Friday, February 13, 2015

A Boston Globe poll on Massachusetts residents’ perceptions of security, privacy, and surveillance policy in the wake of the Tsarnaev trial reveals widespread misconceptions about the relationship between government spying and public safety. The alarming results suggest that the public is consuming information about surveillance and security that bears very little relation to existing empirical evidence. More specifically, the findings show that the old style journalism format of ‘he said, she said’ reporting is not serving the public interest in the 21st century — if it ever did.

A whopping 82% of those polled in the Globe survey said they think “increased public surveillance and cameras” would be an effective tactic for stopping possible future terrorist attacks. The reality couldn’t be more different. Tens if not hundreds of private and public surveillance cameras lined the route of the Boston Marathon’s finish at Boylston street. The attacks and the perpetrators were captured on many, many cameras. The vast majority of the most horrific terrorist attacks of the past two decades, including the 9/11 attacks, took place not just in spite of near ubiquitous cameras, but often as a show for the cameras. There is zero empirical evidence to show that CCTV stops terrorism, and plenty to suggest that cameras aren’t even very effective at stopping crimes like robbery.

Perhaps it is because of similar misunderstandings of the basic facts that 58% of the Massachusetts residents interviewed for the 1,000 person poll said they were “willing to give up some personal freedom and privacy for the sake of national security.” But even the premise of the question is incorrect.

Security and privacy are not opposing interests. Often the things that keep us the most secure — locks on our doors, fences around our yards — also protect our privacy. The type of dragnet, suspicionless surveillance referenced in the so-called ‘national security’ context does not protect public safety.

Despite the government’s insistence that by giving up freedom we gain security, the empirical record shows that’s not true.

The NSA phone surveillance program, for example, hasn’t stopped one single terrorist attack in the decade plus of its existence. On the contrary, the Boston Marathon attack occurred not just under the noses of various police and security personnel (and cameras) at the finish line of the race, but during a time when the NSA and FBI’s post-9/11 surveillance programs were in full, secret swing — before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on them.

Worse still, those surveillance programs we are told will keep us safe in exchange for our freedom actively threaten our security. The Open Rights Group explains how warrantless surveillance directed at people suspected of no crime actually hurts people:

[F]or many people surveillance makes them less safe: it’s not the security blanket politicians are holding it up to be. Job-seekers under surveillance can lose income needed to survive if their online activity fails to match up to job search demands. People interested in campaigning hestiate over getting involved with movements for social justice when the police count activism as akin to domestic terrorism.

It’s clear that surveillance affects a broad group of people, with real painful consequences for their lives. We’ve seen journalists being monitored, lawyers having their client confidentiality broken, victims of police misconduct being spied on and environmental campaigns infiltrated. These people are not criminals, and yet when we have a system of mass surveillance, they become targets for increasingly intrusive powers.

We also know that state surveillance stigmatises certain groups of the population, it targets communities and networks. Innocent people who share similarities with suspects, (similar Skype chat user names, nearby places of worship, physical location) fall under intense scrutiny, like having their private web cam chats examined. Mass surveillance disproportionally affects marginalized groups and fosters mistrust.

After 9/11, members of our society who benefit from fear-driven public policy have promoted the idea “that the attacks that cost the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans happened because federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies lacked enough information to uncover and prevent the attacks.”

But as the Cato Institute’s Patrick G. Eddington writes,

That assumption was thoroughly refuted by the Congressional Joint Inquiry report and the 9/11 Commission report.…[Nevertheless, n]either report managed to derail the “collect it all” mindset during multiple reauthorization opportunities over the past decade. Emotion and propaganda triumphed over hard facts — a situation that persists to this day, in spite of all that Edward Snowden has revealed to us.

Despite the facts, the public still believes that giving up freedom will buy them security. How does “emotion and propaganda triumph” over the facts? In the face of huge quantities of evidence and common sense, eight out of ten people in Massachusetts think putting cameras on the street will deter terrorism. What could possibly account for this gap between empirical evidence and public sentiment?
He says, she says, but what about the evidence?

A New York Times video piece on the Measles scare and anti-vaccine advocates comes to mind when I think through answers to that question. In that video, a doctor excoriates journalists for covering the vaccine issue through the ‘he said, she said’ reporting format. In that style of journalism, people who claim that vaccines cause autism are given an equal platform to speak alongside scientists and researchers who have studied the question and come to the opposite conclusion.

In the ‘he said, she said’ reporting format, the government’s spokespersons can announce they are installing new surveillance cameras to protect public safety, and the only counterbalance in the story might be a quote from the ACLU. But there is actual evidence to be found, too. And that evidence says dragnet surveillance and CCTV don’t stop terrorist attacks. Those facts should be reported alongside the government’s and ACLU’s claims. It’s unacceptable for reporters to assume, for example, that readers have read thorough literature reviews of surveillance camera effectiveness studies when reporting on a police department’s plan to put brand new cameras all over a metropolitan area. The ACLU says “What about privacy,” and the cops say “This will protect your safety,” but what about the evidence?

The Boston Globe poll on surveillance and privacy after Tsarnaev should serve as a wake up call to anyone who cares about media, justice, and open society. Not all opinions are created equal. Some things are demonstrably true, and other things are not. I for one would very much appreciate more empirical analysis in reports about government surveillance programs. (More reporting like this!)

Governments and other interested parties say untrue things all the time. Sometimes they are lying and sometimes they really believe the false statements they are making. But one thing is certain: Journalists should not be afraid to dig into the evidence underlying justifications for surveillance programs or other enormously significant public policy matters. When they do, they often find answers very different from those spoon fed to them by interested spokespeople. The public deserves nothing less than that basic research.

Kade Crockford is the director of the Technology for Liberty Project at the ACLU Massachusetts.

Originally published at

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


The True History of the Origins of Police -- Protecting and Serving the Masters of Society
The liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police.
By Sam Mitriani / Indypendent, Labor and Working-Class History Association Blog
February 2, 2015


In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren’t so racist, or didn’t carry out policies like stop-and-frisk, or weren’t so afraid of black people, or shot fewer unarmed men, they could function as a useful service that we all need.

This liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police and what they were created to do. The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid- to late-19th century from the threat posed by that system’s offspring, the working class.

Before the 19th century, there were no police forces that we would recognize as such anywhere in the world. In the northern United States, there was a system of elected constables and sheriffs, much more responsible to the population in a very direct way than the police are today. In the South, the closest thing to a police force was the slave patrols. Then, as Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working-class neighborhoods.

Class conflict roiled late-19th century American cities like Chicago, which experienced major strikes and riots in 1867, 1877, 1886 and 1894. In each of these upheavals, the police attacked strikers with extreme violence. In the aftermath of these movements, the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class. This ideology has been reproduced ever since — except that today, poor black and Latino people rather than immigrant workers are the main threat.

Of course, the ruling class did not get everything it wanted. It had to yield on many points to the immigrant workers it sought to control — this is why, for instance, municipal governments backed away from trying to stop Sunday drinking and why they hired so many immigrant police officers, especially the Irish. But despite these concessions, businessmen organized themselves to make sure the police were increasingly isolated from democratic control. The police, meanwhile, increasingly set themselves off from the population by donning uniforms; establishing their own rules for hiring, promotion and firing; working to build a unique esprit de corps; and identifying themselves with order. And despite complaints about corruption and inefficiency, they gained more and more support from the ruling class, to the extent that in Chicago, for instance, businessmen donated money to buy the police rifles, artillery, Gatling guns and buildings and to establish a police pension out of their own pockets.

There was a never a time when the big city police neutrally enforced “the law” — nor, for that matter, a time when the law itself was neutral. Throughout the 19th century in the North, the police mostly arrested people for the vaguely defined “crimes” of disorderly conduct and vagrancy, which meant that they could target anyone they saw as a threat to “order.” In the post-bellum South, they enforced white supremacy and largely arrested black people on trumped-up charges in order to feed them into convict labor systems.

The violence the police carried out and their moral separation from those they patrolled were not the consequences of the brutality of individual officers, but of policies carefully designed to mold the police into a force that could use violence to deal with the social problems that accompanied the development of a wage-labor economy. For instance, in the short, sharp depression of the mid-1880s, Chicago was filled with prostitutes who worked the streets. Many policemen recognized that these prostitutes were generally impoverished women seeking a way to survive and initially tolerated their behavior. But the police hierarchy insisted that the patrolmen arrest these women, impose fines and drive them off the streets and into brothels, where they could be ignored by some members of the elite and controlled by others. Similarly, in 1885, when Chicago began to experience a wave of strikes, some policemen sympathized with strikers. But once the police hierarchy and the mayor decided to break the strikes, policemen who refused to comply were fired.

Though some patrolmen tried to be kind and others were openly brutal, police violence in the 1880s was not a case of a few bad apples — and neither is it today.

Much has changed since the creation of the police — most importantly, the influx of black people into Northern cities, the mid-20th century civil rights movement and the creation of the current system of mass incarceration in part as a response to that movement. But these changes did not lead to a fundamental shift in policing. They led to new policies designed to preserve fundamental continuities. The police were created to use violence to reconcile electoral democracy with industrial capitalism. Today, they are just one part of the “criminal justice” system that plays the same role. Their basic job is to enforce order among those with the most reason to resent the system — in our society today, disproportionately among poor black people.

If there is one positive lesson from the history of policing’s origins, it is that when workers organized, refused to submit or cooperate and caused problems for the city governments, they could force the police to curb the most galling of their activities. The murders of individual police officers, as happened in Chicago on May 3, 1886, and more recently in New York on December 20, 2014, only reinforced calls for harsh repression. But resistance on a mass scale could force the police to hesitate. This happened in Chicago during the early 1880s, when the police pulled back from breaking strikes, hired immigrant officers and tried to re-establish some credibility among the working class after their role in brutally crushing the 1877 upheaval.

The police might back off again if the widespread reaction against the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and countless others continues. If they do, it will be a victory for those mobilizing today, and will save lives. But as long as this policing system endures, any change in policy will be aimed at keeping the poor in line more effectively.

A democratic police system in which police are elected by and accountable to the people they patrol is imaginable. But as long as we have an economic and political system that rests on the exploitation of workers and pushes millions of people into poverty, we are unlikely to see policing become any more democratic than the rest of society.

This article was adapted from an earlier version published on the Labor and Working-Class History Association blog.

Monday, February 02, 2015


You are hereBlogs / davidswanson's blog / U.S. Government Tried to Give Nuclear Plans to Iraq and Nobody Cares
U.S. Government Tried to Give Nuclear Plans to Iraq and Nobody Cares

By davidswanson - Posted on 31 January 2015

This cable was submitted as evidence by the prosecution in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a trial in which Sterling was convicted on entirely circumstantial evidence of leaking to a reporter that the CIA had given nuclear weapons part plans (with flaws added) to Iran. The cable makes crystal clear that the CIA proposed to do the same with Iraq.

There are only two nations beginning with a vowel and containing in adjectival form five letters: IRAQI and OMANI. The United States has neither worried about slowing down a nuclear weapons program in Oman nor sought to concoct reasons for a war on Oman. Iraq is of course a different story.

The above cable is in a font with each character receiving equal space. The letters line up in vertical columns. There are in two places blanks that will hold the word "IRAQI" and in one the word "IRAQIS." There is no way that OMANI and OMANIS makes sense. No other countries fit at all. And it has to be a country. And it has to be a country that follows the word "AN" not "A."

I reported on this on Friday morning, and the reaction was complete disinterest.

If any other nation in the world were discovered to be handing out nuclear weapons plans, it'd be interesting. Maybe the U.S. just does too much of this stuff. But whether you believe the CIA was attempting through a reasonable means to impede weapons proliferation or you think they were recklessly contributing to it, the sheer irony of having worked on giving Iraq nuke plans not long before attacking Iraq over the false accusation that it was building nukes should be of interest. There should be a half dozen people alive and awake in the United States who find themselves at least vaguely curious as to how far this plan was carried out.

Now, I recognize that the corporate media obeys the CIA's wishes. If the CIA wants us to pretend we can't spell the names of countries or count the letters in words, then it is our patriotic duty to uphold that pretense. But what about people whose jobs don't depend on the good wishes of the corporate media?

I've had people tell me that the CIA would not put something out that's so obvious, and therefore it's false.

I've had people tell me it simply must be forged, as if the CIA wants to pretend it was giving nukes to Iraq, as if that helps its image.

I've had people give me all sorts of screwy reasons for not giving a shit (and a few people expressing actual interest) but in the end it seems to come down to this: We've reached saturation. If we're not among those who consider it a duty to think what we're told, we're among those who -- with growing disgust and fatigue -- see a cop choke a man on video and walk, see a government lie about Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Ukraine and Russia and ISIS and launch wars right and left, and see Henry Kissinger treated as an honored guest in Congress (with a handful of honorable protesters).

That's not all it is, of course. There's also the combination. There's the person who knows the government lies and commits evil acts but wants the government to openly and explicitly say it was giving nuclear plans to Iraq, not let it slip in a redacted memo, before it can be deemed believable. The human experimentation at Guantanamo should be announced at a press conference, not buried in footnotes in masses of reports. What kind of a manner is that in which to present a hideous crime of such proportions. It just doesn't fit.

Well, I don't know what to do about that. But, unlike the government, I've never lied to you. And I'm not making any assertion anyway. You can trust me or not, it's completely irrelevant. Read the cable above and see what it says and what it must have said with the blanks filled in. And then see if you can bring yourself to give a damn. The rest of the world already thinks we're insane. Imagine it they knew that this is the sort of thing we just accept with our morning coffee before going about our wasteful lives.

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Peace and War


Editor of major newspaper says he planted stories for CIA
By Ralph Lopez Jan 26, 2015 in World
Becoming the first credentialed, well-known media insider to step forward and state publicly that he was secretly a "propagandist," an editor of a major German daily has said that he personally planted stories for the CIA.
Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live, and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany's largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name. Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war.
Dr. Ulfkotte says the corruption of journalists and major news outlets by the CIA is routine, accepted, and widespread in the western media, and that journalists who do not comply either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short.
Dr. Ulfkotte is the author of a book currently available only in German, "Bought Journalists" (Kopp 2014.) Aged 55, he was also once an advisor to the government of German Chancellor Helmet Kohl.
The book has become a bestseller in Germany but, in a bizarre twist which Ulfkotte says characterizes the disconnect caused by CIA control of the western media, the book cannot be reported on.
Ulfkotte says:
"No German mainstream journalist is allowed to report about [my] book. Otherwise he or she will be sacked. So we have a bestseller now that no German journalist is allowed to write or talk about.""
Among the stories Ulfkotte says he was ordered to plant in his newspaper over the years was a story that Libyan President Moammar Gaddafi was building poison gas factories in 2011. Ulfkotte also says he was an eyewitness to Saddam Hussein's use of poison gas against Iranians in the war between Iran and Iraq, but that the editors he worked for at the time were not interested, because Iraq was a US ally at the time.
Ulfkotte says he is better positioned to come forward than many journalists because he does not have children who could be threatened. Ulfkotte told the Russian newspaper Russian Insider (RI):
""When I told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Ulfkotte's nwspaper) that I would publish the book, their lawyers sent me a letter threatening with all legal consequences if I would publish any names or secrets – but I don’t mind. You see, I don’t have children to take care of. And you must know I was severely injured during the gas attack I witnessed in Iran in 1988. I'm the sole German survivor from a German poison gas attack. I’m still suffering from this. I’ve had three heart attacks. I don’t expect to live for more than a few years.""
Ulfkotte says that remorse of having "lied" to mass audiences over the years drove him to come forward. He told RI that he was:
""taught to lie, to betray and not to tell the truth to the public." "
Ulfkotte says:
"I'm ashamed I was part of it. Unfortunately I cannot reverse this.""
Among the admissions that Ulfkotte makes in the interview are putting his own name to articles completely written by intelligence agencies. He said:
"I ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service." "
Ulfkotte detailed the pattern of cajolery and outright bribery used by the CIA and other US-allied intelligence agencies, for the purpose of advancing political agendas. Ulfkotte said:
""once you're connected, you make friends with selected Americans. You think they are your friends and you start cooperating. They work on your ego, make you feel like you're important. And one day one of them will ask you 'Will you do me this favor'...""
Ulfkotte noted that a journalists on international press trips paid for by organizations close to the government are unlikely to submit a storyline not favorable to the sponsor.
Dr. Udo Ulfkotte
Dr. Udo Ulfkotte
Of the gassing of Iranians he had witnessed in the Eighties, Ulfkoppe said:
"they asked me to hand over the photo's that I had made to the German association of chemical companies in Frankfurt, Verband der Chemischen Industrie. This poison gas that had killed so many Iranians was made in Germany.""
In an interview with Russia Today, Ulfkotte said that it was "not right" what he had done, and that his fear was that politicians were actively driving the world toward war:
""it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, all over Europe. … I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don’t like to have this situation again, because war is never coming from itself, there is always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too. … We have betrayed our readers, just to push for war. … I don’t want this anymore, I’m fed up with this propaganda. We live in a banana republic, and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom...""
In his book "The CIA and the Media," Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein quotes William B. Bader, former CIA intelligence officer, in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Baeder said:
""There is quite an incredible spread of relationships. You don’t need to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are [Central Intelligence] Agency people at the management level.""
Bernstein writes:
"The Agency’s relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials. From 1950 to 1966, about ten CIA employees were provided Times cover under arrangements approved by the newspaper’s late publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. The cover arrangements were part of a general Times policy—set by Sulzberger—to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.""
Ulfkotte was on the staff of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation from 1999 to 2003, according to his Wikipedia entry. He won the civic prize from the Annette Barthelt Foundation in 2003.
More about udo ulfkotte, bought journalism, Cia

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