On Obama’s Insistence that “We Are Not at War with Islam”

by Gary Leupp, Counterpunch, February 25, 2015

One would like to say that the cruelty of ISIL (ISIS) shocks the entire world. In fact, however, it doesn’t shock everyone. Sad though it may seem to you or me, some people actually observe events in the emergent “Islamic State” with approval and admiration. Thousands of young men and even young women from many countries—even some from Europe and North America—are flocking to ISIL’s black banner. There are various estimates of ISIL strength available, ranging from 30,000 to 100,000. European intelligence agencies estimate that 3,000 young people have joined from the continent.

One should not assume these are all uncivilized thugs, just because they inflict horrible suffering on fellow human beings. They are far from alone in doing that, or in viewing their actions as the administration of some god’s punishment.

We should not presuppose, as Barack Obama suggested in his February 17 speech, that its members join ISIL simply due to such factors as unemployment, alienation and the nebulous phenomenon of “radicalization” to which some minds are strangely vulnerable.

To me they appear as people with a set of serious religious beliefs, including the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being; belief in a holy book of divine authorship; and belief in a set of laws authored by this one-and-only God that—for society to function properly, and the problems posed by modernity fixed—must be rigorously implemented.

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Indian TV interview with Delhi U. Professor Saibaba: “Are Left sympathisers being branded as Naxals?”

Sep 19, 2013

Is GN Saibaba, the wheelchair-bound professor of English in one of the country’s premier university, the new face of Naxalism? The Maharashtra Police raided the home of Delhi University professor Saibaba last week, alleging that he is an active member of the banned CPI-Maoist.

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

Daniel Ellsberg defends NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, says whistleblowers like Snowden and Bradley Manning are helping Americans defend their right to privacy.

Jennifer Mattson, GlobalPost, June 10, 2013

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, said Edward Snowden, 29, the whistleblower who exposed a National Security Agency wide-ranging surveillance program, showed “the kind of courage that we expect of people on the battlefield.”

Ellsberg said on Twitter “there has not been in American history a more important leak than Snowden’s,” including his own, during Watergate.

In July 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a former National Security Council consultant and military analyst changed the course of history when he leaked confidential information about the Vietnam War to a reporter at The New York Times. Those documents later became known as The Pentagon Papers.

Snowden, who has fled to Hong Kong, worked for the NSA as a contractor for Dell and Booz Allen over the last four years.
Ellsberg told The Daily Beast:
“The information about unconstitutional activity that he [Snowden] put out could only be reversed or stopped if the public knows about it, and there was absolutely no way for them or most members of Congress to learn about it without him putting it out.
He went on to say that he identifies with Snowden, “his choice, his decision, his performance” and that the 29-year-old is clearly aware of the consequences of his actions.

He said it is clear is that Snowden broke the law and faces possible of prosecution.

Ellsberg had this to say on CNN:

Daniel Ellsberg “I Think They Have Everything And That Is The Recipe For A TYRANNY In This Country!”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130610/daniel-ellsberg-defends-nsa-whistleblower-edward

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