nations.
Its imperial agenda threatens world peace and security. Invented threats justify its existence.
Trump said US intervention causes more problems than solutions, notably in the Middle East, explaining if Bush and Obama “just went to the beach and enjoyed the ocean and the sun, we would’ve been much better off…than all of this tremendous death, destruction, and…monetary loss. It’s just incredible.”
He’s open to an alternative organization to NATO, focusing on counterterrorism, calling the Alliance “obsolete.”
He’s more interested in making money than war. Endless ones will continue no matter who succeeds Obama. America’s rage to dominate risks WW III. Neocons infesting Washington make the unthinkable possible. 
US orchestrated flashpoint conditions in Syria, Ukraine and anywhere close to Russian and Chinese borders could launch it. Nations believing might makes right should scare everyone, none more ruthlessly dangerous than America.
Putin’s forthright efforts for world peace perhaps represent the only chance to achieve it. He deserves universal support.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Ecuador Taxing Its Rich to Pay for Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction - Sat, 23/04/2016 - 23:14
Ecuador Taxing Its Rich to Pay for Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction
by Stephen Lendman
Last Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake followed by hundreds of aftershocks left over 600 dead, more than 12,000 injured, scores still missing, 25,000 displaced, and many thousands vulnerable to serious diseases.
The nation continues reeling from its worst disaster in over half a century - at a time its economy is struggling from low oil prices. 
President Rafeal Correa declared a state of emergency in affected areas. Reconstruction will cost tens of billions of dollars, Correa saying:
“Let’s not kid ourselves. It will be a long struggle (to rebuild). Reconstruction (will take) years, (requiring) billions (of dollars) in investment.”
Thousands of security personnel were mobilized straightaway to begin providing disaster relief. Other Latin American countries sent hundreds of rescue workers.
Around $600 million was immediately accessed from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and other international sources.
Ecuador’s Finance Minister said $300 million in emergency funds are available internally. Additional contingent financing will help begin to pay for relief and reconstruction.
A one-time tax on wealthy Ecuadorians was imposed. Individuals with assets over $1 million will be assessed 0.9% of their net worth. Lower earners will pay a day’s salary for every $1,000 of monthly income up to $5,000.
Value added taxes will be increased from 12 to 14% for a year. Unspecified state assets will be sold to raise needed revenues. Heroic efforts are needed to help Ecuador deal with catastrophic conditions.
Taxing obscene wealth is an idea whose time has come in America. Class warfare created the greatest wealth disparity in the nation’s history, super-rich elites benefitting at the expense of most others.
Neoliberal force-fed austerity is an anti-populist scam. Vital changes needed include:
  • progressive taxation replacing today’s loophole-ridden inequitable system;

  • removing the payroll tax ceiling, taxing all earned income at the same rate;

  • mandating a living wage nationwide along with a minimum income for the nation’s indigent; and

  • instituting a Tobin Tax to make Wall Street and rich investors pay their fair share.

A one-half of 1% tax could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually. A one-tenth of 1% tax on annual derivatives trading could raise hundreds of billions more.
Added revenues if used productively would stimulate economic growth, create jobs, cut the deficit, and raise Main Street living standards.
Throughout the 20th century until the 1980s, every generation was better off financially than earlier ones. No longer, workers victimized by institutional inequality - from industrial and other high-paying jobs offshored to low-wage countries, stagnant wages, weakened or lost benefits, bipartisan government serving privileged interests exclusively, notably since the Clinton years, exacerbated under Bush II and Obama, his successor sure to worsen conditions.
The state of today’s America is deplorable, poverty its new growth industry, unemployment and underemployment at Great Depression levels, inequality institutionalized.
Making the nation’s rich pay their fair share along with other progressive measures are ideas whose time has come.
The alternative is entirely thirdworldizing America, banana republicanizing it more than already, dystopian hell by any standard.
A race to the bottom assures it for growing millions, the nation fit to live in for its privileged class alone.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Russia Foiled US Imperial Plans for Syria - Sat, 23/04/2016 - 23:04
Russia Foiled US Imperial Plans for Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Syria is Obama’s war, naked aggression using imported death squads, orchestrated by Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, following a similar strategy she devised to topple Gaddafi and rape Libya.
Russia’s intervention in Syria last September dramatically changed the dynamic on the ground. “(S)upport given…to the legitimate government of Syria helped prevent the disintegration of the Syrian state, its statehood, preserved power structures and prevented mass victims among the civilian population,” Putin explained.
With Russian aerial support, Syrian forces “liberated more than 400 villages and towns (and) eliminated thousands of terrorists.”
Yet endless war continues because Washington and its rogue allies reject peaceful conflict resolution. They want Syria entirely ravaged and destroyed, transformed into a pro-Western puppet state, isolating Iran, next in line for regime change.
Syrian and Russian freedom fighters are true heroes, combating US-led pure evil. Senior Russian Lieutenant Alexander Prokhorenko stands out.
He was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation for exceptional courage and heroism. On March 17, he was killed in the line of duty, involving guiding Russian airstrikes in Homs governorate.
When surrounded by ISIS fighters, he called in an airstrike on himself to help eliminate them. He sacrificed his life to help save others.
Honoring his exceptional heroism, French couple Jean-Claude and Michelin Magues gave WW II military decorations earned by family members to Prokhorenko’s next of kin, Russia’s Paris embassy reported.
In a letter to its ambassador, they said “(h)e died like a hero, and we are proud of his heroic feat. At this hour, our hearts are entirely with you.” 
They called their gesture a sign of “great fellow-feeling for Russia” and its dedication to fighting the scourge of terrorism.
Russia’s embassy said many French nationals wrote letters of support, “expressing solidarity with Prokhorenko’s family,” admiring and respecting his heroism - above and beyond the call of duty.
Many letters said he gave his life “for universal human values” - polar opposite America’s pure evil agenda.
From Geneva, Syria’s chief peace talks negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari explained heroic efforts made by his government to help millions of internally displaced nationals - ignored by Western officials and media scoundrels.
He said 1.7 million Syrians returned to government liberated areas. Hundreds of facilities were set up to help them. Emergency humanitarian aid is being provided.
At the same time, illegally imposed US and EU sanctions impede recovery efforts. Al-Jaafari blasted Western “hypocrisy and lies,” accusing their regimes of “shedding crocodile tears” over dire humanitarian conditions while creating catastrophic ones by their actions.
It’s well know “that there are organized networks of international terrorism supervised by certain (Western and regional) intelligence services which are sending terrorists inside Syria across Syria’s borders with neighboring countries,” he explained.
“The countries supporting terrorism in Syria have killed the essence of the United Nations and sabotaged the rules of international law.”
They undermine peace by waging endless war. They continue fueling it while pretending otherwise. 
They want Syria raped and destroyed, not free from the scourge of terrorism they actively support.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Police State Germany - Sat, 23/04/2016 - 22:52
Police State Germany
by Stephen Lendman
Free expression in all forms is the most important democratic right, no matter how offensive to some people. Without it, all other freedoms are jeopardized.
Articles 1 through 19 of Germany’s constitution affirm basic rights afforded all Germans.
They include equality for all citizens, freedom of speech, assembly, the media, and religion. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or political beliefs is prohibited. 
Conscientious objection to compulsory military service is allowed. Article 18 states:
“Whoever abuses freedom of expression of opinion, in particular freedom of the press, freedom of teaching, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, privacy of posts and telecommunications, property, or the right of asylum in order to combat the free democratic basic order, shall forfeit these basic rights.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel initiated war on free expression, flagrantly violating constitutional law. 
She authorized TV host Jan Bohmermann’s prosecution for reading a satirical poem on ZDF television criticizing Turkish despot Erdogan, a notorious world-class thug.
During a Friday rally supporting Bohmermann, Germany’s Pirate Party Berlin head, Bruno Kramm, was arrested for quoting a line from his poem - the nation’s latest flagrant constitutional violation.
Police accused Kramm of violating a long ago outdated 19th century statute, prohibiting insults against “organs and representatives of foreign states.”
He’s held in isolation, no visitors allowed, his arrest and detention much like what goes on routinely in Turkey, police state practices in both countries, increasingly happening in Britain, France, elsewhere in Europe and America.
In a statement posted on the Pirate Party’s web site, Kramm said “(w)hen people slightly criticize the government in Turkey, they are persecuted, beaten or disappear.”
“(T)he dictator Erdogan is allowed to significantly restrict the right of assembly and the freedom of expression in Germany merely for a statement, that he beats Kurds and Christians.”
Pirate Party members have been staging weekly demonstrations in front of Turkey’s Berlin embassy, protesting “systematic terror of censorship, oppression, despotism and killings of the dictator Erdogan.”
Merkel claims she supports free media and public expression. Her actions show her turning Germany into a police state like Turkey.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

EFF and ACLU Expose Government’s Secret Stingray Use in Wisconsin Case - Sat, 23/04/2016 - 09:30

Thanks to EFF and the ACLU, the government has finally admitted it secretly used a Stingray to locate a defendant in a Wisconsin criminal case, United States v. Damian Patrick. Amazingly, the government didn’t disclose this fact to the defendant—or the court—until we raised it in an amicus brief we filed in the case. In the government’s brief, filed late last week, it not only fails to acknowledge the impact of hiding this fact from the defendant but also claims its warrantless real-time location tracking didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment.

We first learned about this case when it was already on appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and filed an amicus brief arguing the Fourth Amendment protects all of us from warrantless, real-time location tracking. The government suggested to both Patrick and the trial court that it had relied on location information obtained directly from Sprint. However, we suspected they had instead used a Stingray.

Stingrays Allow Indiscriminate Dragnet Searches of All Cell Phones in an Area

Stingrays, otherwise known as cell-site simulators, act as a fake cell-phone tower. They can be small enough to fit in a car and allow the government to direct all cell phones in the area to connect to it instead of the real tower. In doing so, the government can get a very precise picture of exactly where those phones are located—much more precise than many other types of location tracking technologies.

Stingrays are especially pernicious surveillance tools because they collect information on every single phone in a given area—not just the suspect’s phone—this means they allow the police to conduct indiscriminate, dragnet searches—in some cases on up to 10,000 phones at one time. They are also able to locate people inside traditionally-protected private spaces like homes, doctors’ offices, or places of worship and can be configured to capture the content of communications.

The Milwaukee Police Department Tried to Hide its Use of a Stingray

In this case, the police first told Patrick they’d relied on “information obtained from an anonymous source” to find him sitting in the passenger seat of a car parked in an alley in Milwaukee.  It wasn’t until six months after his arrest that they revealed they’d tracked him through his cell phone, and even then they implied they’d gotten location information directly from the cell phone service provider. The government never got a search warrant to use any kind of technology to find Patrick in real time.

As we’ve seen in other cases involving Stingrays, the government did everything it could in this case to hide the fact that it used a Stingray—from the court that issued the pen register/trap and trace order, the court that heard Patrick’s motion to suppress the evidence, and even from Patrick, himself. In police reports, the officers said only that they “‘obtained information’ of Patrick’s location; . . . had ‘prior knowledge’ that Patrick was occupying the vehicle; . . . [and] ‘obtained information from an unknown source’ that Patrick was inside the vehicle at that location.” And even at an evidentiary hearing where officers admitted to cellphone tracking, they would only acknowledge, cryptically, that they’d received “electronic information” confirming Patrick was in the vehicle. When Patrick’s attorney asked what “electronic information” meant, the officer on the stand would say only that it involved “tracking [a] cell phone.” The judge cut off any further questioning at that point.

Luckily, in our amicus brief we were able to point the court to Milwaukee Police Department logs showing the police had used a Stingray on the very same day Patrick was arrested, under strikingly similar circumstances.1 We also directed the court to a non-disclosure agreement, which the Milwaukee police signed just months before Patrick was arrested. In this standard FBI-issued NDA, signed by many other state and local agencies across the country, the police department agreed not to tell anyone (even the judge) in any civil or criminal proceeding that it had used a Stingray. It also agreed to dismiss any case—at the FBI’s request—if the court tried to force it to reveal anything about the device.

Once we presented these facts to the appellate court, the government finally admitted it used a Stingray but would not concede this should have any impact on the legal analysis in this case. In a footnote to the brief the government filed last week, it even appeared to blame Patrick for failing to raise this at the trial court.

The Government Admits it Needs a Probable Cause Warrant to Conduct Real-Time Location Tracking

Interestingly, even though the government doesn’t think it’s secret use of a Stingray impacts this case, it admits that using technology to track someone’s location in real time (whether through location information obtained from the phone company or by using a Stingray) is a “search” for Fourth Amendment purposes. It also admits it needs probable cause and a search warrant to legally execute such a search. This appears to be the first time the government has admitted these things in an appellate case.

But the government also argues it didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment in this case because it actually got a warrant—or maybe, in the alternative, the equivalent of a warrant (the police had a warrant to arrest (not search) Patrick and a court order (not a search warrant) to track Patrick’s phone). In a confusing and somewhat circular argument, the government asserts that because it submitted a “sworn affidavit” in support of its request for the pen/trap order, the order must have actually been a search warrant—if it hadn’t been a warrant, then it “wouldn’t have needed a finding of probable cause, which it contained.”

The Seventh Circuit Should Follow Maryland and Find Secret, Warrantless Stingray Use Unconstitutional

It’s now up to the Seventh Circuit to try to make sense of this argument (or maybe just to send the case back to the trial court for a new trial). If the appellate court decides to take this issue on, we hope it follows a recent Maryland appellate decision, State of Maryland v. Andrews (another case where we were amicus), where the court held unanimously that the Baltimore Police Department’s very similar secretive behavior and failure to get a search warrant before using a Stingray violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. Andrews is the first appellate decision that we know of where a court has ever looked at police use of a Stingray. We hope it sets a very persuasive precedent to all courts that secret, warrantless Stingray use violates the Fourth Amendment.

  • 1. Huge thanks to privacy advocate and EFF friend Mike Katz-Lacabe for obtaining this information under Wisconsin’s public records statutes and sharing it with EFF and ACLU!
Related Cases: U.S. v. Damian Patrick State of Maryland v. Kerron Andrews
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Categories: Aggregated News

Meet Rocket Lee: Helping Make EFF Run Smoothly - Sat, 23/04/2016 - 08:54

We're excited to welcome to EFF the newest member of our tech operations team, Rocket Lee. Rocket comes to EFF with deep and wide ranging experience, and said after joining the team, "I'm really excited to be part of the Tech Ops team… contributing to help make everything run smoothly."

Rocket's experience spans several disciplines. They studied game design in grad school at MIT through the Comparative Media Studies program and designed a thesis project entailing a seven-day alternate reality game for 15 players called Civilité based on The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.

In addition to their work on design and gaming, Rocket's personal interests include a dedication to worker cooperatives and the transformative ownership and participation they can enable. Beyond researching and promoting co-ops, Rocket has also helped build a few in practice, including web design & development consultancies Small Multiples and Quilted, and Out of Order Games, where they work with colleagues on innovative games. Their latest project is the groundbreaking board game, "Bloc by Bloc: the Insurrection Game."

Rocket brings formidable new skills to the Tech Ops team, citing EFF's projects as a reason they grew inspired to join the team. "There are very few other organizations I'd feel comfortable working at because very few share my values."

Welcome, Rocket!

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Categories: Aggregated News

EFF to FCC: Consumers Need Strong ‘Unlock the Box’ Rules That Bring Competition, Innovation to Set-Top Boxes - Sat, 23/04/2016 - 07:27
Copyright Laws Are No Obstacle to New Devices, Despite Cable Company Claims

Washington, D.C.—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt robust, consumer-friendly “Unlock the Box” rules that will give Americans access to more innovative, useful, and creative devices and software for watching pay cable and satellite television.

The FCC’s proposed “Unlock the Box” rules will allow any manufacturer to create and market devices or apps that will connect consumers to their cable or satellite TV feeds. The proposal will lead to a new generation of navigation devices that let viewers search and play shows on cable, online services, or over-the-air broadcasts from a single clicker, app, or box.

“Unlock the Box” is a long-overdue effort to open up the closed world of TV set-top boxes to competition. For decades pay-TV customers have had no choice but to rent set-top boxes—and while the cost of the TVs and computers they use for viewing has dropped by 90 percent, the cost of cable set-top boxes that often contain three-generations-old technology have risen 185 percent. Recently, some pay-TV companies have begun making some programming available through apps on other devices, but they remain in complete control of the design and function of those apps, while competitors are locked out.

In comments to the FCC today, EFF urged adoption of  “Unlock the Box” rules that maintain user privacy, allow testing by security researchers, and steer clear of loopholes that would enable cable and satellite TV companies to use copyright and other laws to maintain control over consumer devices for navigating TV viewing.

“Clunky, technologically-backwards rental set-top boxes that cost consumers an average of $231 a year and earn billions for cable companies are a frozen artifact of a bygone era. A handful of companies now maintain a monopoly over how consumers access the programming they pay for,’’ said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. “Competition will drive innovation in features and allow consumers to vote with their dollars for devices that are easier to use, have more sophisticated search functions, and integrate multiple sources of programming.”

Cable and satellite companies, movie studios and other major media companies allege “Unlock the Box” rules will lead to unauthorized access to their content, and that building tools for finding and viewing TV content should require permission.

This is nonsense, EFF told the FCC today. The proposed rules don’t permit consumers to access content they haven’t paid for or authorize copying or distribution of TV programming. Copyright laws don’t give rightsholders the power to control the features of your home video devices, or to dictate how you can find and watch the programming that you pay for.

EFF is also urging the FCC to ensure that manufactures of new navigation tools are subject to strong privacy standards that will give consumers the same protections they currently have. EFF warned against giving cable and satellite TV companies authority to decide which devices comply with consumer protection rules—this would only give them another opportunity to attempt to control the device market or exclude competition.

“Consumers need privacy protections, and while competitive device makers aren’t subject to FCC regulations we believe they should be subject to the same legal standards for privacy as cable and satellite TV companies,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. “For too long every effort to improve the pay-TV experience for consumers has been derailed by companies that control set-top boxes. If ‘Unlock the Box’ rules are implemented, consumers will be the winners.”

Contact:  MitchStoltzSenior Staff LeeTienSenior Staff Attorney and Adams Chair for Internet
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Categories: Aggregated News

US State-Sponsored Terrorism Prevents Peace in Syria - Sat, 23/04/2016 - 02:40
US State-Sponsored Terrorism Prevents Peace in Syria
by Stephen Lendman
America is the world’s leading sponsor of global terrorism, using death squads to advance its imperium, raping one nation after another, responsible for millions of deaths.
Neocons influencing policy want unipolar/New World Order dominance. Paul Wolfowitz once said Washington’s “first objective is prevent(ing) the reemergence of (rival states), either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere.”
The agendas of both countries are polar opposite. Russia wants peace, stability, and multi-world polarity. America wants endless wars, turbulence and unchallenged dominance.
Both countries clash over Syria. Russia wants its sovereign independence and territorial integrity preserved. 
Washington wants it transformed into another US vassal state, its resources looted, its people exploited. Endless conflict continues. Farcical peace talks collapsed.
State Department spokesman admiral John Kirby said “there is not now nor other plans to actively cooperate military with the Russian military in Syria.”
Washington supports imported death squads, ISIS and other US created terrorists, undermining Russian efforts for peace.
On Thursday, its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted increasing increasing hostilities and “tensions along the line of engagement in Syria…”
“We see a desperate (US/Saudi/Turkish backed) attempt of terrorists to disrupt the political process. (T)here is no place in the political process for people who adhere to terrorism-related actions.”
Ankara especially, with “tacit consent” or active “support”…of its allies and partners…is conniving with extremists and terrorists.”
Russia presented documented evidence of its activities to Security Council members. No action was taken. Media scoundrels ignore them.
US/Saudi backed terrorists comprising most opposition members bear full responsibility for collapsed peace talks.
No responsible government would accept unacceptable pre-conditions they demanded. Ceasefire is more illusion than reality. Full-blown conflict could resume any time.
Washington blames Russia for escalated hostilities initiated by US supported terrorists - repeating the tired old canard about its forces attacking moderate rebels.
None exist. All anti-government elements are terrorists. Russia righteously continues helping Syria eliminate their scourge.
Washington calls its actions provocative, intending increased support for imported death squads, supplying them with heavy weapons, showing it wants endless war, not peace.
How far Obama will go in his remaining months remains to be seen. If Clinton or a likeminded Republican neocon replaces him, all bets are off.
The entire region and beyond may explode in conflict. Maybe Russia and/or China will be attacked. The horror of possible global war should scare everyone.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Erdogan Wants Everyone Criticizing Him Prosecuted - Sat, 23/04/2016 - 02:27
Erdogan Wants Everyone Criticizing Him Prosecuted
by Stephen Lendman
In Turkey, dissent is a criminal offense. Anyone criticizing Erdogan or exposing regime wrongdoing risks arrest, prosecution and imprisonment on charges ranging from insulting the president to espionage, treason or terrorism.
Journalists, academics, public figures, human rights activists, even young children are vulnerable. So would world leaders be if Erdogan has his way.
Last December, regime loyalist Mahir Akkar urged Putin be criminally investigated on charges of insulting and defaming Erdogan.
He wants Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov to stand trial for “insulting the president,” saying “we cannot turn a blind eye to defamation against our president by other presidents or officials.”
Turkish officials pressured Angela Merkel to hold German TV host Jan Bohmermann accountable for reading a satirical poem on ZDF television criticizing Erdogan - violating the nation’s constitution, affirming free expression even when offensive.
Turkish nationals in the Netherlands were asked to reveals names of anyone insulting Erdogan and their remarks.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he’ll handle things through diplomatic channels. “Our ambassador in Ankara will ask for an explanation,” he said.
An Erdogan regime letter asked Turkish nationals living in the Netherlands to report “messages from people who are insulting our president, the Turkish nation or Turkey in general.”
It asked for “names and the quotes” to be sent to Turkey’s Rotterdam Consulate General.” Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Dutch branch chairman, Axu Ozalp, called what’s happening “very worrying.”
Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink said Ankara’s campaign targets anything appearing on Facebook, Twitter, other social media and private emails.
It aims to “influence how Dutch Turks behave.” Politicians in Holland call the scheme “the long arm of Ankara,” wanting control over diaspora Turks throughout Europe, perhaps others expressing criticism of a rogue regime.
I’ve blasted Erdogan in numerous articles, calling him a fascist despot, a megalomaniacal international outlaw, a psychopath - waging war on Kurdish nationals in Turkey, Iraq and Syria, supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups, wanting the Ottoman Empire recreated.
Let me go on record saying clearly. I’d do lots more than insult him. I’d make the same accusations to his face. I won’t be silenced or intimidated. 
Maybe his “long arm” will target me. Put nothing past a crazed despot, wanting everyone and everything interfering with his iron-fisted rule eliminated.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Netanyahu in Moscow - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 22:49
Netanyahu in Moscow
by Stephen Lendman
Last September, Netanyahu met with Putin in Moscow to assure Russia wouldn’t interfere with illegal Israeli airstrikes on Syrian targets - part of the US-led anti-Assad campaign.
On Thursday he was back, discussing what he called “coordination on security matters to prevent mistakes (and) misunderstandings.” 
He lied, claiming Israel’s illegal annexation of Golan (in 1981 after its 1967 occupation) aims to prevent “rockets…fired at our communities and our children…”
Golan “will remain part of (Israeli) sovereign territory” despite near universal opposition to its annexation, a flagrant breach of international law.
Israel is a notorious scofflaw, ignoring UN Charter provisions it’s sworn to uphold as a member state, violating dozens of Security Council resolutions over the last half century, breaching virtually all international laws with regard to war and peace, human rights and other humanitarian issues.
Security Council Resolution 252 (May 1968) demands Israel reverse its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, stating in part, the SC:
“Considers that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status;” 
“Urgently calls upon Israel to rescind all such measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any further action which tends to change the status of Jerusalem;” 
Security Council Resolution 497 (December 1981) demands Israel reverse its Golan annexation, stating in part, the SC:
“Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;”
“Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision.” 
Security Council Resolution 446 (March 1979) demands Israel cease building settlements in Occupied Palestine, and “remove those already built.”
Fourth Geneva prohibits an occupying power from transferring parts of its civilian population to territory it occupies, or dispossessing its legal residents.
Security Council Resolutions 452 (1979) and 465 (1980) demanded compliance. Illegal settlement development continues unabated on stolen Palestinian land.
UN Charter Article 2(4) states “(a)ll members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
Security Council Resolution 242 stressed “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” It lacked teeth, letting Israel ignore it with impunity.
The Security Council never passed a Chapter VII resolution, demanding action against Israel “with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression.”
Israel does what it pleases, free from accountability, breaching its international obligations with impunity - justifying the unjustifiable and getting away with it virtually always.
At a press briefing following his meeting with Putin, Netanyahu said “(p)roblems were raised. From the very nature of things there is always friction, and if we don't deal with it, it is liable to develop into something a lot larger.”
In less than so many words, he stressed Israel’s self-declared right to attack Syrian targets at his discretion.
Russian warplanes reportedly fired warning shots two or more times on Israeli aircraft illegally entering Syrian airspace.
Whether both leaders resolved differences between them isn’t clear. Their agendas with regard to Syria are polar opposite.
Russia respects Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Israel wants the Syrian Arab Republic destroyed, tyranny replacing its legitimate government.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

New Coup Plot Hatched in Venezuela - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 22:40
New Coup Plot Hatched in Venezuela
by Stephen Lendman
US supported fascists controlling Venezuela’s National Assembly openly call for ousting democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro. More on this below.
Earlier US sponsored coup attempts failed. Days earlier, John Kerry said Washington will support fascist legislators if they pursue suspending Venezuela from the Organization of American states - part of longstanding US efforts to replace Bolivarian fairness with tyranny.
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry blasted US “interventionist and insurrectionist plan(s) against Venezuela’s democracy, encouraging the violent and extreme factions to resort to unconstitutional means in order to take down President Maduro’s government.”
On Wednesday, fascist National Assembly lawmakers passed legislation they want adopted as a constitutional amendment if approved by popular referendum. 
It calls for reducing presidential, gubernatorial and mayoral terms from six to four years, prohibiting more than one consecutive reelection.
They want it retroactively applied to Maduro. His six-year term ends in 2019. If approved, he’ll be out on January 10, 2017 following a snap December election.
They want transition altered if he’s recalled, impeached or resigns, fascist National Assembly president Henry Ramos Allup replacing him, not PSUV Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz.
Chavista legislator Edwin Rojas denounced the right-wing’s thinly veiled coup attempt, saying legislation proposing a constitutional amendment “violates articles 340, 341, and 342 of the constitution, according to which, an amendment is only a simple modification of one or various articles without altering the spirit of the document.”
Chavista lawmakers also blasted a new Organic Referendum Law, designed to ease the process of ousting Maduro, calling it unconstitutional, minority PSUV National Assembly member Jorge Perez saying:
“The Referendum Law is an initiative of the opposition that is full of vices given that the Venezuelan Constitution clearly establishes that the electoral arena is the exclusive responsibility of the” National Electoral Council (CNE).”
Passing organic laws require super-majority two-thirds approval. Fascists are three votes short. If the proposed constitutional amendment is passed without enough backing, Venezuela’s Supreme Court will strike it down, rendering it null and void.
Efforts to replace Bolivarian fairness with fascist controlled tyranny are made in the USA. Washington wants control over Venezuela’s vast oil reserves, the world’s largest.
It wants US controlled tyranny replacing sovereign Venezuelan independence.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Israelis Rally for Release of Killer Soldier - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 22:27
Israelis Rally for Release of Killer Soldier
by Stephen Lendman
Israeli society is deplorably racist. Anti-Arab sentiment is institutionalized. Palestinian lives don’t matter. Extrajudicial killing them is officially OK’d. 
Last month, Israeli sergeant Elor Azaria murdered ‘Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif in cold blood as he lay helpless, wounded on the ground.
Video evidence showed Azaria lethally shooting al-Sharif in the head at point-blank range. Another nearby soldier said he “did the right thing.”
He’s charged with manslaughter instead of obvious first-degree murder. At trial, he’ll likely get wrist-slap punishment at most - perhaps exoneration for “d(oing) the right thing.”
On Tuesday evening, thousands of supporters rallied in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, expressing solidarity with a cold-blooded killer, demanding his release.
Signs said “KILL THEM ALL,” Nazi SS slogan “My honor is loyalty,” and “Free Elor.” Extremists chanted nationalist slogans, including “death to Arabs.” Israeli flags were displayed.
A poll taken in March found 57% of Israeli Jews believe Azaria never should have been arrested. Almost 60,000 signed a petition demanding he be decorated for “heroism.”
A separate poll conducted last November found 53% of Israeli Jews support “on-the-spot” extrajudicial executions - even if a Palestinian was apprehended and/or poses no threat.
Media scoundrels suppress what demands feature reports, exposing apartheid worse than South Africa’s, soldiers authorized to kill with impunity. Rare exceptions prove the rule.
Ahead of Tuesday evening’s deplorable public display of support for cold-blooded murder, Netanyahu issued a statement, expressing support for the IDF, saying “(o)ur soldiers are not murderers.”
The so-called world’s most moral army myth was debunked long ago. Israeli soldiers are taught and trained to hate Arabs, to kill with impunity.
The Jewish Passover holiday period begins April 22 at sundown. Azaria isn’t imprisoned awaiting trial. He’s confined to base, able to move around freely, afforded privileges. 
On Friday, he was released to go home for Passover, running through nightfall April 30. Family and friends welcomed him like a hero.
Israeli soldiers extrajudicially executed well over 200 Palestinians since last October alone. Azaria is being prosecuted because video showing his crime aroused international outrage - most everywhere except in Israel where Arab killers are honored as heroes.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Let's Encrypt Reaches 2,000,000 Certificates - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 16:13

The Let's Encrypt certificate authority issued its two millionth certificate on Thursday, less than two months after the millionth certificate. As we noted when the millionth certificate was issued, each certificate can cover several web sites, so the certificates Let's Encrypt has issued are already protecting millions and millions of sites.

Let's Encrypt certificates issued by date

This rapid adoption has made Let's Encrypt one of the world's largest public certificate authorities by number of certificates issued, and almost all of them are protecting domains that never supported HTTPS before. The Internet needs to migrate away from the insecure HTTP protocol, and we're very pleased to be helping to make that possible.

This milestone has arrived shortly after the Let's Encrypt CA service left beta status (we still consider the Python client to be in beta, and that will probably continue for another few months). Let's Encrypt is steadily helping to make HTTPS encryption more and more conveniently available to everyone, across the entire Web.

EFF co-founded the Let's Encrypt CA with Mozilla and researchers from the University of Michigan. Akamai and Cisco joined the project as founding sponsors, and many other organizations have stepped up to sponsor the project since launch. If you'd like to help, you can donate to EFF or ISRG, or if you're a coder, help us to improve the server or client software.

And if you're a web hosting company, web platform provider, or content delivery network, why not help us get to three million certificates sooner by integrating Let's Encrypt with your services and offering HTTPS to all of your users?

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Secret Court Takes Another Bite Out of the Fourth Amendment - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 09:24

Defenders of the NSA's mass spying have lost an important talking point: that the erosion of our privacy and associational rights is justified given the focus of surveillance efforts on combating terrorism and protecting the national security. That argument has always been dubious for a number of reasons. But after a November 2015 ruling [.pdf] by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was unsealed this week, it's lost another chunk of its credibility. The ruling confirms that NSA's warrantless spying has been formally approved for use in general criminal investigations. The national security justification has been entirely blown. 

That's because the secret court, over the objection of its hand-selected amicus, determined that once information is collected by the NSA for "foreign intelligence" purposes under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, that information can be searched by the FBI for regular criminal investigations without any need for a warrant or prior court oversight. Although the FISC has signed off on the FBI's procedures claiming this authority for years, this ruling from late 2015 may be the first time the FISC has actually considered their legality.

Section 702 is the law that the government uses to conduct two massive NSA programs: access to communications as they travel the Internet backbone (called Upstream) and access to communications stored with service providers like Google and Facebook (called Prism).

According to this ruling, communications like email and Facebook posts collected by the government under the broad authority of section 702 that the FBI has access to—including all "raw" Prism data—can be mined for any "evidence of a crime" and used against you, even if you're inside the United States.

The amicus appointed by the FISC, Amy Jeffress a former DOJ attorney, argued:

the FBI may query the data using U.S. person identifiers for the purposes of any criminal investigation or even an assessment. There is no requirement that the matter be a serious one, nor that it have any relation to national security...[T]hese practices do not comply with....the Fourth Amendment. 

The FISC Court did not listen to its amicus. Instead it applied some faulty (not to mention scary) bootstrap reasoning. 

The court questioned whether it's constitutional for the FBI to query NSA intelligence databases to find information to use against Americans in regular criminal investigations unrelated to national security. Government lawyers suggested that "targeting" and "minimization" procedures erase the harm that surveillance causes to Fourth Amendment principles, though we’ve explained why those procedures impose inadequate limits and allow unconstitutional spying to continue.  We're also reminded of Justice Roberts' recent observation: "the Founders did not fight a revolution to gain the right to government agency protocols."

Nevertheless, the FISC court decided that, instead of determining whether the Fourth Amendment was violated by the specific use of NSA collected information against particular Americans in criminal investigations, it only had to determine whether the program "as a whole" violated the Fourth Amendment.  To do that, it perverted a prior case decided by the FISA appeals court, called the FISCR.

That case, In Re Directives [.pdf], upheld national security surveillance as a "special need" not subject to the Fourth Amendment's normal warrant requirement, and reasonable specifically because this surveillance was not used for "garden-variety law enforcement." While we disagree with the In Re Directives case, it plainly rested its analysis on when "surveillance is conducted to obtain foreign intelligence for national security purposes."

But according to the FISC, that justification only applies at the time of initial collection (including the kind of massive overcollection that is occurring under 702) and can be completely abandoned once the government has its mitts on your communications. 

The upshot is that the government needs a national security or foreign intelligence purpose only for the initial collection and analysis of information. Once it has communications in its custody, those limitations no longer apply and the government can troll through it for whatever law enforcement purpose it wants without having to worry about getting a pesky warrant. 

Of course we know that the government has lost track of how many things are illegal. So it's open season. 

This is a constitutional problem. Quite apart from the bait and switch opportunities it creates for the FBI, it's like saying it's OK for school officials to set up a drug testing program for non-law enforcement purposes, and then once it’s set up, they can completely abandon that purpose and start testing students to simply to put them in jail. Or that the government can set up a program to test pregnant women for drugs with a goal to get them into treatment, but also hand the information over to the police and use the threat of prosecution as additional leverage.

The Supreme Court rejected the latter scenario as unconstitutional in Ferguson v. City of Charleston in 2001. Other Supreme Court cases make clear that even holistic, programmatic assessments of Fourth Amendment "reasonableness"—like the one the FISC engages in here—must take into account the invasiveness of these programs. Searching vast databases containing the full content of emails and every website visited by nonsuspect Americans without a warrant is about as invasive as it gets.

This FISC decision is flawed for all of these reasons. But we won't get a chance to present those flaws to the court of appeals, much less the US Supreme Court, because in cases before the secret surveillance court only the government, not the amicus (or those of us whose communications are swept up in these massive programs) is allowed to appeal.

Still, two things are good about this decision. First, we know about it. Second, the court appointed an amicus who did try to get the court to recognize at least some of the Fourth Amendment problems with the government’s actions. Those are both new developments for the FISC, and both are due to parts of the USA Freedom Act that EFF championed. 

We still have a long way to go, but without those sections of the law, we wouldn’t be able to raise our concerns here. Just as important, we wouldn’t be able to use this bad decision to educate Congress about yet another reason why it should let section 702 expire when it comes up for renewal in December 2017.

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Keep the Pressure On: Brazilian Online Surveillance Bills Threaten Digital Rights and Innovation - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 08:36

The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies is about to vote on seven bills that were introduced as part of a report by the Brazilian Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on Cybercrimes (CPICIBER). Collectively, these bills would be disastrous for privacy and freedom of expression in Brazil. That's why EFF is joining a coalition of Brazilian civil society groups in opposing the bills. As the vote takes place on April 27, it's crucial that we voice our concerns to CPICIBER members now.

The CPICIBER was created in July 2015 by House President Eduardo Cunha as a request from Sibá Machado (PT). The CPICIBER was charged with investigating online crimes and their effects on the Brazilian economy and society. The CPICIBER worked from August 2015 to April 2016 and published a report with an analysis of how Brazil is dealing with a high number of crimes against the financial system and the increase in racist messages online. The report provides recommendations for how the country should respond to the threat of online crime. Although many stakeholders participated in the CPICIBER hearings, the report ultimately gave in to excessive panic about the Internet. The final proposals represent a range of repressive measures that trample on free expression and privacy rights.

Along with our partners at ARTIGO19, Access Now, Coding Rights, Intervozes and Instituto Beta, The Electronic Frontier Foundation urges everyone to tell members of the CPICIBER to oppose these draconian bills:

Fight Back Against Brazil’s Draconian New Cybercrime Bills

Combata os novos PLs autoritários contra cibercrimes no Brasil.

The bills proposed by the CPICIBER contain alarming proposals such as:

  • Allowing police warrantless access to IP addresses;
  • Requiring sites and apps to monitor content to prevent new sharing of materials already deemed offensive by court decision;
  • Criminalizing improper computer system access that presents a “risk of misuse or disclosure” of data, even if no actual misuse or disclosure occurs—broad and vague terms that also apply to actions with no criminal intent, jeopardizing legitimate security research that might never be done if obtaining prior permission were a legal requirement;
  • Allowing judges, in direct violation of net neutrality rules, to block sites and applications that are used for criminal purposes or that don’t comply with demands for user information.

As the CPICIBER will be discussing this proposed legislation, it is important for Brazilians to keep the pressure on! The fight against cybercrime must not threaten the Brazilian Marco Civil da Internet (the 2014 law that protects certain Internet freedoms), let alone the Brazilian Constitution!

The proposed bills roll back existing safeguards for freedom of expression and privacy online and could be disastrous for the future of the Internet in Brazil. In the words of Instituto Beta Executive Director Paulo Rená:

After dozens of public hearings, a report was presented with seven draft bills and more than a handful of serious threats to fundamental human rights protection in the digital realm. In particular, it undermines some of the core guarantees of Marco Civil da Internet.

Jamila Venturini, researcher at the Center for Technology and Society at FGV Law School in Rio, continued:

The writing in some of the proposed bills is ambiguous and may legitimize abuses to the principle of net neutrality and the protection of freedom of expression and privacy online. This represents a setback to the guarantees granted to Internet users by the Marco Civil da Internet, ignoring the long and open process of discussions that led to its approval in 2014 and going against some of the main international human rights guidelines.

Lucas Texeira, Technical Director, Coding Rights:

In a world where the divide between online and offline gets more blurred every day, Brazilian people who care about openness and freedom should pay close attention to what is at stake here and engage in the debate. Various measures promoted by the CPICIBER report—such as warrantless access to IP addresses—put rights such as freedom of speech, privacy and self-determination in great peril, especially in Brazil, a country with such a high occurrence of police abuse against political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and other vulnerable groups.

Veridiana Alimonti, coordinator of Intervozes:

The bills would allow law enforcement to gather IP addresses without a warrant and would make standards for already-established crimes even more vague so that they may encompass conduct that is not necessarily illegal. Websites and apps would be compelled to monitor all published content, automatically taking down anything considered 'offensive.' ISPs would be required to monitor and block Internet applications that don’t cooperate with law enforcement, something that is already too often used disproportionately by the Judiciary. If these bills are passed, all users have the potential of being targeted as criminals by websites and ISPs. These online surveillance bills are an enormous threat to digital rights and great setback from what we achieved with ‘Marco Civil’ of the Internet!

Fight Back Against Brazil’s Draconian New Cybercrime Bills

Combata os novos PLs autoritários contra cibercrimes no Brasil.

More information:

Coding Rights, Instituto Beta, Intervozes: Considerações sobre a CPI de Crimes Cibernéticos

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A Disappointing Ruling on National Security Letters, But Not the Last Word - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 02:38

The federal district court in San Francisco in EFF’s National Security Letter (NSL) cases has unsealed its order from last month, which denies our clients’ long-running First Amendment challenges to the NSL statute.

This is the first public decision interpreting the NSL statute since it was amended last year by the USA FREEDOM Act, and unfortunately, it’s a disappointing one. Although the court previously found the statute unconstitutional, it held that Congress successfully addressed these problems by passing USA FREEDOM.

EFF and our clients disagree with this ruling, and we will be appealing it to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

How Did We Get Here?

NSLs are a form of government subpoena that allow the FBI to request basic subscriber information and toll billing records from wire and electronic communications providers. The NSL statute also allows the FBI to issue self-certified “non-disclosure orders” preventing recipients from even saying they have received an NSL. The self-certification means that a court does not review the FBI’s decision to send an NSL or to impose these gag orders in advance.

The government has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs since 2001, nearly all of them accompanied by gag orders. But in spite of a documented history of abuse, NSLs have generated few legal challenges precisely because of the intimidating gag orders that accompany nearly every NSL.

EFF’s clients are two of the exceptions. We represent unnamed service providers—referred to by the court as Petitioner A and Petitioner B—who received several NSLs in 2011 and 2013 respectively. In response to an initial challenge by Petitioner A, the court in 2013 found that the NSL statute was unconstitutional because it allowed the FBI to prevent recipients from even stating that they had received an NSL.

In that 2013 decision, the court correctly recognized that because the government can silence recipients in advance, NSL gag orders are presumptively unconstitutional “prior restraints” under the First Amendment.

In order to constitutionally impose a prior restraint, the government must ensure that numerous safeguards apply, including prompt judicial review and a demonstration that a gag is actually necessary. In 2013, the court determined that the NSL statute failed on these fronts because it allowed the government to impose indefinite gags in every case, with no obligation for judicial review. Even when review did occur, the statute severely limited the court’s ability to weigh its necessity, in some cases simply forcing the court to uphold the gag based on an FBI official’s certification.   

The government appealed the 2013 ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which heard argument in October 2014. But before the appeals court could issue an opinion, Congress amended the NSL statute as part of USA FREEDOM. In light of these changes, the Ninth Circuit delayed issuing a definitive ruling and sent the case back to the district court. Now that court has ruled on the amended statute, and we’re once again headed to the Ninth Circuit. Our clients have been totally prevented from speaking about these NSLs for the entire time the case has been pending, as debates over the NSL power have continued in Congress and in the public. 

What Changed?

Although USA FREEDOM introduced only superficial changes to the NSL statute, it satisfied the district court that the new NSL regime is constitutional.

The most notable change brought by USA FREEDOM is that the amended law makes official an FBI practice called “reciprocal notice,” adopted by the Bureau in response to a 2008 ruling by the Second Circuit in New York. Under the reciprocal notice procedure, the government goes to court to justify the gag order only if an NSL recipient notifies the FBI of its desire for judicial review in the first place.

But according to the Supreme Court’s decision in Freedman v. Maryland, that’s not enough. When the government imposes a prior restraint, it must bear the burden of immediately going to court and proving its necessity. Otherwise, in most cases speakers faced with the uphill battle of challenging an unconstitutional gag themselves will simply choose to comply. In the case of the new “reciprocal notice” requirement, the recipient still bears the burden of objecting to the gag order, which is enough to deter most recipients. Even when they do object, the statute does not require courts to rule promptly. As a result, the FBI’s decision to gag NSL recipients is a de facto permanent one in the vast majority of cases. The First Amendment does not allow such a censorship regime.

In its new order in our cases, the district court acknowledged that USA FREEDOM’s kludgy reciprocal notice procedure does not live up to the high First Amendment standards in Freedman, but it still called this new procedure good enough. That’s because the court agreed with the Second Circuit that NSLs are not “classic prior restraints” because they do not gag “those who customarily wish to exercise rights of free expression,” such as movie exhibitors and book publishers. This might have seemed plausible when the Second Circuit first wrote it in 2008, as it was less common for companies to speak publicly about government requests for customer information. 

But these days, after the immense public debate caused by the Snowden revelations, service providers regularly publish transparency reports about government data requests, and companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google engage in public fights against overbroad requests and gag orders. Users are very concerned about the privacy and security of their data held by these companies. And contrary to the court’s assumption, many providers—like our clients—want to talk about these requests.

But even if it were true that gagged communications providers aren’t “classic speakers,” NSLs are classic prior restraints. The First Amendment has never reserved its highest speech protections for only the most talkative—just the opposite, in fact. Prior restraints arise when the government preemptively tells someone they cannot engage in speech, which is exactly what NSL gag orders do.

The court did, however, recognize that gag orders distort public discussion of NSLs, since recipients cannot identify themselves and discuss their experiences. Both Petitioner A and Petitioner B submitted declarations describing the ways in which they were barred from this debate, particularly surrounding the passage of USA FREEDOM itself.

A Silver Lining

Yet another of the numerous ways in which the amended NSL statute remains unconstitutional is its directive that a court should uphold an NSL gag order if the court finds “reason to believe” that harm “may result” if the recipient discloses the information in the NSLs. This fails to meet the First Amendment’s requirement that prior restraints be objectively and definitely “necessary” to prevent such harm. Again, in our case, the court determined that the highly deferential “may result” language in the statute was close enough.

But when it came to applying this low bar to one of the NSLs received by our client Petitioner A, the court found that the FBI could not justify the gag order. This means that the FBI’s one-sided, secret assertions that our client must be gagged in this case have now proven to be totally unsupported. If the government does not appeal this ruling, our client will be able to identify itself after many years of being gagged. It will also be able to reveal the contents of the NSL it received in this case, marking only the second time that the public has seen an unredacted NSL.

While this isn’t the complete invalidation of the statute we’d hoped for, it is a partial vindication of our clients’ fortitude in challenging these NSLs. We hope the Ninth Circuit will reverse the rest of the district court’s disappointing ruling.

Related 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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Ruling Unsealed: National Security Letters Upheld As Constitutional - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 02:37
EFF Will Appeal to Protect First Amendment Rights

San Francisco - A federal judge has unsealed her ruling that National Security Letter (NSL) provisions in federal law—as amended by the USA FREEDOM Act—don’t violate the Constitution. The ruling allows the FBI to continue to issue the letters with accompanying gag orders that silence anyone from disclosing they have received an NSL, often for years. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents two service providers in challenging the NSL statutes, who will appeal this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Our heroic clients want to talk about the NSLs they received from the government, but they’ve been gagged—one of them since 2011,” said EFF Deputy Executive Director Kurt Opsahl. “This government silencing means the service providers cannot issue open and honest transparency reports and can’t share their experiences as part of the ongoing public debate over NSLs and their potential for abuse. Despite this setback, we will take this fight to the appeals court, again, to combat USA FREEDOM’s unconstitutional NSL provisions.”

This long-running battle started in 2011, after one of EFF’s clients challenged an NSL and the gag order it received. In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston issued a groundbreaking decision, ruling that the NSL power was unconstitutional. However, the government appealed, and the Ninth Circuit found that changes made by the USA FREEDOM Act passed by Congress last year required a new review by the District Court.

In the decision unsealed this week, the District Court found that the USA FREEDOM Act sufficiently addressed the facial constitutional problems with the NSL law. However, she also ruled that the FBI had failed to provide a sufficient justification for one of our client’s challenges to the NSLs. After reviewing the government’s justification, the court found no “reasonable likelihood that disclosure … would result in danger to the national security of the United States,” or other asserted dangers, and prohibited the government from enforcing that gag. However, the client still cannot identify itself because the court stayed this portion of the decision pending appeal.

“We are extremely disappointed that the superficial changes in the NSL statutes were determined to be good enough to meet the requirements of the First Amendment,” said EFF Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker. “NSL recipients still can be gagged at the FBI’s say-so, without any procedural protections, time limits or judicial oversight. This is a prior restraint on free speech, and it’s unconstitutional.”

The NSL statutes have been highly controversial since their use was expanded under the USA PATRIOT Act. With an NSL, the FBI—on its own, without any judge’s approval—can issue a secret letter to communications service providers, requiring the service to turn over subscriber and other basic non-content information about their customers. The gag orders that the FBI routinely issues along with an NSL have hampered discussion and debate about the process.

For the full unsealed order:

For more on National Security Letters:

Contact:  KurtOpsahlDeputy Executive Director and General AndrewCrockerStaff
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Shameless Wall Street Journal Ad Denies Ottoman Turkish Armenian Genocide - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 02:17
Shameless Wall Street Journal Ad Denies Ottoman Turkish Armenian Genocide
by Stephen Lendman
Ottoman Empire 1915 - 1922 genocide against Armenians in their historic homeland massacred around 1.5 million victims.
Turkey remains in denial of an indisputable historic fact. Journal management disgracefully published a full-page ad, intended to deceive, sponsored by FactCheckArmenia, a shameless genocide denial group.
Its web site airbrushes disturbing facts from history, twisting and reinventing them, claiming no genocide occurred, at the same time accusing Armenians during WW I of treason against the Ottoman Empire - blaming their victimized people for war waged by the great powers.
A WSJ spokesman’s explanation of why the publication ran the ad fell flat, saying:
“We accept a wide range of advertisements, including those with provocative viewpoints. While we review ad copy for issues of taste, the varied and divergent views expressed belong to the advertisers.”
On May 28, 1948, the UN War Crimes Commission prepared a report on “The Massacres of the Armenians in Turkey,” saying: 
On May 28, 1915, France, Britain and Russia denounced Turkey’s “crimes against humanity and civilization.” A key passage reads: 
“In the presence of these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and the civilization, the allied Governments (know) that they will be held personally responsible for the so-called crimes of all members of the Ottoman Government as well as those of the officers who would be involved in such massacres.” 
The never ratified 1920 peace Treaty of Sevres with Turkey required it “hand over to the Allied Powers the persons responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Turkish Empire on the 1st August 1914.”
The Treaty of Lausanne (July 23, 1923) replaced it. Genocidal crimes were excluded. A “Declaration of Amnesty” was declared for all offenses committed from August 1, 1914 - November 20, 1922. 
In 1914, over 2.5 million Armenians lived in Ottoman Turkey. Today 75,000 at most remain, mostly in Istanbul and Western areas. The Eastern Armenian heartland was decimated.
In April 1915, hundreds of Armenian religious, political and intellectual leaders were arrested, detained or exiled. Most were systematically murdered.
By summer, about 250,000 Ottoman army Armenians were placed in forced labor battalions. They were over-worked, starved, or executed. 
Without leaders or able-bodied youths, ethnic cleansing occurred throughout Ottoman Turkey and Asia Minor. 
Death marches followed. Men and older boys were separated and executed,  women and children force-marched, raped, tortured, and otherwise abused. Most deportees died of starvation, disease, or massacres. 
About 500,000 escaped to Russia, Arab countries, Europe or America. Ottoman Armenia was virtually eliminated. 
Turkey’s denial of cold, hard facts can’t refute one of history’s great crimes - slow-motion genocide against its Kurdish population ongoing under Erdogan.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

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

Obama in Saudi Arabia - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 02:04
Obama in Saudi Arabia
by Stephen Lendman
Obama’s visit to Riyadh was his fourth as president. He met with Saudi King Salman and top officials from other Gulf States.
Ignore scoundrel media reports, saying agreement was reached on various security initiatives to defeat ISIS. 
Both sides and Israel are the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism. They support the scourge they claim to oppose.
Washington and Saudi-led Gulf States are very hostile to Iran and Syria - regional rivals rogue Arab states and Israel want eliminated; sovereign independent nations Washington wants transformed into US vassal states.
America and Gulf States differ more on tactics than strategy. Both support endless regional wars, not peace; turbulence, not stability; regime change in Syria and Iran, tyranny replacing their sovereign independence.
Despite differences on tactics between both sides, geostrategic interests bond them, fostering and supporting terrorism, partnering in regional wars, a longstanding alliance not about to change.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 



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