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Does the Right to Privacy Now Apply Only to the US Government?

By JAMES ROTHENBERG | July 25, 2013

Whatever our opinion of Edward Snowden, if we’re fair we see it being formed from a neutral perspective. This is because he was, until recently, a complete unknown. Snowden’s antagonist, the United States Government (USG), occupies the established part of this relationship in our minds.

How do we come to form our opinions? Largely from assessing new information against the background of existing information, in this case, what we know, or, what we believe we know. It’s clear that whatever our opinion of Snowden is is every bit as much a statement about our opinion of the USG.

The USG is not a blank background against which to measure the pros and cons of Snowden’s actions. My contention is simply this: In order to have achieved a position on Snowden close to neutral supposes a worldview in which the US is a neutral reactor to world events and is bent on opposing evil in the interest of creating a more secure world. This is not the history of states, particularly ours.

Even with only an appreciation of very recent American history, we are brought face to face with incessant bombing, crippling sanctions that harm a country’s “little people”, white phosphorus, napalm, depleted uranium, civilian humiliation, indefinite “Devil’s Island style” detention, targeted assassination, robotized and sanitized drone warfare, killing as revealed in Collateral Murder video, and officially sanctioned torture.

No, not a blank background. And now we know, as we should have known, that the vaunted “right to privacy” extends only to, and stops at, the USG. We are to put ourselves in the position of the child whose “parent” knows what is best for us and insists on our trust.

The word “insists” is very important. It has to be backed by something. In the case of the USG it is backed by force, all the force at its disposal. Imagine the reciprocal. The people insist that their government trust them! The absence of force at this level explains the current citizen/state relationship.

There’s a recent, seemingly benign, revelation regarding the United States Postal Service (USPS). Seems like they’ve been photographing the outside of every envelope, package, and postcard passing through its hands. Chalk up 160 billion eavesdropping bits for the USPS last year.

What’s troubling is the legal rationale provided for the intrusion. Loosely stated it’s that the postman has from time immemorial had visual access to the outside of envelopes, so that this was never a privacy concern! And we’re supposed to swallow this whole. The dog-fearing mailman, nosybody that he is, feels free to cop a peek. And, naturally, since he is an agent of the government this “freedom to peek” obtains to the USG as well, because it is unthinkable that an agent should possess powers that do not extend to that for which he is performing his lawful function.

Now that we’ve placed the mailman on a par with the state, and made no distinction between his mild transgression (actually closer to overhearing than snooping), why not extend this to the “Big Brother” image? Could the legal rationale for that be that since we are eminently observable by people in our everyday lives then there is no privacy concern when a certain, larger group of people decide to observe us?

Since the USPS goes lacking for funds, and since it performs a “national security” function, a working idea might be to place the USPS under the Department of Defense, to which money flows freely. That way we could keep the post offices open and possibly slow the escalation of its prices in the bargain.

Snowden has come under criticism because he fled the country. Some believe he should face US justice, what I would characterize as the “martyr solution”, because that is what it would amount to. He fled because this country is no longer safe for whistleblowers. Daniel Ellsberg said as much.

Some believe he should have come in through the front door and taken his case directly to Congress instead of Hong Kong. Go to Congress? To push an approach like this would be to completely ignore the working agenda of a capitalist, militarist, imperialist state and the role its politicians play in it.

To expect the politicians that are complicit with the state in the furtherance of its agenda to play an adversarial role against the very institutions, the financial and corporate elite that sustains them, and upon which they are dependent for their current and future livelihoods is to expect the sun to obey the earth. Whatever bias the public might show toward the USG is magnified times over by those in Congress, with few admirable exceptions.

The term “full spectrum dominance” signifies the ambitious national military project to control all of land, sea, air, space, biological, and cyber fighting capabilities. The term does not originate with avid leftists but is used by them, in quotes, because it is the Pentagon’s preferred description, an open confession of sorts. So, no, Snowden is really only waking the people who have been sleeping.

According to Der Spiegel (whose bias is distinctly anti-left) Jimmy Carter remarked, in defense of Edward Snowden, that “America does not have a functioning democracy at the present time”. He’s been known to have walked away from previous statements, and this remark seems to have been made to a private audience (making it no less true), but the remark itself is totally unsurprising. One can doubt the need for the ending qualifier, “at the present time”. Whether viewed domestically or from abroad, American behavior reveals itself for what it is.

When you see something that looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and in constantly seen in the company of other ducks, you can assume that it’s a duck. That’s funny, but even better it’s funny and speaks to something more. It’s a valuable heuristic.

Take the case of the USG. When you see a country that seeks out right wing dictatorships in foreign countries, aids the right-wingers, deals with the right-wingers, fights with the right-wingers, and is never but never seen in the company of left-wingers, you can assume you have a right-winger.

The slide into fascism is smooth and the momentum is particularly strong at the bottom. In many respects we are already there.

James Rothenberg can be reached at:


July 25, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Anger at BBC’s insistence that all of Jerusalem is Israeli city


MEMO | July 25, 2013

The BBC’s insistence on describing Jerusalem as an Israeli city, despite such a status not being recognised under international law, has been condemned by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

In a ruling delivered this week, the BBC Trust appears to have accepted Israel’s facts on the grounds, namely that Jerusalem is a united Israeli city.

Writing to PSC, the Trust quotes the BBC’s Senior Editorial Strategy Advisor, Leanne Buckle, in her assessment of the BBC’s decision to describe Jerusalem as an Israeli city.

The Trust writes: “The advisor [Buckle] acknowledged that Israel’s sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem was not recognized under international law. However, she considered that Israel had de facto control over the entire city in a political, administrative and military sense. She also noted that Jerusalem was administered as a single entity by the Jerusalem municipal authority which made no distinction between East and West.”

Based on this, the Trust has said it will not consider a complaint by PSC that BBC journalists are breaching the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on Accuracy when they refer to Jerusalem as an Israeli city.

Under international law, only West Jerusalem is considered to be under Israeli de facto control, not the whole of Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is described by the UN as Occupied Palestinian Territory that has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel.

In recent months, items on the BBC’s Today and The World Tonight programmes have described the whole of Jerusalem as being an Israeli city. The country profile page for Israel on the BBC website states that Israel’s seat of government is ‘Jerusalem’.

To date, the BBC continues to insist that it will not change this entry to ‘West Jerusalem’.

Sarah Colborne, Director of PSC, said: “The BBC’s refusal to distinguish between East and West Jerusalem flies in the face of international law and international opinion.

“Instead, Leanne Buckle’s comments reveal that Israel’s illegal creation of facts on the ground appear to have been accepted in BBC newsrooms and by BBC senior management. What’s more, the BBC seems willing to elevate this illegality above international law in its reporting. This is extremely disturbing.”

Colborne added: “The status of Jerusalem is a sensitive issue, and all reporting relating to it should be subject to the highest standards of accuracy by responsible news organisations. The BBC appears to have thrown accuracy out of the window, along with international law. Moreover, it seems to have airbrushed Palestinians and East Jerusalem out of the picture.”

“All we’re asking is that the BBC inserts the word ‘West’ before ‘Jerusalem’ when referring to the part of the divided city that is recognised under international law as being under de facto Israeli control. It’s a question of accuracy. Why is the BBC fighting so hard against it?”

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel unveils controversial plan for West Bank rail network

Al-Akhbar | July 25, 2013

Israel revealed on Wednesday plans for a sprawling railway system across occupied Palestinian territories, a move which has been rejected by the Palestinian Authority, local media reported.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the “grandiose” plan includes 473 kilometers of rail, 30 stations on 11 lines and dozens of bridges and tunnels in order to connect all West Bank cities.

The planned rail network – which could cost at least $27.8 billion according to media reports – would connect major Palestinian cities in the West Bank with the Gaza Strip and Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line. The trains would also link to border crossings into Jordan and Syria, The Times of Israel wrote, disregarding existing political demarcation lines.

The PA has officially refused to cooperate with Israel’s civil administration regarding the plan, as Palestinians eye the Israeli move with suspicion.

“The West Bank and Gaza are, by international law, occupied territories,” Salman Abu Sitta, a Palestinian researcher and author of the Atlas of Palestine, told Al-Akhbar.

“Any action by the occupying power is not allowed there, therefore this plan is expropriation of Palestinian land.”

“In normal circumstances, railways are a good thing, but this is a war crime under the Rome Statute,” just like the apartheid wall, Abu Sitta added.

Following the PA’s repeated refusal to collaborate on the project, Israel decided to proceed without Palestinian input and publicize the plan. Israeli officials said the railway initiative will be open for comments and objections from the public before its final validation.

The decision to push forward with the plan ignores the possible ramifications of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive peace talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials, Palestinian newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida noted.

Should the railway plan materialize, the trains could facilitate movement of Israeli troops and settlers across the West Bank, Abu Sitta noted.

Abu Sitta dismissed Israeli media coverage of the railway plan which highlighted its benefits for commuting Palestinians.

“They (Israelis) always say that, just like they claim settlements are good for Palestinians,” he said. “But the good of the Palestinians is to be decided by the Palestinians themselves and their democratically elected government.”

Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told The Times of Israel that the high cost of the plan meant that “there is no intention to advance the plan to the implementation stage at this time.”

“This is just on paper. It’s not going to be built for years,” Katz said, adding that construction in areas A and B of the West Bank could not take place without approval from the Palestinian Authority.

Even if funds for the costly project do not materialize, “the mere existence of the plan means that any construction program from now on will have to take the theoretical railway lines into account,”Haaretz wrote.

For Abu Sitta, the possibility that land would be reserved for the railway network, intentionally blocking future Palestinian construction in those areas, is a plausible theory.

“We have a long record of such deception,” he said.

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on Israel unveils controversial plan for West Bank rail network

Canada obliged to reveal records on abuse of aboriginal school kids

Press TV – July 24, 2013

A superior court of general jurisdiction in Canada has ordered the government to release millions of documents on its residential school system, which will reveal secrets of abuse and torture of aboriginal children at government-funded schools, Press TV reports.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered the government to hand over the documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The Commission has said that the documents will allow the public, researchers and educators to learn more about what happened to the 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children, who were taken from their homes, often against their parents’ will.

“We knew of those records, which talked about the experiments of withholding food from children while they were in residential schools so the government could see what the impact of poor nutrition or malnutrition would be on people,” said Justice Murray Sinclair.

In addition, the documents are believed to reveal evidence of widespread sexual and mental abuse as well as torture of native children living at more than 130 government-funded residential schools.

The residential school system was launched in the 1870s and the last one closed in 1996.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government had initially denied the request, saying it was of no relevance and that it would be too costly.

The documents as well as thousands of statements from former aboriginal students are to be housed by the National Research Center at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Canada obliged to reveal records on abuse of aboriginal school kids

Nasrallah: EU giving “legal cover” for an Israeli war on Lebanon

Al-Akhbar | July 25, 2013

The European Union is paving the way for Israel to justify a war on Lebanon, Hezbollah’s general secretary said late Wednesday, two days after the 28 member states issued a decision to put Hezbollah’s military wing on its terror list.

“EU countries should know they are giving legal cover for Israel to launch any war on Lebanon because Israel can claim it is waging war on terrorists,” Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech at the annual iftar ceremony held by the Women’s Committee of Islamic Resistance Support Association of Hezbollah.

“These countries make themselves undeniable allies during any Israeli aggression on Lebanon, on the resistance and on any target for the resistance [in the country],” Nasrallah added.

The EU 28-member bloc agreed Monday to blacklist Hezbollah’s military organization as a terrorist group following years of relentless US and Israeli pressure.

The EU cited accusations that the powerful Lebanese Shia movement was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria last year which killed five Israelis and their driver, as well as the party’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the Bulgaria bombing.

Last month a new socialist-led Bulgarian government backed away from the claims of the previous administration, saying that the EU could not justify blacklisting Hezbollah solely based on the little evidence produced to implicate it in the crime.

“It is important that the (EU) decision be based not only on the bombing … because I think the evidence we have is not explicit,” Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin had told national state radio BNR.

Nasrallah noted that the EU’s official statement will be issued within days and the party will see then what is to be discussed.

He also posed the question to the EU of why the union hadn’t considered placing Israel’s army on its terror list.

“[The EU] repeatedly admits that Israel occupies Arab land but hasn’t implemented international resolutions for ten years. The whole world has witnessed the Israeli massacres,” he said.

Nasrallah advised the member states to reconsider the decision, stating that it is doomed to fail and that “the decision wasn’t worth the ink it was written with.”

The EU’s blacklisting of Hezbollah’s military wing is merely the result of external pressure and interests, he said, instead of being based on values and principles. He added that the effect of the decision is nothing but psychological.

“In this country, resistance fighters fought the Israeli occupation, endured a lot of pressure and sacrificed martyrs. Then you come to those who are the sons of these people and say they are terrorists. This is abuse to fighters, to their people and to their successive governments,” Nasrallah stated.

“This decision aims at making us bow, at forcing us to step back and be afraid. But, I tell you that all you will get is failure and frustration,” he said, adding that anyone who thinks the resistance will be undermined by the decision is either “ignorant or delusional.”

The General Secretary hinted jokingly at having members of Hezbollah’s military wing in Lebanon’s new government, assuring viewers that the resistance has gained credibility among people in Lebanon and the Arab and Muslim world.

“The most important thing for the Lebanese resistance is to get the support of its people and to express their will, pride and view in defending their land and their sovereignty,” he said.

“The Resistance will remain and will be victorious by God’s will,” Nasrallah concluded.

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nasrallah: EU giving “legal cover” for an Israeli war on Lebanon

Soldiers invade two Palestinian houses – for training only

International Solidarity Movement | July 25, 2013

Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Last night, Israeli occupation soldiers invaded two houses in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, one being the Sumud house and the headquarters of the Palestinian human rights organisation Youth Against Settlements.

Israeli soldier climbing fence surrounding the Palestinian home. The door was unlocked the entire time (Photo by ISM)

Israeli soldier climbing fence surrounding the Palestinian home. The door was unlocked the entire time (Photo by ISM)

At 21:15 pm three groups consisting of four Israeli soldiers each invaded the Sumud house from different directions. The heavily armed soldiers took the residents of the house completely by surprise, as they had been sneaking through the nearby olive groves. After harassing the people at the Sumud house and creating some mess, the soldiers retreated into the olive groves, only to invade the neighbouring house’s back-garden using the latter to climb over the wall surrounding the property. The aim of the exercise is unclear but soldiers seemed to have practised how to break into a house.

Activists from Youth Against Settlements as well as the International Solidarity Movement who were present at the scene strongly believe the invasion to have been a training exercise, as the soldiers could not show a court order justifying the invasion, nor did they arrest anyone. The precise goal and nature of the exercise remain unclear. By 22pm, all soldiers had gone, leaving a trail of confusion and broken property.

Among the broken property was the Sumud house Argile (Photo by ISM)

Among the broken property was the Sumud house Argile (Photo by ISM)

Although this is the first time the Sumud house has been targeted in what is clearly a training excersise, such incidents are not uncommon in the H2 area of Hebron, where 35,000 Palestinians live under the constant presence and control of a couple of thousand Israeli soldiers. “I am not training material. I am not an object,” local human rights activist Issa Amro commented after the incident. Amro subsequently called the Israeli DCO (District Coordination Office), which did not seem to know about the harassment and were unable to offer any explanation for the invasion of the two houses.

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Soldiers invade two Palestinian houses – for training only