RSSCategory: Censorship

Judge Baltasar Garzon to lead WikiLeaks legal strategy

July 28, 2012 | By | Reply More

The following update is from Justice for Assange:

The Spanish judge, lawyer, and international jurist, Baltasar Garzón, will lead the legal team representing Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The jurist met with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom recently. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the new legal strategy which will defend both WikiLeaks and Julian Assange from the existing abuse of process; expose the arbitrary, extrajudicial actions by the international financial system which target Julian Assange and WikiLeaks specifically; and show how the secret US processes against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have compromised and contaminated other legal processes, including the extradition process against Mr Assange. Despite been imprisoned, fiscally blockaded, and placed under house arrest for over 650 days, Mr. Assange has not been charged with an offense in any country.

Baltasar Garzón revolutionized the international justice system two decades ago by issuing an international arrest warrant for the former Head of State of Chile, Augusto Pinochet. His actions spearheaded the fight against impunity in Latin America and in the rest of the world. The judge has expressed serious concerns regarding the lack of safeguards and transparency whith which actions are being taken against Julian Assange, and the harassment he is being subjected to which has irreparable effects on his physical and mental wellbeing. The threats against his person are further aggravated by the complicit behaviour of the Swedish and U.K. governments, who are wrongfully abrogating his rights.

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Olympic-sized Intellectual Property Crackdown

July 26, 2012 | By | Reply More

This is not a humorous parody from The Onion. What follows is an excerpt from a serious news interview hosted by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: The Olympic Games are estimated to cost British taxpayers a staggering $17 billion. At the same time, Brits near the Olympic Park have been subjected to sweeping censorship laws enacted by their government at the behest of the International Olympic Committee. The laws limit the use of Olympic language and imagery to—strictly to official sponsors, such as Visa, McDonald’s, GE.

. . .

AMY GOODMAN: And a mock awards ceremony at the Olympic clock in Trafalgar Square descended into farce after police arrested six people taking part. Three people pretending to be corporate representatives from BP, Dow and Rio Tinto were awarded gold medals for being the worst corporate sponsors of the Olympics, before having small quantities of green custard poured over their heads. The good-natured performance took about 15 minutes. It was clearly amusing to a number of passersby, until 25 police officers arrived and arrested six people, including the three corporate representatives and people who were mopping up the small amounts of custard on the ground.

Well, for more, we go to London, where we’re joined by Jules Boykoff, associate professor of political science at Pacific University, currently a visiting scholar at the University of Brighton. He was born in England since—he’s been in England since April following the build-up to the Olympics. He’s writing a book on dissent and the Olympics and played for the U.S. Olympic soccer team in international competition from 1989 to 1991. His recent piece in the New York Times is called “Olympian Arrogance.”

Jules Boykoff, welcome to Democracy Now! Well, tell us what you’re seeing there and why you titled your piece “Olympian Arrogance.”

JULES BOYKOFF: Well, what we’re seeing here are a lot of what you’ve outlined in terms of the intense militarization of the public sphere. And it really does go back to the International Olympic Committee, or the IOC. And that’s what we are getting at with “Olympian Arrogance.” If you want to understand the crass commercialism of the Games, if you want to understand the intense militarization of the Games, it makes sense to start with the IOC.

And the IOC has always been a privileged sliver of the global 1 percent. Going back to the 1890s, when it was started by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, he basically assembled a hodgepodge of counts and dukes and princes together to run the show. In the subsequent, basically it’s remained this basically old boys’ club. In fact, they started allowing wealthy business elites into the club. And only in 1981 did they start to allow women to be members of the IOC.

And it’s not just the composition of the IOC that some might find a little bit problematic; it’s the dictates that they impose on host cities. So, for example, right before they make the final selection for who’s going to host the next Olympics, all the candidate city finalists have to sign a document that promises that they will follow all 33 of the IOC’s technical manuals down to a letter. A lot of that has to do with brand protection, which I’ll get to in a second. But it also has to do with creating new laws in the country and the host city that conform to the principles of the IOC. So, here in London, what they did was they passed the 2006 Olympic and Paralympic Act, which did all sorts of things. You mentioned it’s illegal to use the words “2012” and, say, “medals” for commercial purposes in any form, and you can receive a 20,000-pound fine. This all goes back to the IOC and what they set up and impose on host cities.

And that’s why you’re seeing, when you look around—you said I was here since April, so I was here for the Jubilee, actually. And when the Jubilee happened for the queen, there were signs in windows, there were people celebrating, shops put little placards up and that sort of thing. Well, right now, during the Olympics, you’re really not seeing that very much, because people are afraid that they’re going to get cracked down on. Just a couple examples. A butcher put a bunch of sausages up in his window in the shape of the Olympic rings; he got asked to take them down. Somebody in Plymouth put up on their menu a “flaming torch breakfast baguette,” and they were asked to take it off the menu. A florist was—put up a little display in the front of her store in the shape of the Olympic rings; again, told to take it down or face a 20,000-pound fine. So, the IOC is really where a lot of this starts.

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Self-dimming of awareness to protect oneself against anxiety

July 25, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
Self-dimming of awareness to protect oneself against anxiety

I’m mostly finished reading Daniel Goleman’s 1985 book, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: the Psychology of Self Deception (I found a copy of the book online here). He’s preaching to my choir, based on a paper I wrote in 1996 (“Decision Making, the Failure of Principles, and the Seduction of Attention), where I pointed out the critical and often unconscious role of attention in embellishing and distorting our moral decision-making. My targets were the many people who believe that morality is mostly founded on the conscious application of rules. I concluded that humans define and frame moral situations as a result of the way they attend (or don’t attend) to the situations. I warned that it is important that we become aware that we have great (often subconscious) power to define the situation as moral (or not). My thesis was as follows:

Attention is constantly steering us in directions which dramatically affect the application of principles [including moral principles]. For starters, if we completely fail to attend to a subject, we will likely be ill-informed about that subject, and likely less competent to make decisions regarding such matters. At the other extreme, excessive attention can bloom into an obsession, causing one to see the entire world through glasses colored by that obsession. Attention also works in subtler ways, however, rigging the machinations of legal and moral reasoning. Attention rigs decision-making in two ways:

1) by the manner in which we attend to our perceptions of the world, and
2) in the way by which we perceive and attend to the principles themselves.

I concluded that high-level decision making is based far more on attentional strategies than on traditional problem solving skills.

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US claims it is illegal to challenge illegal spy statute in court

July 19, 2012 | By | Reply More
US claims it is illegal to challenge illegal spy statute in court

We are definitely living in Orwellian times, based on the following article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which I am reprinting in its entirety (it is licensed by Creative Commons):

EFF Challenges National Security Letter Statute in Landmark Lawsuit

Since the first national security letter statute was passed in 1986, the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of such letters seeking private telecommunications and financial records of Americans without any prior approval from courts. Indeed, for the period between 2003 and 2006 alone, almost 200,000 requests for private customer information were sought pursuant to various NSL statutes. Prior to 2011, the constitutionality of this legal authority to investigate the records of Americans without court oversight had been challenged in court — as far as we know — exactly one time. EFF is today releasing FBI-redacted briefing from a major new ongoing case in which it is challenging one of the NSL statutes on behalf of a telecommunications company that received an NSL in 2011. Not only does this briefing show that the Department of Justice continues to strongly protect the FBI’s NSL authority, it highlights a startlingly aggressive new tactic used by the Department of Justice: suing NSL recipients who challenge the FBI’s authority, arguing that court challenges to such authority themselves amount to breaking the law.

National security letter statutes — five in all — are controversial laws that allow the FBI to easily bypass courts and issue administrative letters on their own authority to telecommunications companies and financial institutions demanding information about their customers. The NSL statutes permit the FBI to permanently gag service providers from revealing the fact that the demand was made, preventing them from notifying either their customers or the public. While the statute has many deficiencies, one of the core constitutional issues (already recognized by one federal appeals court) is that it turns the First Amendment’s procedural prior restraint doctrine on its head by allowing the FBI to issue a never-ending prior restraint on its own, then requiring the recipient service provider to undertake a legal challenge. Another fundamental problem with the NSL statutes is that courts are all but written out of any part of the process: the FBI can issue demands for records and gag provisions without court authorization, and recipient telecommunications and financial companies have no way to determine whether and how the government might be overreaching or otherwise abusing its authority. Not surprisingly, given these significant structural barriers, legal challenges are extraordinarily rare.

EFF brought its challenge on behalf of its client in May of 2011, raising these and other fundamental due process and First Amendment concerns about the structure of these problematic statutes. In response, the Department of Justice promptly filed a civil complaint against the recipient, alleging that by “stat[ing] its objection to compliance with the provisions of” the NSL by “exercis[ing] its rights under” the NSL statute to challenge the NSL’s legality, the recipient was “interfer[ing] with the United States’ vindication of its sovereign interests in law enforcement, counterintelligence, and protecting national security.” While it ultimately agreed to a stay, temporarily suspending its suit against the recipient, the government has moved to compel disclosure of the subscriber information and to uphold the gag. The petition to set aside the NSL is currently pending before the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Whether the recipient will be permitted to speak out about its specific experiences — and whether the FBI will be permitted to issue NSLs, at least in one district — should soon be known.

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Proposed new law to protect bloggers from SLAPP suits

July 19, 2012 | By | Reply More
Proposed new law to protect bloggers from SLAPP suits

Join EFF and the Public Participation Project in calling on Congress to support the PETITION Act, strong federal anti-SLAPP legislation. The concept is simple: when a blogger faces a legal threat for legitimate online content, she can file a motion to get the case dismissed quickly. If the case is found to be frivolous in court, she won’t have to pay the legal fees.”

Here is discussion of a meritless suit against Matthew Inman that illustrates the need for such a law.

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Seven ways for an American citizen to get detained indefinitely

May 26, 2012 | By | Reply More
Seven ways for an American citizen to get detained indefinitely

This article at Huffpo summarizes seven ways for an American citizen to get detained indefinitely. These concerns are not made up out of thin air. They are based on positions taken by attorneys for Barack Obama’s Department of Justice during the litigation brought by author Chris Hedges and others. Here is Hedges’ recap of why he got involved with the suit:

In January, attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran asked me to be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that challenged the harsh provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We filed the lawsuit, worked for hours on the affidavits, carried out the tedious depositions, prepared the case and went to trial because we did not want to be passive in the face of another egregious assault on basic civil liberties, because resistance is a moral imperative, and because, at the very least, we hoped we could draw attention to the injustice of the law. None of us thought we would win. But every once in a while the gods smile on the damned.

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EFF offers some thoughts on World Press Freedom Day

May 3, 2012 | By | Reply More
EFF offers some thoughts on World Press Freedom Day

Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a thought-provoking article about World Press Freedom day. The bottom line is that the United States can do much better than it is currently doing. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Journalists’ sources in the U.S. have been the hardest hit in recent years. The current administration has used the Espionage Act to prosecute a record six whistleblowers for leaking information to the press—more than the rest of the previous administrations combined. Many of these whistleblowers have exposed constitutional violations such as the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and the CIA’s waterboarding practices—issues clearly in the public interest—and now face years in prison. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has brought no prosecutions for the crimes underlying the exposed allegations.

In addition, a grand jury is reportedly still investigating WikiLeaks for violations of the Espionage Act for publishing classified information—a practice that has traditionally been protected by the First Amendment and which other newspapers engage in regularly. It would not only be completely unprecedented to prosecute a publisher under the archaic statute, but would also endanger many U.S. based publications like the New York Times. And as former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has remarked, the U.S. government’s investigation into WikiLeaks undermines the United States’ ability to pressure countries like Russia and China to allow greater press freedom.

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Shame on America for prosecuting Former CIA officer John Kiriakou

April 14, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Shame on America for prosecuting Former CIA officer John Kiriakou

Shame on America for prosecuting Former CIA officer John Kiriakou. But America’s actions are understandable because Kiriakou embarrasses America by saying true things like this:

  • On Iraq: “The answer to why we’re still in Iraq to this day has almost everything to do with the failures of leadership in 2003 and 2004 and, in some cases, the ascendance of rank deception—deliberate distortions of the facts on the ground.”
  • On FBI waste: After raiding a Taliban “embassy” in Pakistan in early 2002, Kiriakou’s colleague “found something interesting and provocative. A file of telephone bills from the Taliban embassy revealed dozens of calls to the United States . . . For ten days leading up to September 11, 2001, the Taliban made 168 calls to America. Then the calls stopped. The file, amazingly, was in English . . . The calls ended on September 10, 2001, and started up again six days later, on September 16.” Years after sending the phone records to the FBI, Kiriakou followed-up and his FBI contact “replied that it was like a scene out of that Indiana Jones movie. The files were still in those [original] boxes, in an FBI storage facility in Maryland . . . What a waste.”
  • On CIA’s deception about waterboarding: “Now we know that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied. . . it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the arts of deception even among its own.” (Previously, the CIA told Kiriakou that Zubaydah was waterboarded only once and cracked, which fiction Kiriakou repeated in a television interview because his own agency lied to him.)
  • On Torture: “But even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated – not in one case or a thousand or a million. If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable. . . . There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security.”

Jesselyn Radack has the story.

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The government keeping an eye on us

April 6, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
The government keeping an eye on us

In the process of describing his lawsuit regarding the NDAA, Chris Hedges writes:

There are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, The Washington Post reported in a 2010 series by Dana Priest and William M. Arken. There are 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, the reporters wrote, and in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011. Investigative reporter James Bamford wrote in the latest issue of Wired magazine that the National Security Agency is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program code-named “Stellar Wind.” Bamford noted that the NSA has established listening posts throughout the country to collect, store and examine billions of email messages and phone calls.

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