Aletho News


U.S. Population Growth Slows to Lowest Rate Since 1937

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | January 1, 2014

The United States is barely growing in terms of population, falling to its lowest growth rate since the Great Depression.

In 2013, the nation expanded by less than a percentage point (0.72%), according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

That translated into a population increase of less than three million people nationwide, from 313,873,685 in 2012 to 316,128,839 this year.

The tepid growth was the lowest since 1937, with even slower expansion still to come.

“The census projections to 2060 have us going down to half a percent because we’re an older population, and aging populations don’t grow so much,” William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, told The New York Times.

He added that a slow-growing population could cause a drag on economic growth.

“If we have very sharp declines in growth, that takes a bite out of the economy,” Frey said.

Regionally, the South and the West experienced the strongest population increases, but even there the rates were just under 1%. Things were worse in the Midwest and the Northwest, which saw less than half a percent of growth.

The largest numerical increases in populations took place in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Washington.

Percentage-wise, the biggest gainer was North Dakota, where a thriving oil and gas industry helped boost the population by 3.14%. It was followed by the District of Columbia (2.06%), Utah (1.61%) Colorado (1.52%) and Texas (1.49%).

Behind these statistics is, of course, the frequency of births and deaths, which fuels the rate of population growth. In that regard, the Census Bureau offered a projection: this month in the U.S. there will be one birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Economics | | 2 Comments

A short history of British torture

ICC | December 2005

When the House of Commons was debating how much to increase the time limit for detention without trial the question of torture came up. Officially this was limited to the nice considerations of whether it was all right to send people to places where torture is used and whether Britain can use information collected by the use of torture in other countries. This discussion gave an impression of democratic Britain as the home of civilised behaviour where the very idea of torture is repugnant to our legislators – unlike, say, the US with its secret CIA jails and where Cheney has been labelled the ‘Vice President for Torture’. In reality, the British state has a long history of using and developing a whole range of torture techniques.

Interrogation in Northern Ireland

Between 1971 and 1975 more than 2000 people were interned without trial by the state in Northern Ireland. Picked up without having any charges laid, or knowing when they were going to be released, detainees were subject to all sorts of treatments, some coming under the heading of ‘interrogation in depth’. Apart from prolonged sessions of oppressive questioning, serious threats, wrist bending, choking and beatings, there were instances of internees being forced to run naked over broken glass and being thrown, tied and hooded, out of helicopters a few feet above the ground. The ‘five techniques’ at the centre of the interrogators’ work were: sensory deprivation through being hooded (often while naked); being forced to stand against walls (sometimes for over 20 hours and even for more than 40); being subjected to continuous noise (from machinery such as generators or compressors for periods of up to 6 or 7 days); deprivation of food and water; sleep deprivation for periods of up to week. Relays of interrogation teams were used against the victims.

The British state tried to discredit reports of torture. Stories were fed to the media about injuries being self-inflicted – “one hard-line Provisional was given large whiskies and a box of king-size cigarettes for punching himself in both eyes” (Daily Telegraph, 31/10/77). There were indeed instances of self-harm, but these were either suicide attempts or done with the hope of being transferred to hospital accommodation.

Then the press said that any measures were justified if they helped to ‘prevent violence’. They contrasted “ripping out fingernails, beating people with steel rods and applying electric shocks to their genitalia” (Daily Telegraph 3/9/76), examples of “outright brutality”, with the measures used in Northern Ireland.

In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights said that the techniques Britain had used caused “intense physical and mental suffering and … acute psychiatric disturbance”, but that while this was “inhuman and degrading treatment” it didn’t amount to torture. This was a victory for the British state because it was keen to use means that would cause the maximum distress to the victim with the minimum external evidence. They had been previously referred to the European Court over torture in Cyprus, but in fact British interrogators had been using various combinations of the ‘five techniques’ for a long time. When the army and RUC approached Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner, for formal approval “They told him that the ‘in-depth’ techniques they planned to use were those the army had used … many times before when Britain was faced with insurgencies in her colonies, including Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, the British Cameroons, Brunei, British Guyana, Aden, Borneo, Malaysia and the Persian Gulf” (Provos The IRA and Sinn Fein Peter Taylor).

By any means deemed necessary

British intervention in the Malayan ‘emergency’ in the 1950s has been held up as a model of suppression and ‘counter-insurgency’. Apart from the camps established, the murder squads, use of rigid food controls, burning down villages and the imposition of emergency regulations, the use of torture was an integral part of British operations. With 650,000 people uprooted and ‘resettled’ in New Villages, or put in concentration camps, there was also a programme of ‘re-education’.

British action in Kenya in the 1950s also showed what British civilisation was prepared to do. At various times over 90,000 ‘suspects’ were imprisoned, in either detention camps or ‘protected villages’. At one point Nairobi (population 110,000) was emptied, with 16,500 then detained and 2,500 expelled to reserves. Assaults and violence, often to the point of death, were extensive. As in Malaya, ‘rehabilitation’ was one of the goals of the operation. More than 1000 people were hanged, using a mobile gallows that was taken round the country. Overall, maybe 100-150,000 died through exhaustion, disease, starvation and systematic brutality.

Recent revelations in The Guardian (12/11/5) concerned a secret torture centre, the “London Cage”, that operated between July 1940 and September 1948. Three houses in Kensington were used to interrogate some 3500 German officers, soldiers and civilians. Still in use for three years after the end of the war, interrogation included beatings, being forced to stand to attention for up to 26 hours, threats of execution or unnecessary surgery, starvation, sleep deprivation, dousings with cold water etc. “In one complaint lodged at the National Archives, a 27-year-old German journalist being held at this camp said he had spent two years as a prisoner of the Gestapo. And not once, he said, did they treat him as badly as the British.”

No exceptions

There is a continuity in the British state’s actions. The Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the ‘London Cage’ received an OBE for his interrogation work in the First World War. In the 1950s there were reports of Britain experimenting with drugs, surgery and torture with a view to designing techniques that would be effective but look harmless. In the 1970s thousands of army officers and senior civil servants were trained to use psychological techniques for security purposes. Inevitably, the truth about current activities is not in the public domain.

In general, British democracy has been better than others at concealing the brutal way its state functions. Anything that is exposed is denied or dismissed as being an isolated excess. In France the extensive use of torture in the war in Algeria was publicised as part of a battle between different factions of the colonial aparatus. Victims had hoses inserted in their mouths and their stomachs filled with water, electrodes were put on genitals, heads were immersed in water. During the Battle of Algiers 3-4000 people ‘disappeared’: fatal victims of French torture techniques.

Although France, and more recently the US in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, have been less successful than Britain in keeping their actions under wraps, all these “democracies” use the most brutal methods of interrogation and detention. They also learn from each other’s activities, most notably in Vietnam, where the US drew on British experience in Malaya as much as earlier French experience in Indo-China.


January 1, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Court Says Border Searches Of Your Computer Are Okay Because You Shouldn’t Keep Important Info On Your Computer

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 31, 2013

This one is hardly a surprise, given how many (though not all) courts have ruled concerning searches of computing devices at the border. The government’s general theory is that there is no 4th Amendment right at the border, and thus customs officials can search anything. The argument that they’re trying to prevent “bad stuff” from getting into the country really doesn’t make much sense though. If bad stuff is “on a computer” it could easily be sent digitally across the border with no intervention from a customs official. Furthermore, making border searches of laptops and phones even more troubling is the nature of how information is stored. When we pack for a trip we deliberately choose what to include in our suitcase — so we know what’s coming with us. However, on our electronic devices, we pretty much store absolutely everything. Arguing that these are subject to a full search seems problematic — but many courts have found otherwise.

And, now there’s another one. A judge in NY has dismissed a challenge to the searches brought by the ACLU. The judge, Edward Korman, repeatedly quotes former head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who now makes money by hyping up the threats the country faces, so it’s not like he’s the most unbiased of folks to be relying on for how important these border searches really are. Judge Korman claims that the defendants have no standing to bring the case in the first place. There is one individual (a PhD. student) who actually had his computer searched, and then some professional organizations who worried about their members having their computers searched. The judge is simply not impressed by their arguments… at all. He notes that Customs and Border Patrol appears to search so few laptops that it’s highly unlikely that any individual will have theirs searched — and thus these groups can’t really allege a likely harm. He points out that it’s wrong to use a declaratory judgment case to address “a claim of alleged injury based on speculation as to conduct which may or may not occur at some unspecified future date.”

As for the one guy, Pascal Abidor, who did have his laptop searched, Judge Korman is also not impressed, noting that he’s not suing over that particular search, but the possibility of future searches. The judge seems a bit perplexed by this decision, but notes that it takes away his ability to get standing:

Abidor could have established standing in this case by adding a cause of action for damages based on his claim that he was subject to an unreasonable search. Such a cause of action would have provided the occasion for a trial or a motion for summary judgment that would have fully developed the record with respect to both the initial quick look search and subsequent forensic search. No such action is alleged.

But, as Judge Korman notes, if he can’t show any real likelihood of future harm, he can’t show standing.

Even after dismissing for lack of standing, the judge decides to take on the issue anyway, and this is where he starts to get really insulting to anyone who thinks that perhaps they should have some privacy rights at the border. He openly mocks the plaintiffs for arguing for the need for a “reasonable suspicion” standard for searches, noting that this bar is so low that it’s not like they’d get much more privacy out if it anyway:

Plaintiffs must be drinking the Kool-Aid if they think that a reasonable suspicion threshold of this kind will enable them to “guarantee” confidentiality to their sources.

He goes on to suggest that since traveling internationally involves going into other countries, these same people would probably have even less privacy over their data, since other countries may be even more willing to search their computers. He even cites the situation of David Miranda having his electronics searched in the UK.

Surely, Pascal Abidor cannot be so naive to expect that when he crosses the Syrian or Lebanese border that the contents of his computer will be immune from searches and seizures at the whim of those who work for Bassar al-Assad or Hassan Nasrallah. Indeed, the New York Times recently reported on the saga of David Michael Miranda who was detained for nine hours by British authorities “while on a stop in London’s Heathrow airport during a trip from Germany to Brazil.”

While the judge’s point is correct that other countries are unlikely to protect the privacy of travelers as well, and that means that any information on a laptop may be inherently unsafe, it seems like a bit of a weak copout to argue that since other countries have no respect for your electronic privacy, that the US shouldn’t either.

He goes even further, arguing that because there’s a “special need” at the border to stop bad people, that it’s perfectly fine to ignore things like probable cause or reasonable suspicion — again quoting Michael Chertoff to suggest that border laptop searches have stopped “bad people” from entering the US.

But then he argues that since everyone knows they may be searched at the border, there isn’t really an invasion of privacy:

The invasion of privacy occasioned by such a border search, however, like the search of luggage, briefcases, and even clothing worn by a person entering the United States, is mitigated by other factors….. As Professor LaFave observes, because “the individual crossing a border is on notice that certain types of searchers are likely to be made, his privacy is less invaded by those searches.” …. Thus, “[t]he individual traveler determines the time and place of the search by his own actions, and he thus has ample opportunity to diminish the impact of that search by limiting the nature and character of the effects which he brings with him.”… Indeed, because of the large number of laptop computers (close to a million per year) that are lost by travelers–numbers that far exceed the comparative handful of laptops that are searched at the border–the sensible advice to all travelers is to “[t]hink twice about the information you carry on your laptop,” and to ask themselves: “Is it really necessary to have so much information accessible to you on your computer.”

This seems problematic on multiple levels. First, if we go by the idea that there’s less of a privacy violation because you know it’s coming, then that gives the government the right to ignore the 4th Amendment so long as it tells you ahead of time that it’s going to ignore the 4th Amendment. Even the Supreme Court in Smith v. Maryland — the infamous case concerning the 3rd party doctrine — states that such a scenario is ridiculous, and that just because you know that you’re going to be searched, it doesn’t automatically make the search reasonable.

As for the suggestion that you shouldn’t store stuff on your computers, I’m sure that’s great in theory, but I’d like judges to make decisions based in reality. This suggestion is basically “don’t use your computer for what it’s designed for, because we might search it.” That’s not exactly compelling.

Again, given past precedents, and the specific facts of this case, it’s not entirely surprising. That doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing to see yet another middle finger given to the 4th Amendment to close out the year.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Court Says Border Searches Of Your Computer Are Okay Because You Shouldn’t Keep Important Info On Your Computer

NYPD a ‘quasi-military organization,’ according to outgoing top-cop Ray Kelly

RT | December 31, 2013

During the last few hours of a lengthy tenure atop the New York Police Department tainted by both scandal and success, outgoing-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly echoed soon-to-be-ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg with big words about the city’s boys in blue.

Bloomberg provoked a fair share of criticism from Big Apple residents in late 2011 when he said, “I have my own army in the NYPD . . . the seventh biggest army in the world.”

Two years later and new comments from Commissioner Kelly might make the same sort of splash.

The increased militarization of the NYPD and other big city police agencies had already caused concern among many by the mayor’s remarks that November, but both Bloomberg and Kelly’s handling of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in Lower Manhattan that autumn and into the winter attracted previously unmatched opposition. Within just a few short months the city had arrested hundreds of peaceful protesters, and tales from Occupiers about being pepper-sprayed by the police became routine over social media.

Two years later, the NYPD’s reputation has not been repaired: the agency’s stop-and-frisk policy remains as controversial as ever, and an award-winning Associated Press report exposed a secretive intelligence-gathering wing of the force that singled out area Muslims for warrantless surveillance.

Now as he throws in the towel after serving as the civilian administrator of the NYPD for 14 of the last 24 years, Kelly has said something that doesn’t shy away from accusations he helped use his police force to make a police-state.

The New York Times was questioning what they called Kelly’s “tight control of the department” when he reportedly looked “pained” and told them, “You can’t win.”

“Obviously, in a quasi-military organization, you need an ultimate decision maker,” he said.

Ominous words about the world’s seventh-biggest army, or an actualization of what the NYPD has become under his command? The New York City blog Politicker was quick to throw Kelly’s quote into a headline for a post they published on Tuesday, and one of the most widely-subscribed Twitter accounts used by Occupy Wall Street linked followers to the Times article by way of Kelly’s quip.

“Oh, so he doesn’t know what ‘quasi’ means,” one Twitter user remarked back.

Rania Khalek, an independent journalist who watched the NYPD evolve under Kelly, weighed in on the comment as well.

“I was surprised by his candidness, but my first thought was, at least’s being honest,” she told RT on Tuesday. “The role of the NYPD, like most city police departments around the country, is indistinguishable from that of the military, especially in poor communities of color where police serve as occupying armies for the most part.”

And as the AP’s investigation has shown, ethnic minorities in the greater New York region have indeed been forced to endure specialized scrutiny under Kelly and Bloomberg by way of the NYPD’s so-called Demographics Unit: a faction of the force dedicated to collecting intelligence on Muslims by seemingly any means necessary.

“Investigations of any community which are not based upon indications of crime create fear and erode the confidence of a community in the power of a legal system to protect it,” New York University law professor Paul Chevigny told Newsday earlier this year.

Combined with an “army” of 35,000 or so police officers, it’s easy to see how that fear has made Kelly a person that many New Yorkers have grown to despise during his tenure. Additionally, retired NYPC Captain John A. Eterno told the Times this week that the way in which the commissioner has operated his organization in recent years has been cloaked in secrecy to a point of contention.

“He’s done very well with technology and made many innovations,” Eterno told the Times, “But lack of transparency is going to be his legacy.”

“He’s simply hidden things over and over that are harmful to democratic policing,” he said.

In a 1995 study, Victor Kappeler wrote in his abstract that the quasi-military structure that Kelly claims to have enforced cannot breed a “truly professional” police force. The “need to balance internal discipline with police-citizen interactions results in pressure on the individual officer to produce results,” he wrote, is accomplished in militarized units “often by relying on various degrees of misconduct.”

Between 2011 and 2012, misconduct within the ranks of the NYPD raised 22 percent, Controller John Liu confirmed back in June, causing a reported 229 NYPD officers to be disciplined last year.

At the same time, however, statistics suggest that the NYPD’s actual ability to fight crime could be on the up as well. The Times reported on Tuesday that the city is expect to log only 330 murders for this year — a record low.

“And these record-breaking successes are all due in great part to the professionalism and skill of the NYPD,” Bloomberg said during a ceremony earlier this month.

Others, however, had not so nice things to say. To commemorate Kelly’s last day as commissioner of NYPD, a few dozen New Yorkers gathered downtown for a “Good Riddance, Ray Kelly” party advertised on Facebook.

“We’re celebrating because we survived this asshole,” activist Cyrus McGoldrick told the New York Daily News from Tuesday’s demonstration.

As RT reported previously, Kelly will soon join the Council on Foreign Relations — a dominant international policy think-tank — where he will still be able to stay close to his fellow New Yorkers. Even in his post-NYPD career, Kelly will receive a taxpayer-funded ten-man security detail that is reported to cost NYC residents around $1.5 million a year.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NSA Unit Intercepts Computer Shipments for Secret Access Modifications

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | January 1, 2014

Sophisticated as it is with myriad forms of electronic spying at its disposal, the National Security Agency (NSA) sometimes resorts to old-fashioned, hands-on methods of breaking into someone’s computer system.

In rare instances when the agency can’t hack its way into a network, the NSA employs a special group of “plumbers” to gain access.

These specialists intercept computer shipments ordered by a targeted person and reroute the boxes to secret workshops. There, the packages are opened, and either software or hardware are implanted into the equipment to allow the NSA full access to the system once it’s operational by the target. The packages are then carefully resealed and sent on their way to the unsuspecting customers.

This type of old-school procedure, referred to by NSA as “interdiction,” is considered by the agency to be one of its “most productive operations,” a method that gives the NSA access to computer networks “around the world.”

These interceptions are just one of the many sneaky tasks performed by the NSA’s Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), which is also skilled at electronic snooping.

According to NSA documents obtained by the German newspaper Der Spiegel, TAO handles jobs involving counterterrorism, cyber attacks and traditional espionage.

Matthew Aid, a historian who specializes in NSA history, told Spiegel that TAO is “akin to the wunderkind of the US intelligence community,” adding that within the NSA, the unit is known for “getting the ungettable.”

TAO’s work has extended around the globe, reaching more than 250 targets in nearly 90 countries. It has been projected that about 85,000 computers worldwide were infiltrated by NSA specialists as of the end of 2013. Most of the “implants” were accomplished via the Internet by TAO teams.

“Indeed, TAO specialists have directly accessed the protected networks of democratically elected leaders of countries,” Spiegel wrote. “They infiltrated networks of European telecommunications companies and gained access to and read mails sent over Blackberry’s BES email servers, which until then were believed to be securely encrypted.”

The unit’s successes have given the NSA reason to expand its size and locations since first establishing TAO in 1997.

TAO offices now operate out of Wahiawa, Hawaii; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Buckley Air Force Base near Denver, Colorado; Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; and Fort Meade, Maryland (NSA headquarters).

The San Antonio unit alone is expected to grow from 60 to 270 specialists by 2015.

To Learn More:

Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit (Der Spiegel)

Shopping for Spy Gear: Catalog Advertises NSA Toolbox (by Jacob Appelbaum, Judith Horchert and Christian Stöcker, Der Spiegel)

Computer Security Firm Accepted $10 Million Payoff to Give NSA Backdoor Access (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on NSA Unit Intercepts Computer Shipments for Secret Access Modifications

PLO says US to allocate $440 million to PA in 2014

Ma’an – 01/01/2014

BETHLEHEM – The United States is set to increase financial aid to the Palestinian Authority in 2014, the PLO ambassador to Washington said Tuesday.

Maen Erekat told Ma’an that the US Congress agreed to allocate $440 million of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority in 2014. He highlighted that in 2013, US aid was $426 million, $495 million in 2012 and $545 million in 2011.

In 2014, most of the financial aid will be developmental projects through the US aid agency USAID. Only $70 million is expected to be paid directly to the PA’s treasury, he highlighted.

The ambassador noted that “despite the endorsement, financial aid to the PA will be affected by progress of the peace process in Palestine.”

The Palestinian leadership, says Erekat, has asked the US to reestablish a joint Palestinian-American committee which was active in 1990s to discuss political, economical and tourism issues among others.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

European legislators threatened with arrest by Israeli authorities

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC News | December 31, 2013

Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon declared, on Tuesday, that former British International Development Secretary Clare Short and three other European legislators would be arrested if they try to come to Israel, due to their involvement in a European-Palestinian organization calling for an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza.

Clare Short (image from wikimedia)

Clare Short (image from wikimedia)

The Israeli government, last week, outlawed the organization, Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR), which allows the Israeli government to seize its assets and arrest any members of the organization.

Clare Short is a member of the Board of Directors of the non-profit group, and is a British Parliament member with the Labour Party, as well as a former Cabinet member in the British government. In response to Ya’alon’s declaration, she said, “Given Israel’s track record, the Defence Minister’s action is not surprising, but it is yet more evidence that Israel’s claim to be a democracy is eroding very fast.”

The CEPR states that its aim is “to promote dialogue and understanding between European, Palestinian and Arab parliamentarians and policy-makers. It seeks a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on justice and the restoration of Palestinian rights, in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.”

Although Israel has declared the organization to be a threat to its national security, it has yet to provide evidence of the group’s involvement in any terrorist activity. In his statement, Ya’alon referred vaguely to the group’s opposition to the Israeli siege on Gaza as the reason for its being declared illegal.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment