Sunday, June 9, 2013

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Socialist Equality Party Newsletter

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Obama defends massive spying on Americans

8 June 2013

President Barack Obama on Friday staunchly defended wholesale government spying on the phone calls, emails and other communications of the American people.
Speaking to reporters in San Jose, California in advance of his summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Obama referred to media exposés of secret data-collection programs by the Pentagon-based National Security Agency (NSA) that target hundreds of millions of Americans as "hype."
He characterized the NSA's daily collection of telephone records of all customers of the major US telephone companies, first revealed Wednesday by the British Guardian newspaper, and the NSA and FBI's tapping into the servers of major Internet companies to access emails, photos, chats and documents, exposed Thursday by the Guardian and the Washington Post, as a "modest encroachment" on constitutional ly protected privacy rights.
Obama defended these Orwellian surveillance programs with the standard, catch-all justification that they were needed to protect the American people from terrorist attack. He claimed they were legal because they were sanctioned by Congress and approved by the secret rubber-stamp courts that operate within the framework of the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA). There were "a whole range of safeguards," he declared, but said nothing concrete about the supposed checks on the spy and police agencies, since, like everything else about these programs, they are classified.

Obama defends the NSA spying program (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

His remarks, from beginning to end, were a collection of sophistries and lies. He repeatedly insisted that "nobody is listening to your telephone calls," as though, even if true, that would render harmless the possession by the military of detailed information on the social and political associations and daily habits of hundreds of millions of people. Similarly, Obama insisted that the Internet surveillance program--which does involve eavesdropping on the emails and other communications of millions of individuals--did not "target" Americans. In fact, any US resident who communicates with people outside the country is liable to be swept up in this dragnet.
Nothing that Obama or any other government official says about state surveillance programs carried out under the cover of the "war on terror" can be taken for the truth. Just two months ago, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, flat out lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee when he was asked whether the NSA spied on Americans.
The claims by Obama and other politicians, Democratic and Republican alike, that systematic spying on the entire population is motivated by the desire to prevent terrorist attacks deserve to be treated with contempt. This is being said in the midst of yet another sordid cover-up of evident state complicity in a terror attack on US soil. Once again in the Boston Marathon bombing, as in the 9/11 attacks and the abortive Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a commercial jet over Detroit, it turns out that the perpetrators were well known to the FBI, CIA and other agencies and multiple warnings were ignored.
Indeed, Obama himself alluded to the political motivations behind the government spying programs, commenting that after he leaves office, "I will be a private citizen, and I suspect that on a list of people who might be targeted. .. I'd probably be pretty high on that list."
What is clear is that the real danger to the rights of the American people comes not from terrorists, but from within the American capitalist state. The police state measures put in place under Bush and expanded under Obama are directed against social opposition from the working class to the US ruling class' policies of austerity at home and endless war abroad.
The Constitution, the Bill of Rights and democratic rights as a whole are being shredded. In their place, barely concealed behind the increasingly hollow trappings of democracy, a dictatorship is emerging.
The Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, support ed by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Everything about the programs Obama defended Friday stands in obvious and direct opposition to this clear and unequivocal ban on state violations of privacy rights.
In his remarks Friday, Obama said that "you can't have a hundred percent security and also then have a hundred percent privacy..." In other words, translated into plain English, the Fourth Amendment no longer applies. Likewise, as far as the administration is concerned, guarantees of due process, trial by jury, and freedom of speech, the press and assembly are no longer operative.
The disintegration of American democracy was underscored by the general response of the political establishment to the revelations of massive government spying. Prominent Democrats, such as Senate Intelligence Commit tee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, rushed alongside their Republican counterparts to defend the NSA programs.
The relatively muted and scattered opposition from Democratic "liberals" and Republican right-wing libertarians, as well as criticism from press outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, stopped well short of demanding an end to the programs, the dismantling of the NSA, the prosecution of intelligence officials, or impeachment proceedings against Obama, whose violations of the Constitution go far beyond anything carried out by Richard Nixon.
Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper late Thursday issued a ringing defense of the NSA programs and implicitly threatened to prosecute those responsible for exposing them to the public. He charged that the leaks will cause "long-standing and irreversible harm" to US nati onal security, and called the "unauthorized disclosure of information" on the programs "reprehensible."
The New York Times, for its part, published an article describing the author of Guardian articles on the two NSA programs, Glenn Greenwald, as being "obsessive" about government surveillance and asserting that Greenwald had "put himself... in the cross hairs of federal prosecutors."
In his remarks on Friday, Obama referred back to the speech he gave May 23 at the National Defense University. In that extraordinary address, Obama defended his anti-democratic policies, such as extra-judicial drone assassinations, including of US citizens, while warning of the implications of such brazen violations of the US Constitution. His speech reflected a deep crisis and sharp divisions within the state, and suggested that Obama felt his own position to be by no means secure.
On Friday, he made the strange assertion that he would "leave this office... sometime in the next three-and-a-half years." [Emphasis added]. Obama is well aware of who really wields power--namely, the military/intelligence establishment in alliance with Wall Street. Should these forces become dissatisfied with Obama's pursuit of their policies of social counterrevolution against the working class and global hegemony, and his readiness to make the changes in the forms of rule required to implement this agenda, he could be quickly dispensed with.
"If the people can't trust not only the executive branch, but also don't trust Congress and don't trust federal judges to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution, due process and the rule of law" he added, "then we're going to have problems here."
In fact, the advanced stage of the collapse of American democracy is rapidly undermining support for the system within vast sections of the population. The turn to authoritarian forms of rule is, in turn, driven by the immense growth of social inequality and the increasing resort to criminality and war on the world arena.
Such a crisis of class rule signifies the emergence of a period of revolutionary upheavals. Capitalism means social inequality and war, which are incompatible with democracy. The only defense of democratic rights lies in the struggle of the working class for socialism.
Barry Grey
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Obama administration collecting phone records of tens of millions of Americans

By Joseph Kishore
7 June 2013
The Obama administration is engaged in a secret and illegal dragnet to accumulate detailed phone records of tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of US residents in a program organized by the National Security Agency (NSA).
On Wednesday, the British Guardian newspaper published a secret court order, issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, instructing a branch of the telecommunications giant Verizon to turn over, on an ongoing and daily basis, all "metadata" relating to the calls of all of its customers. Verizon has some 121 million customers, and the branch specifically targeted--Verizon Business Services--has 10 million lines.
The metadata of phone calls includes the phone numbers of the caller and the re cipient, location data (such as the nearest cell phone tower or GPS data), and the time and duration of the call. This information would allow the government to construct a detailed picture of the social, professional and political connections and gain insight into the daily activities of everyone whose phone number was covered by the order.
The order published by the Guardian applies for three months, from its date of issue in April of this year through July 19. According to the Washington Post, "An expert in this aspect of the law said Wednesday night that the order appears to be a routine renewal of a similar order first issued by the same court in 2006."
In defending the spying program, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made a similar statement, saying that the order is "as far as I know... the exact three-month renewal of what has be en the case for the past seven years."
The official rationale--apparently developed in secret legal memoranda prepared by the Obama administration--is that the program is authorized under the "business records" section of the Patriot Act. That act, signed into law less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, gives the government, with a rubber stamp from secret courts operating within the framework of the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA), the power to require companies, libraries and other entities to turn over any "tangible things" (including books, records, papers, documents and other items) required "for an investigation to protect against international terrorism."
The argument of the Obama administration is essentially that all telephone data is potentially relevant to investigations of "international terrorism" and should be seized.
There is no doubt that many more companies besides Verizon are involved. In 2012 alone, there were 212 "business records" requests to FISA courts, though the content of these requests is not known.
In 2006, USA Today first revealed that the NSA under the Bush administration had launched a secret program to collect phone data from Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth, which together account for some 224 million customers--80 percent of landlines and 50 percent of wireless users in the US. This program was one in a series of illegal spying actions, including a warrantless wiretapping program targeting US citizens, also run by the NSA.
In response to public opposition, the Bush administration was forced to nominally end parts of the NSA program, while continuing them in different forms. In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama was among those who voted for legislation that modified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to codify authority for t hese illegal actions.
It is evident that the earlier NSA program has continued and has likely been expanded under the Obama administration.
The accumulation of a vast database of phone records is only part of a systematic drive to gather as much information as possible on everyone, US citizens and non-citizens alike. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) "are tapping directly into the central servers of nine US Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to trace a person's movements and contacts over time."
According to the Post , the companies involved in handing over information include Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.
It must be assumed that the government has access to every electronic Internet and phone communication, including the actual content of calls, which are not included in the "metadata." The Guardian cited Russell Tice, a retired NSA intelligence analyst turned whistleblower, as saying, "What is going on is much larger and more systemic than anything anyone has ever suspected or imagined."
Tice said he believes the NSA now has the ability to record the content of calls. "I figured it would probably be about 2015" before the agency had the capacity "to collect all digital communications word for word. But I think I'm wrong. I think they have it right now."
All of this is being carried out in flagrant violation of constitutional p rohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures (the Fourth Amendment). The fact that these programs have been implemented in secret, behind the backs of the American people, is itself evidence that those responsible are well aware that they are illegal and massively unpopular.
The entire political establishment, Democratic and Republican, along with the mass media, is complicit in a conspiracy against the American people. There can be little doubt that the major media outlets in the US knew about the program and kept it concealed at the request of the Obama and Bush administrations. It is significant that the newspaper that leaked the FISA court order was not American, but British.
In response to the Guardian revelations, administration officials and leading figures in both political parties moved quickly to defend the program.
A senior administration offici al insisted that "all three branches of government are involved" in approving the spying and that Congress "is regularly and fully briefed on how it is used." He declared that there is a "robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."
Claims of a "robust legal regime" are a fraud. The FISA courts simply rubber stamp government requests for spying, approving virtually every submission.
Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss, the top Democrat and Republican, respectively, on the Senate Intelligence Committee, hastily organized a press conference Thursday morning. "This is just metadata," Feinstein declared. "There is no content involved. In other words, no content of a communication." She insisted that the program was "lawful" and that "it has been briefed to Congress."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democra t, urged everyone to "calm down and understand this isn't anything that is brand new. It's been going on for some seven years."
The claim that the population should not be surprised, that there is "nothing to see here," is belied by the fact that as recently as two months ago, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who oversees the NSA, was asked at a congressional hearing if the NSA collects data on Americans. "No sir... not wittingly," he replied. NSA Director General Keith Alexander said last year, "We don't hold data on US citizens."
US Attorney General Eric Holder, in previously scheduled testimony Thursday before the Senate Justice Department Oversight and Budget Committee, brushed aside mildly-worded questions from some of the senators, declaring that he would answer questions on the NSA program and other recent spying scandals only behind closed doors.
The leaked court order on phone records is only the latest in a series of developments over the past six months exposing the advanced state of preparations for an American police state and the domination of the military-intelligence apparatus over political affairs in the US. These include:
* The leaked "White Paper" in February arguing that the president has the right to unilaterally and secretly order the assassinations of US citizens, along with statements from Holder indicating that such assassinations could be carried out within the country.
* The response to the Boston Marathon bombing in April, including the shut-down of the city under conditions of de facto martial law, followed by the FBI assassination of a key witness in the case.
* The revelation in May that the government has secretly seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters, followed by the report that the admi nistration seized the emails of a Fox News reporter, having charged in a warrant request that he was criminally complicit in the leaking of classified information.
* The opening this week of the court martial of Bradley Manning, who is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for leaking documents exposing war crimes committed by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan that had been covered up by the media.
As with every attack on democratic rights, the administration is seeking to justify its dragnet of phone records as a necessary part of the "war on terror." The real target of these actions, however, is not "international terrorism," but the working class. These police state measures will be employed against social and political opposition to the American financial aristocracy's policies of austerity, poverty and war.

From the WSWS archives: Framework for a police state

By the WSWS Editorial Board
12 May 2006
The exposure in Thursday's USA Today of a vast and secret National Security Agency data base tracking the phone calls of hundreds of millions of Americans is further evidence of the advanced preparations for the establishment of a police state in the United States. The NSA database is a blueprint for political repression and intimidation on a massive scale.
The patently illegal government surveillance has nothing to do with preventing terrorist attacks, as claimed by President Bush and echoed by both the media and Democratic Party politicians who criticize various aspects of the program. It has been implemented by a state apparatus which sees its major opposition as coming from among the American people, not scattered bands of Islamic terrorists. At a time of growing social opposition, the government is systematically collecting data to find out what people are thinking and to whom they are talking.
The phone-tracking program has, according to the USA Today report, been underway since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The three largest telecommunications companies in the US, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, agreed secretly to collaborate with the Bush administration and hand over to the NSA their records of every telephone call made by every one of their approximately 200 million customers. The program, carried out without court-issued warrants or Congressional oversight, is in flagrant violation of federal statutes as well as civil liberties guarantees laid down in the Bill of Rights.
It means that the government has at its disposal information concerning the personal, business and political relationships and activities of most Americans--information that can be turned over to the FBI, the CIA, the Pentagon and other state agencies.
This progra m, as well as the previously leaked program of illegal NSA eavesdropping on international telephone and email communications, has been carried out with the knowledge and approval of leading members of Congress from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Whatever protests are made by politicians in either party in the wake of the program's exposure, and whatever congressional hearings are held, their primary purpose will be to provide political cover for the collaboration of Democrats as well as Republicans in an unprecedented attack on democratic rights.
Nothing will be done to halt the illegal spying or hold accountable those, beginning with Bush himself, who have systematically lied to the American people and broken the law in order to create the infrastructure of a police state.
The willing participation of major corporations in this operation underscores the erosion of any serious support within the American ruling elite as a whole for democratic rights, and the turn toward authoritarian forms of rule to suppress growing opposition among working people to the vast concentration of wealth in the hands of a financial oligarchy.
The secret surveillance program reported by USA Today goes far beyond the program for intercepting international phone calls which was revealed last December through a leak to the New York Times. In what one source for the USA Today story called "the largest database ever assembled in the world," the NSA has compiled a record of nearly every phone call made in the United States since 9/11, combined with a historical record of phone calls going back for many years before. The records include the phone number from which each call was made, the number dialed, and the duration of the call.
While the name of the person making the call is supposedly not includ ed in the NSA database, such information is easily obtained by cross-referencing with other government and commercial databases.
USA Today said the program did not involve actual listening to the conversations--a physical impossibility given the billions of calls monitored--but rather the amassing of information for data mining, in which complex software programs are used to find patterns in the calling. Having created "a database of every call ever made," the NSA is in a position to track down the personal, business, social and political affiliations of any person targeted by the US government.
According to Leslie Cauley, the reporter who wrote the story, "Chances are that your cell phone calls, as well as your home phone calls, have been tracked." She added in a press interview that there was a "high likelihood" that this information was being passed on to the FBI and CIA.
AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth control local, long-distance and cell phone service in most of the country. A fourth company, the much smaller Qwest, has refused to participate in the NSA program. The Denver-based Qwest provides local phone service in 14 western states as well as long-distance service in some areas. According to the USA Today article, Qwest balked at going along with the NSA program because of its dubious legality.
The phone companies were asked to provide the complete past telephone history of all their customers, as well as regular updates of contemporary phone usage. This means that the NSA now possesses a historical database that extends back at least to the 1984 breakup of the old AT&T monopoly, if not back to the oldest records available. The lifetime telephone usage of virtually every living American is now in a government dossier.
The NSA database could be used to trac k down anyone associated with political organizations opposed to the policies of the Bush administration, such as socialist, antiwar, civil rights and civil liberties groups. Anyone in regular telephone contact with such organizations is undoubtedly flagged as a potential "terrorist" in the NSA database. In the event of a roundup of such political opponents, the database would supply the names and phone numbers of all those in close contact with those targeted for arrest, thus providing a road map for further arrests and detentions.
Searches of the NSA database could also pinpoint all those who regularly called selected countries overseas, thus generating a list of potential targets for immigration raids. The database could also be used to monitor phone calls made to the media--such as those from the whistleblowers who spoke to the Washington Post about secret CIA torture centers in Eastern Europe or who exposed the illegal NSA moni toring of international phone calls. The White House could also identify government employees who regularly call Democratic members of Congress.
The information could be used to intimidate and blackmail individuals and coerce them into informing on friends, relatives and business associates.
As with all its other attacks on democratic rights, the Bush administration is defending the massive NSA phone spying as an "anti-terrorist" measure. But it is preposterous to claim that the federal government needs information on the call patterns of every American in order to locate and monitor a handful of terrorists. Nor would there be any reason, in relation to anti-terrorist investigations, for the NSA to accumulate the records of phone calls made long before Al Qaeda came into existence.
President Bush essentially confirmed the USA Today report in a brief prepared stateme nt issued Thursday after the article sparked a flurry of commentary in the media and on Capitol Hill. Bush did not deny the substance of the newspaper's account, while claiming that all the administration's surveillance actions are legal and are solely directed against Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups. "The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities," he claimed. "We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."
The credibility of this statement can be judged by recalling what Bush said after the New York Times first reported the secret NSA warrantless surveillance of international telephone calls. Bush claimed at the time that only international phone calls made by or to terrorist suspects were being monitored. "In other words," he said, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States." It has since emerged that the NSA eavesdropped illegally on thousands of domestic phone calls as well.
Bush used a similarly deceptive formulation in his statement Thursday. "The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval," he declared, although what USA Today reported did not concern listening to phone calls, but rather recording private call information, which is equally illegal under Section 222 of the 1934 Communications Act. The Bush administration did not seek approva l for the call-monitoring program from the secret court set up under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, just as it bypassed the FISA court for the warrantless phone-tapping.
Bush added this claim: "The intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat." The White House has briefed only a handful of members--although the legal requirement is for briefing of the entire membership of both Senate and House intelligence committees. Nonetheless, Bush has repeatedly cited the briefing of key Democrats on his administration's domestic spying programs to highlight the collaboration of the Democrats, exposing the hypocrisy of their pro-forma protests.
On Monday, Bush demonstratively reaffirmed his intention to continue these programs by naming Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA, replacing Porter Goss, who was ou sted last week. Hayden, now deputy director of national intelligence, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005, and was therefore responsible for the establishment of the call-tracking program.
Both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said that they would question Hayden about the program during his confirmation hearings, scheduled to begin next week. Hayden has vociferously defended the NSA program of warrantless interception of international phone calls. He called it "targeted and focused," adding, "This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States." The phone-tracking program, however, is the opposite: a massive dragnet targeting every telephone call placed by every person in the US.
Last month, during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asserted that the White House might have the legal authori ty to order warrantless wiretapping of domestic phone calls as well as international calls. "I wouldn't rule it out," he said. Gonzales was not asked about tracking phone calls, only about listening in.
It is not yet known whether President Bush signed a secret executive order for the call-tracking, or whether the program was undertaken without such formal authorization. Bush did sign an executive order for the warrantless NSA wiretapping of international calls and emails.
The Bush administration has already moved to suppress one inquiry into illegal NSA spying. The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) announced Wednesday that it was closing down an investigation into whether Justice Department lawyers took improper action in approving the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, on the grounds that the NSA refused to grant the OPR the security clearances required to proceed. In other words, those carrying out the illegal wiretapping used the "classified" stamp to block any investigation into their activities.
With each revelation of police state measures, the lack of any genuine commitment to democratic rights within the political establishment becomes more evident. Not a single leading Democrat, and none of the leading US newspapers, responded to last December's exposure of NSA phone tapping by demanding that the program be halted. The Democratic leadership has opposed even a token resolution for Bush's censure over the illegal operation.
Already the media and politicians of both parties have sought to downplay the significance of the phone-tracking program, while accepting uncritically the pretext that it is motivated by the vicissitudes of the so-called "war on terrorism." The truth is that the program exposes the enormity and immediacy of the assault on the democratic rights of the American people.
This threat must not be underestimated. It is the outcome of a protracted breakdown of American democracy, rooted in the crisis of the capitalist system and the resulting malignant growth of social inequality.
The only social force that has a genuine interest in and commitment to democratic rights is the working class. Working people can defend these rights only by forging an independent socialist movement in opposition to the two-party system through which the corporate oligarchy maintains its rule.

US government charges Manning with "aiding the enemy" in court martial

By Naomi Spencer
5 June 2013
The ongoing Army court martial of Private Bradley Manning is a crude political frame-up. The Obama administration is prosecuting the 25-year-old Army private on 20 charges under the Espionage Act for exposing war crimes carried out by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The charge of "aiding the enemy" is the most sinister. The Obama administration has claimed Manning knew Al Qaeda and other "enemies" of the US would benefit from information he is accused of leaking to WikiLeaks, and could use it to cause harm to American "interests." Manning has pled not guilty to the charge and 11 others related to it. Nothing in what Manning has said in the more than 1,100 days of his detention, nor any of the evidence seized from him, indicates he sympathizes with the Sunni fundamentalist terrorist organization. By all rights, Manning's attorneys could turn the tables on the Obama administration, which has a real record of aiding Al Qaeda and its affiliates for its proxy wars in Libya and now Syria.
Manning has repeatedly expressed his motive was to expose to the American public the crimes being committed in its name, and "spark a domestic debate on the role of our military and foreign polic y in general." In other words, he is facing the full weight of the state for exercising his freedom of speech and telling the American people the truth. The charge of "aiding the enemy" only underscores the fact the government increasingly sees the US population, which has increasingly turned against the wars, as a potential enemy to American imperialist "interests."

Bradley Manning in military custody

Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer present at the Manning court martial, commented to the New York Times on the "striking" emphasis on "the 'enemy' as the audience for the leaks." Pointing to the Abu Ghraib torture photographs, which sparked outrage at the Bush administration in 2004, Wizner observed, "Sometimes what may be helpful to the enemy is also indispensable to the public in a functioning democracy."
The military judge in the case, Colonel Denise Lind, ruled in April that "enemy," may refer to "any hostile body such as a rebellious mob or a band of renegades." The definition is so broad as to identify as enemies of the US not only terrorist organizations, but also crowds of protesters such as those who took to the streets in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, partially motivated by the corruption exposed by WikiLeaks. Logically, this definition could encompass anti-war opponents in the US itself.
The American media has largely parroted the government's charges and sought to create a witch-hunt atmosphere against Manning. The headlines blare the words "traitor," "aiding the enemy," and "espionage": "Bradley Manning Trial Begins; Prosecutor Says Leaker Gave Vital Info to Enemies" (ABC News); "Whistleblowing here or helping the enemy?"; "Bradley Manning 'craved' notoriety" (CNN).
NBC News was particularly blatant. "The court martial of the man who may have put military secrets in the hands of Osama bin Laden started today, the so-called WikiLeaks trial," NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams announced Monday night. "Prosecutors said Manning harvested hundreds of thousands of documents from secret databases and put them on the web and into the hands of the enemy, including the names of every American serving in Iraq--74,000 individuals in uniform. He said some of the information was later foun d during the raid that killed bin Laden."
After more than a decade of war, public sentiment in the US is increasingly hostile to the foreign policy aims of American imperialism. The Obama administration, which has built on the illegal policies of the Bush era, is in the midst of a crisis over its crimes. Drone assassination, domestic spying and torture of detainees at Guantanamo continue, and the White House is moving closer to open military action in Syria, a move that could trigger a catastrophic regional war. The political persecution of Manning is aimed at intimidating and silencing political dissent and opposition. Since taking office in 2009, Obama has overseen the prosecution of six so-called whistleblowers, more than all other administrations in US history combined, and is currently cracking down on news reporters.
The proceedings against Manning are a travesty of justice. Government lawyers have cob bled together a case that relies on reams of classified material, two-dozen anonymous witnesses, secret testimony and coded language. The prosecution anticipates that of its 141 witnesses, half will testify behind closed doors. On Monday, the prosecution opened the court martial with an hour-long slideshow presentation. In it, lead prosecutor Captain Joe Morrow purported to show chat logs between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which he said showed a "familiarity" between the two. Morrow claimed that Assange was directing Manning in searching through military databases while the young intelligence analyst was stationed in Baghdad.
WikiLeaks has never admitted or denied that Manning was the source of material transmitted onto their servers. Indeed, the whistleblower organization is structured in such a way that it is impossible for staff members to discover t he identity of its sources. Manning maintains his innocence on the allegation of the personal information leak and entered a not guilty plea in relation to it.
As day two of the trial got underway at Fort Meade, Maryland Tuesday morning, journalists were warned that they and their social media accounts would be monitored by federal authorities. Manning supporters noted that on Monday, 70 journalists turned out to cover the trial; on Tuesday there were only 25. Many were crowded into a trailer to watch a remote video feed of the courtroom. Manning supporters were required to turn their shirts inside out so as not to bear the word "Truth."
Former hacker and informant Adrian Lamo, who turned Manning in to military authorities, took the stand Tuesday. Lamo already testified during a 2011 pre-trial hearing on the lengthy chat discussions between him and Manning that took place in May 2010.
The prosecution pressed for confirmation that Manning admitted communication with Assange. Lamo said he had.
In cross-examination, Manning's civilian lawyer David Coombs asked Lamo about Manning's moral rationale for leaking the documents. Cables from the State Department, Manning told him, revealed, "how first-world countries exploited third-world countries." Asked if the soldier ever expressed hatred of America or interest in helping its enemies during their six days of chatting, Lamo said no.
Coombs quoted from the chat while addressing Lamo: "He did not believe in good guys and bad guys anymore, only a plethora of states acting in self interest. He thought he was maybe too idealistic. He told you based on what he had seen he couldn't let the information stay inside. He said he felt connected to everybody, we were all distant family. And he said he cared.
"He c alled himself a humanist and said he had custom dog tags where he had written humanist on the back. PFC Manning told you that we are all human and we are killing ourselves and no one seems to care. He told you he was bothered that nobody seemed to care, that apathy was far worse than active participation. He told you that he preferred the painful truth over blissful fantasy."
Coombs went on: "And he told you: hopefully worldwide discussions. He told you reaction to the Apache video gave him immense hope. He wanted people to see the truth. He told you people would actually change if they saw the information. He also told you that he recognized he might just be young, naive and stupid."
After each sentence, Lamo replied, "He did."
Lamo was told that his testimony was concluded and he would not be called back to the stand for the remainder of the three-month-long trial.
Earlier on Tuesday the government also called Army Computer Crimes Investigative Unit agents David Shaver and Mark Johnson, who were responsible for searching Manning's personal files and computers after his 2010 arrest. In cross-examination by the defense, Johnson said nothing was found on seized hard drives suggesting "sympathy for terrorists or a transfer of funds."

The state killing of Ibragim Todashev

3 June 2013
On May 22, Ibragim Todashev, a key witness in events related to the Boston Marathon bombings, was killed by an FBI agent in his residence in Florida. Todashev, an alleged acquaintance of bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was unarmed and in custody when he was shot as many as seven times, including once in the head.
This extraordinary event, which has been largely buried in the US media, stinks of a cover-up, deceit and criminality. Four or five completely different accounts of the killing have been presented by the government in the space of little more than a week. None of these accounts can be believed.
The killing of Todashev occurred just over a month after two bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 people and injuring 264. Within a short period of time, the public was told that the perpetrators had been id entified. Soon after, Tamerlan, 26, was shot and killed by the police. His brother Dzhokhar, 19, was severely wounded while hiding unarmed in a boat.
In the days following the bombings, the city of Boston was placed under effective martial law. In a massive and unprecedented police-military operation, the population was ordered to "shelter in place," armored vehicles were deployed in the streets and heavily armed SWAT teams conducted house-to-house searches without regard for basic rights.
In the aftermath of the Boston events, it emerged that the elder Tsarnaev--like almost every individual who has perpetrated or attempted to perpetrate a similar act--was long known to intelligence agencies and was possibly connected with them. Detailed warnings had been provided by Russia, and these warnings had been ignored. It also emerged that a close associate of Tamerlan, along with two others, had been murdered on the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a year and a half before the bombings.
It was under these conditions that a person who knew the Tsarnaev brothers and had potentially vital information was located in Florida. Yet before this key witness could be publicly questioned, and before he was charged with any crime, he was shot and killed by an FBI agent under extremely dubious circumstances.
On the day of Todashev's death, without a lawyer present, and presumably without regard for his Miranda rights, at least four federal and local agents spent eight hours with him in his home, supposedly seeking to extract a signed confession to the murders committed before the Boston Marathon.
Before this interrogation, Todashev told his roommate, who was also questioned, that he feared for his life.
Todashev's father, at a recent pr ess conference in Moscow, claimed that morgue photos prove that at least some of the shots must have occurred while his son was on the ground, with the shooter standing over him. Speaking in Russian, the father described the shot to the head as a "control shot," i.e., a mafia-style point-blank shot designed to ensure that the victim is dead.
In the aftermath of the incident, a series of mutually and internally contradictory official stories regarding Todashev's final moments was released and dutifully repeated by the American media.
First, the line was, as the Associated Press reported it, that "law enforcement officials say [Todashev] was shot...after he lunged at an FBI agent with a knife." The FBI agent was reported to have sustained "non-life-threatening injuries." However, it was later acknowledged that there was no knife.
No account has been given as to why officials r eported the existence of a knife when there was none. Instead, a series of new accounts was provided, each more incredible than the last. One version, reported by an Orlando television station, had Todashev lunging for the agent's gun. In another, reported by ABC News, Todashev lunged for a "samurai sword" that was somehow left within his reach.
In a Fox News affiliate's account, Todashev actually retrieved the samurai sword (not a real sword but a wall ornament) and lunged at the agent with it.
According to the latest account, published in the New York Times, Todashev attacked the FBI agent with a "metal pole" that "might have been [?] a broomstick."
The "reaching for a weapon" story is a favored and familiar trope in police department "investigations" seeking to justify shootings of unarmed people.
There are other unexpla ined and contradictory statements. The Washington Post on May 29 reported that for some unexplained reason, right before the murder, all of the other interrogators withdrew and left the FBI agent alone in the room with Todashev.
The New York Times account the next day places another unnamed agent in the room. This agent, according to a high-level official cited uncritically by the Times, never fired his weapon, supposedly because he was worried about injuring his fellow agent in crossfire. This apparently was not of concern to the person who killed Todashev.
Neither the FBI agent who shot Todashev nor anyone else involved has been named publicly or detained for questioning.
There is a far more likely explanation for Todashev's killing than the ad hoc and preposterous stories in the media: Todashev possessed information about alleged Boston bomber T amerlan Tsarnaev--perhaps, we strongly suspect, about his relations with US intelligence agencies--that would undermine the official story. At some point in the lengthy interrogation, the agents in Orlando received orders, probably from someone in Washington, to terminate Todashev "with extreme prejudice."
The killing of Todashev casts even more doubt on the entire official line regarding the Boston events.
Last week, the Russian Federal Security Service claimed that it had provided the American authorities with enough detailed information to prevent the Boston bombings. This fact was acknowledged by US Representative William R. Keating after a trip to Moscow.
Keating, in his statements in Moscow, further acknowledged that the Russian intelligence agencies had asked to be tipped off if the elder Tsarnaev visited Russia. The American agencies have not explained why they did n ot do so, or why they allowed Tsarnaev to travel in and out of the US to Chechnya without questioning.
As in the case of the September 11, 2001 attacks nearly 12 years ago, the conduct of the American intelligence agencies cannot be explained as a failure to "connect the dots." That such agencies--funded to the hilt pursuant to the "war on terror"--were entirely oblivious to what was going on under their noses strains credulity. Further, if someone had simply "dropped the ball" within the American intelligence agencies, then resignations, firings or even prosecutions would be expected. Instead, nobody has been named and nobody has stepped down.
Facts are stubborn things. What we know for certain is that a key witness in relation to the Boston bombings has been terminated by the state. This witness, who expressed concerns for his life, was likely in possession of information that someone wanted kept secret.
The killing of Todashev has not provoked any protest from within the political establishment. The media has played its usual filthy and subservient role in the cover-up. With the exception of a single editorial in the Washington Post that expressed concern that Todashev's death would "fuel wild conspiracy theories," there have been no calls in the press or in any federal, state or local institution for an explanation or investigation as to what happened.
After the killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki, a US citizen and Muslim cleric in Yemen in September 2011, questions were raised about the possibility of assassinations taking place within the US. It appears that this has now happened. Yet another line has been crossed in the march towards a police state.
Tom Carter

SEP campaign to hold June 13 meeting in Detroit: Hands off the DIA

The defense of culture and the crisis in Detroit

The Socialist Equality Party is holding a public meeting in defense of the Detroit Institute of Arts and in defense of culture as a social right for the working class. The main speaker will be D'Artagnan Collier, the SEP candidate for mayor of Detroit.
The threat to sell off the DIA by the city's emergency manager Kevyn Orr has provoked widespread revulsion in the metro Detroit area and nationally. Orr's rationale, unquestioned in both the media and the local political establishment, is that the artwork must be considered if Detroit is to pay back its $15 billion in long-term debt.
Orr has threatened that any city asset--from Belle Isle to the Detroit Zoo--is potentially for sale. This is part of the overall assault on city workers and essential services being carried out by the unelected emergency manager with the full backing of the mayor and city council. The corp orate and financial elite believe the artistic achievements of mankind belong to them, not the working class.
A fight against this must begin with a political understanding of the crisis in Detroit and the development of a socialist movement of workers in the Detroit area, nationally and around the world to defend the social rights of the working class, including access to culture.
Thursday June 13, 7:00 PM
First Unitarian-Universalist Church
4605 Cass Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201
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