One phase of Bradley Manning’s torture is coming to an end and another is beginning. PFC Bradley Manning did this country and the world a great service when he leaked footage of the carnage carried out by the United States in Iraq. Manning’s video showed Iraqi journalists and a family with small children under fire from an apache helicopter. The audio of the footage featured the servicemen who we are told to worship laughing about the fate of the people they had killed.
The only remarkable thing about this footage is that we were able to see it. Occupation always brings with it atrocities and the occupation of Iraq was no different in that regard. What is different and much worse about the United States is that lawlessness has now become perfected and normalized under the Obama administration.
George W. Bush began the process of destroying the rule of law as it relates to the executive branch. As he said, he was “the decider” and his administration worked tirelessly to make the presidency unaccountable to any other branch of government or to the American people. Beginning in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks he claimed that executive privilege gave him the right to declare anyone an enemy combatant who immediately lost the right to due process. He invented the “black sites” in nearly every part of the globe where enemy combatants were subjected to torture. These actions were counter to all moral norms, international law and the Geneva Conventions. Before the Bush era, these standards kept even the worst American intentions in check.
Bush committed these crimes with the help of craven Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, who were informed of torture and rendition and gave full approval. Not only did they prove themselves to be as evil as Bush but their incompetence deprived them of the ability to even exact political advantage when the time was ripe.
The worst aspects of the Bush administration were not undone by Barack Obama and they were perfected and made a permanent part of United States government policy. Simply put, Barack Obama has done more damage to civil liberties than any other president in American history.
Bradley Manning is but one victim of the Obama regime. The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistle blowers than any other president. Bush claimed the right to capture and torture but he didn’t claim the right to kill at will like his predecessor. Even Dick Cheney didn’t have a Tuesday kill list meeting.
Manning was held for nearly three years without being charged, and in solitary confinement. He was forced to sleep without clothing or blankets, and was denied visits, even from members of Congress. This treatment has always been considered torture and the fact that it was meted out by Obama shouldn’t change the definition.
Manning’s torture, from being charged with aiding and abetting the enemy to solitary confinement, can be laid at the feet of Barack Obama. Bradley Manning did not kill anyone, he didn’t lie to the people or the media. He only revealed what his country was doing. In his words, he wanted to “spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general and cause society to reevaluate the need and even desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore their effect on people who live in that environment every day.”
Those words are not particularly noteworthy. They describe a rather pedestrian and sensible desire to do what any citizen of a democracy should want to do. Yet in this era of ever expanding imperialism and the crushing of people here and abroad those words are dangerous.
The Obama administration decided to crush Bradley Manning’s spirit and to make an example of him. They still hope to find some way of prosecuting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and post his head on a spike alongside Manning’s. After PFC Manning spends the rest of his life in jail, no one is likely to consider revealing even the most innocuous information to the public.
As Barack Obama makes good on the fantasies of Reagan and the Bushes, it would be important to know that his crimes might be revealed. Instead he has made certain that they will remain secret forever. Manning and Assange are not only the best heroes but they will be the last too.
Internet users’ personal information on major ‘cloud’ storage services can be spied upon routinely by US authorities
If you thought cloud computing gave you anonymity, well think again.
All personal information stored by internet users on major “cloud” computing services including Google Drive can be spied upon routinely without their knowledge by US authorities under newly-approved legislation, it can be disclosed.
Cloud computing has exploded in recent years as a flexible, cheap way for individuals, companies and government bodies to remotely store documents and data. According to some estimates, 35 per cent of UK firms use some sort of cloud system – with Google Drive, Apple iCloud and Amazon Cloud Drive the major players.
But it has now emerged that all documents uploaded onto cloud systems based in the US or falling under Washington’s jurisdiction can be accessed and analysed without a warrant by American security agencies.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, allows US government agencies open access to any electronic information stored by non-American citizens by US-based companies. Quietly introduced during the dying days of President George W Bush’s administration in 2008, it was renewed over Christmas 2012.
But only now are privacy campaigners and legal experts waking up to the extent of the intrustion.
Caspar Bowden, who served as Chief Privacy Adviser to Microsoft Europe for nine years until 2011, told The Independent: “What this legislation means is that the US has been able to mine any foreign data in US Clouds since 2008, and nobody noticed.”
Significantly, bodies such as the National Security Agency, the FBI and the CIA can gain access to any information that potentially concerns US foreign policy for purely political reasons – with no need for any suspicion that national security is at stake – meaning that religious groups, campaigning organisations and journalists could be targeted.
The information can be intercepted and stored in bulk as it enters the US via undersea cables crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Mr Bowden, who now works as an independent advocate for privacy rights and co-authored a report for the European Parliament warning of the threat to clouds posed by FISA, criticised the UK Information Commissioner’s Office for giving free rein to the US authorities.
The body which polices data protection laws in the UK effectively ruled that companies were right to pass information over to foreign government requests as the disclosure was made “in accordance with a legal requirement”, such as FISA.
Mr Bowden said: “Every time we make a bridge of trust, or commit an indiscretion, using a social network or webmail, think how a foreign country could use that information for its own purposes to influence policy and politics. Drafts of documents prepared online, who is in contact with each other, all of this can be captured and analysed using data-mining algorithms much more advanced than those offered by public search engines.”
His report, which is being considered by the EU in a review of its electronic privacy directive, cautioned that the threat of “heavy-calibre mass-surveillance fire-power aimed at the cloud” was greater than that posed by cyber-crime.
Gordon Nardell QC, a British barrister who specialises in data protection, said he was “shocked” by the powers outlined in the highly-controversial amendments to FISA.
He said: “What’s different about this is that it’s a power in the US authorities to insist on real-time collection of information by any data processer within US jurisdiction. The US authorities basically grab everything that is going in and out.”
Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch MEP who serves as vice chair of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee, warned that European authorities must act as soon as possible.
Speaking to The Independent, she said:“Let’s turn this around and imagine this is not the United States having unlimited access to our data but the government of Mr Putin or the Chinese government – would we still wonder if it’s an urgent issue? Nobody would ask that question.”
Eric King of pressure group Privacy International, said: “Allowing mass surveillance, unwarranted and unaccountable, is terrifying.”
Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: “US surveillance ambitions know no bounds. The chilling US Foreign Intelligence Service Act treats all non-US citizens as enemy suspects.”
Last night a Google spokesperson said: “It is possible for the US government (and European governments) to access certain types of data via their law enforcement agencies. We think this kind of access to data merits serious discussion and more transparency.”
Amazon and Apple were yet to comment last night.
These Weapons of Mass Destruction cannot be displayed
|The weapons you are looking for are currently unavailable. The country might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your weapons inspectors mandate.Please try the following:Click the Regime change button, or try again later.If you are Barack Obama and typed the country’s name in the address bar, make sure that it is spelled correctly. (IRAN).To check your weapons inspector settings, click the UN menu, and then click Weapons Inspector Options. On the Security Council tab, click Consensus. The settings should match those provided by your government or NATO.
If the Security Council has enabled it, The United States of America can examine your country and automatically discover Weapons of Mass Destruction.
If you would like to use the CIA to try and discover them,
click Detect weapons
Some countries require 128 thousand troops to liberate them. Click the Panic menu and then click About US foreign policy to determine what regime they will install.
If you are an Old European Country trying to protect your interests, make sure your options are left wide open as long as possible. Click the Tools menu, and then click on League of Nations. On the Advanced tab, scroll to the Head in the Sand section and check settings for your exports to Iran.
Click the Bomb button if you are Leon Panetta
As Venezuela Prays for its Beloved Leader, Vultures Circle, Eager for Death and Profits
By Ruth Hull
Very few leaders, anywhere, have enjoyed the kind of love and popular support Hugo Chavez receives from the people of Venezuela. Outside of George Washington and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, no American President has enjoyed the popularity of Hugo Chavez, who has won elections by margins American Presidents only dream of receiving.
Hugo Chavez and the people of Venezuela have a common enemy: vultures in the form of rich corporate opponents. These vultures were there before Chavez took office. The people can remember when the corporate thieves looted the country’s resources and robbed the people into poverty. Now, these opponents are taking advantage of Chavez’s weakened condition following surgery and are spreading false rumors of death, eager to undo the people’s vote of 2012, a vote that clearly showed that the people of Venezuela want no part of the opposition’s form of government ever again. With Chavez in the hospital, these vultures are trying to frighten the people and stress out the ailing leader in the hopes that he will die or that the false rumors will manifest in reality. The opposition believes a new election will allow them to rip away the people’s property and resources for their own agenda. It is hard enough to recover from surgery without the strain of knowing that people you love will suffer greatly if you don’t recover fast enough. The opposition’s ruthless misconduct could actually be endangering Hugo Chavez’s very life. Without conscience, the opposition awaits death as it plans the demise of the people’s government, their fortunes and their resources.
Who is Hugo Chavez, this great President who has won the hearts of the Venezuelan people, young and old?
In 1999, when Hugo Chavez took office, the country was suffering from extreme poverty. Infant mortality was high. The bulk of the people were poverty stricken and had very little. Now, the Gross National Product has increased by about 250%. Chavez has cut the poverty rate by over 60%. The infant mortality rate has been almost cut in half.
Much of the reason for the pre-Chavez poverty was that rich oil giants were savaging the resources and giving nothing back to the people. Chavez ended the looting and gave the people a percentage of the profits obtained from the people’s own resources. International corporations had acquired unused property that was sitting vacant while people went homeless. (Sound familiar?) Chavez gave the unused business property back to the people. He assisted the people in cultivating their own resourses, growing their own food and in getting the medical attention they needed. He opened up medical centers for the people to be treated, raising the longevity of the people of Venezuela. While longevity is leveling off in the United States, it has dramatically increased since Hugo Chavez took office.
Chavez has treated the people like his brothers and sisters, celebrating with them at all possible opportunities, reading to their children, and making the interests of the people the key factor in setting government policies. Their suffering has been his suffering and their joys, his joys.
Americans looking at the Chavez government wonder where we went wrong and why our leaders don’t listen to us the way Chavez listens to his people. As Chavez lies in his hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery, the people of his country pray for him as they would for a father or a brother or sister.
It hasn’t been an easy road for Hugo Chavez and his people in a world where corporate interests are treated as paramount to those of the people. Greedy oil executives, opposing Chavez’s reforms, had their chauffeurs drive them to formal protests as citizens watched stunned at the ridiculous site of rich men marching around with signs disparaging the poor and downtrodden.
Despite interference from the World Trade Organization (responsible for destroying the standard of living in countries around the world that have been affiliated with that organization), Chavez stood up against free trade and against the WTO. He put his people first, ahead of corporations and ahead of greed. He received death threats. There were frequent attempts on his life orchestrated by foreign powers.
In 2002, Hugo Chavez was kidnapped by powerful foreign interests (as in people associated with George W. Bush). One of those connected to the kidnapping was Henrique Capriles, the man who was soundly defeated by the people of Venezuela in the 2012 re-election of Hugo Chavez. Hugo Chavez was taken to an island and only released after the people took to the streets and refused to settle for anything less than the return of their beloved leader.
Greg Palast has said, “Fear of Chavez is Fear of Democracy.” He is correct. In that article, he compared Hugo Chavez to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR is the leader attributed with pulling America out of the great depression. We currently have no leader who is willing to do what it takes to pull America out of its current depression. But Hugo Chavez has been there for the American people when George W. Bush and Barack Obama have fallen short and let the people down. When Hurricane Katrina hit, George W. Bush was AWOL (just like in the Alabama National Guard). But Hugo Chavez decided to fill in for Bush and was the first world leader to offer aid to the people of New Orleans. In recent winters, Barack Obama has been content to let the people in the colder regions of the United States freeze to death. Hugo Chavez doesn’t want Americans to die from neglect and has provided heating oil to Americans to assist with the cold winters.
Hugo Chavez has been a guiding light for the world, showing us that there can be leaders who put people first. He has shown the world that the people are more important than corporate greed. He has shown that the government should serve the people and not vice versa.
When Fukushima showed the dangers of nuclear power and America’s EPA hid the truth about the extensive fallout in the United States, it was Hugo Chavez who cared enough about the safety of his own people to tell them the truth and to freeze all nuclear projects in Venezuela. In contrast, our own President Barack Obama pushed for the building of new Fukushima-style reactors in the United States and temporarily fled our country with his family for South America when Fukushima’s plume first hit the United States. Is it any wonder that Hugo Chavez has a much higher popularity rating in his country than Barack Obama has in ours?
While criticizing the inaccurate election process in the United States, Jimmy Carter praised the election process in Venezuela.
“As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world,” Mr. Carter said, noting the Carter Center’s extensive work monitoring elections around the globe.
So while the people of Venezuela pray for the recovery of their friend, their brother, their example and their leader, the hateful forces of the opposition are intentionally and maliciously spreading false rumors and endangering Chavez’s life by pressuring him to return for a symbolic inauguration before he can fully recover. If the stress or pressure of any of this causes any further complications to the health of Venezuela’s beloved leader, the opposition, including Henrique Capriles, Julio Borges and Tomas Guanipa, can expect to be held accountable in the eyes of the People of Venezuela and the world.
Venezuela’s People’s National Assembly has united behind Hugo Chavez in selecting his friend and ally Diosdado Cabello as its Assembly leader. Cabello and Vice President Nicolas Maduro (Chavez’s choice for his successor) are working together to maintain Chavez’s government and his reforms until he can rejoin his revolution.
Under the Venezuelan Constitution, as shown and read by Vice President Maduro, the Venezuelan Supreme Court can swear in President Chavez at a later date and a different location than where and when they had intended the Inauguration. This flexibility will likely remove some of the pressure interfering with his recovery. Stress is never good when a person is fighting not just for his health but for the protection of his people.
On Thursday, January 10th, 2013, the People of Venezuela will be rallying in support of President Chavez, sending him a clear message that they are with him, eagerly awaiting his return. People around the world will be joining them in spirit and prayer. The world needs more heroes and it can’t afford to lose the few leaders who actually care. Viva Chavez.
The author is the chairman of a liberal Democratic organization that is working to move the country towards its true base, the people. She has organized major human rights events and worked with some of the most liberal leaders in America. Her career has included work as a criminal defense attorney, a licensed private investigator, an educator and a writer.
One of the less convincing critiques of the US presidential election campaign, which winds up on Tuesday, is that there has not been much to choose between the incumbent, President Obama, and his challenger, Mitt Romney.
The reality is very different. Instead, a stark choice exists. One can only judge a candidate on his past record and on what he has pledged to do in the future. Romney has said and done a lot of things, many contradictory, some deliberately so. It has been very hard to know during the campaign which Romney is real: the man who backed the precursor of Obamacare when he was governor or the candidate who suggested to donors that almost half of Americans were welfare beneficiaries beyond his political reach? Is he the centrist Republican of the first presidential debate or the man who insisted during the primaries he was “severely conservative”?
Doubts about Romney have accrued not only from his ever shifting politics but also from a wider sense of flakiness. His economic policies have a touch of the fantastic. Romney would enact large tax cuts, reducing revenue, while increasing defence spending sharply, but also arguing he would eat into the deficit by spending cuts alone.
On foreign policy too, Romney represents a return to the disastrous years of George W Bush – threatening confrontation with China by saying he would list it as a currency manipulator, while making bellicose noises about conflict with Iran.
On the other side of the balance sheet, what is there to say about Obama? Few would disagree that America’s first black president, who was once able to inspire with his oratory, has lost some of his lustre. The messages of hope and change ran aground in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, exacerbated both by the parlous state of the economy he inherited from his predecessor and by the two huge costly wars he was obliged to fight.
If he has not transformed America in the way that many might have hoped, he has at least mitigated some of the pain while moving to bring to an end one of the US’s greatest iniquities, its shocking inequality in affordable healthcare provision. Through the car manufacturers’ bailout, his insistence on stress testing of banks and through carefully targeted stimuli, he ensured that the US now appears to be emerging from financial crisis with modest growth and a rise in employment figures even as those European governments that pursued a strategy of austerity are at very best bumping along the bottom. Obama steered a course between the left of his own party, who were advocating for populist but risky measures, and Republican obstructionism.
On foreign policy, the Obama doctrine has been a mixed bag. He strictly limited US involvement in the most significant military adventure launched under his watch, in Libya, and has resisted Israeli pressure for military strikes against Iran. On the Arab Spring, he has preferred by and large to keep a watching brief and avoided an overt entanglement in Syria. After the war in Iraq, launched on a false pretence, and the mishandling of Afghanistan by Bush, this caution should be seen as positive.
But while Obama may have brought an end to some of the human rights abuses of the Bush era, he has failed either to close Guantánamo Bay, as he promised, or moved to end the immunity of Bush-era officials implicated in abuses.
On climate change too, Obama has been disappointing, not least on the campaign trail. In 2008, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative, he insisted: “No single issue sits at the crossroads of as many currents as energy. This is a security threat, an economic albatross and a moral challenge of our time.”
Whoever is elected will face a new presidential term marked by considerable challenges. While the US is recovering from recession it remains weak and would be vulnerable to a number of factors, including a war in the Gulf over Iran disrupting oil supplies, China falling into recession itself or a further worsening of the eurozone crisis.
He will also have to engage quickly with the “fiscal cliff”, due at the year’s end, when temporary payroll tax cuts are due to come to an end, which promises a tough choice between sharp tax increases for ordinary Americans that would threaten the recovery (but cut the deficit) or an extension of the tax cuts and a consequent increase in the deficit, an issue fraught with political strife.
On the wider stage, the war in Syria is sucking in its neighbours, producing growing instability and, for all Obama’s alleged commitment to negotiated solutions, he appears unable to engage Assad’s main backer, Russia. The proposed draw down of the majority of US troops in Afghanistan by 2014 and the continuing tensions in Pakistan threaten another crisis.
Despite all of these caveats, the candidate best equipped for the challenging period ahead is Barack Obama. While his campaign has hardly been inspiring, he remains a thoughtful figure who has taken his responsibilities with a seriousness absent from the Bush years. He has brought a new dignity to the White House and while there remain many who are still opposed to him simply for the colour of his skin, for many others he has achieved the remarkable by making it seem unremarkable that the president of the United States is a black man.
His response to hurricane Sandy, praised by both the independent mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and the Republican New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, was a belated reminder that there is a wider middle ground in US politics than the recent period of partisan disputes has often led us to believe.
In the coming months, it will not be solely the new president’s responsibility to confront the challenges facing the US and the world but all of those involved in the US political process. Any chance for healing and consensus after the elections should be grasped by all sides. This election offers an opportunity for a fresh start for US politics itself. It should not be squander
BOULDER, Colo. – Voters in Colorado tonight got a glimpse of the Barack Obama of 2008, with his soaring, impassioned and relentless rhetoric that electrified a crowd in a way only rarely seen during the 2012 campaign.
Sharpening his closing argument for a second term, Obama delivered a forceful defense of his mantra of “change” in an evening rally at the University of Colorado, insisting that the economic and social transformation for which Americans are yearning will only come if voters stick by his side.
“You may not agree with every decision that I’ve made, you may be frustrated at the rate of change,” he told the diverse crowd of 10,000 inside a campus basketball arena. But, “I know what real change looks like, because I fought for it,” he added. “I’ve got the scars to prove it. I’ve got the gray hair to show for it.”
With five days to go before Election Day, Obama is accusing his opponent, Republican nominee Mitt Romney, of acting like a “salesman,” trying to masquerade as an agent of change, while in reality representing little difference in substance or policy from his Republican predecessor, former President George W. Bush. Deploying his campaign slogan, Obama claims he would move the country “forward,” while Romney’s proposals would take it “backward.”
The president is taking his late-election case on a battleground state tour that will land him in Chicago on Tuesday. Earlier Thursday he stumped in Green Bay, Wis., and Las Vegas, Nev. On Friday he will spend the entire day at events in Ohio.
“I’m not going to allow this nation to be plunged into another battle over health care,” Obama insisted tonight. “I’m not going to allow politicians in Washington to make health care choices for women that they can make for themselves…” The crowd roared.
“We need an agenda that recognizes that we don’t just look out for ourselves, we look out for one another,” he said.
Invoking the ideals that his aides say shaped his first run for political office in Illinois, Obama said he is running to be a “champion” for the people who “need a champion in Washington.”
“I ran because the voices of the American people, your voices, had been shut out of American politics for way too long,” Obama said.
He acknowledged there have been some “big fights” over the past four years to achieve his goal, but said “I’m not ready to give up on that fight.”
“We’ve come too far to grow faint-hearted! Now’s the time to keep pushing forward!” Obama exhorted the crowd which was on its feet with cheers and applause.
Bill Maher, ‘If the Mittmobile does roll into Washington it will be towing behind it the whole anti-intellectual anti-science freak show.’
America, before you get in bed with Mitt Romney, remember he may seem like a nice fella from what we know about his core beliefs. Nothing. His tax plan. Nothing. His faith. Off limits, and his donors, anonymous. Now when I talk about getting into bed with Mitt Romney, I don’t mean that literally. Please, Mitt Romney doesn’t even know what a blow job is. He thinks it’s something the Pep Boys do to clean out your carburetor. No, what I’m trying to do is make an analogy to that old public service announcement about how when you go to bed with one person, you’re not just sleeping with them. Well, it’s like that with Mitt.
When you elect Mitt, you’re not just electing him. You’re electing every right wing nut he’s pandered to in the last ten years. If the Mittmobile does roll into Washington it will be towing behind it the whole anti-intellectual anti-science freak show. The abstinence obsessives, the flat earthers, home schoolers, the holy warriors, the anti-women social neanderthals, the closeted homosexuals, and every endtimer who sees the Virgin Mary in the grass over the septic tank.
Douglas Brinkley, who wrote the Rolling Stone article, recalled an exchange with Obama and Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates, who said that his daughter told him to tell the president, “You can do it.”
Obama reportedly grinned. “You know, kids have good instincts,” he said. “They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bulls****er, I can tell.'”
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was asked about the comment Thursday in Richmond, Va., and said the issue was about Romney’s “trust.” He said people should “not be distracted by the word” but to “focus on the issue.”
Following Mitt Romney’s moderate shift in the first presidential debate in Denver, Obama and his allies have suggested that the former Massachusetts governor can’t be trusted. “So we know Governor Romney’s jobs plan doesn’t create jobs. His deficit plan doesn’t reduce the deficit. And we joke about ‘Romnesia,’ but all of this speaks to something that’s really important, and that is the issue of trust. There’s no more serious issue on a presidential campaign than trust. Trust matters,” Obama said Wednesday in Davenport, Iowa.
It’s not the first time that the president has used unvarnished language. He has called Kanye West a “jackass” but added the rapper is “talented.” Neither is he the first candidate to curse: then-candidate George W. Bush called New York Times reporter Adam Clymer a “major league asshole” over a hot mic, to which vice-presidential nominee Dick Cheney agreed.