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The Madness of NYT’s Tom Friedman

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 10, 2013

When ranking which multi-millionaire American pundit is the most overrated, there are, without doubt, many worthy contenders, but one near the top of any list must be the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman – with his long record of disastrous policy pronouncements including his enthusiasm for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Friedman, of course, has paid no career price for his misguided judgments and simplistic nostrums. Like many other star pundits who inhabit the Op-Ed pages of the Times and the Washington Post, Friedman has ascended to a place where the normal powers of gravity don’t apply, where the cumulative weight of his errors only lifts him up.

Indeed, there is something profoundly nonsensical about Friedman’s Olympian standing, inhabiting a plane of existence governed by the crazy rules of Washington’s conventional wisdom, where – when looking down on the rest of us – Friedman feels free to cast aspersions on other people’s sanity, like the Mad Hatter calling the Church Mouse nuts.

Friedman describes every foreign adversary who reacts against U.S. dictates as suffering from various stages of insanity. He accepts no possibility that these “designated enemies” are acting out of their own sense of self-interest and even fear of what the United States might be designing.

In last Sunday’s column, for instance, Friedman airily dismissed the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, China and Russia as all operating with screws loose, either totally crazy or fecklessly reckless. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un was a “boy king … who seems totally off the grid.” In Friedman’s view, China is enabling North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship and “could end the freak show there anytime it wants.”

Russia is aiding and abetting both the violence in Syria and the supposed nuclear ambitions of Iran. Friedman asks: “Do the Russians really believe that indulging Iran’s covert nuclear program, to spite us, won’t come back to haunt them with a nuclear-armed Iran, an Islamist regime on its border?”

To Friedman, Bashar al-Assad is simply “Syria’s mad leader,” not a secular autocrat representing Alawites and other terrified minorities fearing a Sunni uprising that includes armed militants associated with al-Qaeda terrorists and promoting Islamic fundamentalism.

You see, according to Friedman and his neoconservative allies, everyone that they don’t like is simply crazy or absorbed with mindless self-interest – and it makes no sense to reason with these insane folks or to propose power-sharing compromises. Only “regime change” will do.

Who’s Detached from Reality?

But the argument could be made that Friedman and the neocons are the people most disconnected from reality – and that the New York Times editors are behaving irresponsibly in continuing to grant Friedman some of the most prestigious space in American journalism to spout his nonsensical ravings.

Looking back at Friedman’s history of recommending violence as the only remedy to a whole host of problems, including in places like Serbia and Iraq, you could reasonably conclude that he’s the real nut case. He’s the one who routinely urges the U.S. government to ignore international law in pursuit of half-baked goals that have spread misery over large swaths of the planet.

In 1999, during the U.S. bombing of Serbia, Friedman showed off his glib warmongering style: “Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.”

Before George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, Friedman offered the witty observation that it was time to “give war a chance,” a flippant play on John Lennon’s lyrics to the song, “Give Peace a Chance.”

Yet, even amid his enthusiasm to invade Iraq, Friedman was disappointed by Bush’s clunky rhetoric. So, he hailed the smoother speechifying of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and dubbed himself “a Tony Blair Democrat.” Today, it might seem that anyone foolish enough to take that title – after Blair has gone down in history as “Bush’s poodle” and is now despised even by his own Labour Party – should slink away into obscurity or claim some sort of mental incapacity.

But that isn’t how U.S. punditry works. Once you’ve risen into the firmament of stars like Tommy Friedman, you are beyond the reach of earthly judgments and surely beyond human accountability.

When the Iraq War didn’t go as swimmingly as the neocons [purportedly] expected, Friedman became famous for his repetitious, ever-receding “six month” timeline for detecting progress. Finally, in August 2006, he concluded that the Iraq War wasn’t worth it, that “it is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are babysitting a civil war.” [NYT, Aug. 4, 2006]

At that point, you might have expected the New York Times to drop Friedman from its roster of columnists. After all, the Iraq War’s costs in lives, money and respect for the United States had become staggering. You might even have thought that some accountability would be in order. After all, advocacy of aggressive war is a war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II.

Yet, 12 days after his admission of Iraq War failure, Friedman actually demeaned Americans who had opposed the Iraq War early on as “antiwar activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in.” [NYT, Aug. 16, 2006] In other words, according to Friedman, Americans who were right about the ill-fated invasion of Iraq were still airheads who couldn’t grasp the bigger picture that had been so obvious to himself, his fellow pundits and pro-war politicians who had tagged along with Bush and Blair.

As I noted in an article at the time, “it’s as if Official Washington has become a sinister version of Alice in Wonderland. Under the bizarre rules of Washington’s pundit society, the foreign policy ‘experts,’ who acted like Cheshire Cats pointing the United States in wrong directions, get rewarded for their judgment and Americans who opposed going down the rabbit hole in the first place earn only derision.”

Instead of a well-deserved dismissal from the Times and journalistic disgrace, Friedman has continued to rake in big bucks from his articles, his books and his speeches. Meanwhile, his record for accuracy (or even sophisticated insights) hasn’t improved. Regarding foreign policy, he still gets pretty much everything wrong.

‘Crazy’ Enemies

As for the supposed madness of America’s “designated enemies,” Friedman refuses to recognize that they might see defensive belligerence as the only rational response to U.S. hostility. After all, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi both accepted U.S. demands for disarmament and both were subsequently attacked by U.S. military force, overthrown and murdered.

So, who in their right mind would accept assurances about the protections of international law when Official Washington and Tommy Friedman see nothing wrong with invading other countries and overthrowing their governments? In view of this recent history, one could argue that the leaders of Iran, Syria and even North Korea are acting rationally within their perceptions of national sovereignty – and concern for their own necks.

Similarly, Russia and China have searched for ways to resolve some of these conflicts, rather than whipping up new confrontations. On the Iranian nuclear dispute, for instance, Russia has worked behind the scenes to broker a realistic agreement that would offer Iran meaningful relief from economic sanctions in exchange for more safeguards on its nuclear program.

It has been the United States that has vacillated between an interest in a negotiated settlement with Iran and the temptation to seek “regime change.” Recently, the Obama administration spurned a Russian push for genuine negotiations with Iran, instead favoring more sanctions and demanding Iranian capitulation.

It should be noted, too, that the Iranian government has renounced any desire to build a nuclear weapon and that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded, since 2007, that Iran ceased work on a nuclear weapon in 2003, a decade ago. Friedman could be called irrational – or at least irresponsible – for not mentioning that fact. And you might wonder why his Times editors didn’t demand greater accuracy in his column. Is there no fact-checking of Friedman?

Seeking ‘Regime Change’

Of course, the Times and Friedman have a long pattern of bias on Iran, much as they had on Iraq. For instance, the newspaper and its star columnist heaped ridicule on Turkey and Brazil three years ago when those two U.S. allies achieved a breakthrough in which Iran agreed to ship about half of its low-enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for some medical isotopes. To Friedman, this deal was “as ugly as it gets,” the title of his column.

He wrote: “I confess that when I first saw the May 17 [2010] picture of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joining his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with raised arms — after their signing of a putative deal to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons program — all I could think of was: Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?

“No, that’s about as ugly as it gets.”

Though Friedman did not call Lula da Silva and Erdogan crazy, he did insult them and impugned their motives. He accused them of seeking this important step toward a peaceful resolution of an international dispute “just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table.”

In the column, Friedman also made clear that he wasn’t really interested in Iranian nuclear safeguards; instead, he wanted the United States to do whatever it could to help Iran’s internal opposition overthrow President Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Islamic Republic.

“In my view, the ‘Green Revolution’ in Iran is the most important, self-generated, democracy movement to appear in the Middle East in decades,” Friedman wrote. “It has been suppressed, but it is not going away, and, ultimately, its success — not any nuclear deal with the Iranian clerics — is the only sustainable source of security and stability. We have spent far too little time and energy nurturing that democratic trend and far too much chasing a nuclear deal.”

Just three years later, however, it’s clear how wrongheaded Friedman was. The Green Movement, which was never the mass popular movement that the U.S. media claimed, has largely disappeared.

Analyses of Iran’s 2009 election also revealed that Ahmadinejad did win a substantial majority of the vote. Ahmadinejad, with strong support from the poor especially in more conservative rural areas, defeated the “Green Revolution” candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi by roughly the 2-to-1 margin cited in the official results.

For instance, an analysis by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes concluded that most Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad and viewed his reelection as legitimate, contrary to claims made by much of the U.S. news media. Not a single Iranian poll analyzed by PIPA – whether before or after the election, whether conducted inside or outside Iran – showed Ahmadinejad with less than majority support. None showed Mousavi, a former prime minister, ahead or even close.

“These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA. “But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad.” [For details, see’sAhmadinejad Won, Get Over It!”]

Bias Over Journalism

During the Green Movement’s demonstrations, a few protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police (scenes carried on CNN but quickly forgotten by the U.S. news media) and security forces overreacted with repression and violence. But to pretend that an angry minority – disappointed by election results – is proof of a fraudulent election is simply an example of bias, not journalism.

One can sympathize with those who yearn for a secular democracy in Iran – as you may in other religiously structured states including Israel – but a journalist is not supposed to make up his or her own facts, which was what the Times and Friedman did in 2009 on Iran.

Friedman’s contempt for the Turkey-Brazil deal in 2010 also looks pretty stupid in retrospect. At the time, Iran only had low-enriched uranium suitable for energy production but not for building a nuclear weapon. If Iran had shipped nearly half that amount out of the country in exchange for the medical isotopes, Iran might never have upgraded its reactors to refine the uranium to about 20 percent, what was needed for the isotopes and which is much closer to the level of purity needed for a bomb.

There are other relevant facts that a serious analyst would include in the kind of column that Friedman penned last Sunday, including the fact that the United States possesses a military force unrivaled in world history and enough nuclear bombs to kill all life on the planet many times over.

Also relevant to the Iran issue, Israel possesses a rogue nuclear arsenal that is considered one of the world’s most advanced, but Israel has refused to accept any international oversight by rejecting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed and insists it is living by.

An objective – or a rational – observer would consider the unbelievable destructiveness of the U.S. and Israeli nuclear stockpiles as a relevant factor in evaluating the sanity of the supposedly “crazy” leaders of Syria, Iran and North Korea – and their alleged accomplices in Russia and China.

But Friedman operates on a plane of impunity that the rest of us mortals can only dream about. Apparently once you have achieved his punditry status, you never have to say you’re sorry or acknowledge countervailing facts. All you have to do is say that everybody else is crazy.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

IRS Plans to Cut Back Auditing of Large Corporations

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | April 11, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has decided to spend less time auditing multi-million dollar corporations.

Under a new plan revealed to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the IRS will expend 18% less effort auditing businesses with assets of $10 million or more compared with just two years ago.

The agency also sees itself devoting 14% less time for specialized revenue agents to conduct corporate audits in FY 2013, compared to what was allocated in FY 2011.

There has been less of a drop in the rate of individual taxpayer audits—5.3% in FY 2012, moving to 7% due to an increase in number of filed returns.

TRAC—which obtained the IRS planning document through a Freedom of Information Act request—noted that the reductions were decided upon before sequestration, which could result in the IRS implementing more cuts in the months ahead.

The IRS responded to the release of the TRAC report by pointing out that its budget was cut by $1 billion in 2010, and that its staff was reduced by 7,000 employees in 2011. It insisted that it maintains a fair balance between individual and corporate audits.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): New report documents the loss of childhood

CPTnet | April 11, 2013

A newly released report compiled by internationals working in the West Bank city of Hebron documents an alarming rate of abuse of the rights of children. Human rights workers in H2, the portion of the city under Israeli military control, have witnessed 47 detentions or arrests of children age fifteen and under by soldiers since the start of February. Other violations documented in the report include conducting war training when children are present, delaying children and teachers as they pass checkpoints to access schools, detaining children in adult facilities, questioning children without the presence of an adult, and blindfolding children in detention.

Occupied Childhoods: Impact of the actions of Israeli soldiers on Palestinian children in H2 (Occupied Hebron) during February, March and April 2013 documents the alarming regularity of soldiers violating the rights of children to access education, to play, to have a parent, guardian or lawyer present when detained, and to move freely on their streets.

Documentation in the report was collected by three human rights organizations working in Hebron. Christian Peacemaker Teams, International Solidarity Movement, and Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine all maintain teams in Hebron in order to provide protective presence and documentation in civilian neighborhoods.

The arrest on March 20, 2013, of 27 children outside a Hebron Elementary school has drawn attention to the extreme vulnerability of children living in occupied Hebron. Human rights workers in the city point out, however, that the mass arrest is far from an isolated event. All of the children in the neighborhoods in and around Hebron’s Old City must pass through military checkpoints to reach school, clinics and markets.

The report calls upon duty bearers to assure the human rights of children are respected. As Occupying Power the State of Israel is responsible for abiding by international law and for protecting the specific rights of children. Rights workers in Hebron call upon relevant UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to carry out their mandate by providing protection for children, and to pressure the State of Israel to change its policy vis-à-vis children in the Old City and H2.

In releasing the report, human rights workers in Hebron call upon consulates, churches and human rights organizations to formally protest the human rights crisis faced by children in Hebron and demand that the rights of children be protected.

Full report:


Video links:


April 11, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): New report documents the loss of childhood

How Europe’s Fight with Google Over Privacy Ignores Real Privacy

By Alfredo Lopez | This Can’t Be Happening | April 10, 2013

Last week the governments of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom fired a warning shot at Google and it appears they’re reloading the gun with real ammunition.

This past December, about a year after the Internet behemoth announced a new privacy policy, a working group of representatives from these countries called the policy grossly abusive of people’s privacy and said Google had four months to bring itself into compliance with European law. Google dismissed the ultimatum: “Our privacy policy,” it said, “respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services.” The European countries response was that they will take actions, based on their national laws and in coodination with each other, by the Fall.

These government/corporation tiffs are frequent and their rhetorical fire normally turns into quickly dissipated smoke. This one could be different. It comes at a time when the world’s powerful are trying to decide how much privacy we people will have and what the term privacy actually means, and this squabble’s outcome will affect that and, of course, our freedom. That alone makes it worth watching.

But there’s something deeper here that transcends this conflict. Privacy is, in fact, a core component of democracy and any infringement on complete privacy is an obscene attack on the possibility of having a free and democratic society. As important as the outcome of this show-down might be, the most important and frightening development is that it’s taking place at all.

The political shoot-out began a year ago when Google announced that it was unifying about 60 privacy policy agreements, covering its myriad services, into one big one. The company explained that lumping together these “agreements” (the things you’re asked to read before pressing the “I Accept” button on a website) was a matter of efficiency and transparency. There’s a logic to that: how many privacy policies have you read on the Internet? One would assume that if you don’t read one, you can hardly be expected to read 60.

That, however, is a corporate shell game. Google made this move not to make our reading easier but to make gathering information about us more efficient. Google is a marketing company and nothing makes a marketing company more powerful and valuable to advertisers than having pertinent information on hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Its privacy policy is fitted to that purpose. It says that, once you sign up and begin using these services as an identified user, you give up that right of refusal. So, because people don’t read that privacy policy, they don’t realize that it effectively eliminates their privacy.

For a very long time, Google has known who uses each of its services and how, but now it knows which combination of services you use and how they interact with each other in your daily life. It also knows cities or towns of residence (and, in many cases, addresses) of its registered users, the IP addresses of their computers, their names (and often the names of their family members and friends), what they do on the Internet every day, what they buy and consider buying and, for those using Gmail, who they write to and what they write. It can hone in a your specific physical location with Goodgle Maps and will store that info if you map it. In fact, all this info is stored on Google’s databases with members’ tacit approval and Google’s complete understanding of what all this means.

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in 2009. “If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines — including Google — do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.”

The information Google holds rivals and in some cases surpasses the information most governments have on their own citizens. So when Google released this new policy which permits it to combine that information and use it for evaluation, marketing and advertising, these governments commissioned France’s CNIL to investigate.

That selection, in itself, is striking. The CNIL is an independent, government-supported authority that specializes in data privacy law enforcement. France has among the strongest data collection restrictions in the world and, while CNIL has often been criticized by advocates for being too sheepish in its advocacy, data protection “sheepishness” in France would be considered ferocity in many other countries.

Like a trained bulldog, CNIL investigated all the Google data policies for nine months and then presented its report. It was devastating, accusing Google of policies and mechanisms that effectively violate privacy laws in most European countries. Based on that report, 24 of the EU’s 27 data regulators wrote Google a letter last December proposing about a dozen changes: among them that Google shouldn’t collect information on users without their consent, combine information from different services without additional consent or use the data it collects for advertising.

The four months passed. “Google did not provide any precise and effective answers,” CNIL said last week. “In this context, the EU data protection authorities are committed to act and continue their investigations. Therefore, they propose to set up a working group, led by the CNIL, in order to coordinate their reaction, which should take place before summer.”

In the diplomatic jargon of international regulation, those are fighting words. “Coordinate their reaction” is something the European Union’s countries seldom do (witness their financial crisis) and they almost never make threats around technology. Action against Google in Europe could affect the company’s relationship with one of its largest markets and a critical marketing link in the world-wide chain that is the Internet. Google could be crippled. That’s what that statement threatens.

But let’s not kid ourselves. A capitalist government, like those in Europe, has a system to protect and, to do the protecting, its police agencies routinely use data collected on the Internet about its citizens. As Google’s Schmidt put it in 2010: “In a world of asynchronous threats it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it.”

So the issue here isn’t really how to protect people’s privacy; it’s how to balance the various approaches to impinging on it. Google says it needs information about you to match its marketing to what you buy; governments say they need information about you to monitor and control what you do the rest of the time. They’re trying to work out how these two approaches to information gathering can co-exist and not conflict with each other.

If, for example, a particular policy draws too much public attention to this issue or provokes a large lawsuit or gets people asking why their government isn’t — or is — doing something, that’s a problem. The government will then find its own privacy policies in the spotlight. That’s only one way this balance can become unbalanced, but in any case balance is the issue being disputed. There is really no debate about whether or not you have a right to privacy on the Internet. As far as both sides are concerned, you don’t, and both sides are most pleased if you’re not paying much attention to that fact.

It’s persistently perplexing how little most people care about this issue. Even many of the most politically conscious will often just shrug and say “there’s nothing that can be done about it”. After decades of increasing surveillance (oiled by a government-encouraged paranoia about terrorism) we expect the powerful of our society to know everything about us and, apparently, most of us can live with that. Some of us appear to think we can’t live without it.

But that battering of our democratic consciousness has not only lowered our guard against violations of our privacy; it has actually fostered a distorted understanding of what privacy actually is. Or better put: it’s convinced many of us that a small part of the privacy debate is the entire debate.

For purposes of the Internet, privacy is your ability to communicate with other people excluding anyone you want from that conversation and your ability to say what you want to those people (and listen to what they have to say) excluding people you don’t want listening.

Sure, what you say to your family or which websites you visit or what you consider buying on the Internet should, in a sane society, be your business and taking a snapshot of all this is a horrible personal violation. But the more dangerous violation is that, in establishing the means to eavesdrop on your life and honing the ability to store and analyze that information, powerful forces are systematically limiting what the Internet can be about.

What humanity created as a tool of freedom and, in many cases, struggle has been taken over by corporations and governments wielding lawsuits, imprisonment and largely unnoticed anti-freedom laws to pervert its original intent.

“When the Internet began… it was seen largely as a non-commercial oasis,” free-speech advocate and writer Robert McChesney told Democracy Now in a recent interview. “It was a place where people could go and be equal and be empowered as citizens to take on concentrated economic and political power, to battle propaganda… And there was no surveillance. People could do what they wanted and not be tracked.

“What’s been taking place… is that on a number of different fronts, extraordinarily large, monopolistic corporations have emerged: AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, at the access level; Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, at the application and use level. And these firms have changed the nature of the Internet dramatically… (and) they work closely with the government and the national security state and the military. They really walk hand in hand collecting this information, monitoring people, in ways that by all democratic theory are inimical to a free society.”

“Privacy” isn’t primarily individual and privacy laws aren’t in place only to address individual activities. In fact, you can’t be individually private on the Internet because then you wouldn’t be using the Internet. The privacy laws are there to make sure people can function in our exercise of free speech, exchange of information and association. They are, and always have been, a way to protect us from government inquiry and inquisition. Those laws that say a cop can’t just walk into your house and search it without a warrant or question you and those with you or keep close tabs on everything you do and who you do it with — those are privacy laws. They protect our collaborative activity from
government repression.

That collaborative activity is what the Internet has deepened and broadened. It lets us communicate with people all over the world involved in activities emanating from issues and concerns similar to ours. It lets people who are fighting for their rights in a country where such activity can get you jailed or killed talk to people world-wide who can support them. It permits coordination of struggles going on in vastly different environments in far-away countries. It cuts through our media’s lies about other countries with solid truth we learn from people in those countries. It helps unify us and helps us support each other in a rapid, almost immediate, way.

It’s what humanity needs and it’s the reason why the Internet now reaches two billion people.

But if the privacy is taken away, if a government or a corporation can read your email or follow you around as you visit and use websites, your use of the Internet for its most important political purpose becomes stored information that can be used to oppose and repress you.

Privacy, viewed that way, is the litmus test of a free environment. In that context, Google is a monster and the governments that are challenging it on such restricted grounds aren’t much better.

Yes, the progressive response to the European initiative on Google privacy should be to encourage it but with an understanding of its pitfalls and a loud outcry about them. Even if Europe has its way, the outcome will still be an erosion of our privacy and a further empowerment of those who would, in some situations, repress our movements for change.

So right now, those of us who are truly concerned about the future of this society and the world, need to place Internet privacy among our most prominent issues.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on How Europe’s Fight with Google Over Privacy Ignores Real Privacy

FBI Sued for Info on Supersnooping Program

By RYAN ABBOTT | Courthouse News | April 10, 2013

WASHINGTON – The FBI refuses to provide information on a massive biometric identification database that can identify noncriminal civilians through iris scans, DNA, and facial and voice recognition, a watchdog claims in court.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, sued the FBI in Federal Court, claiming that the bureau identified more than 7,000 pages of responsive records, but won’t release them.

EPIC claims the FBI began posting details on its website about its biometric identification system, known as Next Generation Identification (NGI), in 2009.
“When completed, the NGI system will be the largest biometric database in the world,” EPIC says in its complaint. “The vast majority of records contained in the NGI database will be of U.S. citizens.”

EPIC claims the NGI system will be able to identify people through fingerprints, iris scans, DNA profiles, voice identification profiles, palm prints and photographs, and will through facial recognition.

“The NGI database will include photographic images of millions of individuals who are neither criminals nor suspects,” the complaint states.

The Department of Homeland Security has spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” into the system, and wants to integrate it into state and local surveillance systems that may use other surveillance technology, giving the government the capability of real-time matching of live feeds from surveillance cameras, EPIC claims.

There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States, but not all of them will be used for law enforcement purposes, EPIC says in the complaint.

It claims private entities will also have access to the system.

EPIC claims the Orwellian system already is up and running in New York City, where police have been scanning irises of arrestees since 2010 and using a handheld device that “allows officers patrolling the streets to scan irises and faces of individuals and match them against biometric databases.”

At least 11 other states participate in the program: Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to the complaint.

EPIC claims it submitted two FOIA request in 2012, seeking records on the FBI’s contracts with private contractors Lockheed Martin, IBM, Accenture, BAE Systems Information Technology, Global Science & Technology, Innovation Management & Technology Services, Platinum Solutions, the National Center for State Courts, and any other entities involved with the program.

The FBI said it found 7,380 pages of potentially responsive records but has failed to disclose a single agency record, the complaint states.
EPIC wants to see the records, and wants its FOIA fees waived.

It is represented by house counsel Ginger McCall. 

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on FBI Sued for Info on Supersnooping Program

Israeli soldier shoots disabled man in Hebron

Ma’an – 11/04/2013

HEBRON – Israeli forces on Thursday shot and injured a disabled Palestinian man in the southern West Bank city of Hebron in an act the Israeli army described as defensive.

Motaz Faraj Ibedo, who was already confined to a wheelchair after a shooting two years earlier, was critically injured and transferred to an Israeli hospital for treatment, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said in a statement.

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed that a Palestinian man was hospitalized after being shot during an arrest operation. She said a soldier fired at the man when he tried to steal a weapon.

She said he threw objects including a gas can at soldiers. Two were injured, she said.

Amjad al-Najjar, the director of the PPS office in Hebron, denounced the arrest raid targeting a man who is already unable to walk without assistance.

Al-Najjar said that the Israeli authorities were responsible for Ibedo’s life. He called on the Israeli side to allow the man’s family and lawyer to visit him in custody.

An army spokeswoman denied Ibedo was under arrest and said he was still undergoing treatment in hospital.

Ibedo has been unable to walk on his own since he was shot in 2011 with a so-called dum dum bullet to the abdomen, which ruptured several internal organs and left him permanently disabled.

Since that incident, which Ibedo said happened while he was already in custody, he has not been able to walk due to a paralyzed left leg.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 1 Comment

In memory of Tom Hurndall, shot in the head by Israeli sniper 10 years ago today

International Solidarity Movement | April 11, 2013

tomOccupied Palestine – The International Solidarity Movement today remembers Tom Hurndall, ISM volunteer who 10 years ago on 11th April 2003 was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper.

The Israeli army were invading the city of Rafah, in the Gaza Strip when Tom and other ISM volunteers saw a group of children in a street where snipers were firing. Witnesses say that bullets were shot around the children, who were paralysed by fear and unable to move – Tom pulled one child to safety, but as he was returning for a second, he was shot in the head by a sniper.

He went into a coma and died nine months later on 13th January 2004. He was 22 years old. Today, on the day he was shot, we pay tribute to Tom’s bravery. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. We continue to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, as we think Tom would have wished.

“What do I want from this life? What makes you happy is not enough. All the things that satisfy our instincts only satisfy the animal in us. I want to be proud of myself. I want more. I want to look up to myself and when I die, I want to smile because of the things I have done, not cry for the things I haven’t done.” – Tom Hurndall

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spanish police to shield politicians’ residences from home eviction victims

MercoPress | April 10, 2013

Spanish police will erect barriers around politicians’ residences to shield them from protests over the growing number of home evictions and to call for changes to mortgage laws.

The Interior Ministry said it ordered police to keep demonstrators at a distance after protests outside the houses of senior members of the governing People’s Party, including the Madrid home of Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaría.

Property foreclosures rose nearly fourfold in the four years since 2008 compared to the previous four-year period, court data shows. Last year, foreclosure cases opened by the courts increased 18% from 2011 to nearly 92,000 as the country suffered its second recession in five years and one in four workers were unemployed.

Around 200 people descended on Sáenz de Santamaría’s home on Friday, including several victims of evictions who related their stories to the crowd using megaphones.

Protest groups, coordinated by the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH in Spanish), argue their demonstrations are peaceful, though officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, have condemned what they call “acts of intimidation.”

PAH wants changes to Spain’s mortgage laws, which allow little margin for struggling homeowners to negotiate with banks than in other countries. Nor can mortgages be eliminated by personal bankruptcy.

The People’s Party infuriated campaigners by amending a bill to ease mortgage regulations on Monday, removing a measure calling for such debts to be cancelled once houses are repossessed.

Hundreds of banner-waving protesters demonstrated at People’s Party headquarters all over the country on Monday evening after it emerged parliament would not debate the measure in an open session. The bill was triggered automatically after 1.5 million people signed a petition.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on Spanish police to shield politicians’ residences from home eviction victims