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Court Rules No Fly List Process Is Unconstitutional and Must Be Reformed

Court Orders Government to Give Plaintiffs in ACLU Lawsuit a Chance to Clear Their Names

ACLU | June 24, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. – In a landmark ruling, a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional the government’s procedures for people on the No Fly List to challenge their inclusion. The decision came in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans who found themselves on the list without any notice, reasons, or meaningful way to get off it.

The judge ordered the government to create a new process that remedies these shortcomings, calling the current process “wholly ineffective” and a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The ruling also granted a key request in the lawsuit, ordering the government to tell the ACLU’s clients why they are on the No Fly List and give them the opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the list before the judge.

“For years, in the name of national security the government has argued for blanket secrecy and judicial deference to its profoundly unfair No Fly List procedures, and those arguments have now been resoundingly rejected by the court,” said ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi, one of the attorneys who argued the case.

“Our clients will finally get the due process to which they are entitled under the Constitution. This excellent decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the No Fly List, with the promise of a way out from a Kafkaesque bureaucracy causing them no end of grief and hardship. We hope this serves as a wake-up call for the government to fix its broken watchlist system, which has swept up so many innocent people.”

According to media reports, there are more than 20,000 people on the No Fly List. Their only recourse is to file a request with the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP), after which DHS responds with a letter that does not explain why they were denied boarding. The letter does not confirm or deny whether their names remain on the list, and does not indicate whether they can fly.

The ruling from the U.S. District Court in Oregon found, “[W]ithout proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, an individual could be doomed to indefinite placement on the No-Fly List. … [T]he absence of any meaningful procedures to afford Plaintiffs the opportunity to contest their placement on the No-Fly List violates Plaintiffs’ rights to procedural due process.”

One of the plaintiffs in the case is Sheikh Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, who is the imam of Portland’s largest Mosque.

“Finally I will be able to challenge whatever incorrect information the government has been using to stigmatize me and keep me from flying,” Imam Kariye said. “I have been prevented by the government from traveling to visit my family members and fulfill religious obligations for years, and it has had a devastating impact on all of us. After all this time, I look forward to a fair process that allows me to clear my name in court.”

The national ACLU, along with its affiliates in Oregon, Southern California, Northern California, and New Mexico, filed the lawsuit in June 2010 on behalf of 13 U.S. citizens, including four military veterans. In July 2012, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the case on jurisdictional grounds, allowing the district court to consider the case on its merits. In August 2013, the court found that constitutional rights are at stake when the government places Americans on the list.

Today’s ruling is at:
aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/no_fly_list_ruling__-_latif_v._holder_-_6-24-14.pdf

More information on the case and plaintiffs is at:
aclu.org/national-security/latif-et-al-v-holder-et-al-aclu-challenges-government-no-fly-list

A recent ACLU report on the problems with the government’s overall watchlist system is at:
aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/watchlist_briefing_paper_v3.pdf

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

FOIA Request On Effectiveness Of License Plate Readers Greeted With A Blank Stare By Virginia Police Department

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | June 23, 2014

Law enforcement agencies are generally pretty happy with their automatic license plate readers. It allows them to harvest millions of plate/location records without having to exit their vehicles, much less slow them down. It also allows them to spring from their cruisers with guns out and force non-car thieves into submissive positions while they perform the sort of due diligence that should have been completed long before the cops/guns exited their respective holders.

What they don’t seem to like is anyone asking questions about the massive databases they’re compiling or whether they’ve bothered to institute any minimization/privacy policies. When questioned, they usually talk about what a great tool it is for crime-fighting, even if said tool contains millions of useless photos entirely unrelated to criminal activity. Some even claim that every single photo in the database is integral to ongoing investigations and therefore cannot be subjected to minimization procedures, much less the pesky FOIA requests of surveilled citizens.

And sometimes, these agencies are so sure they like the tech that they can’t even be bothered to determine whether it’s actually doing anything to assist in the business of law enforcement. Stephen Gutowski at the Capitol City Project recently asked the Fairfax County, VA police about the effectiveness of its license plate photo database and got this ‘FILE NOT FOUND’ statement in response.

This letter is in response to your FOIA request in which you requested the number of ALPR records Fairfax County currently has on file. This number is constantly fluctuating, but as of 05/20/2014 at 1003 hours there were 2,731,429 reads in the system.

You further requested any available metric the county uses to determine the system’s effectiveness. It was found that the Fairfax County Police Department does not possess any such responsive materials based on the information you requested.

The assumption here is that the system works. The Fairfax County PD occasionally posts arrests linked to ALPR database hits and… well, beyond that, the PD draws a blank. Presumably a handful of arrests justifies a multi-million image-and-location photo database. But this lack of self-assessment shouldn’t be acceptable, not for an agency that has abused its technology in the past.

It came to light late last year that the Fairfax PD trolled political rallies to grab more plate data, racking up nearly 70,000 photos in five days. This abuse prompted a local lawmaker to push legislation aimed at severely limiting, if not completely eradicating, ALPR readers in his district. Not a bad idea, as far it goes.

Virginia law enforcement agencies aren’t going to be happy with this move and they’ll be able to mobilize a pretty powerful opposition. But these are the same entities that tried to bury info on plate readers back in 2009, simply because they felt the public might try to get the system shut down if they knew what was going on. But the lack of controls or any gauge of the system’s effectiveness shouldn’t be allowed to escape unnoticed, because the failure to monitor error rates and hits can result in catastrophic consequences for citizens whose plates trigger false hits — something this system does at twice the rate of recoveries.

The license plate readers demonstrated a high error rate. Four ALPR vehicles used in Fairfax County over the course of five nights in February 2009 scanned 69,281 vehicles. The camera database produced twelve bogus hits and recovered four stolen vehicles, for a recovery rate of 0.6 percent and an error rate of 1.7 percent.

The technology can be used responsibly, but law enforcement agencies with tough minimization policies are almost nonexistent. And as we’ve seen twice in the last month alone, officers relying on faulty data aren’t making an effort to verify database hits before attempting to effect arrests. Someone’s going to be hurt or killed because of bad data, and hardly anyone in law enforcement seems to be concerned. If they did, strict policies on verification and disposal of non-hit data would be the rule, rather than the exception.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Battlefield USA: American police ‘excessively militarized’ – ACLU study

RT | June 24, 2014

Inheriting both the weapons and the mindset of the US military, police are becoming militarized and ‘hyper aggressive’ in their approach to maintaining security on the streets of America. A new study calls on police not to treat people as ‘wartime enemies’.

The tragic story of Jose Guerena, 26, who served as a Marine in the Iraq War, only to be killed by ‘friendly fire’ at his home in Tucson, Arizona, is becoming a disturbingly familiar one across the country.

On the morning of May 5, 2011, Guerena’s wife alerted him when she heard strange sounds and the silhouette of a man standing outside their home. Guerena got his wife and child into a closet, grabbed his rifle, and went to investigate. This proved to be a deadly mistake. A SWAT team opened fire on Guerena, who died on his kitchen floor with multiple wounds and without medical attention.

As it later emerged, the SWAT unit raided a number of residences in the neighborhood, turning up nothing more than a small bag of marijuana. No drugs were found in the Guerenas’ home.

Created in the late 1960s as “quasi-militaristic” units designed to handle emergency situations such as riots, hostage scenarios, and active shooter situations, the number of SWAT squads have since surged, and are “used with greater frequency and, increasingly, for purposes for which they were not originally intended—overwhelmingly to serve search warrants in drug investigations,” according to an ACLU report, entitled ‘War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.’

The report examines 818 SWAT operations from July 2010 to last October, which were conducted by more than 20 law enforcement agencies in 11 states.

Today, paramilitary squads are better equipped to fight terrorists in foreign lands [occupations] than serve and protect US civilians at home, and are becoming a dark chapter to America’s newfound capacity for “needless violence” and treating its citizens like “wartime enemies,” it said.

The 98-page document details the militarization of state and local law enforcement agencies, courtesy of expensive federal programs, which are dispensing “weapons and tactics of war, with almost no public discussion or oversight.” Although explicitly aimed at fighting drugs, the strategy is backfiring, sowing fear and discord among citizens, many of whom are starting to fear police as much as criminals.

As the United States winds down its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, local police forces are getting the used ‘hand-me-downs’ from the US military. This makes some American communities resemble the latest occupied zones with police dressed in combat fatigues and driving MRAPs and carrying AR-15s down Main Street.

“Using these federal funds, state and local law enforcement agencies have amassed military arsenals purportedly to wage the failed War on Drugs… But these arsenals are by no means free of cost for communities. Instead, the use of hyper aggressive tools and tactics results in tragedy for civilians and police officers, escalates the risk of needless violence, destroys property, and undermines individual liberties,” according to the report.

One bit of curious hardware being distributed to local police forces from the government’s military closet is the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle, which gives troops protection from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Using media sources, ACLU put the number of towns that now possess the armored carriers at around 500. Among the lucky recipients, Dallas, Texas, has one, as does Salinas, California and even the Utah Highway Patrol.

The report noted that even the Ohio State University Police own one of the MRAPs in order to give a sense of “presence” on big football game days.

The results of the report revealed a worrying trend: “If the federal government gives the police a huge cache of military-style weaponry, they are highly likely to use it, even if they do not really need to.”

Case in point: Gwinnett County, Georgia, which received at least 57 semi-automatic rifles, mostly M-16s and M-14s. One-third of the county’s SWAT deployments dealt with drug investigations; in half of them, the SWAT team broke down the door to get inside, “and there was no record in any of the reports that weapons were found.”

Other examples were provided in Concord, Keene, and Manchester, quaint New Hampshire towns in close proximity to each other, yet each took advantage of DHS grants to buy the military-grade armored BearCat (the amount of grants received by these agencies ranged from $215,000 to $286,000). Justifications for the need to acquire such vehicles pointed to weapons of mass destruction and the threat of terrorism.

The Keene police department, for example, cites in its application (which trumps Ohio State University’s need for armored vehicles to provide “presence” at big football games), the annual pumpkin festival as a potential terrorism target that requires the assistance of an APC.

Military-style mentality invades police

Another leftover from America’s military adventures abroad is the peculiar military mindset that allows US personnel to survive in hostile lands. Equally unsettling as spotting armored vehicles winding through the tree-lined streets of otherwise quiet American neighborhoods is the spectacle of local police officers receiving military-style combat training.

The US Department of Justice described the boot-camp conditions being used to train new police recruits.

According to a Bureau of Justice Report, “the majority of police recruits receive their training in academies with a stress-based military orientation. This begs the question: is this military model—designed to prepare young recruits for combat—the appropriate mechanism for teaching our police trainees how to garner community trust and partner with citizens to solve crime and public order problems?”

As a result, a so-called “warrior” mentality inside local police forces is “pervasive and extends well beyond hostage situations and school shootings, seeping into officers’ everyday interactions with their communities,” the report said.

The report describes a PowerPoint presentation that was delivered to Cary, North Carolina, SWAT team members entitled “Warrior Mindset/Chemical Munitions” for all Emergency Response Team personnel.

The National Tactical Officers Association (according to its website, the NTOA “strives to provide our members with the tools they need to protect an increasingly dangerous society”) urges trainees to “Steel Your Battlemind” and defines “battlemind” as “a warrior’s inner strength to face fear and adversity during combat with courage. It is the will to persevere and win. It is resilience.”

The question, however, is whether such an approach to policing is conducive to creating peace on the streets of America? An escalation of police operations going awry are growing cause for concern among civil rights groups.

In early June, for example, a toddler was severely burned and left unable to breathe on his own when a Georgia SWAT team tossed a flashbang grenade in his crib during a drug raid – over a single meth sale of $50. Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, a 19-month-old, was asleep in his portable crib in the same room as his parents and three older sisters, when police opened the door to the converted garage and threw the stun grenade in.

In the ACLU’s study, SWAT units forced entry into a person’s home using a battering ram or other breaching device in 65 percent of drug searches.

As the report emphasizes, the training documents do not suggest that SWAT teams “should constrain their soldier-like tactics to terrorism situations.” Moreover, the majority of SWAT raids examined for the report “took place in the context of serving search warrants at people’s homes—not in response to school shootings or bombings.”

The survey discovered that 62 percent of SWAT missions were for drug searches. Some 79 percent involved raids on private homes, and a similar proportion were carried out with warrants authorizing searches. However, just 7 percent of the incidents fell into those categories for which SWAT was originally designed to handle, such as hostage situations or shootings.

It is this type of military mindset, compounded with excessive firepower, which is turning many American communities into veritable tinderboxes, which only requires the slightest provocation to spiral into senseless violence and death.

The survey, which provided a small picture of the overall trend, reported seven cases where civilians died in connection with the deployment of SWAT units, two of which appeared to be suicides. Another 46 individuals were injured, often as the result of physical force by officers.

Background: ‘It’s a war zone in the US’ – Interview with Indiana sheriff

Update: ACLU sues Mass. SWAT agency for refusing to release records

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel Can’t Force-feed Occupation to Those Who Hunger for Freedom

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | June 24, 2014

For more than a month Israel sought to wriggle off a hook that should have snared it from the start. Two children, 17 and 16, were shot dead during Nakba Day protests near Ramallah, in which youths threw stones ineffectually at well-protected and distant Israeli military positions.

Hundreds of Palestinian children have lost their lives over the years at the end of a sharpshooter’s sights, but the deaths of Nadim Nuwara and Mohammed Abu Al Thahir in Beitunia were not easily forgotten. Israel was quickly cornered by an accumulation of physical and visual evidence.

Israel’s usual denials – the deaths were faked, video footage was doctored, Israeli soldiers were not responsible, the youths provoked the soldiers, no live ammunition was used – have been discredited one by one. Slowly Israel conceded responsibility, if only by falling into a grudging silence.

A CCTV camera mounted on the outer wall of a carpentry shop provided the most damning evidence: it captured the moments when the two unarmed boys were each hit with a live round, in one case as the youth can be seen walking away from the protest area.

But rather than come to terms with the world as it now is, Israel wants to preserve the way it once was. It believes that through force of will it can keep the tide of accountability at bay in the occupied territories.

There has been no admission of guilt, no search for the guilty soldiers and no reassessment of its policies on crowd control or the use of live fire – let alone on the continuation of the occupation. Instead, 20 soldiers arrived last week at the store in Beitunia, threatened to burn it down, arrested the owner, Fakher Zayed, and ordered he remove the camera that caused so much embarrassment.

According to Israel, the fault lies not with a society where teenage soldiers can choose to swat a Palestinian child as casually as a fly. The problem is with a Palestinian storekeeper, who assumed he could join the modern world.

The nostalgia for a “golden era” of occupation was evident, too, last week in a policy change. Israel has rounded up hundreds of Palestinians in the hunt for three Israeli teenagers missing since June 12. Palestinian cities like Hebron have been under lockdown for days, and several Palestinians youths killed, while soldiers scour the West Bank.

But with the search proving fruitless, Israel’s attorney general approved the reintroduction of the notorious “ticking bomb” procedure.

In doing so, he turned the clock back 15 years to a time when Israel routinely used torture against prisoners. Israel may not have been alone then in using torture, but it was exceptional in flaunting its torture dungeons alongside claims to democratic conduct.

Only in 1999 did the country’s supreme court severely limit the practice, allowing interrogators one exemption – a suspect could be tortured only if he was a ticking bomb, hiding information of an attack whose immediate extraction could save lives.

Now Israel’s law chief has agreed that the Palestinian politicians, journalists and activists swept up in the latest mass arrests will be treated as “ticking bombs”. Israel’s torture cells are back in business.

Israelis have been lulled into a false sense of security by the promise of endless and simple technical solutions to the ever-mounting problems caused by the occupation.

This week, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hoped to find another “fix” for Palestinians who refuse to remain supine in the face of their oppression.

Netanyahu is racing through a law to force-feed more than 100 Palestinian prisoners who are two months’ into a hunger strike. The inmates demand that Israel end the common practice of holding prisoners for months and sometimes years without charge, in what is blandly termed “administrative detention”.

Such prisoners, ignorant of their offence, are unable to mount a defence. And as it becomes ever clearer to Palestinian society that Israel is never going to concede Palestinian statehood, things that were once barely tolerated are now seen as unendurable.

Last week, the heads of the World Medical Association urged Israel to halt the legislation, which in a double bill of compulsion will require doctors to sedate and force-feed prisoners to break their hunger strike.

The WMA called the practice “tantamount to torture”. The legislation violates not only the autonomy of the prisoners but the oaths taken by the doctors to work for their patients’ benefit.

The liberal Haaretz newspaper warned that Israel was rushing headlong towards “a new abyss in terms of human rights violations”. And all this to prevent reality pricking the Israeli conscience: that Palestinians would rather risk death than endure the constant indignities of a life under belligerent occupation.

Israelis have yet to realise the dam is soon to burst. They still believe a technical fix is the way to solve ethical dilemmas continuously thrown up by the longest occupation in modern times.

Israel’s technical solutions work to an extent. They confine Palestinians to ever smaller spaces: the prison of Gaza, the city under lockdown, the torture cell, or the doctor’s surgery where a feeding tube can be inserted.

But the craving for self-determination and dignity are more than technical problems. You cannot force-feed a people to still their hunger for freedom.

Belligerent occupations – especially ones where no hope or end is in sight – engender evermore creative and costly forms of resistance, as the hunger strike demonstrates. A physical act of resistance can be temporarily foiled. But the spirit behind it cannot be so easily subdued.

~

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Palestinian prisoners assaulted before being detained

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Ma’an – 24/06/2014

RAMALLAH – A Palestinian Prisoner’s Society lawyer reported Monday from Palestinian detainees at Etzion detention center that many of them were assaulted and beaten before they were detained.

Prisoner Faraj Ghaith, 57, told the lawyer that three settlers raided his house, assaulted him and his family before the Israeli police detained him and his two sons Ahmad and Omar.

Ghaith lives near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arbaa.

Jaclyn Fararjeh said that bruises were still clear on the prisoners’ bodies.

Prisoner Ashraf al-Jaaidi, 30, from Bethlehem, said that he threw up blood since he was detained, and that he was beaten with butts of the riffles when he was detained from his house in Duheisha refugee camp last Friday.

Farajeh highlighted that al-Jaaidi requested to be examined by a doctor but the prison service refused.

PPS’ lawyer Fararjeh visited prisoners Yasser Banat, Muhammad al-Hreini, Taha al-Hur, Bassam al-Natsheh, Ismail Jabariya, Muath Muhammad, Rabee Izriqat, Issa Shalaldeh, Yahya al-Huroub, Munthir al-Shurouf, Youssif Tartour, Tariq Gharib, Muhammad Hmeideh, Youssif Awawdeh and Murad Abu Muhye.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Missing Israeli settlers: Al Jazeera English’s distorted reporting

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By Orouba Othman | Al-Akhbar | June 23, 2014

Gaza – Al Jazeera English’s reporting on the missing Israeli settlers was not naive and it is rather impossible to classify it as part of the rhetoric of neutrality and objective reporting on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

It is simply deliberate coverage that targets the Palestinians’ presence on their own land and their just cause, while giving leverage to the “perseverance” of the Israeli society living in a jungle of “barbaric” Palestinians. Al Jazeera English correspondent Jane Ferguson started her report a few days ago by focusing on the feelings of Israelis and specifically their shock following the [alleged] capture of three Israelis about 10 days ago.

This shock, of course, did not not originate from the Palestinians’ right to face their enemies, but was ignited due to the Palestinians’ insensitivity, which was displayed through their “kidnapping of three teenagers” who could be robbed of their lives with a fatal bullet, or rather “a deceiving” bullet in the words of the Qatari channel.

Certainly, all the misery the Palestinians have suffered for 66 years at the hands of those expressing their shock is insignificant. Today, the only thing that matters is the sorrow of the Israeli people. Ferguson began her report with images of a tent erected by residents of Nof Ayalon village to pray for the safe return of Naftali Fraenkel, a town native and one of the three [allegedly] kidnapped individuals.

Ferguson did not miss the opportunity to remind viewers that the three Israelis (Naftali Frenkel, Gil-ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach) were teenagers, further seeking the viewers’ compassion by stating that they were all under the age of 19. The reporter did not stop there, but gave Fraenkel’s aunt a platform to express her feelings on air, saying “I am still in shock, it is hitting me repeatedly, Fraenkel went to school and didn’t come back. It is really difficult, and the whole family is crushed.”

The correspondent’s report does not mention neither the suffering of over 5,700 Palestinians held in the occupation’s prisons, nor the fact that four of those prisoners died under physical and psychological torture in the past year.

“Not only in this small village are people waiting anxiously to hear news about the missing teenagers, but across the entire nation, everyone is gripped by this story,” Ferguson commented in her report, adding that Israeli channels have been in the village for days to cover the incident.

The scene displaying solidarity with the town’s locals is later taken off screen to be replaced with images of a street populated by Israeli settlers. The channel then sheds light on the challenges faced by Israelis to strengthen their “perseverance” on a land that is not theirs, saying that they are not scared and that they are going on with their lives as usual.

To give more credibility to her short analysis, Ferguson gives a female settler the opportunity to explain whether or not the “kidnapping incident” had negatively affected her life. The settler confirms Ferguson’s view by saying, “there is nothing to be afraid of. If there was a bombing on a bus, does it means we should not catch buses? This is the same for me, this is our lifestyle.”

The reporter seemed to have forgotten how Palestinians resist death and how much they love life even though they are besieged by their enemy’s weapons from the front, its tanks from behind and its planes from above.

Perhaps, Palestinian viewers would have better received the report if Ferguson had also visited towns and refugee camps in the West Bank, and had broadcast live images of the arrest campaigns and the raids on Palestinian homes, as well as Israel’s policy of systematic killing, as reflected by the fact that four Palestinians have already been killed since the beginning of the operation.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera English’s Gaza correspondent Charles Stratford started his report by linking the operation in Hebron to the Gaza Strip by showing two Palestinian boys from Gaza training on how to use weapons and participate in combat missions at a camp affiliated to Hamas.

Stratford then commented that “these are the children of people who believe, like the majority of Gaza residents, that Hamas represents the future of Palestine and is a part of the unity government rejected by Israel.”

The correspondent sought to differentiate between “terrorist” boys following Hamas’ path and other “innocents” that fall in the hands of the group that is training droves of “terrorists.”

The English-language Qatari channel claims to have been launched to change the stereotype about the Middle East. However, today it has become another burden on Palestinians, promoting the Israeli side of the story in the West while disregarding the real narrative.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Is Israel’s ongoing terror campaign punishment for Palestinian unity?

By Chloé Benoist | Al-Akhbar | June 23, 2014

As Israel continues its crackdown on the West Bank in the wake of three Israeli teenagers’ disappearance, the unrestrained violence of the occupying forces has seemingly developed into retribution for the recent establishment of a Palestinian unity government.

In the 11 days since the three Israeli settlers went missing while hitchhiking near the illegal Zionist settlement bloc of Gush Etzion in the West Bank, Palestinians have paid a heavy toll as the Israeli manhunt quickly turned into collective punishment.

Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) have searched countless Palestinian homes, media offices and schools in extensive raids, confiscating universities’ computers, destroying furniture, firing tear gas and live bullets at protesting civilians, a move seemingly more intent on furthering the control of the Palestinian population than finding the Israeli teenagers.

At least 471 Palestinians have been arrested since June 12. At least 75 of those arrested are former prisoners who had been released in a 2011 prisoner swap, according to the Palestinian Authority’s former Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe.

“Resentencing prisoners who were released in the [2011 Gilad] Shalit deal is a form of immoral and illegal revenge, an offense to Egypt who sponsored the deal, and collective punishment that is against the human and legal rights of prisoners,” he said on Saturday.

He added that 241 Palestinian minors were now locked up in Israeli jails, 45 more than in May according to statistics by prisoners’ rights NGO Addameer.

The prisoners have been placed in administrative detention, a practice whose excessive use by Israel has been denounced as being illegal under international law by rights groups. Israel has imposed a tight blockade on Hebron, and a curfew on the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip has sustained nightly air raids for the past week. The already isolated enclave has been subjected to an even more stringent siege, as an Israeli Defense Ministry statement on June 15 declared that the Erez crossing would be limited to humanitarian cases, while only fuel would be allowed in through the southern goods crossing.

Operation “Brother’s Keeper” keeps claiming Palestinian lives

At least five Palestinians have died during Israeli military operations in the West Bank since June 12. All available information indicates that the victims were unrelated to the disappearance of Gilad Shaer, Eyal Ifrach and Naftali Frenkel.

The first casualty was Ahmad Arafat Sabarin, who was shot dead on Monday during a military raid in the Jalazoun refugee camp north of Ramallah. He was 19 years old.

mohammadjihaddoudin.newsalertphoto1.20june2014On Friday, 14-year-old Mohammed Jihad Dudin was shot in the chest with live bullets in an Israeli raid on the village of Dura, near Hebron. Photos of Dudin show a skinny, smiling child.

In Nablus, Jamil Ali Abed Jaber, 60, died of a heart attack as Israeli troops searched his house on Saturday. Palestinian security sources reported that Abed Jaber’s family was prevented from taking him to the hospital, leading him to die inside his home.

Early on Sunday June 22, Israeli troops in Ein Beit al-Mai refugee camp in western Nablus shot dead 36-year-old Ahmad Fahnawi, who was on his way to morning prayers as clashes were taking place. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an news agency that a soldier shot Fahnawi several times from point-blank range.

The Israeli army confirmed firing at a “suspect,” claiming he had approached troops “in a threatening manner.” However, Fahnawi’s family told AFP that he suffered from mental health problems.

Israeli troops also killed 30-year-old Mohammed Mahmoud Atallah Tarifi on Sunday during a crackdown in central Ramallah, Palestinian medics reported.

An untold number of Palestinians have been injured so far in Operation “Brother’s Keeper.”

International and Arab silence

Most of the Israeli public was quick to support the army’s actions in the West Bank. The hashtag “BringBackOurBoys” rapidly made the rounds on Twitter, a move criticized by some as an insensitive appropriation of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Nigeria, where over 200 girls are still held captive by Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page titled “Until the boys are back, every hour we shoot a terrorist” has accumulated more than 20,700 likes since its creation on June 13. The page vocally supports widespread violence against Palestinians as ‘punishment’ for the disappearance of the three Israelis.

While several rights groups have condemned Israel’s violent policies and rhetoric, a significant portion of the international community has come out in support of Israel’s ‘search’ for the teenagers, justifying the Zionist state’s military actions without addressing their impact on Palestinians.

“The European Union has called for the immediate and unconditional release of these three boys – it is, frankly, despicable that children’s lives should be put in danger in this way,” EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said on Tuesday, referring only to Israeli children.

“Israeli suffering has to be understood,” the mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, said during a conference on Wednesday with 19 other world mayors standing in support of Israel.

While there has been no shortage of lamentations about Israelis’ shared pain over the missing teens, the international community has remained silent about the plight of Palestinians. Even supposedly pro-Palestinian Arab countries have so far failed to condemn the Israeli raids or express condolences for the loss of Palestinian lives.

The Palestinian Authority’s collaboration with Israel

Almost as soon as the three settlers went missing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of being behind their disappearance, a charge Hamas dismissed immediately.

“Our young people have been kidnapped by a terror organization… there is no doubt about that,” Netanyahu told reporters in Tel Aviv on June 14.

The Israeli government has yet to provide any proof of its claims. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for United Nations leader Ban Ki-Moon, Farhan Haq, said that the UN had “no information to confirm an abduction.” This statement was quickly denounced by Israel as “out of touch, out of line and out of time.”

Downplaying the crackdown as “friction,” Netanyahu said on Sunday that evidence of Hamas’ involvement would be made public “soon,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has dismissed Palestinian casualties as a consequence of “necessary” Israeli “self-defense.”

Netanyahu has also targeted Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, holding him responsible despite the latter’s swiftness in condemning the alleged kidnapping.

The Israeli premier’s hostility towards the PA is all the more incomprehensible given the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing security coordination with Israel.

Palestinian police have worked with Israel intermittently since the Oslo Accords, but the security arrangement has been strengthened since Abbas came to power in 2005.

Palestinians have long been angered by the PA’s collaboration with the IOF, and Operation “Brother’s Keeper” has only exacerbated the perception of PA security acting as agents for Israel. Witnesses have seen PA forces arresting individuals in hospitals, and a demonstration by mothers of hunger striking prisoners on Friday was attacked by Palestinian police.

On Sunday night, PA security forces clashed with Palestinians protesting against their coordination with Israel. With support from the IOF, PA security shot in the direction of the crowd in Ramallah, injuring at least one person.

But it seems collaboration with Israeli brutality is not enough for Netanyahu.

“[Abbas’] words will not only be judged in terms of actions taken to bring the boys home, but also by his willingness to break up the unity government with Hamas,” he said.

Statements by IOF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz confirmed that undermining Hamas is a main goal of the Israeli military operation.

“We have a goal: to find these three boys and bring them home, and to damage Hamas as much as possible,” Gantz said on June 16.

The missing settlers: a pretext

Netanyahu’s demands support the idea that the ongoing brutal operation is not only intended to locate the three settlers, but to punish Palestinians after the recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and to sabotage the newly-created unified Palestinian government.

In an interview with ultra-Orthodox news outlet Hadrei Haredim published on Thursday, an IOF officer revealed that parts of Operation “Brother’s Keeper” had been planned long before the teenagers went missing. Notably, he said that the Israeli army had already prepared for an operation in Jenin in which soldiers were to purposefully provoke residents into throwing stones, and then use the clashes as an excuse to kill Palestinians.

This disclosure — among other statements — backs the idea that Israel is knowingly creating an unlivable situation for Palestinians only to blame them for pushing back, perpetuating its myth of Palestinian aggression as it has many times before. Despite decades of occupation, Israel continues to frame Palestinian resistance as unprovoked aggression, breaches of international law as legitimate defense, and oppressors as victims.

These provocative Israeli tactics are not new. In 1976, then-Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan explained the 1967 military tactics to the New York Times:

”Along the Syria border there were no farms and no refugee camps — there was only the Syrian army… The kibbutzim saw the good agricultural land … and they dreamed about it… They didn’t even try to hide their greed for the land… We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was… The Syrians, on the fourth day of the war, were not a threat to us.”

Lebanon has similarly suffered from Israel using flimsy pretexts to push forward ulterior plans against its enemies.

The notion of Palestinian unity is a threat to Israel, and it will do anything in its power to weaken it. A unified Palestinian political front, having somewhat resolved its internal conflicts, could make a stronger claim for self-determination, a scenario that would further expose Israel’s unreasonable demands for “peace” and its divide and conquer strategies.

Israel, therefore, uses any pretext to try to stifle Palestinian aspirations, attempting to reduce an entire population’s existence to a question of mere survival.

Many Palestinians – adults and children alike – will continue to suffer as long as Israel is allowed to act unabated, using the undetermined fate of the three Israelis until it finds another excuse to continue its policy of repression, injustice and divisiveness.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Austria and Russia sign South Stream gas pipeline treaty

RT | June 24, 2014

Russia and Austria have agreed on a joint company to construct the Austrian arm of the $45 billion South Stream gas pipeline project, which is expected to deliver 32 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to the country, bypassing Ukraine.

At Tuesday’s meeting in Vienna, the creation of South Stream Austria was announced. The company will be 50 percent owned by Gazprom, Russia’s largest gas producer, and 50 percent by Austria’s OMV Group, the country’s largest oil and gas company.

Construction on the Austrian section is expected to begin in 2015 and that the first deliveries will start in 2017, reaching full capacity in January 2018.

OMV spokesman Robert Lechner was more optimistic, and said the first South Stream deliveries could come as early as 2016.

In April, Gazprom and the OMV Group signed a memorandum to implement the South Stream project in Austria.

At Tuesday’s meeting in Vienna, OMV CEO Gerhard Roiss said that South Stream fully complies with EU legislation.

“This project- investment in European energy security- will fully comply with EU legislation,” Roiss said, as quoted by ITAR-ITASS.

There has been controversy over South Stream, as is it needs EU approval so that it doesn’t violate Europe’s ‘Third Energy Package’, which says a company cannot both own and operate pipelines within the European Union.

Bulgaria and Serbia, countries nearly 100 percent dependent on Russian gas, have faced pressure from the EU to halt construction.

Ahead of Putin’s visit to Vienna, Austrian ministers said they remained committed to Russia’s South Stream project and that they plan to speed it up.

The geopolitical conflict in Ukraine has also complicated the South Stream project, as EU energy lobbying groups are campaigning against the project, to lessen Europe’s dependence on Russia.

“So far [Austria, Ed,] takes a very clear position, avoiding pressure from the European Commission and in general, public opinion in Europe that wants to halt or even stop the project. At the same time it [Austria, Ed] has enough political clout to promote this project. It’s not Bulgaria, which on its own cannot defend itself,” Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said on Monday.

South Stream will deliver gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine, which is seen as an unreliable transit state.

After switching Ukraine to a prepayment system, Russia and Gazprom fear Ukraine will start to siphon gas supplies headed towards Europe, as the country did in 2006 and 2009. Miller worries Ukraine may resort to this tactic in winter, once it runs out of its underground storage supplies of natural gas.

“If Ukraine begins to siphon off gas, we will increase supplies via North Stream, and maximize the load through Yamal-Europe,” Aleksey Miller, CEO of Gazprom, said Tuesday in Vienna.

The 2,446 km pipeline will stretch across southern and central Europe and will transport over 64 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe per year.

Gazprom has said the project, estimated to cost $45 billion, can be completed without any funding from international partners.

Gazprom is Russia’s largest producer of natural gas and provides roughly one third of Europe’s gas needs.

The head of the Russian Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Aleksey Puskhov, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that “Ukraine is in a long-term phase of unpredictability. Thus, South Stream is the only guarantee of uninterrupted gas supply to Europe.”

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

So That’s Why They Kept the Drone Kill Memo Secret

By David Swanson | War is a Crime | June 23,2014

Now that the U.S. government has released parts of its We-Can-Kill-People-With-Drones memo, it’s hard to miss why it was kept secret until now.

Liberal professors and human rights groups and the United Nations were claiming an inability to know whether drone murders were legal or not because they hadn’t seen the memo that the White House said legalized them. Some may continue to claim that the redactions in the memo make judgment impossible.

I expect most, however, will now be willing to drop the pretense that ANY memo could possibly legalize murder.

Oh, and yall can stop telling me not to use the impolite term “murder” to describe the, you know, murders — since “murder” is precisely the term used by the no-longer secret memo.

The memo considers a section of the U.S. code dealing with the murder of a U.S. citizen by another U.S. citizen abroad, drawing on another section that defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.”

David Barron, the memo’s author, needed a loophole to make murder-by-missile a lawful killing rather than an unlawful killing, so he pulls out the “public authority justification” under which the government gets to use force to enforce a law.  It’s a novel twist, though, for the government to get to use force to violate the law, claiming the violation is legal on the Nixonian basis that it is the government doing it.

Alternatively, Barron suggests, a government gets to use force if doing so is part of a war. This, of course, ignores the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact and the illegality of wars, as well as the novelty of claiming that a war exists everywhere on earth forever and ever. (None of Barron’s arguments justify governmental murder on U.S. soil any less than off U.S. soil.)

In essence, Barron seems to argue, the people who wrote the laws were thinking about private citizens and terrorists, not the government (which, somehow, cannot be a terrorist), and therefore it’s OK for the government to violate the laws.

Then there’s the problem of Congressional authorization of war, or lack thereof, which Barron gets around by pretending that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was as broad as the White House pretends rather than worded to allow targeting only those responsible for the 911 attacks.

Then there are the facts of the matter in the case of Anwar al Awlaki, who was targeted for murder prior in time to the actions that President Obama has claimed justified that targeting.

Then there are the facts in the other cases of U.S. killings of U.S. citizens, which aren’t even redacted, as they’re never considered.

Then there are the vastly more numerous killings of non-U.S. citizens, which the memo does not even attempt to excuse.

In the end, the memo admits that calling something a war isn’t good enough; the targeted victim has to have been an imminent threat to the United States. But who gets to decide whether he or she was that? Why, whoever does the killing of course.  And what happens if nobody ever even makes an unsupported assertion to that effect? Nothing, of course.

This is not the rule of law. This is savage brute force in minimal disguise.  I don’t want to see any more of these memos. I want to see the video footage of the drone murders on a television. I want to see law professors and revolving-door State Department / human rights group hacks argue that dead children fall under the public authority justification.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Putin asks Upper House to repeal decision allowing to use military force in Ukraine

RT | June 24, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)

President Vladimir Putin has proposed that the upper house call off the March 1 resolution allowing the head of state to use the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, said presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

“Because of the beginning of the three-party talks to settle down the situation in the eastern parts of Ukraine, the head of state has addressed to the Federation Council to repeal the resolution on the use of Russian armed forces on the territory of Ukraine,” ITAR-TASS cited Peskov as saying.

The president sent an address to Federation Council Valentina Matvienko today morning, ahead of leaving on official visit to Vienna.

Deputy Head of the Federation Council’s International Committee Andrey Klimov confirmed the upper house will back Putin’s proposal and repeal the resolution on Wednesday, June 25.

The Federation Council’s resolution of March 1 agreed on the president‘s right to use military force on the territory of the neighboring Ukraine “until the normalization of the social and political situation in that country.”

The resolution was adopted following a presidential address demanding security be maintained “for citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots and personnel of the Russian contingent deployed in accordance with international agreements on the territory of the Autonomous Crimea Republic of Ukraine.”

The resolution was adopted in accordance of the first part of the Article 102 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

On Monday evening, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine agreed to a ceasefire in the region until 10am local time on Friday. He stressed that the self-defense force’s ceasefire will come only as a reciprocal move.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko laid out his plan to deescalate the conflict, announcing a unilateral ceasefire from June 20 until June 27, the day Kiev plans to sign the EU Association agreement. On Sunday he issued a warning, stating that he had an alternative “detailed plan” of regaining control over south-eastern Ukraine, should his current proposal for a truce fail to bring results.

Despite the “unilateral ceasefire” announced by Kiev the fighting in eastern Ukraine continued, and there have been clashes in some areas, the Lugansk People’s Republic said in a statement. It was reported that an artillery shell hit the roof of a kindergarten in Kramatorsk, partly destroying the building. At the same time, self-defense troops of the Donetsk People’s Republic targeted Ukrainian armed forces positions at Karachun Mountain, Itar-Tass reports.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment