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    CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Convicted of Espionage

    The Real News Network - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 11:01
    Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler says Sterling faces decades in prison for leaking details of a botched CIA operation against Iran's nuclear program

    CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Convicted of Espionage

    The Real News Network - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 11:01
    Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler says Sterling faces decades in prison for leaking details of a botched CIA operation against Iran's nuclear program

    Not So Fast, Net Neutrality

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:57

    Over the last few months, things have been looking good for keeping the Internet open to everyone. A little too good, as far as Congress is concerned, which is why members and the corporate lobbyists who write them hefty checks have launched a last-ditch legislative effort to scuttle net neutrality. Together, the ISP companies and Congress have come up with a plan to legislatively derail Net neutrality that would bring a smile to the lips of Machiavelli.

    Demonstrators protest in front of the White House in support of net neutrality. (Photo: Joseph Gruber / Flickr)

    Want to challenge injustice and make real change happen? That's Truthout's goal - support our work with a donation today!

    Over the last few months, things have been looking good for keeping the Internet open to everyone. A little too good, as far as Congress is concerned, which is why members and the corporate lobbyists who write them hefty checks have launched a last-ditch legislative effort to scuttle Net neutrality.

    Both President Obama and Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler have stopped tiptoeing around Net neutrality and seem to finally embrace the idea of using Title II of the Telecommunications Act to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and regulate them as common carriers, like the phone companies and other public utilities. No preferential treatment to those willing to shell out big corporate bucks for a fast lane.

    In early January, Wheeler told a crowd at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, “There’s a way to do Title II right.” And in his State of the Union address, Barack Obama announced, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

    To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

    No doubt those more than four million public comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission in support of Net neutrality went a long way toward convincing Obama and Wheeler that the American people have made up their minds. Chairman Wheeler intends to circulate a new plan to fellow FCC commissioners on February 5 with a vote scheduled for February 26.

    But all of this apparently sent chills though the new Republican Congress and key segments of a communications industry that as a whole pumps an average $350 million-plus into lobbying every year and spent almost $100 million on the midterm elections. (Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are three of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ top 10 corporate lobbyists).

    Together, the ISP companies and Congress have come up with a plan to legislatively derail Net neutrality that would bring a smile to the lips of Machiavelli.

    As Hamza Shaban wrote recently at The Verge:

    “Simply put, the popularity of net neutrality poses a problem for Republicans. While the GOP maintains a general opposition to government rules in economic life, the principle of treating all web traffic equally enjoys wide, cross-partisan support. As it has become clearer that only new regulation can ensure net neutrality, Republicans risk not only appearing as obstructionists, but worse, obstructionists that side with the likes of Comcast.”

    So Senator John Thune (R-SD), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – the two main committees charged with Internet oversight — have introduced legislation that on the surface seems to wholeheartedly embrace Net neutrality. But at the same time, it gives a big thumb’s down to using Title II to reclassify ISPs and effectively neutralizes the ability of the FCC to regulate. Shaban notes, “By avoiding a reclassification of broadband and working to render the FCC impotent, the new Republican Congress suggests it doesn’t really want net neutrality. It just wants to look like it does.”

    According to Matt Wood, policy director of the media reform group Free Press:

    “The legislation fails at the very thing it claims to accomplish. It prohibits a few open Internet violations but opens the door to new industry abuses. It claims to give the FCC limited adjudication powers but removes the agency’s ability to adopt and adapt rules to fit the changing landscape for high-speed Internet access.

    “What Thune and Upton are actually trying to do is declaw the one agency responsible for protecting the public interest in communications. Having lost their fight against Net Neutrality in the court of public opinion, companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are trying to use fake Net Neutrality bills to end all effective oversight of their anti-competitive, anti-consumer practices.”

    In addition, the legislation creates loopholes big enough for the ISPs to drive their service trucks through, allowing exceptions for so-called “special services” that easily could guide the way to a two-tiered system Net neutrality advocates fight to prevent.

    One way you can judge this rather disingenuous legislation is by the company it keeps; backed, as The Wall Street Journal reported by “the top lobbyists for both the broadband and wireless industries.”

    Former Republican FCC Chairman Michael Powell, now president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, long a foe of Net neutrality, endorses the idea of the legislation. So does former Republican FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker (the one who went to work for Comcast shortly after voting in favor of its purchase of NBCUniversal). She’s now the president of CTIA – The Wireless Association, and calls the Thune-Upton proposal “an excellent start.” Then there’s cyber-libertarian Larry Downes of the Georgetown Center for Business and Policy, who’s been attacking the Net neutrality movement for years. He describes the bill as “short and sweet,” listing eight reasons “passage of the bill would most benefit consumers.”

    No wonder Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey described it as “a legislative wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron writes that the legislation is “a cynical effort by the cable lobby to prevent the FCC from enforcing the law to keep the Internet open. Why would we trust the fiercest opponents of Net Neutrality to protect our Internet freedom?”

    The Senate Commerce Committee and the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held hearings on the same day last week. Subcommittee Chair Greg Walden (R-Oregon) described the purported FCC’s Net neutrality proposal as a “nuclear option,” but in discussing the Thune-Upton draft legislation, ranking member Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California) said, “What is abundantly clear in the majority’s proposal is to purposely tie the hands of the FCC by prohibiting them from reclassifying broadband.”

    Powell and Baker testified favorably but others, including online retailer representatives Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy; and Chad Dickerson, chief executive of Etsy, the on-line arts and crafts marketplace, expressed reservations. “We’re concerned,” Dickerson testified, “that the proposal does not ban all types of discrimination online.”

    Some, like Amy Schatz, policy reporter for the technology news website Re/code, believe that the hearings “did little more than confirm that the sides are nowhere close to agreeing on how to resolve the years-long debate.”

     “… Even if Congress were to pass this legislation — and it’s nearly impossible to see how it might do that before the FCC acts next month — the bill would still likely face a veto threat from President Obama, who has been vocal about his thoughts on what the FCC should do.”

    No matter the outcome, extensive litigation seems unavoidable. This will wind up in the courts. As Michael Powell said at last week’s hearings, “It’s not a complete exaggeration to say that in ten years we could still be sitting here.”

    You can continue to file your own comments on the Net neutrality debate at the FCC website. And the website BattlefortheNet.com will show you how to call the FCC and members of Congress.

    Not So Fast, Net Neutrality

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:57

    Over the last few months, things have been looking good for keeping the Internet open to everyone. A little too good, as far as Congress is concerned, which is why members and the corporate lobbyists who write them hefty checks have launched a last-ditch legislative effort to scuttle net neutrality. Together, the ISP companies and Congress have come up with a plan to legislatively derail Net neutrality that would bring a smile to the lips of Machiavelli.

    Demonstrators protest in front of the White House in support of net neutrality. (Photo: Joseph Gruber / Flickr)

    Want to challenge injustice and make real change happen? That's Truthout's goal - support our work with a donation today!

    Over the last few months, things have been looking good for keeping the Internet open to everyone. A little too good, as far as Congress is concerned, which is why members and the corporate lobbyists who write them hefty checks have launched a last-ditch legislative effort to scuttle Net neutrality.

    Both President Obama and Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler have stopped tiptoeing around Net neutrality and seem to finally embrace the idea of using Title II of the Telecommunications Act to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and regulate them as common carriers, like the phone companies and other public utilities. No preferential treatment to those willing to shell out big corporate bucks for a fast lane.

    In early January, Wheeler told a crowd at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, “There’s a way to do Title II right.” And in his State of the Union address, Barack Obama announced, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

    To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

    No doubt those more than four million public comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission in support of Net neutrality went a long way toward convincing Obama and Wheeler that the American people have made up their minds. Chairman Wheeler intends to circulate a new plan to fellow FCC commissioners on February 5 with a vote scheduled for February 26.

    But all of this apparently sent chills though the new Republican Congress and key segments of a communications industry that as a whole pumps an average $350 million-plus into lobbying every year and spent almost $100 million on the midterm elections. (Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are three of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ top 10 corporate lobbyists).

    Together, the ISP companies and Congress have come up with a plan to legislatively derail Net neutrality that would bring a smile to the lips of Machiavelli.

    As Hamza Shaban wrote recently at The Verge:

    “Simply put, the popularity of net neutrality poses a problem for Republicans. While the GOP maintains a general opposition to government rules in economic life, the principle of treating all web traffic equally enjoys wide, cross-partisan support. As it has become clearer that only new regulation can ensure net neutrality, Republicans risk not only appearing as obstructionists, but worse, obstructionists that side with the likes of Comcast.”

    So Senator John Thune (R-SD), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – the two main committees charged with Internet oversight — have introduced legislation that on the surface seems to wholeheartedly embrace Net neutrality. But at the same time, it gives a big thumb’s down to using Title II to reclassify ISPs and effectively neutralizes the ability of the FCC to regulate. Shaban notes, “By avoiding a reclassification of broadband and working to render the FCC impotent, the new Republican Congress suggests it doesn’t really want net neutrality. It just wants to look like it does.”

    According to Matt Wood, policy director of the media reform group Free Press:

    “The legislation fails at the very thing it claims to accomplish. It prohibits a few open Internet violations but opens the door to new industry abuses. It claims to give the FCC limited adjudication powers but removes the agency’s ability to adopt and adapt rules to fit the changing landscape for high-speed Internet access.

    “What Thune and Upton are actually trying to do is declaw the one agency responsible for protecting the public interest in communications. Having lost their fight against Net Neutrality in the court of public opinion, companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are trying to use fake Net Neutrality bills to end all effective oversight of their anti-competitive, anti-consumer practices.”

    In addition, the legislation creates loopholes big enough for the ISPs to drive their service trucks through, allowing exceptions for so-called “special services” that easily could guide the way to a two-tiered system Net neutrality advocates fight to prevent.

    One way you can judge this rather disingenuous legislation is by the company it keeps; backed, as The Wall Street Journal reported by “the top lobbyists for both the broadband and wireless industries.”

    Former Republican FCC Chairman Michael Powell, now president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, long a foe of Net neutrality, endorses the idea of the legislation. So does former Republican FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker (the one who went to work for Comcast shortly after voting in favor of its purchase of NBCUniversal). She’s now the president of CTIA – The Wireless Association, and calls the Thune-Upton proposal “an excellent start.” Then there’s cyber-libertarian Larry Downes of the Georgetown Center for Business and Policy, who’s been attacking the Net neutrality movement for years. He describes the bill as “short and sweet,” listing eight reasons “passage of the bill would most benefit consumers.”

    No wonder Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey described it as “a legislative wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron writes that the legislation is “a cynical effort by the cable lobby to prevent the FCC from enforcing the law to keep the Internet open. Why would we trust the fiercest opponents of Net Neutrality to protect our Internet freedom?”

    The Senate Commerce Committee and the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held hearings on the same day last week. Subcommittee Chair Greg Walden (R-Oregon) described the purported FCC’s Net neutrality proposal as a “nuclear option,” but in discussing the Thune-Upton draft legislation, ranking member Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California) said, “What is abundantly clear in the majority’s proposal is to purposely tie the hands of the FCC by prohibiting them from reclassifying broadband.”

    Powell and Baker testified favorably but others, including online retailer representatives Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy; and Chad Dickerson, chief executive of Etsy, the on-line arts and crafts marketplace, expressed reservations. “We’re concerned,” Dickerson testified, “that the proposal does not ban all types of discrimination online.”

    Some, like Amy Schatz, policy reporter for the technology news website Re/code, believe that the hearings “did little more than confirm that the sides are nowhere close to agreeing on how to resolve the years-long debate.”

     “… Even if Congress were to pass this legislation — and it’s nearly impossible to see how it might do that before the FCC acts next month — the bill would still likely face a veto threat from President Obama, who has been vocal about his thoughts on what the FCC should do.”

    No matter the outcome, extensive litigation seems unavoidable. This will wind up in the courts. As Michael Powell said at last week’s hearings, “It’s not a complete exaggeration to say that in ten years we could still be sitting here.”

    You can continue to file your own comments on the Net neutrality debate at the FCC website. And the website BattlefortheNet.com will show you how to call the FCC and members of Congress.

    Not So Fast, Net Neutrality

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:57

    Over the last few months, things have been looking good for keeping the Internet open to everyone. A little too good, as far as Congress is concerned, which is why members and the corporate lobbyists who write them hefty checks have launched a last-ditch legislative effort to scuttle net neutrality. Together, the ISP companies and Congress have come up with a plan to legislatively derail Net neutrality that would bring a smile to the lips of Machiavelli.

    Demonstrators protest in front of the White House in support of net neutrality. (Photo: Joseph Gruber / Flickr)

    Want to challenge injustice and make real change happen? That's Truthout's goal - support our work with a donation today!

    Over the last few months, things have been looking good for keeping the Internet open to everyone. A little too good, as far as Congress is concerned, which is why members and the corporate lobbyists who write them hefty checks have launched a last-ditch legislative effort to scuttle Net neutrality.

    Both President Obama and Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler have stopped tiptoeing around Net neutrality and seem to finally embrace the idea of using Title II of the Telecommunications Act to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and regulate them as common carriers, like the phone companies and other public utilities. No preferential treatment to those willing to shell out big corporate bucks for a fast lane.

    In early January, Wheeler told a crowd at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, “There’s a way to do Title II right.” And in his State of the Union address, Barack Obama announced, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

    To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

    No doubt those more than four million public comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission in support of Net neutrality went a long way toward convincing Obama and Wheeler that the American people have made up their minds. Chairman Wheeler intends to circulate a new plan to fellow FCC commissioners on February 5 with a vote scheduled for February 26.

    But all of this apparently sent chills though the new Republican Congress and key segments of a communications industry that as a whole pumps an average $350 million-plus into lobbying every year and spent almost $100 million on the midterm elections. (Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are three of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ top 10 corporate lobbyists).

    Together, the ISP companies and Congress have come up with a plan to legislatively derail Net neutrality that would bring a smile to the lips of Machiavelli.

    As Hamza Shaban wrote recently at The Verge:

    “Simply put, the popularity of net neutrality poses a problem for Republicans. While the GOP maintains a general opposition to government rules in economic life, the principle of treating all web traffic equally enjoys wide, cross-partisan support. As it has become clearer that only new regulation can ensure net neutrality, Republicans risk not only appearing as obstructionists, but worse, obstructionists that side with the likes of Comcast.”

    So Senator John Thune (R-SD), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – the two main committees charged with Internet oversight — have introduced legislation that on the surface seems to wholeheartedly embrace Net neutrality. But at the same time, it gives a big thumb’s down to using Title II to reclassify ISPs and effectively neutralizes the ability of the FCC to regulate. Shaban notes, “By avoiding a reclassification of broadband and working to render the FCC impotent, the new Republican Congress suggests it doesn’t really want net neutrality. It just wants to look like it does.”

    According to Matt Wood, policy director of the media reform group Free Press:

    “The legislation fails at the very thing it claims to accomplish. It prohibits a few open Internet violations but opens the door to new industry abuses. It claims to give the FCC limited adjudication powers but removes the agency’s ability to adopt and adapt rules to fit the changing landscape for high-speed Internet access.

    “What Thune and Upton are actually trying to do is declaw the one agency responsible for protecting the public interest in communications. Having lost their fight against Net Neutrality in the court of public opinion, companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are trying to use fake Net Neutrality bills to end all effective oversight of their anti-competitive, anti-consumer practices.”

    In addition, the legislation creates loopholes big enough for the ISPs to drive their service trucks through, allowing exceptions for so-called “special services” that easily could guide the way to a two-tiered system Net neutrality advocates fight to prevent.

    One way you can judge this rather disingenuous legislation is by the company it keeps; backed, as The Wall Street Journal reported by “the top lobbyists for both the broadband and wireless industries.”

    Former Republican FCC Chairman Michael Powell, now president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, long a foe of Net neutrality, endorses the idea of the legislation. So does former Republican FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker (the one who went to work for Comcast shortly after voting in favor of its purchase of NBCUniversal). She’s now the president of CTIA – The Wireless Association, and calls the Thune-Upton proposal “an excellent start.” Then there’s cyber-libertarian Larry Downes of the Georgetown Center for Business and Policy, who’s been attacking the Net neutrality movement for years. He describes the bill as “short and sweet,” listing eight reasons “passage of the bill would most benefit consumers.”

    No wonder Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey described it as “a legislative wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron writes that the legislation is “a cynical effort by the cable lobby to prevent the FCC from enforcing the law to keep the Internet open. Why would we trust the fiercest opponents of Net Neutrality to protect our Internet freedom?”

    The Senate Commerce Committee and the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held hearings on the same day last week. Subcommittee Chair Greg Walden (R-Oregon) described the purported FCC’s Net neutrality proposal as a “nuclear option,” but in discussing the Thune-Upton draft legislation, ranking member Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California) said, “What is abundantly clear in the majority’s proposal is to purposely tie the hands of the FCC by prohibiting them from reclassifying broadband.”

    Powell and Baker testified favorably but others, including online retailer representatives Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy; and Chad Dickerson, chief executive of Etsy, the on-line arts and crafts marketplace, expressed reservations. “We’re concerned,” Dickerson testified, “that the proposal does not ban all types of discrimination online.”

    Some, like Amy Schatz, policy reporter for the technology news website Re/code, believe that the hearings “did little more than confirm that the sides are nowhere close to agreeing on how to resolve the years-long debate.”

     “… Even if Congress were to pass this legislation — and it’s nearly impossible to see how it might do that before the FCC acts next month — the bill would still likely face a veto threat from President Obama, who has been vocal about his thoughts on what the FCC should do.”

    No matter the outcome, extensive litigation seems unavoidable. This will wind up in the courts. As Michael Powell said at last week’s hearings, “It’s not a complete exaggeration to say that in ten years we could still be sitting here.”

    You can continue to file your own comments on the Net neutrality debate at the FCC website. And the website BattlefortheNet.com will show you how to call the FCC and members of Congress.

    El Salvador: Pardon Granted for One of 17 Women Who Miscarried

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:54

    A Salvadoran woman sentenced to 30 years for the alleged murder of her unborn child in 2007, when she was just 18, has been granted a pardon. She is one of 17 women currently imprisoned in El Salvador after having unintentionally miscarried during their pregnancies.

    In a surprise about-face, a pardon was granted for Guadalupe, a young Salvadoran woman already in prison for more than seven years on charges of aggravated homicide with respect to the death of the fetus she was carrying. She is one of 17 women currently held behind bars in El Salvador who have been the subject of efforts both in and out of the country to release them. Of all the women held for the crime of murdering their newborns, these 17 were seen to have had sufficient proof of having unintentionally miscarried during their pregnancies and appeared to have had the best chances for official pardons and release from jail.

    The pardon, a political maneuver created by supporters that would release these women from prison after all judicial appeals were exhausted, was presented to the country's legislature. As reported in El Salvador daily Contrapunto, members of the country's conservative Arena party abstained from voting rather than be seen voting against the pardon. Only 42 votes were counted in favor, one short of the necessary 43 to constitute a simple majority.

    Deputies belonging to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) insisted upon a revote, and on January 21, 2015, the pardon was finally granted. "Ultimately, in the case of the accused Guadalupe . . . there exist legal reasons that justify the favor of granting her a pardon," reads the legislature's statement.

    Guadalupe had been previously sentenced to 30 years for the alleged murder of her newborn in 2007, when she was just 18 years old. Already a mother of one, she was in the house where she worked as a domestic employee when she began to hemorrhage and experienced a stillbirth. Her employers brought her to a public hospital still bleeding heavily, where medical personnel reported her to the police.

    According to Una flor por las 17 (A flower for the 17), an organization dedicated to winning pardons for all the women, Guadalupe's pregnancy was the result of rape, and she did not gain weight or realize she was pregnant. Furthermore:

    The autopsy revealed a congenital anomaly in an umbilical artery and two umbilical veins, an anomaly frequently associated with spontaneous fetal death, but the pathologist did not explain what effect this anomaly could have in the death of the infant.

    FMLN deputy Lorena Peña points out that Guadalupe was not accused of abortion, for which the penalty is 12 years, time that the legislator maintains has already been served, but murder, which carries a far longer penalty. Peña accused the courts of "targeting" poor women like Guadalupe, instead of seeking out corrupt officials and drug traffickers. In a January 16 Twitter post, Peña decried the actions of the conservative Arena and PCN parties. Referring to another pardon that day for a convicted kidnapper, she notes, "A kidnapper, yes. Will a woman of limited means always be scorned by these two parties?"

    In their study entitled "From Hospital to Prison," the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Civic Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion) recorded that 129 women had been tried between 2000 and 2011, with 49 found guilty. Three quarters of them were under the age of 25. In most of the cases, the prosecutor first accused them of abortion, and later changed the charge to homicide, which carries a stiffer sentence.

    But pardon was denied on January 23, 2015, for a second woman, Cinthia, who gave birth alone to an infant she says had its cord wrapped around its neck. Among the reasons cited in the decision was that Cinthia smoked and drank beer on a daily basis. Cinthia, like Guadalupe, was 18 when she miscarried, was likewise found guilty of aggravated homicide and has been serving the same 30-year sentence. She has completed six, "despite the fact that the court did not present direct proof that she wanted to cause the newborn's death," said Dennis Muñoz, one of the attorneys presenting the 17 requests for pardon.

    "Sentences and reports based on sexist stereotypes are a constant. They give abundant reasons such as that the mother should have shown maternal instinct. On the other hand, they never cite the risks one can assume that a woman faces when giving birth without assistance," Muñoz said. In Guadalupe's case, the report remarked how she exhibited good conduct, completed various training courses and took part in religious activities.

    El Salvador: Pardon Granted for One of 17 Women Who Miscarried

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:54

    A Salvadoran woman sentenced to 30 years for the alleged murder of her unborn child in 2007, when she was just 18, has been granted a pardon. She is one of 17 women currently imprisoned in El Salvador after having unintentionally miscarried during their pregnancies.

    In a surprise about-face, a pardon was granted for Guadalupe, a young Salvadoran woman already in prison for more than seven years on charges of aggravated homicide with respect to the death of the fetus she was carrying. She is one of 17 women currently held behind bars in El Salvador who have been the subject of efforts both in and out of the country to release them. Of all the women held for the crime of murdering their newborns, these 17 were seen to have had sufficient proof of having unintentionally miscarried during their pregnancies and appeared to have had the best chances for official pardons and release from jail.

    The pardon, a political maneuver created by supporters that would release these women from prison after all judicial appeals were exhausted, was presented to the country's legislature. As reported in El Salvador daily Contrapunto, members of the country's conservative Arena party abstained from voting rather than be seen voting against the pardon. Only 42 votes were counted in favor, one short of the necessary 43 to constitute a simple majority.

    Deputies belonging to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) insisted upon a revote, and on January 21, 2015, the pardon was finally granted. "Ultimately, in the case of the accused Guadalupe . . . there exist legal reasons that justify the favor of granting her a pardon," reads the legislature's statement.

    Guadalupe had been previously sentenced to 30 years for the alleged murder of her newborn in 2007, when she was just 18 years old. Already a mother of one, she was in the house where she worked as a domestic employee when she began to hemorrhage and experienced a stillbirth. Her employers brought her to a public hospital still bleeding heavily, where medical personnel reported her to the police.

    According to Una flor por las 17 (A flower for the 17), an organization dedicated to winning pardons for all the women, Guadalupe's pregnancy was the result of rape, and she did not gain weight or realize she was pregnant. Furthermore:

    The autopsy revealed a congenital anomaly in an umbilical artery and two umbilical veins, an anomaly frequently associated with spontaneous fetal death, but the pathologist did not explain what effect this anomaly could have in the death of the infant.

    FMLN deputy Lorena Peña points out that Guadalupe was not accused of abortion, for which the penalty is 12 years, time that the legislator maintains has already been served, but murder, which carries a far longer penalty. Peña accused the courts of "targeting" poor women like Guadalupe, instead of seeking out corrupt officials and drug traffickers. In a January 16 Twitter post, Peña decried the actions of the conservative Arena and PCN parties. Referring to another pardon that day for a convicted kidnapper, she notes, "A kidnapper, yes. Will a woman of limited means always be scorned by these two parties?"

    In their study entitled "From Hospital to Prison," the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Civic Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion) recorded that 129 women had been tried between 2000 and 2011, with 49 found guilty. Three quarters of them were under the age of 25. In most of the cases, the prosecutor first accused them of abortion, and later changed the charge to homicide, which carries a stiffer sentence.

    But pardon was denied on January 23, 2015, for a second woman, Cinthia, who gave birth alone to an infant she says had its cord wrapped around its neck. Among the reasons cited in the decision was that Cinthia smoked and drank beer on a daily basis. Cinthia, like Guadalupe, was 18 when she miscarried, was likewise found guilty of aggravated homicide and has been serving the same 30-year sentence. She has completed six, "despite the fact that the court did not present direct proof that she wanted to cause the newborn's death," said Dennis Muñoz, one of the attorneys presenting the 17 requests for pardon.

    "Sentences and reports based on sexist stereotypes are a constant. They give abundant reasons such as that the mother should have shown maternal instinct. On the other hand, they never cite the risks one can assume that a woman faces when giving birth without assistance," Muñoz said. In Guadalupe's case, the report remarked how she exhibited good conduct, completed various training courses and took part in religious activities.

    Introducing Mrs. Merlin: To Prosecute Jeffrey Sterling, CIA Exposed an Asset

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:48

    The government engaged in a great deal of security theater during the Jeffrey Sterling trial, most notably by having some CIA witnesses — including ones whose identities weren't, technically, secret — testify behind a big office divider so the general public couldn't see the witness.

    But along the way, the government revealed a great number of secrets, including a number of secrets about how its counterproliferation programs work.

    Perhaps most ironically, in a trial aiming to convict Jeffrey Sterling for revealing that the Russian scientist referred to as Merlin during the trial was a CIA asset, the government revealed that Merlin's wife was also an asset.

    That possibility was first suggested in the testimony of the first witness, Stephen B, who described originally recruiting Mrs. Merlin (presumably also for information on Russia's nuclear program), not Merlin himself. Merlin's wife suggested CIA recruit Merlin.

    But the exhibits make it even more clear that CIA continued to have a relationship with Mrs. Merlin as well. For example, the first of two cables describing CIA informing the Merlins the engineer appeared in James Risen's book describes them as the "Merlin assets," plural.

    That January 6, 2006 cable goes on to reveal that Mrs. Merlin had been facilitating the targeting of a Russian official who was due to travel to the US.

    In addition, a stipulation regarding how much the CIA paid out over the years described it as how much "CIA paid Merlin and his wife." [my emphasis] Indeed, the payments continued after CIA purportedly had to discontinue using Merlin on operations when Risen threatened to publish a New York Times story in 2003, and continued even after Merlin appeared in Risen's book in 2006, even increasing in 2007.

    Altogether, the CIA paid the Merlins roughly $413,223.67 over the 7 years after James Risen supposedly ruined Merlin's usefulness as an asset.

    It's possible that some of these amounts were just meant to keep the Merlins silent. Yet it's also clear that in 2006, Mrs. Merlin was actively providing information on Russian targets to the CIA.

    None of these details — including a listing of how much nuclear engineers might expect to be paid by the CIA for a thorough debriefing then participation in a deception operation — were made public by Risen's book.

    But in the government's zeal to punish Jeffrey Sterling because it believes he revealed Merlin to the world, the government has, in turn, revealed Mrs. Merlin.

    Introducing Mrs. Merlin: To Prosecute Jeffrey Sterling, CIA Exposed an Asset

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:48

    The government engaged in a great deal of security theater during the Jeffrey Sterling trial, most notably by having some CIA witnesses — including ones whose identities weren't, technically, secret — testify behind a big office divider so the general public couldn't see the witness.

    But along the way, the government revealed a great number of secrets, including a number of secrets about how its counterproliferation programs work.

    Perhaps most ironically, in a trial aiming to convict Jeffrey Sterling for revealing that the Russian scientist referred to as Merlin during the trial was a CIA asset, the government revealed that Merlin's wife was also an asset.

    That possibility was first suggested in the testimony of the first witness, Stephen B, who described originally recruiting Mrs. Merlin (presumably also for information on Russia's nuclear program), not Merlin himself. Merlin's wife suggested CIA recruit Merlin.

    But the exhibits make it even more clear that CIA continued to have a relationship with Mrs. Merlin as well. For example, the first of two cables describing CIA informing the Merlins the engineer appeared in James Risen's book describes them as the "Merlin assets," plural.

    That January 6, 2006 cable goes on to reveal that Mrs. Merlin had been facilitating the targeting of a Russian official who was due to travel to the US.

    In addition, a stipulation regarding how much the CIA paid out over the years described it as how much "CIA paid Merlin and his wife." [my emphasis] Indeed, the payments continued after CIA purportedly had to discontinue using Merlin on operations when Risen threatened to publish a New York Times story in 2003, and continued even after Merlin appeared in Risen's book in 2006, even increasing in 2007.

    Altogether, the CIA paid the Merlins roughly $413,223.67 over the 7 years after James Risen supposedly ruined Merlin's usefulness as an asset.

    It's possible that some of these amounts were just meant to keep the Merlins silent. Yet it's also clear that in 2006, Mrs. Merlin was actively providing information on Russian targets to the CIA.

    None of these details — including a listing of how much nuclear engineers might expect to be paid by the CIA for a thorough debriefing then participation in a deception operation — were made public by Risen's book.

    But in the government's zeal to punish Jeffrey Sterling because it believes he revealed Merlin to the world, the government has, in turn, revealed Mrs. Merlin.

    Reporting on Armed White Teens Highlights Racial Double Standard

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:24

    Two teens steal a truck with weapons inside and criss-cross multiple states committing numerous crimes and evading police officers. Sounds like a criminal case, and a potential public safety risk, so how did the media report on it before they were finally arrested on Sunday after two weeks on the run? By labeling the teens involved, Dalton Hayes and Cheyenne Phillips, as "a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde" and "love-struck runaways." Three guesses as to the race of the suspects, and the first two don't count.

    While the drama may be over, the legacy of the reporting remains.

    If the story had revolved around two Black teens, the kind of headlines used would play out very differently. The public would no doubt have read about "thugs" and "criminals," with other choice and highly racialized language used to describe the two teens and the series of events that led to the initial truck theft. The media even popped in for a jailhouse interview, turning Hayes into a virtual celebrity. The two white teens got the kid glove treatment in the media, highlighting a racial double standard when it comes to how criminal news is reported in the United States; white criminals, and white crime, are treated very differently from people of color. If all races are created equal, newsrooms have a funny way of showing it.

    The Kentucky teens stole a truck with at least one weapon inside and moved across state boundaries into both South Carolina and Georgia, clearly following a confused path as they couldn't decide what to do. Early in their flight from home, they abandoned the truck, likely in response to police pursuit, but their new ride also contained weapons, posing a clear and present risk to members of the public. At the same time, the pair were writing fraudulent checks from the checkbook they'd discovered in one of the vehicles they stole. By all appearances, the situation since their disappearance on Jan. 4 was escalating — but it was still being treated like an ordinary human interest story.

    Their "crime spree" seemed almost droll to the media, reporting on it as a matter of general public interest, rather than as evidence that white teens are dangerous and prone to committing crimes, as would have been the case if the teens in question were people of color. In discussions of the case, the media focused instead on Hayes and Phillips as individuals, not as representatives of white people en masse, and interviews with their parents stressed a desire for the teens to surrender and return home — but there was little mention, as there would be in the case of Black teens, of fears that they might be shot by police.

    Black parents of teens in a similar situation would likely have been sitting by the phone with dread at this stage of the proceedings, well aware that should someone call 911 on their children, the police would arrive with itchy trigger fingers, not a desire to resolve the situation peacefully. Across the United States, protests erupted last year over the deaths of unarmed, innocent Black men, underscoring the acute awareness in America's Black consciousness that to be Black and alive is dangerous. Yet, for the parents of these teens, there was little doubt that their children would make it home safely — as in fact they did — highlighting a privilege that parents of color do not have.

    The media's racial double standard in this case reflects a social double standard, but thanks to the prominent role of the media, the reporting also reinforces social inequality. As long as people who flip open a newspaper or turn on the news read such biased reporting, they're going to continue internalizing it and taking away painful lessons about minorities.

    Reporting on Armed White Teens Highlights Racial Double Standard

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:24

    Two teens steal a truck with weapons inside and criss-cross multiple states committing numerous crimes and evading police officers. Sounds like a criminal case, and a potential public safety risk, so how did the media report on it before they were finally arrested on Sunday after two weeks on the run? By labeling the teens involved, Dalton Hayes and Cheyenne Phillips, as "a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde" and "love-struck runaways." Three guesses as to the race of the suspects, and the first two don't count.

    While the drama may be over, the legacy of the reporting remains.

    If the story had revolved around two Black teens, the kind of headlines used would play out very differently. The public would no doubt have read about "thugs" and "criminals," with other choice and highly racialized language used to describe the two teens and the series of events that led to the initial truck theft. The media even popped in for a jailhouse interview, turning Hayes into a virtual celebrity. The two white teens got the kid glove treatment in the media, highlighting a racial double standard when it comes to how criminal news is reported in the United States; white criminals, and white crime, are treated very differently from people of color. If all races are created equal, newsrooms have a funny way of showing it.

    The Kentucky teens stole a truck with at least one weapon inside and moved across state boundaries into both South Carolina and Georgia, clearly following a confused path as they couldn't decide what to do. Early in their flight from home, they abandoned the truck, likely in response to police pursuit, but their new ride also contained weapons, posing a clear and present risk to members of the public. At the same time, the pair were writing fraudulent checks from the checkbook they'd discovered in one of the vehicles they stole. By all appearances, the situation since their disappearance on Jan. 4 was escalating — but it was still being treated like an ordinary human interest story.

    Their "crime spree" seemed almost droll to the media, reporting on it as a matter of general public interest, rather than as evidence that white teens are dangerous and prone to committing crimes, as would have been the case if the teens in question were people of color. In discussions of the case, the media focused instead on Hayes and Phillips as individuals, not as representatives of white people en masse, and interviews with their parents stressed a desire for the teens to surrender and return home — but there was little mention, as there would be in the case of Black teens, of fears that they might be shot by police.

    Black parents of teens in a similar situation would likely have been sitting by the phone with dread at this stage of the proceedings, well aware that should someone call 911 on their children, the police would arrive with itchy trigger fingers, not a desire to resolve the situation peacefully. Across the United States, protests erupted last year over the deaths of unarmed, innocent Black men, underscoring the acute awareness in America's Black consciousness that to be Black and alive is dangerous. Yet, for the parents of these teens, there was little doubt that their children would make it home safely — as in fact they did — highlighting a privilege that parents of color do not have.

    The media's racial double standard in this case reflects a social double standard, but thanks to the prominent role of the media, the reporting also reinforces social inequality. As long as people who flip open a newspaper or turn on the news read such biased reporting, they're going to continue internalizing it and taking away painful lessons about minorities.

    Reporting on Armed White Teens Highlights Racial Double Standard

    Truthout - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:24

    Two teens steal a truck with weapons inside and criss-cross multiple states committing numerous crimes and evading police officers. Sounds like a criminal case, and a potential public safety risk, so how did the media report on it before they were finally arrested on Sunday after two weeks on the run? By labeling the teens involved, Dalton Hayes and Cheyenne Phillips, as "a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde" and "love-struck runaways." Three guesses as to the race of the suspects, and the first two don't count.

    While the drama may be over, the legacy of the reporting remains.

    If the story had revolved around two Black teens, the kind of headlines used would play out very differently. The public would no doubt have read about "thugs" and "criminals," with other choice and highly racialized language used to describe the two teens and the series of events that led to the initial truck theft. The media even popped in for a jailhouse interview, turning Hayes into a virtual celebrity. The two white teens got the kid glove treatment in the media, highlighting a racial double standard when it comes to how criminal news is reported in the United States; white criminals, and white crime, are treated very differently from people of color. If all races are created equal, newsrooms have a funny way of showing it.

    The Kentucky teens stole a truck with at least one weapon inside and moved across state boundaries into both South Carolina and Georgia, clearly following a confused path as they couldn't decide what to do. Early in their flight from home, they abandoned the truck, likely in response to police pursuit, but their new ride also contained weapons, posing a clear and present risk to members of the public. At the same time, the pair were writing fraudulent checks from the checkbook they'd discovered in one of the vehicles they stole. By all appearances, the situation since their disappearance on Jan. 4 was escalating — but it was still being treated like an ordinary human interest story.

    Their "crime spree" seemed almost droll to the media, reporting on it as a matter of general public interest, rather than as evidence that white teens are dangerous and prone to committing crimes, as would have been the case if the teens in question were people of color. In discussions of the case, the media focused instead on Hayes and Phillips as individuals, not as representatives of white people en masse, and interviews with their parents stressed a desire for the teens to surrender and return home — but there was little mention, as there would be in the case of Black teens, of fears that they might be shot by police.

    Black parents of teens in a similar situation would likely have been sitting by the phone with dread at this stage of the proceedings, well aware that should someone call 911 on their children, the police would arrive with itchy trigger fingers, not a desire to resolve the situation peacefully. Across the United States, protests erupted last year over the deaths of unarmed, innocent Black men, underscoring the acute awareness in America's Black consciousness that to be Black and alive is dangerous. Yet, for the parents of these teens, there was little doubt that their children would make it home safely — as in fact they did — highlighting a privilege that parents of color do not have.

    The media's racial double standard in this case reflects a social double standard, but thanks to the prominent role of the media, the reporting also reinforces social inequality. As long as people who flip open a newspaper or turn on the news read such biased reporting, they're going to continue internalizing it and taking away painful lessons about minorities.

    New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Sworn In to Office

    The Real News Network - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:01
    Dimitri Lascaris: SYRIZA Leaders first act as Prime Minister was to visit the grave site, where hundreds of members of the Greek Resistance were executed by the German Nazi forces during World War II

    New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Sworn In to Office

    The Real News Network - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:01
    Dimitri Lascaris: SYRIZA Leaders first act as Prime Minister was to visit the grave site, where hundreds of members of the Greek Resistance were executed by the German Nazi forces during World War II

    Torture If You Must, But Do Not Under Any Circumstances Call the New York Times

    The Intercept - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 09:33

    Monday’s guilty verdict in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling on espionage charges — for talking to a newspaper reporter — is the latest milepost on the dark and dismal path Barack Obama has traveled since his inaugural promises to usher in a “new era of openness.”

    Far from rejecting the authoritarian bent of his presidential predecessor, Obama has simply adjusted it, adding his own personal touches, most notably an enthusiasm for criminally prosecuting the kinds of leaks that are essential to a free press.

    The Sterling case – especially in light of Obama’s complicity in the cover-up of torture during the Bush administration – sends a clear message to people in government service: You won’t get in trouble as long as you do what you’re told (even torture people). But if you talk to a reporter and tell him something we want kept secret, we will spare no effort to destroy you.

    There’s really no sign any more of the former community organizer who joyously declared on his first full day in office that “there’s been too much secrecy in this city… Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.”

    Instead, as author Scott Horton explained to me a few weeks ago, Obama’s thinking on these issues was swayed by John Brennan, the former senior adviser he eventually named CIA director. And for Brennan and his ilk, secrecy is a core value — partly for legitimate national security reasons and partly as an impregnable shield against embarrassment and accountability.

    The Sterling case was until recently an even more direct attack on a free press, as Obama administration prosecutors repeatedly demanded testimony from New York Times reporter James Risen, who wrote about the botched plot against the Iranian government that they charged Sterling with divulging.

    Risen’s testimony was crucial to their case, they said – although evidently it wasn’t. And their argument was that U.S. law recognizes no such thing as reporter’s privilege when a journalist received what the government considers an illegal leak.

    Attorney General Eric Holder finally retreated from that particular attack on press freedom earlier this month, as my colleague Lynn Oberlander explained. Holder also announced revisions of DOJ policy on questioning journalists or obtaining information from media organizations about their sources. But as Oberlander put it, “the policy still leaves a fair amount of leeway for national security investigations — some of the most important reporting often based on confidential sources.”

    Meanwhile, former CIA officer John Kiriakou is in prison, serving the last days of his over two-year sentence not for torturing anyone, but for revealing information on torture to a reporter.

    Stephen Kim, a former State Department official who pled guilty to leaking classified information to a Fox News reporter, faces 13 months in prison.

    And Thomas Drake, a former NSA official who provided classified information about mismanagement at his agency to a Baltimore Sun reporter, endured a four-year persecution by the government that the federal judge in his case called “unconscionable,” before prosecutors dropped all 10 felony charges and settled for a single guilty plea on a misdemeanor. The government’s message nevertheless was loud and clear. As secrecy expert Steven Aftergood told me: “In every significant sense, the government won, because it demonstrated the price of nonconformity.”

    All of this has been happening during a two-decade-long shift in the cultural norms of the U.S. government, whereby reporters are now routinely blocked from communicating with staff unless they are tracked and/or monitored by public relations controllers.

    And government officials are being told very clearly that their personal right to free speech does not extend to their work life, nowhere more clearly than in the intelligence community, where a new directive forbids employees from discussing “intelligence-related information” with a reporter unless they have specific authorization to do so, even if it’s unclassified.

    Not surprisingly, the Obama administration has fared poorly on transparency scorecards and has failed to follow the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

    By contrast, neither Obama nor Holder ever seriously contemplated any kind of prosecution or accountability for the application of torture – a heinous assault on human rights – that was rampant during the Bush era. Holder repeatedly and effusively ruled out any possible prosecution of those who followed orders they were told were legal. And Obama made it clear that he would not second-guess the people who gave the orders – a prima facie case of what my colleague Glenn Greenwald calls elite immunity.

    Looking ahead to 2016, the prospects are grim. None of the major candidates for president have said anything half as powerful about openness, transparency and accountability as Obama did. And look where that got us.

    Photo of Jeffrey Sterling, second from left, leaving Alexandria Federal Courthouse: Kevin Wolf/AP

    The post Torture If You Must, But Do Not Under Any Circumstances Call the New York Times appeared first on The Intercept.

    Torture If You Must, But Do Not Under Any Circumstances Call the New York Times

    The Intercept - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 09:33

    Monday’s guilty verdict in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling on espionage charges — for talking to a newspaper reporter — is the latest milepost on the dark and dismal path Barack Obama has traveled since his inaugural promises to usher in a “new era of openness.”

    Far from rejecting the authoritarian bent of his presidential predecessor, Obama has simply adjusted it, adding his own personal touches, most notably an enthusiasm for criminally prosecuting the kinds of leaks that are essential to a free press.

    The Sterling case – especially in light of Obama’s complicity in the cover-up of torture during the Bush administration – sends a clear message to people in government service: You won’t get in trouble as long as you do what you’re told (even torture people). But if you talk to a reporter and tell him something we want kept secret, we will spare no effort to destroy you.

    There’s really no sign any more of the former community organizers who joyously declared on his first full day in office that “there’s been too much secrecy in this city… Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.”

    Instead, as author Scott Horton explained to me a few weeks ago, Obama’s thinking on these issues was swayed by John Brennan, the former senior adviser he eventually named CIA director. And for Brennan and his ilk, secrecy is a core value — partly for legitimate national security reasons and partly as an impregnable shield against embarrassment and accountability.

    The Sterling case was until recently an even more direct attack on a free press, as Obama administration prosecutors repeatedly demanded testimony from New York Times reporter James Risen, who wrote about the botched plot against the Iranian government that they charged Sterling with divulging.

    Risen’s testimony was crucial to their case, they said – although evidently it wasn’t. And their argument was that U.S. law recognizes no such thing as reporter’s privilege when a journalist received what the government considers an illegal leak.

    Attorney General Eric Holder finally retreated from that particular attack on press freedom earlier this month, as my colleague Lynn Oberlander explained. Holder also announced revisions of DOJ policy on questioning journalists or obtaining information from media organizations about their sources. But as Oberlander put it, “the policy still leaves a fair amount of leeway for national security investigations — some of the most important reporting often based on confidential sources.”

    Meanwhile, former CIA officer John Kiriakou is in prison, serving the last days of his over two-year sentence not for torturing anyone, but for revealing information on torture to a reporter.

    Stephen Kim, a former State Department official who pled guilty to leaking classified information to a Fox News reporter, faces 13 months in prison.

    And Thomas Drake, a former NSA official who provided classified information about mismanagement at his agency to a Baltimore Sun reporter, endured a four-year persecution by the government that the federal judge in his case called “unconscionable,” before prosecutors dropped all 10 felony charges and settled for a single guilty plea on a misdemeanor. The government’s message nevertheless was loud and clear. As secrecy expert Steven Aftergood told me: “In every significant sense, the government won, because it demonstrated the price of nonconformity.”

    All of this has been happening during a two-decade-long shift in the cultural norms of the U.S. government, whereby reporters are now routinely blocked from communicating with staff unless they are tracked and/or monitored by public relations controllers.

    And government officials are being told very clearly that their personal right to free speech does not extend to their work life, nowhere more clearly than in the intelligence community, where a new directive forbids employees from discussing “intelligence-related information” with a reporter unless they have specific authorization to do so, even if it’s unclassified.

    Not surprisingly, the Obama administration has flunked transparency scorecards and has failed to follow the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

    By contrast, neither Obama nor Holder ever seriously contemplated any kind of prosecution or accountability for the application of torture – a heinous assault on human rights – that was rampant during the Bush era. Holder repeatedly and effusively ruled out any possible prosecution of those who followed orders they were told were legal. And Obama made it clear that he would not second-guess the people who gave the orders – a prima facie case of what my colleague Glenn Greenwald calls elite immunity.

    Looking ahead to 2016, the prospects are grim. None of the major candidates for president have said anything half as powerful about openness, transparency and accountability as Obama did. And look where that got us.

    Photo of Jeffrey Sterling, second from left, leaving Alexandria Federal Courthouse: Kevin Wolf/Associated Press

    The post Torture If You Must, But Do Not Under Any Circumstances Call the New York Times appeared first on The Intercept.

    Torture If You Must, But Do Not Under Any Circumstances Call the New York Times

    The Intercept - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 09:33

    Monday’s guilty verdict in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling on espionage charges — for talking to a newspaper reporter — is the latest milepost on the dark and dismal path Barack Obama has traveled since his inaugural promises to usher in a “new era of openness.”

    Far from rejecting the authoritarian bent of his presidential predecessor, Obama has simply adjusted it, adding his own personal touches, most notably an enthusiasm for criminally prosecuting the kinds of leaks that are essential to a free press.

    The Sterling case – especially in light of Obama’s complicity in the cover-up of torture during the Bush administration – sends a clear message to people in government service: You won’t get in trouble as long as you do what you’re told (even torture people). But if you talk to a reporter and tell him something we want kept secret, we will spare no effort to destroy you.

    There’s really no sign any more of the former community organizers who joyously declared on his first full day in office that “there’s been too much secrecy in this city… Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.”

    Instead, as author Scott Horton explained to me a few weeks ago, Obama’s thinking on these issues was swayed by John Brennan, the former senior adviser he eventually named CIA director. And for Brennan and his ilk, secrecy is a core value — partly for legitimate national security reasons and partly as an impregnable shield against embarrassment and accountability.

    The Sterling case was until recently an even more direct attack on a free press, as Obama administration prosecutors repeatedly demanded testimony from New York Times reporter James Risen, who wrote about the botched plot against the Iranian government that they charged Sterling with divulging.

    Risen’s testimony was crucial to their case, they said – although evidently it wasn’t. And their argument was that U.S. law recognizes no such thing as reporter’s privilege when a journalist received what the government considers an illegal leak.

    Attorney General Eric Holder finally retreated from that particular attack on press freedom earlier this month, as my colleague Lynn Oberlander explained. Holder also announced revisions of DOJ policy on questioning journalists or obtaining information from media organizations about their sources. But as Oberlander put it, “the policy still leaves a fair amount of leeway for national security investigations — some of the most important reporting often based on confidential sources.”

    Meanwhile, former CIA officer John Kiriakou is in prison, serving the last days of his over two-year sentence not for torturing anyone, but for revealing information on torture to a reporter.

    Stephen Kim, a former State Department official who pled guilty to leaking classified information to a Fox News reporter, faces 13 months in prison.

    And Thomas Drake, a former NSA official who provided classified information about mismanagement at his agency to a Baltimore Sun reporter, endured a four-year persecution by the government that the federal judge in his case called “unconscionable,” before prosecutors dropped all 10 felony charges and settled for a single guilty plea on a misdemeanor. The government’s message nevertheless was loud and clear. As secrecy expert Steven Aftergood told me: “In every significant sense, the government won, because it demonstrated the price of nonconformity.”

    All of this has been happening during a two-decade-long shift in the cultural norms of the U.S. government, whereby reporters are now routinely blocked from communicating with staff unless they are tracked and/or monitored by public relations controllers.

    And government officials are being told very clearly that their personal right to free speech does not extend to their work life, nowhere more clearly than in the intelligence community, where a new directive forbids employees from discussing “intelligence-related information” with a reporter unless they have specific authorization to do so, even if it’s unclassified.

    Not surprisingly, the Obama administration has flunked transparency scorecards and has failed to follow the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

    By contrast, neither Obama nor Holder ever seriously contemplated any kind of prosecution or accountability for the application of torture – a heinous assault on human rights – that was rampant during the Bush era. Holder repeatedly and effusively ruled out any possible prosecution of those who followed orders they were told were legal. And Obama made it clear that he would not second-guess the people who gave the orders – a prima facie case of what my colleague Glenn Greenwald calls elite immunity.

    Looking ahead to 2016, the prospects are grim. None of the major candidates for president have said anything half as powerful about openness, transparency and accountability as Obama did. And look where that got us.

    Photo of Jeffrey Sterling, second from left, leaving Alexandria Federal Courthouse: Kevin Wolf/Associated Press

    The post Torture If You Must, But Do Not Under Any Circumstances Call the New York Times appeared first on The Intercept.

    Links 1/27/15

    Naked Capitalism - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 07:55
    Categories: political economy

    Tax Haven USA: The Vortex-Shaped Hole in Global Financial Transparency

    Naked Capitalism - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 07:16
    Yves here. Nicholas Shaxson's landmark book on tax havens, Treasure Island, described how the US was the biggest sponsor of what Shaxson called "offshore," or tax havens and tax secrecy. He tells us how the US is working to keep it that way.
    Categories: political economy

    Snowstorm: New York Makes It Illegal to Be an Idiot

    Naked Capitalism - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 06:38
    As often happens with snowstorms, the forecasters look to have gotten it a bit wrong, with supposedly epic snowfall of two feet plus for New York City now significantly downgraded by the Weather Channel, which has a bias to overpredict, to what looks like 12 to 14 inches total. But even with the worst of the storm now hitting further north, were the extreme safety measures justified?
    Categories: political economy
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