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In Search of Their Roots: The Mapuche and Modern Society

By Aigul Safiullina | The Argentina Independent | April 29, 2013

Around five hours after leaving Bariloche our bus suddenly stops in the middle of nowhere. “Leleque. La comunidad,” the driver announces. “We’ve arrived muchacha”. Outside, fields stretch towards mountains and the eye struggles to fix on the horizon. There is nothing resembling a town or even village outside the bus, only a tiny improvised wooden gate and a sign on a huge white canvas that says: “Comunidad Santa Rosa. Territorio Mapuche recuperado” (Santa Rosa community, Recovered Mapuche territory).

A sign on the fence reads: 'Santa Rosa community. Recovered Mapuche territory.' (Photo: Fabio D'Errico)

A sign on the fence reads: ‘Santa Rosa community. Recovered Mapuche territory.’ (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

Here, in a forgotten place, lost in the very heart of Patagonia, we have arrived at the point of a now globally-famous conflict: Santa Rosa de Leleque, where the indigenous Mapuche community is engaged in a long struggle to reclaim land they say is rightfully theirs from one of the world’s most recognisable clothing brands.

The Benetton Case

When we arrive, Santa Rosa de Leleque is bustling with people, as it has been for the last six years. Not only is this is the week of Kamaruko, the main religious festival of the Mapuches, but it is also the anniversary of the recovery of this stretch of land by the Curiñanco – Rúa Nahuelquir family and 30 other community members on 14th February, 2007.

“They’ve been evicting us from our land for many years, using physical power and law of those who had invaded our territories,” Rosa Rúa Nahuelquir leaves her kitchen utilities for a while as she talks. “But we know we are stronger, because the truth is on our side and we will stand for it, no matter what it costs us.”

Dancing and celebrating around the fire. (Photo: Fabio D'Errico)

Dancing and celebrating around the fire. (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

Atilio Curiñanco y Rosa Rúa Nahuelquir first entered the territory now called Santa Rosa de Leleque in August 2002. They planned to return to their ancestral land and start a new life after long years of working in the factories of Texcom and Frigorífico in nearby Esquel. And so began a long legal struggle with the global corporation Benetton Group over 535 hectares of remote land in the province of Chubut, Argentina.

The Curiñanco – Rúa Nahuelquir family claims the territory as part of that which originally belonged to their ancestors before the colonisation of Patagonia in the 19th century. Benetton Group, meanwhile, insists on the land certificate issued in 1991, when the corporation purchased over 900,000 hectares from the British company The Argentine Southern Land Company Limited (CTSA).

Atilio Curiñanco recalls: “We presented a written statement at the police station of Esquel after consulting with the Autarkic Institute for Colonisation and Rural Development (IAC), which verbally confirmed that the space was public and abandoned for many years.” According to Curiñanco, many other campesinos from nearby territories used the space to gather wood it was all dusty and windy and required a lot of work to make the piece of land productive. However, only a few days after they had entered the territory, local police made inquiries about the “land usurpation” and soon returned with a legal claim by CTSA.

In October of that year, the Curiñanco – Rúa Nahuelquir family was forcefully evicted from Leleque, having all their belongings either confiscated or destroyed. In 2004, the family travelled to Italy to meet Luciano Benetton, who offered around 2,500 hectares of the land to all indigenous communities in the region as a donation. “We obviously refused the offer, as Benetton wasn’t eligible to donate something he didn’t own,” Rosa Nahuelquir says, indignantly.

Benetton later proposed a donation of the same amount of land to the Argentine government who could distribute it among indigenous communities. In 2005, the government of the province of Chubut also refused the offer, announcing that the 2,500 hectares were unproductive and saying it would not enter into any conflict with the inhabitants of the territory.

In February 2007, the couple came back to Leleque with 30 other community members and began to build a house. CTSA immediately accused them of damaging the territory, though the penal court found the claim illegitimate. In the five years since, the family has faced many more legal claims from CTSA with charges for property destruction and eviction orders, the latest coming in February this year. The family has repeatedly rejected these claims, based on their need to cultivate plants, raise domestic animals, and build basic living conditions to survive. “How could I let my family die from hunger because of someone else’s cruel decision?” Curiñanco asks rhetorically.

Mapuche vs Benetton. (Photo: Fabio D'Errico)

Mapuche vs Benetton. (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

Mapuche in Argentine

The ‘Mapuche vs Benetton’ case has attracted a lot of attention from global and local human rights organisations, the media, political parties, fixing an unflattering spotlight on a range of problems – from land conflicts to racism and equality.

The Argentine state included indigenous rights in the Constitution only in 1994, when it recognised “the legal capacity of these communities to the possession and property of land that they have traditionally occupied.” Yet those who have tried to exercise this right face long legal battles against powerful foes. Benetton is just one in a long list of corporations and celebrities engaged in land conflicts with the Mapuches – others include Levi Strauss & Co, Grupo Loma Negra, Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, Emanuel Ginóbili, Marcelo Tinelli, Lopez Rey and many others.

In the 2013 annual report issued by The Observatory of Human Rights of Indigenous peoples (ODHPI), investigators say about 347 Mapuches are currently involved in lawsuits related to the land conflicts just in the province of Neuquen. “They [the government] make us feel as foreigners in this country, but at the same time they give out all lands to the foreigners!” claims Ruben Curricoy, a Mapuche activist from Bariloche. The ODHPI report, which focuses on Neuquen, Rio Negro and Chubut this year, adds: “Territorial dispossession continues to be the main obstacle for indigenous people to survive and develop in Patagonia as autonomous population.”

To understand the power and complexity of today’s land struggles in Patagonia, it is important to remember the history of Argentina and the treatment of indigenous people. You need go no further than Argentina’s $100-bill for a reminder of the infamous ‘desert campaign’ run by president Julio Argentino Roca in 1878 – 1885, which empowered Argentina as a leading agricultural country via the genocide of indigenous people who were evicted from their lands and killed. Back then, those families that invested in the campaign were handsomely rewarded, as one family descendant, who preferred not be named, recalls: “A beneficiary would be asked to look forward and take all the land that his eye was able to capture. And believe me, some people used to have a very good vision.”

Curricoy is quick to give other historic examples: “The government talks about 30,000 disappeared people during the dictatorship period. It’s not true. They only count disappeared huincas (a ‘white person’ in the Mapusungun language), while our people were dying in much higher numbers. I admire the fight of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, however, I can’t imagine an indigenous mother being heard by society. Only because she is not as white as a huinca.”

Indigenous people from all over Argentina marched to and in Buenos Aires to proclaim their heritage and be heard by the government during the Bicentennial celebrations (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

Even with recent advances, many in the Mapuche community still feel as though they are misunderstood. Curricoy remembers a visit to the Casa Rosada during the country’s bicentenary celebrations in 2010, when President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner made a joke about the use of modern facilities after one of the delegate’s cell phone rang. “That was a turning point and made it clear that indigenous people were still excluded from this country really,” says Curricoy.

In another recent example, when three Mapuche communities in Neuquen were attacked by ten unidentified people, mainstream media barely covered the event.

The ODHPI report concludes: “the government bodies that are supposed to respond to the legal claims of indigenous people don’t perform their work” and in some cases even contradict the law. The report emphasises on the overall support that the government shows to private companies, speculating in such industries as exploitation of natural resources, tourism, and construction at the cost of indigenous people. In addition, the recent reforms to the Civil Code, proposed by the government, “will provoke more evictions and prosecutions for land usurpation” according to the ODHPI report.

Communitarian vs Private Property

With the provinces in desperate need of foreign investments and incomes, it is hard to imagine local governments supporting those who have no intention to exploit the land for commercial interests, like the Mapuche community, whose whole philosophy is built on protection of mapu, the land.

Atilio Curiñanco digs his land in Patagonia. (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

Atilio Curiñanco digs his land in Patagonia. (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

Sharing is one of the fundamental values among the Mapuche – in the Mapusungun language there are no such words as ‘no’ and ‘property’ – and this further complicates the land conflicts involving Mapuch communities. “We don’t have land certificates, because the ones we need don’t exist,” explains Ruben Curricoy. “We were offered individual deeds, which imply higher taxes and a lot of restrictions. Moreover, individual forms of property go against our philosophy of a communitarian form of life.”

According to the Mapuches, a ‘communitarian property certificate’ would include all members of the community and prevent selling of the land. Every member in this type of property has the same rights and opportunities to use the land. As the leadership style among Mapuches is horizontal, no one would have special privileges in decision-making and distribution.

“However, it is sad to see so many villages that can’t grow territorially with the population growth, so our future generations basically don’t have land to live and work on. And how would they, when on the left you have one owner and on the right another one?” Curricoy shakes his head.

The Struggle for Identity

For Gustavo Macayo, former lawyer of the Curiñanco – Rúa Nahuelquir family, the Benetton case is especially important in creating awareness of the Mapuche struggle. “This case has placed the whole situation with the foreign land ownership into a very important point and opened so many profound questions of Argentine society, questions that had never been asked.” Moreover, according to Macayo, those historical, ethical and juridical questions had always been hidden and silenced before the legal studies around the case of Leleque came into light.

“The problem goes outside of the small territory of Leleque. It includes at least three provinces in the south, where the Mapuche population counts on big numbers and is becoming aware of their land rights,” adds Macayo.

Curiñanco hopes the notoriety of his family’s case has also helped some younger generations rediscover their ethnicity. While many in Buenos Aires would probably be surprised that the ‘People of the Earth’ use cell phones, drive cars, watch TV, speak Spanish among themselves, and do most activities considered ‘normal’ for Westerners, some differences between the cultures remain very obvious.

Emmanuel Maripi from Comodoro Rivadavia is 21 and has diverse roots that include European and indigenous ancestors. He discovered he was Mapuche when he turned 18, and since then has started learning deeper about the culture of his grandparents and practicing traditional customs. This year’s Kamaruko was his first one and, a musician, he learnt a few Mapuche’ songs to perform them at the festival. “I live my life in the city in the same way as any other person of my age,” Emmanuel shares during a break between performances. “I study, work, hang out with my friends, take part and organise events related to music. At the same time, I see that a big part of my identity belongs to Mapuche society, and now I always try to find some time to spend close to the nature and understand better who I am as a Mapuche.”

“However, we also see other examples, when our people give up or even criticise us,” Curiñanco says sadly. “Some of them even don’t consider themselves Mapuches and feel ashamed of their roots.

Atilio Curiñanco holds the mate as he discusses the plight of the Mapuche in Patagonia. (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

Atilio Curiñanco holds the mate as he discusses the plight of the Mapuche in Patagonia. (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

“Many of them live in the cities where they are marginalised pretty quickly, and bring the fame to the whole ethnicity as criminalised and dangerous,” Curricoy joins the conversation and brings examples of big cities like Buenos Aires, Bariloche that count with a large number of Mapuche’ descendants.

Conversely, those that visit the Mapuche community in Leleque are always welcomed. “We’ve got visitors from all the parts of the world,” señora Rosa Rúa Nahuelquir recalls, “journalists, human rights defenders, artists, and a lot of policemen.” At this last word, she smiles ironically. “Our doors are open to everyone, regardless if the person is Mapuche or huinca and we never know if we can trust all these visitors. But we do anyway. We never learn from our mistakes…”

She is right. In eight days we spent in Santa Rosa de Leleque, each day was highlighted with an external visit. Every person was received warmly and invited to share meals, mate and conversations with the inhabitants.

Some visitors become lifelong friends, like Florencia Santucho, director of Argentina’s Independent Film Festival for Human Rights. Santucho has supported Curiñanco – Rúa Nahuelquir family since 2003. Nine years ago she produced a documentary called MariciWeu that narrates the story of the Curiñanco – Rúa Nahuelquir family and raises questions regarding their human rights’ violations. Not only she is perceived as a friend in this community, but also as one more Mapuche who continuously learns and incorporates parts of their culture in her own life.

“When you understand the Mapuche vision of the world you won’t have any more questions,” Santucho assures. “Recovering the land is a part of the ‘cosmovision’, which allows Mapuches to gain power in other aspects of their identity. Talking about Atilio Curiñanco, she shares: “He used to be a very timid person who never spoke a lot and didn´t seem confident at all. Now, I observe him as the person with a decent and firm position, and I am sure it comes thanks to his struggle for the land, for identity and connection with the Earth. Ñoque Mapu (Mother Earth) sees that and rewards with even more power.”

Where Civilisations Collide

“The powerful always have more rights, but we have different values that don’t fit into the western way of life,” Curiñanco looks at the Ruta 40 in only few metres from his house. “Some people consider us backward for our views and principles, but having another was of thinking doesn’t mean you shall destroy it with rules that go against our vision.”

The newest house under the stars. (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

The newest house under the stars. (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

Leleque now symbolises a spot, where two civilizations clash with their fundamental differences. On the one side is the owner of a big corporation with a network of over 6,500 stores, a total income of 2 billion euro a year, and over 900,000 hectares of Patagonian lands. On the other side is the Mapuche community, which believes in a communitarian type of lifestyle and simple, self-sustaining living.

“In the last ten years we’ve observed how Benetton was trying to avoid this case and show it as something small and less important. And I believe they will keep with that strategy,” Macayo speaks about the future of the case. “The Mapuches will do all they can to bring more problems to the surface, starting with the essential one – colonisation.”

Meanwhile, the Curiñanco – Rúa Nahuelquir family deals with another criminal suit filed by CTSA, who have now targeted INAI, an institution that works with indigenous people, and provides the legal support to the Mapuche family. At the moment Supreme Court is in charge of it, which might take two or three more years due to the complexity of the issue.

“We will obviously continue the fight, as there is no way back,” Curiñanco firms his position. His eyes sparkle and his voice gets stronger. “This is our land and we are responsible for it. It has given so much to us that it would be a crime not to take care of it…”

As we talk, on the other side of the room little Rosita, a granddaughter in the Curiñanco – Rúa Nahuelquir family, is learning some basic Italian words from Fabio, an Italian photographer who arrived in Leleque with his personal project. She absorbs the new language rapidly, and soon they are speaking basic Italian and then switch to Spanish and even teaches some Mapusungun in terutnr. It’s a small scene that depicts a wider hope that dialogue is always possible between our civilisations, even though it requires a lot of will from both sides.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “crime” of solidarity

SocialistWorker | April 29, 2013

On April 24, Frank Barat, a Palestine solidarity activist and co-coordinator of last year’s Russell Tribunal on Palestine, was stopped at Ben Gurion International Airport by the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service, and subjected to four hours of interrogation and nearly a full day’s detention before being deported back Belgium. His “crime”? To have visited Israel while a supporter of Palestinian rights. Here, he describes what took place.

“WRITE YOUR e-mail addresses, your mobile phone number, your house phone, the name of your father and the name of your grandfather on this piece of paper” were the first words the Israeli security officer told me when I sat in front of him in his office.

As anyone involved in solidarity work with the Palestinian people will tell you, landing at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, and having-to-face questioning by the authorities is never an exciting prospect. In the last couple of months, a few activists have been turned back. Due to my work with the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, I knew even before I arrived in front of the immigration desk that I was a likely target for hard questioning from the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service.

I was coming to Palestine to visit old friends and also to take part in a conference on political prisoners organized in Ramallah as part of my role as coordinator for the Russell Tribunal. Due to the fact that Israel controls all the West Bank borders of Palestine, one has to go through Israeli officials in order to reach the occupied Palestinian territories. (Now, only Gaza–via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt–is accessible without too much Israeli interference.)

So I wrote the requested details on the piece of paper in front of me–except that I put an alternative e-mail address, being fully aware that what the officer in front of me wanted was information about other people involved with solidarity work in Palestine and abroad. Mapping networks has in recent years been vigorously pursued by Israel.

The line of questioning, at first, stuck to my travel plans. Six days in Tel Aviv without a travel guide was too much to bear for the man. He then quickly moved to my personal details and asked me to log on to my e-mail account, which is apparently less illegal (in Israel anyway) than I thought (see here and here).

He started to get upset when my inbox opened and there was no message in it. He told me repeatedly, “I know you have another e-mail address. Give it to me.” “I only have this one,” was the answer I stuck with throughout the whole process. I was taken to various offices throughout the whole interrogation process and spoke to a few people, who asked, again and again, the same questions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I HAD to wait for long periods between each interrogation. Palestine and political activity only were raised after about three hours of questioning. I was sort of relieved to hear the word because I knew deep down that the Shabak agent had known about my work on the Palestine issue from minute one. He even asked me at one point, “What will Google tell me if I search for your name?”

The goal, however, was somewhere else. The goal was to exhaust me into giving information about workmates, colleagues and various people I knew in Israel/Palestine. The exhaustion part worked. I was clearly on my knees at 4 a.m., having had no sleep for 24 hours and faced with several unfriendly people questioning me. But they never got what they really wanted–my e-mail account and its content. After four hours of questioning, the verdict came (there were five people in the room, including me, at this time): “You lied to me. So you won’t get in. You will now be deported back. Your flight is in 23 hours.”

Still, right after telling me this, the officer tried one more time, telling me that he was my friend, here to help me and that if I collaborated he might change his decision. I was at this point taken to a room where I was body searched thoroughly (by a young man with an apologetic look on his face), and where my carry-on bag (the only piece of luggage I brought) was fully checked, in and out, approximately three times, including passing through X-rays.

At roughly 4.30 a.m., I was put in a van, alone, and driven to my next destination: the deportation center. Why we stopped, for about 10 minutes, in between airplanes on the tarmac is a question that remains unanswered. He told me before he dropped me off that I would be deported in 23 hours. “You’re lucky,” said the man. “Some people have to wait for a week here.”

The next 23 hours were the longest in my life. With no means to know what the time was, it took forever. My cellmate, a 21-year-old Ukrainian man who spoke no English at all and came to Israel in search of a better future, and I were allowed two 10-minute breaks outside, under surveillance of course, and managed to catch a glimpse of the palm trees and the sunshine that we were at this point longing for. We were then joined by two older Ukrainians as well as a Chinese man.

What I did not know at the time was that a friend in Israel, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, had contacted the office of Israeli lawyer Gabi Lasky to ask her to try to get more information regarding my whereabouts–did I enter? Was I being deported? Detained? They did not want to say anything. It took many hours for Gabi to get confirmation that I was in the detention center at the airport. Over the phone, Gabi later told me that the authorities are making life harder and harder for lawyers and that they are being more difficult every day.

I was put back on a plane, escorted by an immigration official, my bag full of security tags, paraded in front of the other passengers, at 1 a.m. the next day. The fact that the main air hostess was Arab and smiled at me when the immigration official handed her my passport felt, I have to say, very good at the time.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHILE THIS was an extremely unpleasant experience, it is crucial to put things into a broader context. The pressure, fear and humiliation I often felt during this time–the scare tactics used by the Shabak (“Tell me the truth, or you’re going to jail right now”) and the short time spent in jail–are nothing compared to what the Palestinians are going through every day. Right now, more than 4,500 Palestinian political prisoners are rotting in Israeli jails. A few of them have started “hunger strikes” and are slowly dying, while the “international community” (understood as the Western states, the European Union and the United Nations) is doing nothing to come to their rescue.

It is crucial to keep highlighting this. The inconvenience felt by a privileged international citizen should not overshadow the reason at the core of his activism: To acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people to resist their far more powerful occupier and to do so until the systematic and institutionalized apartheid system put in place by Israel ends; to expose the active role played by third parties (states, institutions and corporations) in supporting Israel’s occupation; and to highlight Israel’s impunity regarding countless resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council that have been, so far, never followed by any concrete action.

It is our role as global actors involved in a global struggle for justice, freedom and dignity for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, political orientations, or countries of origin, to show solidarity with those people stripped of their rights. The breaking down of human civilization in sub-categories of human beings (privileges come depending on where you were born, while this act was simply an accident of nature), the slow crumbling of any “common decency,” solidarity and compassion showed by people towards others, can be reversed and is not ineluctable.

This can only happen if we all unite towards this goal.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sick Madness of Tom Friedman’s Culture

By Peter Hart | FAIR | April 29, 2013

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman doesn’t understand how on earth the Boston bombers could rationalize their act of violence–and believes that some aspects of Muslim culture must answer for it.

According to reports of the interrogation of  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers were motivated in part by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And this has the Times columnist scratching his head about the problem with Muslims:

This is a popular meme among radical Muslim groups, and, to be sure, some Muslim youths were deeply angered by the U.S. interventions in the Middle East. The brothers Tsarnaev may have been among them.

But what in God’s name does that have to do with planting a bomb at the Boston Marathon and blowing up innocent people? It is amazing to me how we’ve come to accept this non sequitur and how easily we’ve allowed radical Muslim groups and their apologists to get away with it.

A simple question: If you were upset with U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why didn’t you go out and build a school in Afghanistan to strengthen that community or get an advanced degree to strengthen yourself or become a math teacher in the Muslim world to help its people be less vulnerable to foreign powers? Dzhokhar claims the Tsarnaev brothers were so upset by something America did in a third country that they just had to go to Boylston Street and blow up people who had nothing to do with it (some of whom could have been Muslims), and too often we just nod our heads rather than asking: What kind of sick madness is this?

Friedman goes on to claim that we “must ask a question only Muslims can answer,” which is: “What is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes that every American military action in the Middle East is intolerable and justifies a violent response?”

It is worth asking questions about how different communities or societies react to violence. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States bombed and occupied Afghanistan, based on the argument that the government of that country had tolerated the presence of Al-Qaeda and thus must bear the retribution. As a result, many thousands of people who had nothing to do with terrorism were killed.

Or on to the invasion of Iraq, which was sold as part of a “Global War on Terror” following the 9/11 attacks as well, even though there was never a connection between Iraq and the terrorist attacks. So why did the United States invade Iraq? Tom Friedman explained it to Charlie Rose on May 30, 2003.

To Friedman, there was a “terrorist bubble” in that part of the world, and “we needed to go over there and take out a very big stick…and there was only one way to do it.” He added:

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.” That, Charlie, is what this war is about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia; it was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

What kind of sick madness is this?

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spy, or pay up: FBI-backed bill would fine US firms for refusing wiretaps

RT | April 29, 2013

A US government task force is drafting FBI-backed legislation that would penalize companies like Google and Facebook for refusing to comply with wiretap orders, media report.

In the new legislation being drafted by US law enforcement officials, refusal to cooperate with the FBI could cost a tech company tens of thousands of dollars in fines, the Washington Post quoted anonymous sources as saying.

The fined company would be given 90 days to comply with wiretap orders. If the organization is unable or unwilling to turn over the communications requested by the wiretap, the penalty sum would double every day.

“We don’t have the ability to go to court and say, ‘We need a court order to effectuate the intercept.’ Other countries have that. Most people assume that’s what you’re getting when you go to a court,” FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann told the Washington Post.

If passed in Congress and signed by President Obama, the bill could become a provision of the 1968 Wiretap Act, which require companies to develop mechanisms for obtaining information requested by government investigators.

However, many companies maintain that their resistance to this and similar measures has nothing to do with an unwillingness to help investigators. Google began encrypting its email service following a major hacking attack in 2010; developing wiretap technology could make it and other companies vulnerable, creating “a way for someone to silently go in and activate a wiretap,” said Susan Landau, a former engineer at Sun Microsystems.

The proposed expansion of wiretaps into the digital frontier is the latest in a series of US government efforts to monitor online communications.

The recent Boston Marathon bombings were used by some members of Congress as a reason to push through the highly controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protect Act (CISPA), which was passed by the lower house. If CISPA is signed into law, telecommunication companies will be encouraged to share Internet data with the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice concerning national security purposes.

Tech companies, including giants like Facebook and Microsoft, have objected fiercely to the bill, citing customers’ privacy concerns. The bill is currently shelved in the Senate following President Obama’s threat to veto CISPA due to a lack of personal privacy provisions.

Earlier in April, the FBI requested an additional $41 million from the federal government for the recording and analysis of Internet communication.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center also recently obtained over 1,000 pages of documents proving that the Pentagon has secretly eavesdropped on Internet traffic for several years.

“Senior Obama administration officials have secretly authorized the interception of communications carried on portions of networks operated by AT&T and other Internet service providers, a practice that might otherwise be illegal under federal wiretapping laws,” CNET reporter Declan McCullagh wrote.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Expands Wiretap Authority to Cover Finance, Healthcare and Other Industries

By Matt Bewig | AllGov | April 29, 2013

When one conspires to violate federal law, it helps to have a government agency or two as one’s co-conspirators when law enforcement comes poking around, as telecom giant AT&T and others learned recently when the Defense Department (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) successfully pressured the Justice Department (DOJ) to agree secretly not to prosecute blatantly illegal wiretaps conducted by AT&T and other Internet service providers at the request of the agencies.

Although some press reports have termed this an authorization of activity that would otherwise be illegal, this is a misnomer. The executive branch lacks the power to retroactively declare criminal conduct to be lawful, but it can choose to ignore it by waiving prosecution pursuant to “prosecutorial discretion.”

Although the secret DOJ prosecution waiver initially applied to a cyber-security pilot project—the DIB Cyber Pilot—that allowed the military to monitor defense contractors’ Internet links, the program has since been renamed Enhanced Cybersecurity Services and is being expanded by President Obama to allow the government to snoop on the private networks of all companies operating in “critical infrastructure sectors,” including energy, healthcare, and finance starting June 12.

“The Justice Department is helping private companies evade federal wiretap laws,” warned Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which obtained more than 1,000 pages of government documents relating to the issue via a Freedom of Information Act request. “Alarm bells should be going off.”

The wiretap law referenced by Rotenberg is the Wiretap Act, codified at 18 USC 2511, which makes it a crime for a network operator to intercept communications carried on its networks unless the monitoring is a “necessary incident” to providing the service or it occurs with a user’s “lawful consent.” Since neither of those exceptions applied, DOD and DHS pressed DOJ attorneys to agree not to prosecute what were clearly prosecutable offenses by issuing an unknown number of “2511 letters,” which are normally used by DOJ to tell a company that its conduct fit within one of the lawful exceptions to the Act.

The purported “retroactive authorization” is similar to the “retroactive immunity” given the telecoms by Congress for their participation in illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping between 2001 and 2006. Likewise, former DHS official Paul Rosenzweig compared the case of the “2511 letters” to the CIA asking the Justice Department for legal memos justifying torture a decade ago. “If you think of it poorly, it’s a CYA [“cover your ass] function,” Rosenzweig says. “If you think well of it, it’s an effort to secure advance authorization for an action that may not be clearly legal.” Or may be clearly illegal.

In any event, Obama’s own expansion by mid-June of the snooping “to all critical infrastructure sectors,” defined as companies providing services whose disruption would harm national economic security or “national public health or safety” will proceed.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘UK, France barring UN Syria inspection’

Press TV – April 29, 2013

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari says Britain and France are trying to undermine Damascus’s official request from the United Nation to investigate chemical weapons use in Aleppo.

Al-Jaafari said in an interview with the Lebanese NBN TV channel that the western governments seek to repeat the Iraqi scenario in Syria through questioning its sovereignty by opening its borders to undisciplined inspections by the UN under the pretext of chemical weapons use.

Al-Jaffari said the western sides do not want an investigation to take place suggesting they know full well that the anti-government militants used chemical agents in the town of Khan al-Asal, near Aleppo, and elsewhere.

The Syrian official said the comparison with Iraq is pretty clear as the UN also sent an inspection team to the country to examine weapons of mass destruction claims, but Iraq was occupied despite the fact that the inspection team did not find any WMDs.

He also rejected claims by Britain and France that chemical weapons were used in Homs four months before the Khan al-Asal incident saying they would have reported it earlier if any such attack ever existed.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry has written to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon calling on the body to explain the details of a likely inspection in Khan al-Asal.

However, Britain and France have demanded the team to be also sent to other areas of the country to investigate the use of chemical weapons.

The request has been rejected by the Syrian government that says inspectors cannot have unlimited access to all regions of the country without coordination with Damascus.

The Syrian government has also called for an independent inspection of Khan al-Asal saying Damascus and the UN could discuss the details on other alleged chemical weapons uses separately, though the UN has so far refused to do so.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro-Israeli US lawmakers urge bombing Syria air bases, arming militants, invasion

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US Senator Lindsey Graham (R) South Carolina  (file photo)
Press TV – April 29, 2013

Top US Republican lawmakers have again called for further American actions against Syria, including the bombing of its air bases, leading a multi-nation invasion of the country and sending lethal weapons to anti-Damascus militant gangs.

Fervently pro-Israeli Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina further cited widely challenged claims by the Israeli regime of chemical weapons use in Syria to urge swift Washington action to “secure” chemical arms arsenals in the Arab country in efforts to prevent al-Qaeda-linked militants from gaining access to such weapons, US press reports said on Sunday and Monday.

The two lawmakers, however, did not explain how American forces would secure the alleged cache of Syrian chemical weaponry.

Graham went as far as warning that if the US does not intervene in Syria the next terrorist bombing in American soil will include chemical agents.

“The chemical weapons (in Syria)… are going to be compromised and fall into wrong hands and the next bomb that goes off in America may not have nails and glasses in it,” said Graham during a televised interview with major US network CBS on Sunday.

The senior member of US Senate’s Armed Services Committee also expressed serious concerns about the potential fall of Jordan’s dictator King Abdullah II if Washington did not intervene quickly enough to stop the growing flow of Syrian refugees into his country.

Describing the Jordanian ruler as “a moderating influence and a good [US] ally,” Graham predicted that his regime will fall if the “flood” of Syrian refugees into Jordan continued.

He also predicted a US war with Iran if the Obama administration does not intervene in Syria on the grounds that Tehran would doubt Washington’s resolve in taking action against their nuclear energy program.

The American senator went on to urge the US military to “bomb Syrian air bases with cruise missiles in a bid to “neutralize” the government’s air advantage over the foreign-backed militant gangs and turn the “tide of battle pretty quickly” in favor of the anti-Damascus insurgents.

Moreover, Senator McCain said the US should move into Syria as part of an “international force” to secure the country’s chemical weapons, but did not elaborate on how such international military force would be established and which countries would be involved.

Syria has been faced with a foreign-sponsored armed insurgency since 2011. Thousands of people in the country, including a large number of security forces, have been killed in the unrest with many foreign nationals infiltrating the key Arab state in a bid to destabilize the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , | 9 Comments

Israel demolishes West Bank homes, water wells

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Al-Akhbar | April 29, 2013

Israeli forces on Monday demolished Palestinian homes and water wells in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as settlers confiscated land near Hebron to build a new outpost, local media reported.

In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces razed two apartments in the Tur neighborhood after several attempts by the owners to reverse the demolition order failed.

The authorities evicted 24 members of the Ghaith family, including five children and an elderly woman, from the two apartments ahead of the demolition, Rushi Ghaith, one of the owners, told Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

The apartments were scheduled for demolition in December but the family secured a court-ordered injunction to stop it from going ahead, Ghaith said.

The Ghaith family lawyer said they had successfully stalled attempts to raze the apartments since September 2004, when Israeli authorities handed down the demolition notice because the home was built without a licensing permit. The family’s case to reverse the demolition order is ongoing.

Ghaith said the family has been fined 80,000 Israeli shekels (about $22,000) since the case began.

Meanwhile Israeli soldiers demolished water wells south of Hebron in al-Fawar refugee camp, as settlers from the nearby Ma’oun settlement seized land west of Yatta in preparation for the establishment of new outposts.

Abdul Hadi Hantash, an expert on settlement policies in the southern West Bank, said that the Ma’oun settlers seized land of one of the hills southwest of their original outpost.

Hantash told reporters that the wells the soldiers destroyed were used for agricultural purposes and irrigation.

He added that the continued confiscation of land and demolition of Palestinian structures, including the bulldozing of homes and uprooting of trees, are part of the Israeli government’s illegal settlement expansion program.

Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank occur almost daily under the pretext of building without a permit.

According to the United Nations, 33 percent of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack Israeli-issued building permits, which are difficult to obtain, potentially placing at least 93,100 residents at risk of displacement.

Roughly 94 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits are rejected, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

The group estimates that Israeli authorities have demolished about 27,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank since 1967.

(Ma’an, Wafa, Al-Akhbar)

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela’s Electoral Council Says Capriles Lacks Proof of Fraud

By Chris Carlson | Venezuelanalysis | April 28, 2013

Maracaibo – Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced yesterday that they would not approve Henrique Capriles’ additional demands for the auditing of the April 14 elections, and explained that he lacks any proof of fraud.

The announcement was made on Saturday night via a televised statement by CNE President Tibisay Lucena.

Lucena explained that the expanded audit process would be carried out as planned, but the additional demands that the Capriles campaign have made in recent days would not be included.

“It is important to note that the political parties already audited the electoral process at each stage, certifying the integrity and correct functioning of the system,” said Lucena.

“Representatives from each party signed off on each one, as can be seen in the documents on the CNE website…there were a total of 18 auditing processes, but now they are being silenced and ignored in an attempt to discredit the electoral process,” she said.

Venezuela’s electoral process includes extensive auditing throughout the entire process, including audits of the computer software, electoral rolls, machine functioning, finger ink, data transmission and vote tallying, with the presence of representatives from all political parties.

However, Capriles requested an additional audit after the elections on April 14th, stating that there had been irregularities and that the election was “stolen”.

After Capriles’ request for an additional audit was approved by the CNE last week, his campaign began to demand a more extensive audit, including a revision of the electoral rolls, which were already audited before the election.

“We announced the decision for an additional audit and Capriles publicly accepted. But in later statements he and his spokespeople said it was not enough, and that a different kind of audit was necessary,” said Lucena.

“They began demanding things that had already been audited by their own representatives, such as the electoral rolls, as the signed documents from those audits clearly show,” she said.

Lucena went on to explain that the Capriles campaign had the right to formally challenge the election before Venezuela’s Supreme Court. However, they would have to show proof that fraud occurred, something she said was lacking among the evidenced submitted by the Capriles campaign.

“[Capriles’ evidence] does not constitute any proof of how votes were affected, nor how the results could have been affected without it showing up in the vote tallies that were audited in each voting center by party representatives,” she said.

Lucena gave several examples from the evidence submitted by Capriles in which no concrete information was provided so that the CNE could investigate.

Apparently, much of the evidence was presented in the same basic format that Capriles used during a press conference last week, in which very general claims were simply printed on sheets of paper.

Lucena said without more specific information there was no way that they could be independently verified, nor could it be confirmed if anyone’s vote was actually affected.

“The documents submitted by Capriles last week do not state clearly and precisely the incidents in which the rules were broken. They do not give the specific voting centers, who was involved, nor what possible damage could have occurred as a result,” she said.

Lucena went on to explain that the additional audit of the remaining 46 percent of ballot boxes will proceed as planned and will begin on May 6th.

Capriles’ Response

Henrique Capriles responded on Sunday to the CNE’s announcement with further criticism of the electoral body.

“It’s impossible for Mrs. Tibisay to do anything against the orders of her political party, the PSUV. The nation would find out the truth!” he wrote via Twitter.

He also said that he would continue to challenge the election results inside Venezuela, and internationally as well.

“Soon we will have new elections. Every day we are stronger!” he continued.

On Saturday, Capriles affirmed in an interview that he would continue the process before Venezuela’s Supreme Court, and then in international institutions if needed.

“We think Venezuela’s Supreme Court has been converted into a court of the government, but we must exhaust all the institutions before taking it before international institutions,” he said.

Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Kingdom Samuel Moncada said that this stance by the opposition is very similar to the situation before the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela.

“They are going to say that the CNE ignored them, and so did the Supreme Court, and they are going to take it to the Organization of American States (OAS), but after all the legal mechanisms are exhausted they will try the illegal ones, like calling for a general strike,” he said.

“They will take all legal forms to the limit, like they did in 2002, and try to take the movement to its limit so that the Armed Forces will intervene,” he said.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment