Assata Shakur: “I Am a 20th Century Escaped Slave”

Although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal

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My name is Assata Shakur, and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.

I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.  Continue reading

How the System Worked – The US v. Trayvon Martin

July 15, 2013, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/15/the-us-v-trayvon-martin/

by ROBIN D.G. KELLEY

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today.   Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points.  The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.

But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute.  Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today.  The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot.  Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man.  Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator.  At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

Zimmerman pursued Martin.  This is a fact.  Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back.  The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cel phone and his fists.  Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat.  He did know he was in imminent danger.

Where was the NRA on Trayvon Martin’s right to stand his ground?  What happened to their principled position?  Let’s be clear: the Trayvon Martin’s of the world never had that right because the “ground” was never considered theirs to stand on.  Unless black people could magically produce some official documentation proving that they are not burglars, rapists, drug dealers, pimps or prostitutes, intruders, they are assumed to be “up to no good.”  (In the antebellum period, such documentation was called “freedom papers.”)  As Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president, succinctly explained their position, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”   Trayvon Martin was a bad guy or at least looked and acted like one.  In our allegedly postracial moment, where simply talking about racism openly is considered an impolitic, if not racist, thing to do, we constantly learn and re-learn racial codes.  The world knows black men are criminal, that they populate our jails and prisons, that they kill each other over trinkets, that even the celebrities among us are up to no good.  Zimmerman’s racial profiling was therefore justified, and the defense consistently employed racial stereotypes and played on racial knowledge to turn the victim into the predator and the predator into the victim.  In short, it was Trayvon Martin, not George Zimmerman, who was put on trial.  He was tried for the crimes he may have committed and the ones he would have committed had he lived past 17.  He was tried for using lethal force against Zimmerman in the form of a sidewalk and his natural athleticism. Continue reading

Data Surveillance with Global Implications

By Marcel Rosenbach, Holger Stark and Jonathan Stock, Der Spiegel, June 10 2013

The American intelligence director and the White House have finally confirmed what insiders have long known: The Obama administration is spying on the entire world. Politicians in Germany are demanding answers.

South of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, the National Security Agency (NSA), a United States foreign intelligence service, keeps watch over one of its most expensive secrets. Here, on 100,000 square meters (1,100,000 square feet) near the US military’s Camp Williams, the NSA is constructing enormous buildings to house superfast computers. All together, the project will cost around $2 billion (€1.5 billion) and the computers will be capable of storing a gigantic volume of data, at least 5 billion gigabytes. The energy needed to power the cooling system for the servers alone will cost $40 million a year.

Former NSA employees Thomas Drake and Bill Binney told SPIEGEL in March that the facility would soon store personal data on people from all over the world and keep it for decades. This includes emails, Skype conversations, Google searches, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, bank transfers — electronic data of every kind.

“They have everything about you in Utah,” Drake says. “Who decides whether they look at that data? Who decides what they do with it?” Binney, a mathematician who was previously an influential analyst at the NSA, calculates that the servers are large enough to store the entirety of humanity’s electronic communications for the next 100 years — and that, of course, gives his former colleagues plenty of opportunity to read along and listen in.

James Clapper, the country’s director of national intelligence, has confirmed the existence of a large-scale surveillance program. President Barack Obama further explained that Congress authorized the program — but that American citizens are exempt from it.

A top-secret document published last week by the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian shows where the NSA may be getting the majority of its data. According to the document, which was allegedly leaked by former CIA employee Edward Snowden, the intelligence agency began seeking out direct access to servers belonging to American Internet companies on a wide scale in 2007. The first of these companies to come onboard was Microsoft. Yahoo followed half a year later, then Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype and AOL. The most recent company to declare its willingness to cooperate was Apple, in October 2012, according to the secret government document, which proudly states that this access to data is achieved “directly from the servers” of the companies. Continue reading

US’ “Junior-Partners-in-Empire” also spied by NSA (but worried that data is not shared with them)

Europe outraged but conflicted over NSA surveillance

Indignation was sharp and predictable across Europe – a continent where privacy is revered. Yet anger over revelations of U.S. electronic surveillance was tempered by an indisputable fact: Europe wants the information that American intelligence provides.

That dilemma was clear Tuesday, only days after leaks about two National Security Agency programs that purportedly target foreign messages – including private e-mails, voice and other data transmissions – sent through U.S. Internet providers.

The European Union’s top justice official, Viviane Reding, said she would demand that the United States afford EU citizens the same rights as Americans when it comes to data protection. Hannes Swoboda, a Socialist leader in the European Parliament, said the purported surveillance showed that the U.S. “is just doing what it wants.”At the same time, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich confirmed that his government regularly receives tips from the United States on Islamic extremists – and he doesn’t expect the Americans to tell him where they got the information. Continue reading

The Whistleblower: “I Can’t Allow the US Government to Destroy Privacy and Basic Liberties”


Jun 9, 2013

The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadow

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, and in Hong Kong The Guardian, Sunday 9 June 2013

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.” Continue reading

Political Prisoner Alert — Bradley Manning Trial: An American Hero Gets Court-Martialed On June 3

by Erin Lahman in Politics, PolicyMic

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Bradley Manning Trial An American Hero Gets Court Martialed On June 3

On June 3, the highly anticipated court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who was arrested in July 2010, will take place. A previous PolicyMic article delivered specific details on the over 700,000 government documents and pieces of classified military information Manning allegedly leaked. According to the article, “Manning is charged with leaking hundreds-of-thousands of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks.”

Manning is an American hero who made the decision to leak these classified documents as a service to the general public. He testified, “I believe that if the general public had access to the information, this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general.” He added, “I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience.”

In a January 2013 ruling, Military Judge Colonel Denise Lind awarded Manning a 112-day reduction in any eventual sentence due to being subjected to excessively harsh treatment while in military detention. A month later, Judge Lind accepted Bradley Manning’s guilty pleas of 10 lesser charges that he misused classified information, though he denied “aiding the enemy.” A guilty sentence to “aiding the enemy” could languish him military prison for the remainder of his life.

Bradley Manning released the video, “Collateral Murder,” to WikiLeaks and he explained, “The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have.” He went on, “They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote ‘dead bastards’ unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.” Continue reading

Assata Shakur Becomes the First Woman Added to FBI’s Most Wanted List

Assata Shakur

Madeleine Davies
As of yesterday, former Black Panther and member of the Black Liberation Army Assata Shakur became the first-ever woman to be added to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list. She is currently 66 years old and living in Cuba where she has been granted political asylum.

In May of 1973, Shakur was in a car that was pulled over by police on the New Jersey highway. A shootout occurred, resulting in the deaths of her companion and fellow activist Zayd Malik Shakur and State Trooper Werner Foerster. Assata Shakur was wounded in the gunfight, having been shot twice. Accounts of what happened that night differ greatly — surviving Trooper James Harper (also wounded) claimed that Zayd Malik Shakur began firing when they asked him to step out of the vehicle whereas Assata Shakur attests that the police fired first, even after she had her hands in the air.

Shakur was convicted of Foerster’s murder and sentenced to a life in prison. In 1979, with the help of allies, she was able to escape from confinement and flee to Cuba where she still lives and calls herself a “20th century escaped slave.” Continue reading