Civil Rights

Talk Nation Radio: Stephen M. Kohn on Our Government's Attacks on Whistleblowers

Tag: Civil Rights, Talk Nation Radio

Stephen M. Kohn of the National Whistleblowers Center says that for national security whistleblowers, Obama's presidency has been "a disaster."  Kohn, the author of eight books on whistleblower law, represents Sibel Edmonds, an FBI whistleblower and the author of the just-released Classified Woman. Edmonds submitted her book to the FBI for censorship, and the FBI failed to identify anything that she could not print, but also refused to approve of the book.  Edmonds, however, has gone ahead and published it.  The book protects, rather than endangering, national security.  But it does embarrass the FBI.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

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May
08

Drones in U.S. Flight Paths: What Could Go Wrong?

Tag: Civil Rights, Peace and War

On March 9th the Federal Aviation Administration requested comments from the public on drone test sites.  On May 8th, lengthy comments were submitted by Not 1 More Acre! and Purgatoire, Apishapa & Comanche Grassland Trust.  The FAA asked all the wrong questions, but still got a lot of the right answers.  When the drone accidents start, and you're told "Nobody could have known," refer them here: PDF.

I would have asked "Should weaponized drones be permitted to exist on earth?" and "How can surveillance drones possibly comply with the Fourth Amendment?"  The FAA asked:

"The Congressional language asks the FAA to consult with and leverage the resources of the Department of Defense and NASA in this effort.  Since many public operators already have access to test ranges and control the management and use of those ranges, should the management of these new test ranges be held by local governments or should private entity [sic] schedule and manage the airspace?"

Not 1 More Acre! replied:

"Neither.  Although the pilot UAS [Unmanned Aircraft System] program is a Congressional mandate, and the timelines are accelerated, the complexities and potential dangers of integration of UAS into civilian airspace must not be delegated to local governments or private organizations in the name of expediency, entrepreneurship, or profit. . . . The wording of Question A suggests that the FAA is contemplating abdicating its inherent authority to manage the NAS [National Airspace System] by ceding broad discretion over UAS flight operations. . . .

". . . The primary driver of the move to integration has clearly been contractors funded by the DOD, working in concert with the secretive Joint Special Forces Operation Command, the Department of Homeland Security, and the CIA, among others. . . . Private defense [sic] contractors increasingly woo local law enforcement agencies and other community groups with grants to help fund the purchase of new UAS.  The FAA should not allow any other federal agency to usurp its authority over the NAS or circumvent the pre-decisional public disclosure requirements of NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] including agencies like the CIA, NASA, and JSOC which are not transparent or accountable to the public."

Of course, there's a catch.  Even the accountable agency has, naturally, ceased to be accountable:

"However, the FAA has never conducted any NEPA review related to UAS.  The agency has never prepared an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment to disclose the potential impacts of UAS to the public and agency officials, despite issuing hundreds of Certificates of Waiver and Authorization to some 60 public agencies."

Have you heard about the 51st State for Armed Robotic Drones?

The 63 drone sites in the U.S.?

The 30,000 drones planned for U.S. skies?

The habit drones have of crashing even on their own?

While initially cheaper than manned planes, unmanned drones of the sort used now tend to require many more personnel: 168 people to keep a Predator drone in the air for 24 hours, plus 19 analysts to process the videos created by a drone.  Drones and their related technologies are increasing in price rapidly.  And to make matters worse, they tend to crash.  They even "go rogue," lose contact with their "pilots" and fly off on their own.  The U.S. Navy has a drone that self-destructs if you accidentally touch the space bar on the computer keyboard.  Drones also tend to supply so-called enemies with information, including the endless hours of video they record, and to infect U.S. military computers with viruses.  But these are the sorts of SNAFUs that come with any project lacking oversight, accountability, or cost controls.  The companies with the biggest drone contracts did not invest in developing the best technologies but in paying off the most Congress members.

What could go wrong?

Apr
30

Sibel Edmonds Finally Wins

Tag: Civil Rights, Culture and Society, Peace and War

Sibel Edmonds' new book, "Classified Woman," is like an FBI file on the FBI, only without the incompetence.

The experiences she recounts resemble K.'s trip to the castle, as told by Franz Kafka, only without the pleasantness and humanity. 

I've read a million reviews of nonfiction books about our government that referred to them as "page-turners" and "gripping dramas," but I had never read a book that actually fit that description until now.

Apr
26

The Global War on Terror, in the Original German

Tag: Civil Rights

In 1939, Sebastian Haffner sat down and wrote a pre-history of Nazism.

Nazism had not been inevitable. It had not progressed steadily without setbacks. But it had been growing for many years, even before the name for it existed. It had been coming since the end of the Great War.

By the late 1920s, according to Haffner, "Berlin became quite an international city. Admittedly, the sinister Nazi types already lurked in the wings, as 'we' could not fail to notice with deep disgust. They spoke of 'Eastern vermin' with murder in their eyes and sneeringly of 'Americanization.' Whereas 'we,' a segment of the younger generation difficult to define but instantly and mutually recognizable, were not only friendly toward foreigners, but enthusiastic about them."

Apr
23

What Bradley Manning Means to Us

Tag: Civil Rights, Media, Peace and War

Chase Madar's new book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, pulls together the essential facts that we should try to somehow deliver to television viewers and victims of our education system.  The subtitle is "The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History."

Apr
22

How Dare Russia

Tag: Civil Rights, Peace and War, Political Ideas

"Self-purification through suffering is easier, I tell you: easier -- than that destiny which you are paving for many of them by wholesale acquittals in court.  You are merely planting cynicism in their souls." --Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Apr
20

Torture on Trial

Tag: Civil Rights, Political Ideas, Prosecution
Legal and Humane Frameworks for Opposing Torture

by: David Swanson 

Published in the May / June 2012   Humanist

Cases come in by the thousands from all over the world. A man was beaten and whipped. A woman was beaten and raped. A boy was hooded with three empty sand bags in 100-degree heat all day, starved, beaten, and kept in stress positions. Alleged suicide victims had their hands tied behind their backs, had boot prints on their heads, or turned out to have been electrocuted. There are torture victims covered with cigarette burns, and torture victims with no visible injuries. They need the expert assistance of doctors and lawyers to heal, to win asylum, and to create any sort of accountability in courts of law.

I’ve participated in countless nonviolent protests of torture, including congressional lobbying, panels and seminars, online petition writing, bird-dogging of politicians and judges and professors. I’ve met victims and told their stories and reviewed their books. But I had never spent a day with a crowd of lawyers and doctors who deal with the medical and court struggles arising out of torture cases, not until I attended a conference in February at American University in Washington, DC, entitled “Forensic Evidence in the Fight Against Torture.”

The doctors, lawyers, and others attending and speaking at the conference were from the United States and many other countries. It was not lost on them that they were addressing something different from a “natural” disaster. In their public comments and private discussions I found universal agreement that torture has gained dramatically greater, world-wide public acceptance during the past decade, and that the United States has been the leader in promoting that greater acceptance. While Juan Mendez, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, pointed his finger at Hollywood movies and TV shows in which harsh interrogation techniques succeed in aiding crime solvers, several experts independently told me that by granting legal immunity to torturers, the United States has led by example.

It may be hard to recall that a mere decade ago torture was almost universally condemned here, and had been almost universally condemned in the Western world for centuries (racist exceptions for slavery excluded). By 2004, 43 percent of U.S. respondents to a Pew Research Center survey were saying that torture was often or sometimes justified to gain key information. By 2009, 49 percent said so. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that public support for torture increased in the United States from 27 percent in 2004 to 42 percent in 2010. AP-GfK polling found U.S. public support for torture at 38 percent in 2005, increasing to 52 percent by 2009.

That was the society I left behind as I entered the conference rooms of AU’s Washington College of Law to join an international gathering of professionals who still viewed torture as the evil it had been considered by the authors of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which included an absolute ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Mar
24

To the NYPD Officers Reading My Emails

Tag: Civil Rights

On Thursday I was on a train to New York and received an email announcing a protest at the offices of New York's two U.S. Senators over their cosponsorship of an AIPAC-driven bill that would move the United States closer to war on Iran.  I wrote back, saying, hey, I happen to be on my way to New York and will try to get there. 

When I got there, there was a small gathering of protesters, divided into two groups, those choosing to comply with police requests to stand inside a free-speech-cage that they had set up, and those refusing.  I joined the latter.  Two days later, one of the protesters who had been making his point from within the metal barricades told me that a police officer had approached him with this question:

Mar
24

Taking a Mother's Child Away

Tag: Civil Rights

One of the good things about speaking at big conferences is that people come up to you afterwards believing you have the power to change the world. 

One of the bad things about speaking at big conferences is that people come up to you afterwards believing you have the power to change the world.

A mother with tears in her eyes just asked me to help free her son, a young man with an IQ of 78 who was apparently set up by the NYPD.  He is Muslim.  This was 8 years ago.  He's in prison for 30 years.  I went online and found this letter that his mother has written to the Mayor of New York.

Mar
23

Why I'm Now Endorsing Occupy the RNC

Tag: Civil Rights

Three weeks ago I blogged that I would not endorse Occupy the RNC or DNC because both groups were refusing to state that they opposed violence.

Occupy the RNC has now put this on its website:

"We are not organizing actions, especially violent ones. That would just be stupid. We exist to provide information and facilitate logistics for people resisting the RNC."

Not how I would have put it.  Nor would I have added:

"Don't fuck with us. We'll sue you."

But foreswearing violence and calling it stupid is enough for me.  I wish Occupy DNC could bring itself to do as much.  Better yet, just add "We oppose violence and will not use it."

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