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Marching Towards the Past in Guatemala

By ANNIE BIRD | CounterPunch | December 30, 2011

In Guatemala, former military officers and their supporters have filed legal charges against human rights activists, journalists, and surviving victims of State repression, even as a former general, Otto Perez Molina – himself implicated in Guatemala’s genocide – prepares to assume the Guatemalan presidency on January 14, 2012!

Moreover, Perez Molina has named high ranking trainers of the brutal Kaibil forces to the top three military command positions. Kaibil’s were directly implicated in the very worst of the State repression and genocide of the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, and some today have direct links to the Mexico-based “Zeta” narco-trafficking cartel.

Furthermore, Perez Molina is getting set to engage the Army in policing matters in partnership with the US government that is launching phase II of the brutal and deadly Mexican “war on drugs” in Central America.

2012: MARCHING TOWARDS THE PAST

As Otto Perez Molina prepares to assume the presidency on January 14, 2011, he has named commanders of Guatemala’s “special forces”, the feared Kaibils, to the highest positions in the military.  Two officers have been appointed to cabinet level positions, even while the respected and courageous Attorney General, Claudia Paz, along with human rights activists and journalists, have come under legal and public attack by war veterans.  Earlier this year, CICIG (the United Nations backed Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala) came under attack from a Washington lobbyist hired by Guatemalan businessmen.

On December 14, 2011, a dual US/ Guatemalan citizen, also a coffee plantation owner, filed legal charges against 52 people, including a US citizen who worked for Amnesty International in Guatemala during the genocide carried out by the military, and including Jennifer Harbury, an attorney who became an internationally recognized campaigner against torture following the extended torture and presumed extrajudicial execution of her husband, Efrain Bamaca, a guerrilla commander she met during peace negotiations in Mexico City.

This is the third legal complaint of its kind lodged over the past month and a half, in what CICIG characterized as an attack on the Attorney General, seemingly an orchestrated campaign pressuring her to resign.

Over the past 2 years, human rights organizations and lawyers – and some politicians – have worked very hard to retake control of the legal system and the administration of justice from organized crime networks which have corrupted elements of the police, prosecuting attorneys and judges.

The clandestine criminal networks in Guatemala today grew out of the military/ business alliances which in the 1960s to early 1990s controlled the nation through US-backed military juntas, carrying out crimes with total impunity ranging from genocide and large scale massacres to drug trafficking.  The current Attorney General, Claudia Paz, has been extremely effective in arresting and prosecuting top organized crime figures and high ranking military officers implicated in crimes against humanity.

GENOCIDE AND WAR CRIMES LINKED SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDERS NAMED TO TOP GOVERNMENT POSITIONS

The return of current and former military officers to high ranking positions in government is deeply concerning to human rights activists. The Guatemalan special-forces unit known as the Kaibils is especially renowned for brutality, and has been extensively implicated in heinous massacres that occurred in the worst years of the “cold war” repression.

President elect Perez Molina is making no concessions to concerns.  Kaibils were named to the three top military positions: Col. Ulises Anzueto as Defense Minister, Col. René Casados Ramírez as Commander of the Joint Chiefs of Defense, and Col Manuel López Ambrosio as Sub-commander of the Joint Chiefs of Defense. Anzueto’s appointment bucks hierarchy, by military tradition his appointment will force 16 Generals to resign.  Another Colonel was named Interior Minister, Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, who managed Perez Molina’s presidential campaign.

In 1995, based on witness testimony and written documentation, Anzueto was named by Harbury as one of three officers responsible for the kidnapping, disappearance and torture of Efrain Bamaca.  Ever since, the case has languished in Guatemalan courts, defying rulings of the Inter American Court of Human Rights.

Otto Perez Molina himself, and two other generals, were named in a second case, focusing on the commanding officers whose direct responsibility became apparent through declassified documents and evidence obtained during the first case, charges filed in March 2011.

ZETA-LINKS AS WELL

The placement of four Kaibils in top government positions, including the presidency, is even more shocking given the extensively reported ties between Kaibils and the gruesomely violent Zeta drug trafficking cartel.

The Zetas were originally an elite unit of the Mexican Army Airborne Special Forces (GAFE) and are reported to have been trained in Fort Bragg, a US military base, to combat drug trafficking. In the late 1990′s they were then trained by the Guatemalan Kaibil “special forces.”

It is widely reported that, in 2000, the unit known as the Zetas left GAFE, en masse, to begin work as Gulf Cartel’s enforcers.  The Gulf Cartel has, for decades, had a solid presence in Central America.  It grew out of a network of local traffickers with strong ties to various militaries and death squads.

Ever since, but particularly since 2005, reports of Zeta recruitment of former Kaibils and former Kaibil training of Zetas, have been frequent.  As recently as April 6, 2011, the Mexican Vice Minister of Security reported that current and former Kaibils were training Zetas in northern Guatemala and participated in drug smuggling, at the same time denouncing a pattern of large scale robbery by Zetas of weapons from military bases in Mexico and Guatemala.

The newly appointed Guatemalan Minister of Defense was the director of the Kaibil training academy until 2009, and the Commander of the Joint Chiefs of Defense was a Kaibil instructor.

The Kaibils have been credited as responsible for introducing some of the most gruesome techniques to the Zetas, including severing heads and dismembering bodies.  This is no surprise given the Kaibils’ savage history in the Guatemalan civil war.  Most recently, on May 17, 2011 former Kaibils, now members of the Zetas, were arrested for the massacre and decapitation of 27 farmworkers on the Los Cocos farm in Sayaxche, Peten.

GENOCIDE PRESIDENT

The savagery of the Kaibils is well known, even within one of the most brutal militaries imaginable, as well documented in two “Truth Commissions,” the 1999 United Nations sponsored report “Memory of Silence” and the 1998 Catholic Church’s report “Guatemala Never Again.”

The United Nations backed Truth Commission found that during conflict over 200,000 people were killed and 45,000 disappeared. It found that 93% of the acts of violence were perpetrated by the military or paramilitary forces, 3% by armed revolutionaries and 3% unidentifiable authors. It documented 626 massacres by State security forces, the vast majority carried out against Mayan communities, and noted:

“The CEH has noted particularly serious cruelty in many acts committed by agents of the State, especially members of the Army, in their operations against Mayan communities… Acts such as the killing of defenseless children, often by beating them against walls or throwing them alive into pits where the corpses of adults were later thrown; the amputation of limbs; the impaling of victims; the killing of persons by covering them in petrol and burning them alive; the extraction, in the presence of others, of the viscera of victims who were still alive; the confinement of people who had been mortally tortured, in agony for days; the opening of the wombs of pregnant women, and other similarly atrocious acts, were not only actions of extreme cruelty against the victims, but also morally degraded the perpetrators and those who inspired, ordered or tolerated these actions.”

In August 2011, four former Kaibils and their commanding officer were sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for their participation in the gruesome massacre of 264 men, women and children in 1982 in the village of Dos Erres, Peten. This was the first time that soldiers have been arrested, tried and sentenced for any of the hundreds of massacres committed by State security forces during the “la violencia” (the violence), the military campaigns from 1981 to 1983.

The UN Truth Commission found that State forces committed acts of genocide against four Mayan peoples, the Achi, Q’anjobal, Kiche and Ixil. President elect Perez Molina commanded the Municipality of Nebaj military base from 1982 until the mid-1980′s, Nebaj being the center of the Ixil genocide.  Survivors describe being tortured by him.  At least one survivor has done so in court, and survivors and leaked military documents demonstrate involvement in massacres.

Legal cases against the intellectual and material authors of the Ixil genocide have also moved forward under the tenure of AG Claudia Paz y Paz. Former General Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes was arrested June 20, 2011, on charges of genocide against the Ixil people between 1982 and 1983. On October 12, 2011 Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, head of military intelligence from 1983 to 1985, was arrested and indicted for genocide against the Ixil people.  The advancement of these cases is now seriously at risk

PRO-MILITARY RALLIES – “WHEN ‘MI GENERAL’ WINS, WE WILL FINISH WHAT WE STARTED”

2011 is the first year military officers (being the “intellectual authors”) have been taken to court for the political crimes of the 1980s, but the impending presidency of one of their own seems to have rallied their spirits.

On November 13, 2011 shortly after Perez Molina’s electoral victory, the military and their supporters rallied in a march in the center of Guatemala City, decrying the prosecution of military officers for war crimes.  This is the first time since the end of the war that the military has carried out a demonstration of this kind.

In the year leading up to the 2011 presidential elections, reports from the countryside indicated that networks of former Civil Defense Patrollers, veterans and other military allies – all implicated in the genocide and other extreme human rights abuses – mobilized to rally support for Perez Molina. Over the past year, frequent reports of vague threats made by these networks have been heard from surviving victims from the 1980′s, along the lines of: “When ‘Mi General’ wins, we will finish what we started.”

POLITICALLY MOTIVATED LEGAL CHARGES

Since June 2011, the association of military veterans and their allies have been taking aim at the current Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz. In newspaper advertisements veterans denounced prosecutors and human rights defenders, claiming the veterans would respond to attacks.  Given the long history of endemic repression in Guatemala, these advertisements are perceived by many as threats.

The ads asserted that military officers were being unfairly persecuted, and that instead of pursuing justice in civilian courts, the Attorney General must respect the military tribunal trials that some of those accused of war crimes had been submitted to, military trials presented clearly as a tactic to avoid being held legally responsible in civilian courts for atrocities.

This year, legislators also attempted to quietly push through a new amnesty law.  Both mechanisms – the mis-use of military tribunals and the passing of amnesty laws – violate international law norms.

On November 2, 2011 retired Col. Ricardo Méndez Ruiz filed legal charges, naming 26 people as responsible for his kidnapping in 1982.

On November 29, 2011 the Military Widows Association filed charges against 32 people for 45 acts of violence they claim were carried out by armed revolutionary movements.

On December 14, 2011 dual US/ Guatemalan citizen and coffee planter Theodore Plocharski, who apparently moved to Guatemala in 1980, filed charges against 52 people attributing to them responsibility for 11 acts of violence against diplomats and foreign military officers.

Many of the individuals named as defendants are repeated in the three complaints.  At least one person named in the charges had not even been born at the time of the alleged acts, others were infants, some were not in the country.

No one doubts that these charges are direct attacks against the Attorney General, human rights activists, academics, politicians and journalists.  Claudia Paz’s deceased father and cousin were named in all three cases.  Others named include: Miguel Angel Albizures, a founder of FAMDEGUA, the victims association that promoted the Dos Erres prosecution; Jennifer Harbury and Jean Marie Simon, international human rights activists; outgoing first lady Sandra Torres; as well as well-known journalists, politicians, feminists, clergy, academics, and others.  Some were members of the revolutionary movements.

CICIG (the United Nations backed Commission Against Impunity) has characterized the series of legal complaints as an orchestrated attack against the Attorney General, noting that Ricardo Méndez Ruiz clearly stated in an interview that he was going after the Attorney General.  The aim of the campaign appears to be to demonstrate that Paz does not lead impartial investigations, a possible pretext to force her out of office.

Even so, the Attorney General has assigned investigation of the charges to a special unit created to investigate war crimes.  If the charges follow the example of those levied against military officers, it may take 15 or more years to go to court, if any evidence is uncovered.  However given the chronic problems of lack of independence of the judiciary, there is definitely a risk that those charged could face biased trials.

President-elect Otto Perez Molina has picked up on the discourse of these seemingly frivolous legal charges. During a November 9, 2011 interview, Perez asserted that justice must be impartial, not “persecution of just one side.” Four distinct revolutionary movements participated in the 36 year armed conflict that ended in 1996. The first revolutionary movement was founded by military officers loyal to the democratically elected government overthrown in a CIA orchestrated coup in 1954.

LEGAL CASES AGAINST DRUG KING-PINS

In addition to helping advance criminal trials against Guatemalan war criminals, Paz has also been highly successful in arresting and extraditing top level drug kingpins, most of whom have been operating with total impunity for decades.  The US ambassador to Guatemala, Arnold Chacon, expressed support for her in November, and on November 30, 2011 Assistant Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Maria Otero, during a visit to Guatemala met with Perez Molina.  Many believe pressure from State Department led to a December 8 joint press conference presented by Perez Molina and Claudia Paz in which they assured that Paz’s job was safe.

PEREZ MOLINA TIES TO WASHINGTON

For decades the State Department has maintained a very close relationship to Perez Molina.  In 1995 he was reported to have been on the CIA payroll while head of military intelligence in 1993, when he oversaw a secret torture center and prison reported to hold over 300 prisoners.  His name was very frequently mentioned in Wikileaks cables.  He is a graduate of the School of the Americas.

Despite extensive evidence of his participation in extreme violations, including a video and photographs of him standing over the bodies of three murdered and tortured indigenous men in 1982, the State Department appears to have done nothing to distance itself from him.  The embassy recognized his victory the night of the election before the official tally was in. Obama even called to congratulate him on November 21, and to express the US interest in cooperation in security initiatives in Central America.

During a December trip to Mexico, Perez Molina visited Mexican President Felipe Calderon to discuss security cooperation.  Human rights activists claim that Calderon’s “war on drugs” has cost 45,000 lives in Mexico and been unsuccessful in stemming trafficking. Calderon’s War is financed by the United States through the Merida Initiative which, when proposed in 2006, was intended to finance security operations in Central America as well as Mexico.  However, only this year has Washington’s focus turned back to Central America, and the region is already showing signs of militarization.

Perez Molina and Calderon share some of the same friends in Washington.  The Spanish public relations firm Ostos & Sola worked on both Perez Molina’s and Calderon’s campaigns, as well as the campaigns of Haitian President Michel Martelly and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, all considered right wing.  The firm’s Executive Director in Washington DC is Damien Merlo, who was previously Vice President of Otto Reich Associates, at a time when the DC lobby firm, run by Bush administration State Department appointee Otto Reich, advocated for the recognition of Honduran coup government of Roberto Micheletti.

MILITARIZATION versus JUSTICE

Earlier this year, in March 2011, Washington’s own breed of political hit men, lobbyists or strategic advisors, were hired to take on, or out, the highly successful United Nations backed Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, CICIG. Former Ambassador Robert Geldbard of Washington Global Partners, a former special envoy to the Balkans during the Clinton Presidency and later Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, was hired by Guatemalan businessmen, including WalMart Central America Vice President Salvador Paiz, reportedly to undermine CICIG’s image with its funders in Washington and New York, the Congress and the United Nations.

According to an October 15, 2011 article in the Economist, Guatemalan businessmen were reportedly angered by the arrest warrants issued against the former Minister of Governance Carlos Vielmann, accused by CICIG of running an organized crime related death squad within the police.

Cleaning up corruption at the highest levels of government is apparently not popular amongst the powerful economic and military sectors, but it is obviously key to ending the devastating violence, repression and impunity in Central America, and is completely dependent on the political will of the powerful sectors in Guatemala and the so-called international community.

As efforts were underway to undermine CICIG’s support in New York and Washington, both the UN and the State Department were pushing full steam ahead on the Central America Security Strategy, particularly focused on a push to ‘reform’ the police forces in Central America, which in El Salvador and Guatemala were created from forces ‘recycled’ from the militaries.

In the ‘Northern Triangle’ of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador), the police forces (historically linked to and dependent on the militaries) are infamously corrupt.  The US, United Nations and international community are seemingly turning to infamously corrupt, violent and criminal military partners to ‘clean up’ security.

In furtherance to this focus on strengthening police forces in the Northern Triangle countries, in November, Panamanian President Martinelli announced that the US and Colombia are establishing in Panama a joint training center for police forces from throughout the region, bringing back nightmarish memories of the School of the Americas, which originally trained military forces from throughout Latin America in Panama.

PRIVATIZATION

There also appears to be a push to involve private security contractors in the police reforms and ‘anti-narcotics war’ in Central America.  Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has coordinated a series of conferences for mayors and presidents of Central America, sponsored by private security corporation Continental Security and Integrated Systems (CIS).  55% of Plan Colombia funds were spent on US based private security contractors.  It appears Central America will follow suit.

Military and former military officers dominate the private security industry throughout the region, and in recent years the presence of private security forces in the countryside, especially in Guatemala and Honduras, has grown extensively, largely present where mines, hydroelectric dams and biofuel projects are being developed by transnational corporations and the local elite.

In the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras, it is reported that 1980s death squad member Billy Joya advised the local police before a rash of death squad style killings of land rights activists in conflict with biofuel producers broke out; at least 50 campesinos activists have been killed in under two years.

In addition to Washington’s willingness to work with incoming president Perez Molina and his Kaibil cabal, in El Salvador former General Munguia was named Security Minister in November, an extremely controversial move toward ‘militarization’ of civilian security.  Analysts claim that the appointment came in response to pressure form the US Embassy.

Perez Molina has pledged to deploy Kaibils to combat drug trafficking, despite accusations against current and former Kaibils of participating in drug trafficking.  He has also pledged to mobilize the Airforce Special Forces in the drug war, and to expand the military by 2,500 new elements.

In Honduras, the reform program has been vigorously denounced as a charade run by the same corrupt power players that created the criminal networks within the police and that supported the 2009 military coup against the democratically elected government of President Zelaya.  Alfredo Landaverde, a former Anti Narcotics Chief and one of the most outspoken critics of the “reform,” was gunned down by motorcycle assassins on December 7.

GRIM PROSPECTS FOR REAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE

While undoubtedly clean police forces are critical to building safe communities, pouring money, arms and training into corrupted security forces, as shown by the Zetas, will only fuel the violence, corruption and impunity.

There must be real political interest in addressing impunity and corruption and in prosecuting organized crimes’ political power players.  Apparently prosecution of corruption is not good for transnational business interests, but the security industry is big business.

Annie Bird is co-director of Rights Action, www.rightsaction.org.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | 1 Comment

Two Thirds of U.S. Foreign Aid is Really Military Aid

By David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | December 26, 2011

When some Americans complain that foreign aid is wasting taxpayer money abroad that could be put to better use at home, they may not realize that today’s version of foreign aid isn’t what it used to be. Call it the Pentagon-zation of U.S. foreign assistance.

Until a few years ago, the State Department was the leading U.S. government agency when it came to doling out foreign aid. But beginning in the second term of George W. Bush’s presidency, and continuing through the Obama administration, the Department of Defense has surpassed the State Department in supporting foreign initiatives, most of which have been military oriented.

For the past two years, the Pentagon has been given $10 billion more than the State Department for foreign aid projects. With $17 billion, Defense officials plan for the coming year to invest in foreign military and police training, counter-drug assistance, counterterrorism activities and infrastructure projects, among other programs.

Among the expenditures included in the recently passed 2012 National Defense Authorization Act are $1.1 billion to the government of Pakistan for alleged counterinsurgency efforts and $415 million for two programs known euphemistically as the Combatant Commander Initiative Fund and the Commander Emergency Response Fund. Translated into everyday English, this means cash that can be handed out by U.S. commanders.

Gordon Adams of the Stimson Center told iWatch News that by shifting foreign aid to military programs “you end up strengthening those instruments which are least democratic fundamentally.”

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | Comments Off on Two Thirds of U.S. Foreign Aid is Really Military Aid

Israel’s Repressive Permit System

By Stephen Lendman | The People’s Voice | December 28th, 2011

Under South African apartheid, pass laws segregated blacks from whites, restricted their movements, required pass books be carried at all times, and be produced on demand or face arrest and prosecution.

Evolving from the 18th and 19th century until their 1986 repeal, they restricted entry to cities, forcibly relocated blacks, denied them most public amenities, many forms of employment, and became apartheid’s most hated symbol.

Repressive Israeli occupation is worse. It’s a sophisticated form of social, economic, political and racial discrimination, strangulation, and genocide.

It incorporates the worst elements of colonialism and apartheid as well as repressive dispossession, displacement and state terrorism. It separates Palestinians from their land and heritage, denies them their lawful rights, and displaces them from areas Israel wants exclusively for Jews.

Apartheid is the worst form of racism. Israel’s militarized occupation is the worst form of apartheid. It incorporates violence, military incursions, land theft, home demolitions, targeted assassinations, murder, mass arrests, torture, destruction of agricultural land, and isolation. It’s slow-motion genocide, including suffocating Gazans under siege.

The ID/permit system is one of many elements designed to make greater Israel an ethnically pure Jewish state.

Israel requires all permanent residents and citizens over 16 to have a color-coded ID cards. Called te’udat zehut, they’re for West Bank and Gazan Palestinians, East Jerusalem ones, Israeli Arabs and Jews.

For Palestinians, they dictate where they may live, work, move, or be allowed through West Bank checkpoints, to Israel or Gaza. Doing so requires hard to get permits. They’re easily cancelled without notice.

Jews have blue IDs, Palestinians either Israeli-issued orange ones (in Hebrew) or nearly identical Palestinian Authority-issued green ones with a PA seal on top. The following information is included:

  • name and ID number;
  • father and mother’s names;
  • date and place of birth;
  • religion;
  • marital status;
  • gender; and
  • photo.

Prior to 2005, ethnicity was also included. It’s still available on request from state registrations.

A separate document includes:

  • current and previous addresses;
  • previous names;
  • citizenship, including for permanent resident citizens of other countries;
  • name, birth date and ID numbers for spouse and children; and
  • electoral polling stamp.

Israel’s Bureaucratic Nightmare

On December 23, Haaretz writer Chaim Levinson headlined, “Israel has 101 different types of permits governing Palestinian movement,” saying:

Most common ones let Palestinians “work in Israel, or in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Over the decades, however, the permit regimen has grown into a vast, triple-digit bureaucracy.”

Separate permits are required for Al-Aqsa Mosque worshippers and clerics. Medical permits distinguish between physicians and ambulance drivers. They also differ for “medical emergency staff” and “medical staff” in the seam zone (between the Green Line and Israel’s Separation Wall).

Escorting a patient in an ambulance requires permit permission as does simply accompanying a patient.

Others are for traveling to a West Bank wedding or Israel, as well as visiting Israel for a funeral, work meeting, or court hearing.

New permits followed Israel’s Separation Wall construction, including for farmers cut off from their land. For example, permit permission is required for “farmer(s) in the seam zone.” A separate one is for “permanent farmer(s) in the seam zone.” In other words, working one’s own land requires Israeli permission.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Occupied Palestine-based international agencies waste 20% of their time applying for, renewing, and dealing with permit related problems.

Machsom Watch, a checkpoint monitoring organization, claims Shin Bet uses Israel’s permit system to recruit informers. Palestinians rejected for security reasons are targeted. In return for spying, they offer “assistance” getting permits.

Besides other daily abuses, Israel’s permit system creates a dystopian nightmare for Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Major media scoundrels almost never discuss its existence, let alone its draconian harshness.

A Final Comment

In 2001, Israel enacted an Electronic Signature Law. Plans were to issue smart ID cards. The project stalled for a decade. Storing biometric data electronically raises privacy and other civil liberty concerns.

Unlike magnetic cards, however, biometric characteristics are hard to counterfeit, copy, share, lose, or guess.

After much debate, Israel’s Knesset enacted the Biometric Database Law in December 2009. A year later, Netanyahu’s government approved it. As a result, the Interior Ministry will begin issuing Israeli citizens smart ID cards and electronic passports with embedded chips over a two year trial period.

New regulations call for:

  • issuing a biometric ID;
  • requiring fingerprints and facial images;
  • encrypting and securing the data; and
  • transferring it among authorized agencies.

At the end of the year end 2013 trial period, all Israeli citizens will be required to provide biometric data for IDs, passports, and storage in Israel’s national database.

Palestinians already must have their hands electronically scanned when applying for Israeli-Issued Magnetic ID cards. At issue is facilitating freer movement under repressive imposed restrictions.

For example, West Bank Palestinians wishing to reach Jerusalem, Gaza or Israel must apply and pay for a magnetic card. Having one proves they have security clearance permission. If gotten, it’s for short periods. Most often it’s for medical or other emergencies.

Foreign travel requires an Interior Ministry-issued “laisser passer.” If granted, it’s good for one year and renewable only in Israel. To reach Jordan, a valid passport is needed. Many West Bank and East Jerusalemites have it as the Hashemite Kingdom once administered the Territory.

Under siege, Gazans are entirely isolated with few exceptions, other than those able to reach Egypt through Rafah. Those granted travel permission to Jordan or abroad via Ben Gurion Airport must have authorized IDs, magnetic cards and permits.

For decades under occupation, Palestinians have been governed by hundreds of draconian military orders. They cover virtually everything from bank account withdrawals, water rights, land transactions, opening a business, growing onions, public gatherings, what can and can’t be published, planting and growing fruit trees, and much more.

Under military occupation, their lives are repressively micromanaged. Orwell understood it well. He once called “the price of liberty….not so much eternal vigilance as eternal dirt.” Getting it, of course, is worth it.

~

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | Comments Off on Israel’s Repressive Permit System

It’s Sick to Depend on War for Economic Health

By Debbie Harbeson | The Suburban Voluntaryist | October 27, 2011

SELLERSBURG — During World War I, Randolph Bourne wrote, “War is the health of the state.” Bourne was referring to nation-states of course, but considering what I’ve learned recently, it seems appropriate to say “war is the health of the state of Indiana.”

According to a 2011 Indiana University report, back in 2001, Indiana received $1.8 billion from the federal government in the form of defense contracts. This number grew to more than $4 billion over the next decade. We all know why the growth occurred: War.

This report, titled “Building National Security: The Economic Impact of Indiana’s Defense Industry,” explains that the ability to attract federal defense spending is of great benefit to Indiana. The introductory letter signed by the lieutenant governor and the IU president says, “… it is critical to the state of Indiana and its work force that the defense industry continues to flourish here.”

I don’t agree. It’s extremely unwise to develop an economy based not only on government spending, which requires taxation and/or debt, but which also depends on death and destruction for growth.

As a result of their desire for continued and increased federal defense spending, a private-public partnership firm, Conexus Indiana, and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. have created the Indiana Aerospace and Defense Council for the specific purpose of promoting Indiana as a great place for the federal government to spend its defense budget.

It’s bad enough that state government uses the euphemism “economic development” in an attempt to centrally plan an economy by spending tax money in ways that favor some industries and businesses over others, but using funds to lobby for increased federal spending that supports war attacks the sensibilities of all peace-loving individuals.

But those who directly benefit don’t see it this way. The groups involved — the politicians, the state universities and the corporations — all benefit from the business that results when the nation-state participates in war. No one wants to acknowledge the horrible truth embedded in the fact that pushing the defense industry encourages the development of businesses that are healthiest during wartime — in other words, peace makes them sick.

This council also wants to increase the number of companies involved, but any business owner should be cautious about such a move. Besides the more obvious concerns when businesses get involved in war, there can also be plenty of unanticipated costs.

For example, as I was browsing around the website of CACI, the newest business to locate in New Albany’s Purdue Research Park, I was amazed at how much time, money and energy this company is spending as it works to disassociate itself from the abuse and torture controversy at Abu-Ghraib prison in Iraq. I wonder if they think the contract was worth it.

Indiana is already receiving fewer defense dollars as the federal government’s involvement in the current wars change. However, instead of seeing this as a warning, signaling a need to gain freedom from such dependency, officials are making decisions that will only suck Indiana in even deeper.

Should the businesses in this state increase their dependency on an “industry” that experiences its best growth when the federal government gets involved in nasty wars far from the actual soil they claim to be defending?

Or would it be better to spend energy working to create products and services that enrich lives, thereby encouraging mutually beneficial peaceful trade and friendly relationships?

I am concerned, and even mourning, this realization of where human energy and resources have been focused, because I do not want war to be the health of the state of Indiana.

Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is sick of government interference.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | Comments Off on It’s Sick to Depend on War for Economic Health

Biofuels not food the biggest driver of ‘land grabbing’ deals, says report

‘Land grab’ report highlights growing interest from speculators in ‘flex’ crops like soya, palm oil and sugarcane that can be used for biofuels or food

By Laurie Tuffrey | The Ecologist | 18th December, 2011

The amount of land acquired for biofuels globally is far higher than previously thought, according to one of the most comprehensive assessments yet by the International Land Coalition (ILC).

Biofuels are now the major driver for large-scale purchases of farmland or ‘land grabbing’ in the global south, with almost 53 per cent of the 71 million hectares cross-referenced in the report, being used for biofuels.

In Africa, the impact of biofuels was even stronger with 66 per cent of land purchases used for biofuels. Food was next highest at 15 per cent.

This is far higher than a World Bank’s analysis last year that just 21 per cent of global land grab deals conducted between 2008-9 were being used for biofuels.

Europe’s biofuel demand

Campaigners say ‘land grabbing’ is being driven by EU targets to source 10 per cent of all transport fuels for buses and cars from biofuels rather than conventional fossil fuels by 2020.

‘These findings suggest that the scale of land-grabbing for biofuel production is far worse than previously imagined,’ Robbie Blake of Friends of the Earth Europe. ‘Europe’s appetite for land is already unsustainable, reaching well beyond its borders, with devastating social and environmental impacts.’

The report, ‘Land Rights and the Rush for Land’, involved the collaboration of over 40 different organisations in the research process – the biggest study to date. It says rural livelihoods have been put in jeopardy by the land grabbing deals, with the promise of jobs not, as yet, materialising.

‘Weak governance, corruption and a lack of transparency in decision-making, which are key features of the  typical environment in which large-scale land acquisitions take place, mean that the poor gain few benefits from these deals but pay high costs,’ says Dr Madiodio Niasse, Secretariat Director of the International Land Coalition.

Rise in ‘flex’ crops

Report author Michael Taylor, from the International Land Coalition, says they were surprised by the dominance of biofuels in land grabbing deals.

‘What one would expect is that food would be a bigger driver, because biofuel is largely driven by two factors which can change quite quickly: one is subsidy […] the other is other is technological change.’

Taylor said that there had also been a rise in ‘flex’ crops in land grabbing deals, which could be used for biofuels or food, such as soya, palm oil and sugar cane.

‘I think some savvy investors are moving towards planting crops that, as the market changes, they can use for whatever they want. At the moment, it looks like energy is maybe more profitable than food, and so it’s biofuel food stock. But, if something changes in the market, they can change it to food.’

After biofuels and food, the other main drivers of land-grabbing deals were mineral exploitation, tourism and carbon sequestration projects. It is not just foreign investors who buy land either, in some cases national elites were behind the deals, buying up land before offering their services to overseas companies.

Land deals going wrong

The report highlighted land grab deals that went wrong and left local populations with degraded land. For example, in Mozambique and Tanzania land was abandoned after the financial crisis and changing oil prices, which made biofuels less attractive to speculators.

As well as changing financial circumstances, the report says many investments were failing because of unrealistic targets and an underestimation of the technical, logistical, administrative and community engagement challenges involved in getting these projects going.’

Governments were also guilty of abusing the land rights of local communities. In Ethiopia, a large area of land owned by the Indian company Karuturi has been put out of bounds to its original users, despite the company only using a small area of it, denying them access to a water supply and thereby rendering their grazing land useless.

And in Indonesia, the government has given large concessions of forest to companies to produce oil, which was subsequently harvested for its timber without any planting taking place, leaving the area unusable by its local communities.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | Comments Off on Biofuels not food the biggest driver of ‘land grabbing’ deals, says report

Gaza Lives: Reflecting on ‘Operation Cast Lead’


And the flag that refuses to lie down. (Julie Webb)
By Mohammed AlNadi | Palestine Chronicle | December 29, 2011

Gaza – In Israel, nothing is more rewarding than committing systematic mass killings and war crimes against Palestinians. It seems, according to Israel’s moral system and code of conduct, nothing is more trivial than a Palestinian life. Inflicting death on Palestinians is not punishable in Israel but instead ornamented with decoration and job advancement. I reckon it’s the highest and most honorable accomplishment through which an Israeli soldier can achieve most prominent ranks in the military.

This has been evident throughout the Palestine-Israel conflict, as countless planned massacres were and are still being committed against Palestinians since Palestine was occupied in 1948, and typically, the perpetrators have always been leaders of sorts, either political or military figures.

For example, every year Palestinians widely remember Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered in Beirut, Lebanon in 1982. An independent Israeli investigation followed at the time, and it held the then minister of defense Ariel Sharon responsible for allowing the massacre to take place. Not only that, Sharon was found guilty of committing several pogroms against Palestinians. However, he never stood a trial; but on the contrary, he kept ascending the highest rungs of power, where he eventually ended up being Israel’s prime minister in 2001.

Colonizers living on land illegally sequestrated from Palestinians in the West Bank are possibly most hostile to Palestinians, who are subject to constant humiliation and attacks. Every now and then, news is heard of separate incidents of settlers stabbing an unarmed Palestinian, running over a child, or committing mass murder, like the Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein did in 1994, when he opened fire inside the Ibrahimi Mosque at the Palestinian prayers performing the dawn prayer during the Holy Ramadan, killing 29 persons, and injuring another 125.

Israel’s 22 day invasion of the Gaza Strip three years ago was not an exception. Based on universally held moral values and international laws of war, a lot of neutral and fact-based reports conducted by human rights organizations, including the Goldstone report, and consistent documentations proved that Israel committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians. Israel particularly dismissed the Goldstone report as “biased and one-sided,” refused to cooperate and claimed it would launch its own investigations.

A year ago, the Guardian reported that: “The military’s Judge Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit ordered almost 50 investigations arising from the operation.” Surely, one can’t help but burst into laughter at what some of these investigations were about. The report continues recounting three specific cases, one of which was “for stealing and using a Palestinian’s credit card”. Another Israeli soldier was convicted “for forcing an 11-year-old boy to open bags which could have contained explosives.” For Israeli judges, stealing one’s money—still immoral of the Israeli army–is by all means far more incriminatory than bombing his body. And did Israel really sanctify the Palestinian children’s lives? If so, what about the 352 children who were killed in cold blood? Were they all posing a threat to Israeli soldiers?

Some of the alleged Israeli investigations were reportedly said to be covering—as Col. Tamir Yadi put it—”claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed,” but not mentioning a single word about Al Samouni massacre, the single most atrocious incident in the entire assault, where Israeli forces had ordered the entire Al Samouni family to gather in one house—of course, to ensure the highest ratio of casualties–before they premeditatedly bombed it, killing 21 persons and injuring 19 others.

The incident, however, grabbed the world’s attention as hundreds of media reports and firsthand witnesses amassed. Israel immediately pretended an investigation was under way. Despite the overwhelming evidence, including a bunch of air force officers’ compatible testimony, that Ilan Malka, a senior brigade commander, was responsible for authorizing the strike while being aware of a civilian presence in the area. Later on, exactly three years after the massacre, Israel deliberately buried the case and didn’t take any legal actions against him, but instead decided to promote him to the position of brigadier general.

This was quite shocking to me, but later I couldn’t think of any “state” other than Israel capable of doing this. And in retrospect, I was able to grasp the horridness of this racist, inhumane behavior of Israel.

December 27, 2011 marks the third anniversary of Israel’s war–or “Operation Cast Lead,” as Israel sinisterly put it– on the Gaza Strip in late 2008. What can’t be coincidental is the day on which Israel initiated its intensive airstrikes before it proceeded with a 22-day operation from land and sea; it was few days before 2008 drew to a close.

The end of every year is and will always be totally different for the people of Gaza, for it evokes all the painful memories of bodies torn asunder, of houses, mosques and schools destroyed. The timing of the strike was absolutely right, that Israel purposely intended to make the grievance of the people of Gaza recurrent.

Even the Gaza youth, instead of celebrating the heraldry of the new year by congratulating each other and posting hopeful wishes on all social networking sites like the people in the rest of the world do, you see most of them posting statuses of reverential sorrow and lamentation, and make the famous corner-taped black background picture indicating mourning for Gaza their profile pictures. Some others post pictures of burnt children or their beloved relatives Israel killed during the 22 days.

The same is true for Christians in Gaza. They suffered just as equally. When they were supposed to celebrate their Holy Christmas peacefully in 2008, Israel rained on their parade and turned it into an absolute nightmare, which is going to be remembered yearly.

The irony seems beyond imagination; while the entire world was preparing to welcome 2009’s beginning with celebrations and fireworks, Palestinians in Gaza were made to have their own special rituals and extraordinary fireworks too, but ones that rained downwards and made flesh sizzle and bones melt.

This, however, didn’t work completely. It is true Palestinians lost their sons and houses, but one thing they can’t lose for sure is their resilient spirit and ability to heal. In Gaza, meanwhile, Christians are going to churches, decorating their Xmas trees and having lively celebrations. Also, Muslims are going to celebrate on the eve of the New Year and hang out with family and friends. My friends and I have plans too.

– Mohammed AlNadi is Gaza-based English literature graduate. He works as a translator.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | 1 Comment

Russian nuclear submarine catches fire

Press TV – December 30, 2011

Russia’s 11,740-ton Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine catches fire on Thursday while being repaired in the northern Murmansk region.
One of Russia’s biggest nuclear submarines has caught fire while docked in the northern Murmansk region but no radiation leak has been reported so far, officials say.

The 11,740-ton Yekaterinburg was undergoing repairs when the fire broke out, spreading fast from the shipyard’s wooden structures to the submarine’s outer hull, Northern Fleet navy spokesman Vadim Serga said on Thursday.

A special helicopter was used in a massive salvage operation to douse the flames with tons of water from above.

Emergency workers, 11 fire crews and a navy fire boat were involved in launching the operation.

A defense ministry spokesman said that the submarine’s two reactors had been switched off long before the repairs started and there was “no threat of a nuclear radiation leak.”

“The power unit was switched off and is now safe,” defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Russia’s Northern Fleet has had a series of small accidents, in addition to a deadly disaster in August 2000, when 118 seamen died on board the Kursk nuclear submarine when it caught fire and exploded while at sea.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Nuclear Power | Comments Off on Russian nuclear submarine catches fire

Venezuela’s Chavez Speculates over Coincidence of Leftwing Latin American Presidents with Cancer

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | December 29th 2011

Mérida – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has expressed his “suspicions” over the number of left wing Latin American presidents who have acquired cancer recently.

“It’s difficult to explain, at this point, what is happening to some of us in Latin America,” Chavez said. “It’s strange that [Paraguayan president Fernando] Lugo, [Brazilian president] Dilma [Rousseff], and then myself, and a few days later [ex Brazilian president Luiz Inacio] Lula [Da Silva] and now Cristina [Fernandez] have contracted cancer”.

“Would it be strange if the U.S had developed the technology to induce cancer? I don’t know, I leave it to be reflected on,” he added.

“I don’t want to make any reckless accusations, but just a while ago I heard president Alvaro Colom [of Guatemala] telling the United States that it should accept its responsibility and seek forgiveness from the Guatemalan people, because it was shown, fifty years later, that they ran a biological and chemical operation, venereal diseases included, in the country, for scientific tests,” Chavez added.

On 4 January Fernandez will be operated on for thyroid cancer. According to Alfredo Scoccimarrio, Argentine secretary of communication, there is no metastasis. Abiding by constitutional regulations, the vice president, Amado Boudou, will take over Fernandez’s responsibilities while she is in hospital.

Lugo was diagnosed with treatable lymphatic cancer in August last year, Rouseff underwent cancer treatment in 2009, also for lymphoma, In October this year Lula’s larynx cancer was detected, and Chavez was diagnosed with cancer in June this year. He has since announced his “full recovery”.

The Venezuelan foreign affairs ministry released a statement yesterday saying Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had called Fernandez, worried, and to express his solidarity. Fernandez said he was the first president to call her.

According to the statement, during the conversation Fernandez said she would like to be included in the “Summit of Presidents who have overcome cancer” and they talked about asking Lula to coordinate the event. Lula proposed the conference on 3 November this year.

The statement said the conversation concluded with Chavez wishing Fernandez “good health” and saying “We’ll live and we’ll overcome”, a slogan Chavez has been using instead of ‘socialism, homeland, or death’ since he himself fought cancer.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | War Crimes | 1 Comment

Pakistan defies US, honors Iran gas deal

Press TV – December 29, 2011

Islamabad has stepped up work on its bilateral agreements with Tehran including the implementation of a Pak-Iran gas pipeline project despite US threats.

“Construction work on the pipeline in Iranian area was completed. And on remaining portion that was to be constructed in Pakistani area the survey has been completed. Pakistan is bearing losses due to energy crises and it would go ahead with different options including Iran,” The Nation quoted a Pakistani official as saying on Thursday.

The Pakistani source added Islamabad had not backed down from its trade agreement with Iran.

On December 19, high-ranking Islamabad diplomats said the administration of Barack Obama is frustrated with the “rapid progress” of Pakistan’s gas project with Iran, and is exhausting all its resources to sabotage the deal.

“They (US officials) have gone to the extent of threatening [Pakistan’s] President [Asif Ali] Zardari of economic sanctions if work is not stopped immediately,” the official said.

Zardari, however, reportedly dismissed the threats, bluntly asserting that the commissioning of the project is vital and inevitable for the wellbeing of Pakistan’s “fast crumbling” economy.

The USD 7.6 billion gas pipeline deal, which was signed in June 2010, aims to export a daily amount of 21.5 million cubic meters (or 8.7 billion cubic meters per year) of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan.

Iran and Pakistan finalized the details of the deal during bilateral talks held in Tehran in October 2007.

In addition to exporting gas to Turkey, Armenia, and Pakistan, Iran is currently negotiating gas exports to Iraq.

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | Comments Off on Pakistan defies US, honors Iran gas deal

Public health fallout from Japanese quake

Lauren Vogel, with files from Barbara Sibbald | CMAJ | December 21, 2011

A “culture of coverup” and inadequate cleanup efforts have combined to leave Japanese people exposed to “unconscionable” health risks nine months after last year’s meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, health experts say.

Although the Japanese government has declared the plant virtually stable, some experts are calling for evacuation of people from a wider area, which they say is contaminated with radioactive fallout.

They’re also calling for the Japanese government to reinstate internationally-approved radiation exposure limits for members of the public and are slagging government officials for “extreme lack of transparent, timely and comprehensive communication.”

But temperatures inside the Fukushima power station’s three melted cores have achieved a “cold shutdown condition,” while the release of radioactive materials is “under control,” according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. That means government may soon allow some of the more than 100 000 evacuees from the area around the plant to return to their homes. They were evacuated from the region after it was struck with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami last March 11.

Although the potential for further explosions with substantial releases of radioactivity into the atmosphere is certainly reduced, the plant is still badly damaged and leaking radiation, says Tilman Ruff, chair of the Medical Association for Prevention of Nuclear War, who visited the Fukushima prefecture in August. “There are major issues of contamination on the site. Aftershocks have been continuing and are expected to continue for many months, and some of those are quite large, potentially causing further damage to structures that are already unstable and weakened. And we know that there’s about 120 000 tons of highly contaminated water in the base of the plant, and there’s been significant and ongoing leakage into the ocean.”

The full extent of contamination across the country is even less clear, says Ira Hefland, a member of the board of directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility. “We still don’t know exactly what radiation doses people were exposed to [in the immediate aftermath of the disaster] or what ongoing doses people are being exposed to. Most of the information we’re getting at this point is a series of contradictory statements where the government assures the people that everything’s okay and private citizens doing their own radiation monitoring come up with higher readings than the government says they should be finding.”

Japanese officials in Tokyo have documented elevated levels of cesium — a radioactive material with a half-life of 30 years that can cause leukemia and other cancers — more than 200 kilometres away from the plant, equal to the levels in the 20 kilometre exclusion zone, says Robert Gould, another member of the board of directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility.

International authorities have urged Japan to expand the exclusion zone around the plant to 80 kilometres but the government has instead opted to “define the problem out of existence” by raising the permissible level of radiation exposure for members of the public to 20 millisieverts per year, considerably higher than the international standard of one millisievert per year, Gould adds.

This “arbitrary increase” in the maximum permissible dose of radiation is an “unconscionable” failure of government, contends Ruff. “Subject a class of 30 children to 20 millisieverts of radiation for five years and you’re talking an increased risk of cancer to the order of about 1 in 30, which is completely unacceptable. I’m not aware of any other government in recent decades that’s been willing to accept such a high level of radiation-related risk for its population.”

Following the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, “clear targets were set so that anybody anticipated to receive more than five millisieverts in a year were evacuated, no question,” Ruff explains. In areas with levels between one and five millisieverts, measures were taken to mitigate the risk of ingesting radioactive materials, including bans on local food consumption, and residents were offered the option of relocating. Exposures below one millisievert were still considered worth monitoring.

In comparison, the Japanese government has implemented a campaign to encourage the public to buy produce from the Fukushima area, Ruff added. “That response [in Chernobyl] 25 years ago in that much less technically sophisticated, much less open or democratic context, was, from a public health point of view, much more responsible than what’s being done in modern Japan this year.”

Were Japan to impose similar strictures, officials would have to evacuate some 1800 square kilometres and impose restrictions on food produced in another 11 100 square kilometres, according to estimates of the contamination presented by Dr. Kozo Tatara for the Japan Public Health Association at the American Public Health Association’s 139th annual meeting and exposition in November in Washington, District of Columbia.

“It’s very difficult to persuade people that the level [of exposure set by the government] is okay,” Tatara told delegates to the meeting. He declined requests for an interview.

The Japanese government is essentially contending that the higher dose is “not dangerous,” explains Hefland. “However, since the accident, it’s become clear the Japanese government was lying through its teeth, doing everything it possible could to minimize public concern, even when that meant denying the public information needed to make informed decisions, and probably still is.”

“It’s now clear they knew within a day or so there had been a meltdown at the plant, yet they didn’t disclose that for weeks, and only with great prodding from the outside,” Hefland adds. “And at the same moment he was assuring people there was no public health disaster, the Prime Minister now concedes that he thought Tokyo would have to be evacuated but was doing nothing to bring that about.”

Ruff similarly charges that the government has mismanaged the file and provided the public with misinformation. As an example, he cites early reports that stable iodine had been distributed to children and had worked effectively, when, “in fact, iodine wasn’t given to anyone.”

Public distrust is at a level that communities have taken cleanup and monitoring efforts into their own hands as the government response to the crisis has been “woefully inadequate” and officials have been slow to respond to public reports of radioactive hotspots, Gould says. “That’s led to the cleanup of some affected areas, but there are also reports of people scattering contaminated soil willy-nilly in forests and areas surrounding those towns.”

“In some places, you can see mounds of contaminated soil that have just been aggregated under blue tarps,” he adds.

Even with government assistance, there are limits to the decontamination that can be achieved, explains Hefland. “What do you do with the stuff? Do you scrape entire topsoil? How far down you have to go? And if you wash down the buildings, what do you do with the waste water?”

As well, Ruff argues the government must examine the provision of compensation for voluntary evacuation from areas outside of the exclusion zone where there are high levels of radioactive contamination. Without such compensation, many families have no option but to stay, he says. “At this point, the single most important public health measure to minimize the health harm over the longterm is much wider evacuation.”

The Japanese government did not respond to inquiries.

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Nuclear Power | 1 Comment

New Report: “Recording Everything” Details How Governments Can Shape the Dynamics of Dissent

By Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post | December 29, 2011

A recent Brookings Institution report has now confirmed what many have suspected for some time – that the United States government (and virtually every other government in the world) has the capability to monitor and record nearly every interaction that occurs within its national borders.

For years, those individuals who have tried to warn others of the creeping surveillance state were met with denials and catcalls of “conspiracy theory,” as well as the famous claims that it was not physically possible to monitor everyone.

This new report, however, shatters into a million pieces the delusional rationalities of the uninformed.

The Brookings Institution report entitled, “Recording Everything: Digital Storage as an Enabler of Authoritarian Governments” (.pdf) discusses the increasing capacities for surveillance due to the improvement in technology and the sinking costs of its procurement, along with the implications for human rights and authoritarianism that come along with it.

The report begins by stating:

Within the next few years an important threshold will be crossed: For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders – every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner. Governments with a history of using all of the tools at their disposal to track and monitor their citizens will undoubtedly make full use of this capability once it becomes available.

Although the study suggests that governments will make use of this technology “once it becomes available,” anyone who has done even cursory research into the technological and intelligence capabilities of major governments is aware that, when technologies are announced to the general public, the actual capabilities of these governments to harness that technology are light years ahead of what is being announced. Indeed, the technology itself is almost always already obsolete before it’s theoretical presentation is even offered up for digestion by the mass population.

It is also interesting to note that John Villasenor, the author of the study, makes continual reference to the “world’s remaining authoritarian regimes,” specifically those of Syria, Iran, Burma, and China, but completely leaves out those of the United States, Australia, Israel, and Great Britain to name a few. This is no doubt an intentional propaganda move. However, the reader should not dismiss reality in the same manner as Villasenor.

Obviously, Villasenor and the Brookings Institution know full well that the United States and virtually the entire Western World has become an authoritarian surveillance society, yet the Western nations are left out of the description due to the fact that the report functions more as a promotion of the technology than a warning. The Brookings report is an introduction flyer to the professorial, foundational, and cultural working class (those individuals who gradually implement the totalitarian system consciously, but often unconsciously as well). In this sense, the report is clearly not a study.

It is for this reason that the report focuses on oppressive governments in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. But it is also because these nations are to be the next target of direct military action by the Anglo-American empire. The Libyan tragedy is referenced repeatedly in the report, but only in the context of Ghaddafi’s surveillance capabilities within his own country.

Without seeking to reinforce the lies told about the Ghaddafi regime or the status of the Libyan people over the last year, it is nevertheless interesting to mention the surveillance capabilities of the regime as they are summed up by the Brookings report. Villasenor cites a Wall Street Journal article that claims Ghaddafi’s intelligence agencies were able to “capture and archive “30 to 40 million minutes of telephone conversations every month and to regularly read emails exchanged among activists.” All of this by a regime that was relatively weak, particularly in its ability to stave off an outside invasion of NATO bombing and foreign intelligence subversion conducted by much more sophisticated nations.

Villasenor goes on to say, “The Ghadaffi regime was unusual among dictatorships only in that its internal spying activities were so thoroughly unmasked, not that they were occurring.” This much is true.

However, the reader must turn this reasoning back toward his own country and ask, If a weak Ghaddafi regime was capable of so much surveillance of its own people, and if these types of spying activities are commonplace amongst governments, would it not stand to reason that the United States government, which is light years more advanced than the Libyan one, can and is conducting surveillance against its own citizens as well? Not only that, since the capabilities of the U.S. government are so much more than that of Ghadaffi and Ghadaffi-like regimes, it would also stand to reason that U.S. government surveillance is being conducted at immensely more sophisticated levels. The same goes for any Western nation.

If the Libyan government is unique only in that its surveillance has been unmasked, what then of the Bush-era domestic surveillance program or the openness of the American government in monitoring Twitter feeds, social networking sites, or even the legal declarations of surveillance carried in the PATRIOT Act, the Telecommunications Act, and Patriot Act 2? These programs have not been unmasked. They are freely admitted. Is it even imaginable, then, the true capabilities that exist in the recesses of the military and intelligence communities in our own nation?

Although Villasenor limits his discussion to the next targets of the Anglo-American empire, his statements are easily transposed to apply to those nations who currently have such capabilities and who have already implemented them under the cover of popular acceptance and “democratic” methods — meaning, simply, the lack of resistance from the general public by virtue of their lack of knowledge or their lack of concern.

Villasenor writes:

 . . . the evolving role of digital storage in facilitating truly pervasive surveillance is widely recognized. Plummeting digital storage costs will soon make it possible for authoritarian regimes to not only monitor known dissidents, but also to store the complete set of digital data associated with everyone within their borders. These enormous databases of captured information will create what amounts to a surveillance time machine, enabling state security services to retroactively eavesdrop on people in the months and years before they were designated as surveillance targets. This will fundamentally change the dynamics of dissent, insurgency, and revolution.

That is, if the information isn’t already available publicly on the “revolutionaries’” Facebook page. Indeed, something similar has already been used in England after the bizarre riots that overtook the country months ago. Facial recognition software was able to identify (or so it was claimed) many of the rioters who were arrested after the riots had subsided.

However, what Villasenor is describing is the ability to build detailed digital dossiers on individuals, full of incriminating evidence gleaned through everyday, normal, social interactions, that can be called on at any minute to build a case against an individual for daring to question the State. All of it, of course, will be there. The angry Facebook post made in a fit of rage against the government; the email to Monsanto that seems “threatening;” or the telephone conversation where one procured an illegal substance for a weekend of fun.

But the question still remains for some, “How would it be possible to monitor and store so much information?”

Villasenor provides some interesting analysis in regards to the declining costs of storage technology and also the increase in the capability of that technology. In terms of cost, he writes:

Over the past three decades, storage costs have declined by a factor of 10 approximately every 4 years, reducing the per-gigabyte cost from approximately $85,000 (in 2011 dollars) in mid-1984 to about five cents today. In other words, storage costs have dropped by a factor of well over one million since 1984. Not surprisingly, that fundamentally changes the scale of what can be stored.

In terms of storage capability, the analysis is quite shocking, especially to those who may have doubted the technological advancements available to major governments, militaries, and intelligence agencies. Villasenor writes:

So what, exactly would it take to store everything? The answer depends in part on the nature of the information. Location data is far less voluminous than audio from phone calls, which in turn requires much less storage than video.

Location data, which is readily obtained from mobile phones, Wi-Fi connections, and GPS receivers, can already easily be archived. It takes fewer than 75 bits (ones and zeros) to pinpoint a person’s location anywhere on the earth to an accuracy of about 15 feet. The information identifying the location of each of one million people to that accuracy at five-minute intervals, 24 hours a day for a full year could easily be stored in 1,000 gigabytes, which would cost slightly over $50 at today’s prices. For 50 million people, the cost would be under $3,000.

The audio for all of the telephone calls made by a single person over the course of one year could be stored using roughly 3.3 gigabytes. On a per capita basis, the cost to store all phone calls will fall from about 17 cents per person per year today to under 2 cents in 2015.

The current prices of such technology, much less the projected prices a few years from now, are shockingly low considering the scale of surveillance that would be, and probably is, taking place. Given the figures above, if the United States population is 300 million, the cost of storing the location data of everyone in the country for a year would be approximately the cost of a low-wage job, around $18,000. This is hardly a large sum of money for any government.

Ignoring, for a moment, Villasenor’s obvious bias against Syria and Iran, his estimate surrounding the costs of these governments’ surveillance programs are somewhat revealing if for nothing else than their relation to our own government’s ability and potential to implement the same type of program.

He continues:

For a country like Syria, which has a population of 15 million people over the age of 14, the current cost to purchase storage sufficient to hold one year’s worth of phone calls for the entire country would be about $2.5 million – a high number but certainly not beyond governmental reach. If historical cost trends continue, the annual cost in 2011 dollars to purchase enough storage for Syria’s government to record all calls made in that country will fall to about $250,000 by 2016 and to about $25,000 by 2020. Iran has an over-age-14 population of 59 million, so the corresponding cost to the Iranian government to record all calls in Iran would be about four times higher than in Syria. Cost will soon be no object for internal security services wishing to store everything said on a telephone in Syria, Iran, or even in a much more populous nation such as China.

Or the United States, one might add. Or Great Britain. Or Australia . . . add your country of choice here. By now, you should be getting the point.

In regards to video surveillance, Villasenor’s predictions are not much different after taking into account the difference in the type of surveillance data being absorbed and retained.

The report states:

By 2020 the cost to store, in high resolution, all of the video acquired by the Chongqing network [Chinese surveillance that equals one camera for every 24 people in an area of 12 million] will drop to a much more practical $3 million per year. On a per capita basis this corresponds to about 25 cents per person per year, an amount that can easily be budgeted or even extracted from the population being monitored through a euphemistically worded ‘public safety tax.’

Keep in mind, the costs presented here are those to which the public would be subjected if they were to engage these systems in the marketplace, which, of course, they will not be doing. These figures are, essentially, mark-up value. They do not take into account where these surveillance technologies were originally developed, such as institutions within the government, military, and intelligence communities themselves which would, by definition, give governments cheaper and greater access to them.

DARPA immediately comes to mind in the context of this discussion. Such an agency is full of money black holes, black budgets, and secret projects that not only would aid in the development of such technology, but also its implementation without the knowledge of the citizenry. Such has been the case many times before. Must the national collection of blood at birth be mentioned again in order to jog the reader’s memory?

The implications for stifling dissent need not be summed up at this point in this article. It is fairly obvious that such broad and far-reaching surveillance would necessarily significantly damage the ability of the general public to resist, be it planned or out-of-the-blue, any form of tyranny the regime wishes to place upon them.

Nevertheless, consider the report’s extensive comments on the effects that such surveillance would have on dissent, revolution, and “insurgency.”

But the ability to record everything will tilt the playing field back in favor of repressive governments by laying the foundation for a plethora of new approaches to targeting dissent. When all of the telephone calls in an entire country can be captured and provided to voice recognition software programmed to extract key phrases, and when video footage from public spaces can be correlated in real time to the conversations, text messages, and social media traffic associated with the people occupying those spaces, the arsenal of responses available to a regime facing dissent will expand. Some changes will be immediate and tactical. Instead of implementing broad social media or Internet shutdowns in response to unrest, governments in possession of complete communications databases will be able to conduct more selective censorship or alteration of message traffic during periods of instability. This will provide a great capability to shape or quell dissent.

The report also mentions the ability to go back in time and build a detailed case against the dissenter, even if the evidence compiled is somewhat circumstantial.

Pervasive monitoring will provide what amounts to a time machine allowing authoritarian governments to perform retrospective surveillance. For example, if an anti-regime demonstrator previously unknown to security services is arrested, it will be possible to go back in time to scrutinize the demonstrator’s phone conversations, automobile travels, and the people he or she met in the months and even years leading up to the arrest.

Villasenor correctly asserts that the implementation of such open surveillance will have a chilling effect on activism and dissent. This goes without saying since activists and dissenters are now aware that anything they say is being listened to and recorded for purposes of prosecution.

Thus, the report reads:

There are also longer-term consequences that include a thinning of the ranks of regime opponents. By definition, organized dissent requires that dissenters have the ability to exchange information. Prominent opponents of repressive governments have learned to expect tracking of their movements and interception of their phone calls and other forms of electronic communications. But when technology enables an entire country’s worth of communications to be intercepted, the circle of people whom dissidents will be able to recruit to their ranks will narrow.

In addition, knowledge that communications are archived will reduce the willingness of dissidents to speak frankly even over encrypted communications. . . . Awareness of the likelihood that all messages – including those that are encrypted – will eventually be read by security services will chill dissent.

No doubt, in light of this new Brookings Institution report, along with other means of surveillance such as palm scans, vein scans, iris scans, voice and facial recognition as well as emotion detectors, we are entering an era in which dissent will truly require an individual to make a decision whether or not his principles are worth his freedom or even his life.

We, as American citizens — or any other citizen for that matter — must make our voices heard and our presence felt while we still can. It is up to us whether or not the Brave New World we enter into will be marked by courage and consciousness, or the grip of a scientific dictatorship.

~

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University where he earned the Pee Dee Electric Scholar’s Award as an undergraduate. He has had numerous articles published dealing with a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, and civil liberties. He also the author of Codex Alimentarius – The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies and Five Sense Solutions. Brandon Turbeville is available for podcast, radio, and TV interviews. Please contact us at activistpost (at) gmail.com.

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | 1 Comment

Israeli policies disconnect Palestinian political prisoners from their families

By Adri Nieuwhof – The Electronic Intifada – 12/29/2011
Janan Abdu: “We need solidarity to keep us strong” (Ben White)

Prison officers have unleashed a new wave of oppression against prisoners. Letters to families sent by Palestinian political prisoners have ‘disappeared’, writes Ameer Makhoul in a letter to me dated 13 December. Several prisoners have been confronted with this problem since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his plans to impose harsher conditions on Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s prisons in June.

Five 12-page handwritten letters that Ameer sent to his family did not arrive. He writes:

“So Palestinian political prisoners should copy and copy in order to have an alternative in case the letter ‘disappears’. Disappear means lost on the way. But where? The procedure is to keep the envelope open, to be collected as all letters by a Palestinian political prisoners representative [in jail] and brought to the prison authorities. They read it (no matter how personal it is). They close it and send it through to post on account of the prisoners. The letter can take two days, one week, two weeks, one month and can also take all time and still not arrive at the home address. The prison officials’ oral reply to my request for clarification was that they do not do that [provide a clarification]. What they can do is to acknowledge to prisoners that a letter would not be sent for political or security reasons as covered by the law. Through family, lawyers and Members of the Knesset [Israeli parliament] I questioned the postal authorities but there is still no answer from this side. Is there abuse within the post? Does the Shabak (internal Security Agency) have access to control the letters? At what stage? After it has been sent? Last week I got a letter dated 7 December from MK Haneen Zoabi who is very active on the Palestinian political prisoners cause. The envelope was opened (crushed) although by law the prison authorities are not authorized to open letters sent by Members of the Knesset. On the back of the envelope the prison authority wrote: ‘It has been received open by post.’ I believe I will get no answer – neither from the post nor the prison nor the Shabak. But the answer is clear, very clear. By the way the prison authority is not replying or answering in writing. Just orally. While any demand by a prisoner should be in writing. This is the rule. The [Israeli] policy escalation is to disconnect the Palestinian prisoners from the entire world: their families, friends, and solidarity people. The isolation policy is both individual and collective. The system is based on oppression, it is such a huge machine where no one can see all the components and what each component does. But for the prisoners the picture is clear as well as the answer. An international fact-finding mission of human rights organizations could be very useful.”

“The spirit of Palestinian political prisoners will never be broken”, he adds.

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment