Category Archives: Justice system failure

How the Bradley Manning trial might become a tool to get NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden

[See update at bottom]

The closing arguments are over and the Bradley Manning case is in the hands of a military judge .  At the same time, Edward Snowden is holed up in Russia seeking asylum on the grounds that whistle blowers cannot receive justice in the U.S., a claim largely confirmed by the rabid mistreatment of Bradley Manning (and others before him) by the U.S. Department of Justice.

For most observers, Manning’s fate is a foregone conclusion.  He will not be declared innocent because such a verdict does not suit the government’s purpose which is to make an example of him to discourage further revelations, by others, of highly embarrassing information about the government’s abuse of power.

But, the Manning trial also presents an interesting opportunity.  While it’s the government’s three-year long abuse of Manning’s person and rights that provides clear justification for Snowden’s request for asylum in Russia, a tempered judgement followed by a light sentence for Manning could partly neutralize that justification in the eyes of many.

Governments rarely do anything for humanitarian reasons and it’s doubtful that any country offering Snowden asylum is doing so out of concern for Snowden or for human rights in general.  They are doing it because they see a benefit for themselves that exceeds the cost.   Snowden is a great propaganda opportunity for other governments to give the U.S. a taste of its own medicine, but that only works if the U.S. continues to reinforce its image as a bully toward those who would expose the truth.

Manning is old news.  Most people don’t even know his trial is going on (largely because of the blackout by establishment news organizations presumably in cooperation with government).  But Snowden has become a folk hero with a near unlimited capacity to be a perpetual embarrassment to many western governments by exposing the fact that the bulk of their surveillance efforts have little to do with terrorism and much to do with maintaining control over their own domestic populations.

It’s a no-brainer that lenient treatment of Manning could help the government advance the argument that the U.S., while far from welcoming whistle blowers, does not summarily execute them or lock them up for life.  It might not only help their case for extradition of Snowden, it might also help them to get their hands on someone else who has successfully thrown the world’s only superpower into a desperate panic: Jullian Assange.

One thing is a certainty.  The U.S. will stop at nothing to get their hands on Snowden.  It is not bound by any legal or ethical constraints, it has no respect for the sovereignty of other nations or for international law, and it certainly doesn’t hold the moral high ground.  If Manning’s verdict and sentencing reflects leniency, it is probably part of a bigger plan.  The government’s obsession with getting Snowden shows their desperation.  And far from losing the war, Snowden is actually gaining support as more people become aligned with the notion that the government really has abused its powers, thereby giving credibility to Snowden’s contention that he is actually doing a service for the country rather than trying to damage it.  That is the last thing the U.S. government wants to see.

[UPDATE 7/31/13]

Washington will use Manning’s verdict to persuade the world community to extradite other whistleblowers back to the US, since the leaker was acquitted of the capital offense of aiding the enemy, former UK MI5 agent Annie Machon told RT.

A Few Friday Links

  • The New York Times blames republicans for abuses of power by intelligence agencies under the Obama administration.  Ten of the FISA courts judges were appointed by republican presidents.
  • Congress is going to invite some NSA critics to testify. If the government weren’t so busy hunting, prosecuting, and persecuting them, they’d invite a few critics with real first hand knowledge to testify. Like say, William Binney, Russell Tice, Daniel Ellsberg, Babak Pasdar, Mark Klein, Thomas Drake, Jullian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden.  One thing is certain. No one with a brain will ever be able to seriously accuse Congress of being on a relentless search for the truth.
  • Justice Secretary Eric Holder to Russia:  We promise not to torture or kill Snowden, so please turn him over to us.  One more non-extraordinary measure to get their hands on Snowden.

 

 

Tuesday Links

  • Eliot Spitzer, former New York governor and two-faced crusader against prostitution who was ultimately thrown out of office when it was discovered that he was routinely engaging high priced prostitutes, is running for Comptroller Of New York.  And who is he up against, but former Manhattan Madam, Kristen Davis.  I blogged about Davis back when she was running for governor of New York.  As a Madam, Davis was engaged in honest work, but you can’t fight the rats without getting into the sewer, territory Spitzer is all too familiar with.
  • The law form representing State Department inspector general turned whistle blower, Aurelia Fedenisn, was burglarized.  The perps apparently left behind more valuable property, taking computers instead.  The State Department, thinking they still have some credibility despite the Benghazi fiasco, says they didn’t do it.
  • New York Times reports about the disaster once known as Detroit.  Establishment media always seem to portray Detroit as if their problems just came upon them out of nowhere through no fault of their own.  If Detroit could talk, here is what it would say: “I was just standing here minding my own business, taking home my big fat union paycheck from corporations that enjoyed protection from foreign competition in a city run by politicians who were blind to the disintegration of the city, when all of a sudden, I discovered that most of the factories had closed and half the population moved away leaving me here in a cesspool of corruption and physical decay.”
  • A report by the Abbottabad Commission analyzing the events surrounding Bin Laden’s residency in Abbottabad blames incompetence and negligence in Pakistan’s dysfunctional intelligence and security forces for failing to detect that he was hiding there.  About the U.S. raid, the report says the operation on 2 May 2011 was an “American act of war against Pakistan” which illustrated the US’s “contemptuous disregard of Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the arrogant certainty of its unmatched military might”.
  • A member of the Russian Duma tweeted that Edward Snowden has accepted an offer of asylum by Venezuela.  The tweet was then deleted.  If true, all Snowden has to do is get there and hope that the U.S. doesn’t disregard Venezuela’s sovereignty the way they do for so many other small countries. [UPDATE]  As of 1:30 PM CT, RT now says that, according to Wikileaks, Snowden has not accepted Venezuela’s offer of asylum.

Friday Links

  • A frightened college student tried to drive off when a group of men swarmed her car as she was leaving a state ABC store.  It turned out that the six men were plan clothes ABC agents who mistook the bottled water she bought for beer.  Just another case of cops behaving like what they are, just another gang of thugs that sees the public as the enemy.  The student now faces felony charges, even though she was not doing anything illegal when she was accosted by the agents.  [UPDATE]  See Radley Balko’s article about this incident here.
  • A Wisconsin woman has been awarded a settlement of $143,500 after Lawrence County child welfare department and Jameson Hospital seized her newborn child in response to a false positive drug test triggered by a poppy seed bagel.   Of course, they were simply following the due process exemption granted by the Constitution whenever a child is involved…
  • Henderson, Nevada cops arrested a man and his adult son when they refused to allow their houses to be occupied by cops to observe a neighboring house as part of a domestic abuse investigation.  When the family refused to let the cops in, they broke down the door and pepper-balled him (as well as the family dog, of course).  They spent nine hours in jail before making bail.  The charges were eventually dismissed with prejudice.  The family is suing city and police officials of the cities of Henderson and North Las Vegas.  Of course, if they win, it’s unlikely anything will happen to the officials and the taxpayers will get stuck with the bill.  I have blogged about the idiots at Henderson, NV PD before.
  • Video of a St. Louis cops striking a handcuffed teenager during an arrest has been released to the public after the officer was acquitted of an assault charge.  The video was never shown at trial for legal reasons.  While cops involved in shootings aren’t supposed to be involved with processing suspects, the supervisor didn’t interfere in this case.  The teen was never charged with a crime.  Meanwhile, the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association wants the cops reinstated.  The whole case reeks of incompetence.  The unprovoked assault takes place at about the 12 second mark in the video below:

Abuse of police power, Hawthorne, California style

A man records cops in Hawthone, California.  Note that the man is not even close to the cops but cops don’t like being recorded. And because cops are basically permitted to abuse their powers without fear of consequences, they decide to arrest the guy.  Unfortunately, the guy’s dog gets upset and escapes the car upon which the cops decide to shoot the dog repeatedly.

WARNING: If you don’t want to be upset by the sight of a dog being senselessly and brutally murdered by Gang in Blue (who will undoubtedly be cleared of any wrongdoing), don’t watch the video.

As for the shooter, I hope he rests comfortably knowing that, because of his childish temper and galactic sized ego, a creature of far more significance in the universe than he will ever be, is dead.

[UPDATE 7/3/13]
Reason.com has some further information about this event.  It seems the dog owner has a history with police and police claim they approached him because he was playing his car stereo too loud.

The FBI is just like almost all police departments

After the FBI killed a Chechen man during questioning in connection with the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing, an FBI spokesman said: “The F.B.I. takes very seriously any shooting incidents involving our agents, and as such we have an effective, time-tested process for addressing them internally.”

From The New York Times:

But if such internal investigations are time-tested, their outcomes are also predictable: from 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others — and every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal F.B.I. records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Imagine that.  A law enforcement agency that investigates itself and then routinely gives itself a clean bill of health.  Sound familiar?

But, of course, we’re talking about the FBI here, not some sleazy little rinky-dink  department like the NYPD, LAPD or any number of other PDs that regularly clear themselves of wrong doing.  The FBI has a reputation for excellence, right?

Well, not really.  Shoddy and tainted work was uncovered in their their world famous crime lab, possibly affecting hundreds of cases beginning in the 1990s.  Even after the problems were exposed, the FBI did a terrible job of investigating the mess and notifying those who might have been victimized by their junk science, contaminated evidence, and corrupt practices.

Just more proof that law enforcement agencies, because they lack effective oversight, also often lack integrity.

Google’s plan to eradicate child porn from the web

The Telegraph reports that Google plans to create a global database (databases seem to be in the news a lot these days) of child abuse images which will be shared with its competitors that will permit the images to be deleted from the internet en mass.  To identify what images constitute child porn, Google will rely on child protections organizations such as the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).   While no one else seems to be able to define child porn in a way that doesn’t infringe on constitutionally protected speech, the IWF apparently knows it when it sees it.  Of course, a lot of people knew this 1999 Calvin Klein billboard proposed for Times Square was child porn, too.

Presumably, since the IWF declares pictures to be child porn before any court judges them to be, their determination of the age of the people depicted in the images is based on how old they look rather than on how old they are.  Child porn that doesn’t involve children hardly constitutes abuse of children anymore than porn with women in white dresses constitutes abuse of nurses.

IWF is not without controversy in terms of its precision in identifying what it calls illegal content.   Back in 2008, the IWF attempted to censor a Wikipedia article which turned out to be a “false positive” which is a polite way saying, “we accidentally declare some content to be illegal when it isn’t — too bad for you when some service provider bans it based on our say-so”.

Almost all early attempts by the U.S. to control internet content were based on restricting child porn.  Some of those attempts were thrown out in court.  Other aspects, such as today’s onerous record-keeping requirements that target legitimate adult pornography industry, survived.  More recent mechanisms to control internet content come from a government partnership with the entertainment industry to protect copyrights.  Once screening technology is in place, it can effectively be used to censor any content.

But, it should be remembered that Google is a private company and not the government, so they have the right to do what they want with data that passes through their systems.  And, as we have recently learned, Google will work with the government if asked.  The IWF already works closely with law enforcement agencies.   If they start targeting people instead of pictures, a “false positive” can destroy someone’s life.   On just the mere accusation of child porn, you won’t have a friend in the world regardless of your innocence or guilt.

If you think it’s paranoid to believe that innocent people can be sent to prison for false accusations of child sex crimes, read up on the Satanic Ritual Abuse cases that started in the 1980s.  A lot of people went to prison.  Eventually many were exonerated, but only after their lives were destroyed.  I’d give you statistics, but apparently the definition of Satanic Ritual Abuse is different depending on who you talk to.  Imagine that.

Google letter: Dear Mr Attorney General…

What follows is a letter from Google to the Justice Department begging for permission to offer their users more accurate (but still vague) information about government requests demands for personal information.  The Patriot Act, in addition to creating a rubber stamp process to neutralize 4th Amendment protections against searches and seizures, also attaches a criminal penalty for divulging any information about any of the actual searches conducted under that process.  If you’re going to  engage in thousands of violations of the Constitution, it definitely helps if you can keep the public in the dark using threats of prison time to make people shut up about it.

Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller

Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.

We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.

Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.

We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.

Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.

We will be making this letter public and await your response.

David Drummond
Chief Legal Officer

An inspiration for whistle blowers worldwide

It’s stunning how the establishment media and politicians have, over night, transformed the new revelations and discussion about the U.S. surveillance state into a partisan issue.  The republicans point the finger at Obama as if he is actually doing something even more sinister than what Bush did and the democrats, as mindless worshipers of their hero, Obama, claim that what the NSA is doing is a non-issue and that republicans are simply hyping the recent stories to play party politics (which of course, is true).  Aside from a few individual exceptions, neither republicans nor democrats have any wish to roll back the power of government to snoop on citizens.  If they did, it would have already happened long ago.  If there are really two parties in the U.S, it’s the party of government and the party of the governed.  Them and us.  The biggest threat to individual freedom is, and always will be, the government.

Below, Glen Greenwald interviews Edward Snowden, the whistle blower responsible for the recent leaks regarding the out-of-control nature of the U.S. government and its intelligence apparatus.  Two things immediately stand out.  First, this guy is no nut case and second, he is no enemy of the U.S. out to harm the country.  At this point, I would have to say he stands out, not only as a hero, but as an inspiration and roll model to potential whistle blowers worldwide in every country on the planet.   Democracy cannot exist in a country where the government knows everything about its citizens, but its citizens know nothing about the government.

[Update]

Unfortunately, if the early reaction of the establishment press is any indicator, Snowden’s message about the power and coverage of the U.S. surveillance state won’t even become part of the discussion, being swamped out completely by the illegality of the actions of Snowdon and the “harm” he has wrought upon U.S. national security and, by extension, the U.S. itself.  This would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the array of alternative news sources available on the web.

Am I the only one?

  • Am I the only one who gets a laugh out of TV news anchors asking, with a straight face, current and former government officials whether the NSA is broadly collecting the internet data from U.S. citizens knowing that those officials either don’t know or are bound by oath not to reveal classified information, a category to which electronic data collection obviously belongs?
  • Am I the only one who thinks Obama’s denials are hollow?   I mean, a couple months ago he would probably have claimed no one at the IRS is targeting conservative non-profit groups for extra scrutiny.
  • Am I the only one who finds the denials of outfits like Google and Facebook unconvincing given the fact that they are bound by the law to not divulge the extent to which the government is collecting data from them?   And let’s not forget that the law indemnifies them should they suffer any consequences as a result of their cooperation with the government.  Hell, for all they know, a backdoor could have been installed in their equipment by the manufacturer without their knowledge.
  • Am I the only one who thinks, given the government’s clear lack of regard for the privacy of ordinary citizens, that data encryption is the only recourse left for people who don’t want the government recording everything they say and do?
  • Am I the only one who thinks that, regardless of all the outrage over the NSA data collection, nothing will be done about it and, in fact, it will continue to get even more extensive.
  • Am I the only one who thinks that, instead of urinating on the very Constitutional protections that define the U.S., a more effective way to fight terrorism is for the U.S. government to quit incessantly interfering with the political processes of middle eastern countries, quit supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and quit launching drone strikes targeting people we don’t even know to be enemies.