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How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

By Glenn Greenwald

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats.”

The NSA’s secret role in the U.S. assassination programFebruary 10, 2014
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.
According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.
The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device.
The former JSOC drone operator is adamant that the technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed as a result of the NSA’s increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic.
One problem, he explains, is that targets are increasingly aware of the NSA’s reliance on geolocating, and have moved to thwart the tactic. Some have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system. Others, unaware that their mobile phone is being targeted, lend their phone, with the SIM card in it, to friends, children, spouses and family members.
Some top Taliban leaders, knowing of the NSA’s targeting method, have purposely and randomly distributed SIM cards among their units in order to elude their trackers. “They would do things like go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave,” the former drone operator says. “That’s how they confuse us.”
As a result, even when the agency correctly identifies and targets a SIM card belonging to a terror suspect, the phone may actually be carried by someone else, who is then killed in a strike. According to the former drone operator, the geolocation cells at the NSA that run the tracking program – known as Geo Cell –sometimes facilitate strikes without knowing whether the individual in possession of a tracked cell phone or SIM card is in fact the intended target of the strike.
“Once the bomb lands or a night raid happens, you know that phone is there,” he says. “But we don’t know who’s behind it, who’s holding it. It’s of course assumed that the phone belongs to a human being who is nefarious and considered an ‘unlawful enemy combatant.’ This is where it gets very shady.”
The former drone operator also says that he personally participated in drone strikes where the identity of the target was known, but other unknown people nearby were also killed.
“They might have been terrorists,” he says. “Or they could have been family members who have nothing to do with the target’s activities.”
What’s more, he adds, the NSA often locates drone targets by analyzing the activity of a SIM card, rather than the actual content of the calls. Based on his experience, he has come to believe that the drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata.
“People get hung up that there’s a targeted list of people,” he says. “It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people – we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.”
Full article
This piece is written by Glenn Greenwald & Jeremy Scahill as part of the launch of The Intercept, an independent media platform that’s currently focused on revealing & analyzing Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on the American surveillance state. 

The NSA’s secret role in the U.S. assassination program
February 10, 2014

The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.

The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device.

The former JSOC drone operator is adamant that the technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed as a result of the NSA’s increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic.

One problem, he explains, is that targets are increasingly aware of the NSA’s reliance on geolocating, and have moved to thwart the tactic. Some have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system. Others, unaware that their mobile phone is being targeted, lend their phone, with the SIM card in it, to friends, children, spouses and family members.

Some top Taliban leaders, knowing of the NSA’s targeting method, have purposely and randomly distributed SIM cards among their units in order to elude their trackers. “They would do things like go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave,” the former drone operator says. “That’s how they confuse us.”

As a result, even when the agency correctly identifies and targets a SIM card belonging to a terror suspect, the phone may actually be carried by someone else, who is then killed in a strike. According to the former drone operator, the geolocation cells at the NSA that run the tracking program – known as Geo Cell –sometimes facilitate strikes without knowing whether the individual in possession of a tracked cell phone or SIM card is in fact the intended target of the strike.

“Once the bomb lands or a night raid happens, you know that phone is there,” he says. “But we don’t know who’s behind it, who’s holding it. It’s of course assumed that the phone belongs to a human being who is nefarious and considered an ‘unlawful enemy combatant.’ This is where it gets very shady.”

The former drone operator also says that he personally participated in drone strikes where the identity of the target was known, but other unknown people nearby were also killed.

“They might have been terrorists,” he says. “Or they could have been family members who have nothing to do with the target’s activities.”

What’s more, he adds, the NSA often locates drone targets by analyzing the activity of a SIM card, rather than the actual content of the calls. Based on his experience, he has come to believe that the drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata.

“People get hung up that there’s a targeted list of people,” he says. “It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people – we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.”

Full article

This piece is written by Glenn Greenwald & Jeremy Scahill as part of the launch of The Intercept, an independent media platform that’s currently focused on revealing & analyzing Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on the American surveillance state. 

That, in general, has long been Obama’s primary role in our political system and his premiere, defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington. He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He’s not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.

As is always the case, those who want genuine changes should not look to politicians, and certainly not to Barack Obama, to wait for it to be gifted. Obama was forced to give this speech by rising public pressure, increasingly scared US tech giants, and surprisingly strong resistance from the international community to the out-of-control American surveillance state.
If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world - when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today - all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.
Glenn Greenwald, on UK authorities detaining his partner, David Miranda, & seizing his possessions earlier today at London’s Heathrow Airport. In this “failed attempt at intimidation,” authorities held Miranda for more than nine hours under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000. 

US army blocks access to Guardian website to preserve ‘network hygiene’

June 29, 2013

The US army has admitted to blocking access to parts of the Guardianwebsite for thousands of defence personnel across the country.

A spokesman said the military was filtering out reports and content relating to government surveillance programs to preserve “network hygiene” and prevent any classified material appearing on unclassified parts of its computer systems.

The confirmation follows reports in the Monterey Herald that staff at the Presidio military base south of San Francisco had complained of not being able to access the Guardian’s UK site at all, and had only partial access to the US site, following publication of leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Pentagon insisted the Department of Defense was not seeking to block the whole website, merely taking steps to restrict access to certain content.

But a spokesman for the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom) in Arizona confirmed that this was a widespread policy, likely to be affecting hundreds of defence facilities.

"In response to your question about access to the guardian.co.uk website, the army is filtering some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks,” said Gordon Van Vleet, a Netcom public affairs officer.

"The Department of Defense routinely takes preventative ‘network hygiene’ measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto DoD unclassified networks."

The army stressed its actions were automatic and would not affect computers outside military facilities.

"The department does not determine what sites its personnel can choose to visit while on a DoD system, but instead relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats," said Van Vleet. "The DoD is also not going to block websites from the American public in general, and to do so would violate our highest-held principle of upholding and defending the constitution and respecting civil liberties and privacy."

Similar measures were taken by the army after the Guardian and other newspapers published leaked State Department cables obtained via WikiLeaks.

"We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security, however there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information," added the Netcom spokesman.

"Until declassified by appropriate officials, classified information – including material released through an unauthorized disclosure – must be treated accordingly by DoD personnel. If a public website displays classified information, then filtering may be used to preserve ‘network hygiene’ for DoD unclassified networks."

A Defense Department spokesman at the Pentagon added: “The Guardian website is NOT being blocked by DoD. The Department of Defense routinely takes preventative measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto DoD unclassified networks.”

Source

"Apparently the people in the Army are old enough & mature enough to risk their lives to fight in wars but not mature enough to read news articles that the rest of the world is reading." - Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, saying blocked access to the Guardian website is a “prestigious award” and that he is “humbled & honored to have received this award.”

"To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?" David Gregory asked in Meet the Press yesterday.

Greenwald, who didn’t seem to bat an eye when responding to the puppet/reporter David Gregory, responded: “I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” Greenwald said. “The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence — the idea I’ve aided and abetted him in any way. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the emails and records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory you just embraced — being a co-conspirator in felonies for working with sources. If you want to embrace that theory, it means every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources [and] receives classified information is a criminal. And it’s precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It’s why the New Yorker’s Jean Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a ‘standstill,’ her word, as a result of the theories you just referenced.”

You can see just that segment of the interview here or you can watch the whole interview here (first 15 minutes are with Glenn Greenwald).

Greenwald tweeted about the exchange soon after: “Who needs the government to try and criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”

Gregory responded: “This is the problem from somebody who claims that he’s a journalist who would object to a journalist raising questions, which is not actually embracing any particular point of view,” he said. He added that Greenwald’s actions were “part of the debate.”

What debate was that again? The debate about journalists and whether they are criminals? You mean, a debate about the criminality of journalism is the dominant conversation that surfaces after historically important government leaks regarding privacy and civil rights are released to the public?

MSNBC is terrible neo-liberal propaganda. These are chilling times…

What Obama has specialized in from the beginning of his presidency is putting pretty packaging on ugly and discredited policies. The cosmopolitan, intellectualized flavor of his advocacy makes coastal elites and blue state progressives instinctively confident in the Goodness of whatever he’s selling, much as George W. Bush’s swaggering, evangelical cowboy routine did for red state conservatives. The CIA presciently recognized this as a valuable asset back in 2008 when they correctly predicted that Obama’s election would stem the tide of growing antiwar sentiment in western Europe by becoming the new, more attractive face of war, thereby converting hordes of his admirers from war opponents into war supporters. This dynamic has repeated itself over and over in other contexts, and has indeed been of great value to the guardians of the status quo in placating growing public discontent about their economic insecurity and increasingly unequal distribution of power and wealth. However bad things might be, we at least have a benevolent, kind-hearted and very thoughtful leader doing everything he can to fix it.

If you continually bomb another country and kill their civilians, not only the people of that country but the part of the world that identifies with it will increasingly despise the country doing it.

That’s the ultimate irony, the most warped paradox, of US discourse on these issues: the very policies that Americans constantly justify by spouting the Terrorism slogan are exactly what causes anti-American hatred and anti-American Terrorism in the first place. The most basic understanding of human nature renders that self-evident, but this polling data indisputably confirms it.

Glenn Greenwald, "Obama, the US & the Muslim world: The animosity deepens"

A Gallup poll released on Thursday surveyed public opinion of the US in Pakistan where ”more than nine in 10 Pakistanis (92%) disapprove of US leadership and 4% approve, the lowest approval rating Pakistanis have ever given”. Worse, “a majority (55%) say interaction between Muslim and Western societies is ‘more of a threat’ [than a benefit], up significantly from 39% in 2011.” 

Essential Reading: “With Liberty and Justice for Some” by Glenn Greenwald

­­“As a litigator who practiced for more than a decade in federal and state courts across the country, I’ve long been aware of the inequities that pervade the American justice system,” journalist and forthright civil liberties advocate Glenn Greenwald begins his candid quest through the maze of government and elite impunity. As a former pawn in the injustice system, Greenwald provides an insider’s view on the racist, classist legal process that all too often leaves the country’s most vulnerable in the punitive shadows as the political class enjoys the luxuries of complete exemption.  

The tour of the nepotistic system begins with a Bush-era focus on the privileges of the government officials. From torture practices to warrantless domestic spying, the Bush administration has yet to face any legal prosecution for its crimes dating back to the early 2000s. Violations of peace treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions and the Conventions Against Torture, have not even been investigated although legal action against the administration’s illegal practices was a 2008 campaign promise from President Barack Obama.

But the immunity dates even further back. Nixon’s felonies of authorizing the Watergate break-in and obstructing an investigation were pardoned by his handpicked vice president, Gerald Ford. Ford’s pardon would later be applauded by none other than another criminal: Ford’s former chief of staff and former vice president Dick Cheney, who had already crafted an international web of torture prisons and organized warrantless spying of Americans. Both hailed the pardon as an act of heroism, rather than an act of justifying elite immunity. The pardon would go on to set a dangerous precedent that shielded the Reagan administration from prosecution after the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 in which officials had sold arms to the Ayatollah Khomeini regime, violating the Boland Amendment Reagan himself had signed into law four years earlier.

An important point Greenwald hits right on target is how each succeeding president campaign promises to prosecute former administrations for legal wrongdoings. Clinton vowed to investigate H. W. Bush crimes and Obama campaigned on prosecuting Bush administration felonies. But once they settled comfortably in the White House, the promises dissipated for one selfish reason: so that they themselves could eventually be protected for future crimes.

But government cronies also enjoy such invincibility. Greenwald illustrates private sector immunity, specifically with the telecomm industry and its assistance in warrantless wiretapping. Post-9/11 scare tactics justified the Bush administration’s illegal eavesdropping prohibited by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a policy the president justified as anti-terrorism precautions. With help from private sector entities, such as AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon, hundreds of thousands of Americans were illegally spied on in the marriage of private and public sectors. As Greenwald notes, “Such melding of the public and private forces now characterizes most areas of government, and has resulted in the creation of a single large, self-protecting entity.” Through retroactive immunity, private sector companies conspired with government administrations to make a complete mockery of the rule of law, creating an illegal armor of defense for themselves while other Americans are prosecuted without question.

There is no better illustration of the powerful protected from the law than the too big to jail banks that brought on the financial crisis of 2008. Not only did the offenders receive the generous $700 billion taxpayer bailout, they escaped without a scratch while millions of Americans sunk into financial ruin. The crisis spiraled into a long-term unemployment crisis, millions of home foreclosures and a swelling student loan bubble ready to burst.  But as ordinary Americans suffered, Wall Street tycoons prospered at alarming rates. “America’s financial elites have not only stockpiled vast amounts of material wealth but also acquired control over all the government and legal institutions that might stand in the way of their corruption and stealing,” Greenwald writes.

Of course, just as the elite revel in puppeteering the injustice system, most Americans, especially the poor and people of color, are destroyed by the heavy hand of the law. The United States prison state has expanded virally with the country having 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. “What it represents is a deliberate choice by the political class to lock up more and more people for longer periods and for ever more trivial offenses,” Greenwald notes.  Between the failed War on Drugs and an exploding private prison industry, the American injustice system continues to claim more lives than the crimes being committed do.

By the book’s epilogue, Greenwald has sufficiently crafted the argument of elite impunity. The rule of law in the United States only exists for those who are not able to manipulate it: the working class, the poor and people of color. Through retroactive immunity, the absence of watchdog media and reciprocated pardons, liberty and justice have become a privilege for the wealthy and governmental elite, completely dismissing on the rule of law.

- Graciela 

Glenn Greenwald: Election year garbage
October 9, 2012
These episodes, all from the last 24 hours, demonstrate why I cannot wait for the election to be over:
Mitt Romney, Monday, in his heralded foreign policy speech:

"This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation… . In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair."

Mitt Romney, yesterday, in the same speech, moments later:

"I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf."

So to recap: we’re in a war for freedom against tyranny, and for justice against oppression - a war which Mitt Romney will fight in close alliance with the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Then we have this, from Romney’s foreign policy speech, in which the GOP nominee diagnoses what he sees as the problem in the Middle East:

"The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia. Our embassies have been attacked. Our flag has been burned. Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting ‘Death to America.’ These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks."

And here are his solutions:

"Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight … . I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region - and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination… . I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security - the world must never see any daylight between our two nations. I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf."

To summarize: in light of extreme anti-American sentiment, we must drone-bomb more, kill Iranian civilians with sanctions, send more symbols of military occupation to their region, move still closer to Israel (which could only be accomplished by some sort of new surgical procedure to collectively implant us inside of them), and even more vigorously supportthe repressive Gulf regimes. In other words, to solve the problem of anti-American hatred in the region, we must do more and more of exactly that which - quite rationally - generates that hatred.
Then we come to this, regarding Romney’s foreign policy speech, fromAndrew Sullivan, Monday:

"[Spencer] Ackerman points out that Romney’s foreign policy sounds a lot like Obama’s … . ‘the policies Romney outlines in his speech differ, at most, superficially from Obama’s.’"

Michael Cohen, the Guardian, Monday:

"[O]ne would be hard-pressed to find a single substantive difference between what Romney is proposing as a candidate and Obama is actually doing as president."

Michael Cohen, the Guardian, several paragraphs later:

"In the end, Romney doesn’t have much of a coherent policy agenda and his critique is wildly off-base. His real problem, though, is that he barely seems to grasp how the world – and, in turn, American power – actually works."

Barbara O’Brien, Monday, reviewing Romney’s foreign policy speech:

"Please, people, this man must not become President. Must. not. become. President. A Romney administration would be a global catastrophe."

This was reflective of the two-pronged consensus in Democratic partisan circles yesterday: (1) Romney’s foreign policy speech advocated what is basically a replica of what Obama is already doing; (2) when it comes to foreign policy, Romney is a dangerous, bellicose extremist. Both of those propositions are hard to dispute (the second is harder than the first), and the combination of those two precepts - and the logical conclusion it generates - is particularly worth reflecting on today, the third anniversary of the selection of Barack Obama as the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Finally we arrive at one of the latest progressive endorsements for Obama’s re-election, from Deepak Bhargava in the October 22 issue of The Nation, entitled “Why Obama?”:

"[H]owever we judge the past four years, it is crucial that we lean into this election without ambivalence, knowing that while an Obama victory will not solve all or even most of our problems, defeat will be catastrophic for the progressive agenda and movement… .
"We confront a conservative movement that is apocalyptic in its worldview and revolutionary in its aspirations. It is not an exaggeration to say that this movement wants to roll back the great progressive gains of the twentieth century … .[including] the great pillars of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid …
“We need to protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other critical programs, particularly those serving the most vulnerable people.”

Presidential debate, October 3:

"MR. LEHRER: ‘Mr. President, do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?’
"PRESIDENT OBAMA: ‘You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position.’"

The Washington Post, July 6, 2011, “In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts”:

"President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue."

It’s a bit bizarre, to put that generously, to insist that protecting Social Security is one of the prime reasons to dedicate oneself to Obama’s re-election when he not only worked hard to cut that program substantially, but himself said just last week that he and his opponent have a “somewhat similar position” on that issue.
Whatever is awful about the American political process is magnified in the election season, and exponentially intensifies each day as the election approaches. That would all be perfectly tolerable if not for the fact that the election process is 18 months long, or close to 1/3 of each president’s term. One of the most effective tactics for keeping the electorate distracted and confused is ensuring that the time when they pay the most attention to the political process is exactly the time when political reality is most obscured.
Source
As the empire(s) of the West, mainly the United States continues to decline, corporate influence continues to grow and the absolute absurd garbage that dominates the corporate media driven conversation becomes more and more transparently nonsensical and dishonest. How many more election cycles will we make it through before we reach a tipping point? I just can’t understand why people waste their productive energy on campaigning for these maniacs instead of spending their energy on building movements to apply pressure to WHOEVER is in office, regardless of what political team they’re on. 

Glenn Greenwald: Election year garbage

October 9, 2012

These episodes, all from the last 24 hours, demonstrate why I cannot wait for the election to be over:

Mitt Romney, Monday, in his heralded foreign policy speech:

"This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation… . In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair."

Mitt Romney, yesterday, in the same speech, moments later:

"I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf."

So to recap: we’re in a war for freedom against tyranny, and for justice against oppression - a war which Mitt Romney will fight in close alliance with the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Then we have this, from Romney’s foreign policy speech, in which the GOP nominee diagnoses what he sees as the problem in the Middle East:

"The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia. Our embassies have been attacked. Our flag has been burned. Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting ‘Death to America.’ These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks."

And here are his solutions:


"Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight … . I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region - and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination… . I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security - the world must never see any daylight between our two nations. I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf."

To summarize: in light of extreme anti-American sentiment, we must drone-bomb more, kill Iranian civilians with sanctions, send more symbols of military occupation to their region, move still closer to Israel (which could only be accomplished by some sort of new surgical procedure to collectively implant us inside of them), and even more vigorously supportthe repressive Gulf regimes. In other words, to solve the problem of anti-American hatred in the region, we must do more and more of exactly that which - quite rationally - generates that hatred.

Then we come to this, regarding Romney’s foreign policy speech, from
Andrew Sullivan, Monday:

"[Spencer] Ackerman points out that Romney’s foreign policy sounds a lot like Obama’s … . ‘the policies Romney outlines in his speech differ, at most, superficially from Obama’s.’"


Michael Cohen, the Guardian, Monday
:

"[O]ne would be hard-pressed to find a single substantive difference between what Romney is proposing as a candidate and Obama is actually doing as president."

Michael Cohen, the Guardian, several paragraphs later:

"In the end, Romney doesn’t have much of a coherent policy agenda and his critique is wildly off-base. His real problem, though, is that he barely seems to grasp how the world – and, in turn, American power – actually works."

Barbara O’Brien, Monday, reviewing Romney’s foreign policy speech:


"Please, people, this man must not become President. Must. not. become. President. A Romney administration would be a global catastrophe."

This was reflective of the two-pronged consensus in Democratic partisan circles yesterday: (1) Romney’s foreign policy speech advocated what is basically a replica of what Obama is already doing; (2) when it comes to foreign policy, Romney is a dangerous, bellicose extremist. Both of those propositions are hard to dispute (the second is harder than the first), and the combination of those two precepts - and the logical conclusion it generates - is particularly worth reflecting on today, the third anniversary of the selection of Barack Obama as the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Finally we arrive at one of the latest progressive endorsements for Obama’s re-election, from Deepak Bhargava in the October 22 issue of The Nation, entitled “Why Obama?”:

"[H]owever we judge the past four years, it is crucial that we lean into this election without ambivalence, knowing that while an Obama victory will not solve all or even most of our problems, defeat will be catastrophic for the progressive agenda and movement… .

"We confront a conservative movement that is apocalyptic in its worldview and revolutionary in its aspirations. It is not an exaggeration to say that this movement wants to roll back the great progressive gains of the twentieth century … .[including] the great pillars of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid …

We need to protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other critical programs, particularly those serving the most vulnerable people.”

Presidential debate, October 3:

"MR. LEHRER: ‘Mr. President, do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?’

"PRESIDENT OBAMA: ‘You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position.’"

The Washington Post, July 6, 2011, “In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts”:


"President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue."

It’s a bit bizarre, to put that generously, to insist that protecting Social Security is one of the prime reasons to dedicate oneself to Obama’s re-election when he not only worked hard to cut that program substantially, but himself said just last week that he and his opponent have a “somewhat similar position” on that issue.

Whatever is awful about the American political process is magnified in the election season, and exponentially intensifies each day as the election approaches. That would all be perfectly tolerable if not for the fact that the election process is 18 months long, or close to 1/3 of each president’s term. One of the most effective tactics for keeping the electorate distracted and confused is ensuring that the time when they pay the most attention to the political process is exactly the time when political reality is most obscured.

Source

As the empire(s) of the West, mainly the United States continues to decline, corporate influence continues to grow and the absolute absurd garbage that dominates the corporate media driven conversation becomes more and more transparently nonsensical and dishonest. How many more election cycles will we make it through before we reach a tipping point? I just can’t understand why people waste their productive energy on campaigning for these maniacs instead of spending their energy on building movements to apply pressure to WHOEVER is in office, regardless of what political team they’re on. 

Glenn Greenwald: Obama’s Libya response highlights his foreign policy mentality
October 4, 2012
Extreme secrecy, extrajudicial assassinations, and a self-perpetuating militarism are driving Benghazi responses.
Three new articles - one today from the New York Times, one today from Associated Press, and another on Tuesday from the Washington Post - describe the approach being planned by the Obama administration to the consulate attack in Benghazi. All three highlight the standard and now-familiar attributes of Obama’s approach to foreign policy.
The Times describes how the Pentagon and CIA are “laying the groundwork for operations to kill or capture militants implicated in the deadly attack on a diplomatic mission in Libya”, while “the top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is compiling so-called target packages of detailed information about the suspects.” That could “include drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden and joint missions with Libyan authorities.” The Post adds that “the White House has held a series of secret meetings in recent months to examine the threat posed by al-Qaida’s franchise in North Africa and consider for the first time whether to prepare for unilateral strikes.”
Meanwhile, AP - under the headline “White House Widening Covert War in North Africa” - describes how, even before the consulate attack, “small teams of special operations forces arrived at American embassies throughout North Africa” in order, among other things, to “set up a network that could quickly strike a terrorist target”. That is because “the administration has been worried for some time about a growing threat posed by al-Qaida and its offshoots in North Africa.” The Post similarly reports that this is all being driven by “concern that al-Qaida’s African affiliate has become more dangerous since gaining control of large pockets of territory in Mali and acquiring weapons from post-revolution Libya.”
Changing White House response
Last week, I wrote about the false, self-serving claims initially emanating from the White House about the Benghazi attack, and how much that tracked the process that produced similarly false claims from Obama officials about the bin Laden killing. On Monday, Jon Stewart mocked the inability of Obama officials to keep their story straight on these attacks, while today, Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer proposes five questions about Libya which Obama should be asked in tonight’s (last night’s) presidential debate.
Finish the article

Glenn Greenwald: Obama’s Libya response highlights his foreign policy mentality

October 4, 2012

Extreme secrecy, extrajudicial assassinations, and a self-perpetuating militarism are driving Benghazi responses.

Three new articles - one today from the New York Timesone today from Associated Press, and another on Tuesday from the Washington Post - describe the approach being planned by the Obama administration to the consulate attack in Benghazi. All three highlight the standard and now-familiar attributes of Obama’s approach to foreign policy.

The Times describes how the Pentagon and CIA are “laying the groundwork for operations to kill or capture militants implicated in the deadly attack on a diplomatic mission in Libya”, while “the top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is compiling so-called target packages of detailed information about the suspects.” That could “include drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden and joint missions with Libyan authorities.” The Post adds that “the White House has held a series of secret meetings in recent months to examine the threat posed by al-Qaida’s franchise in North Africa and consider for the first time whether to prepare for unilateral strikes.”

Meanwhile, AP - under the headline “White House Widening Covert War in North Africa” - describes how, even before the consulate attack, “small teams of special operations forces arrived at American embassies throughout North Africa” in order, among other things, to “set up a network that could quickly strike a terrorist target”. That is because “the administration has been worried for some time about a growing threat posed by al-Qaida and its offshoots in North Africa.” The Post similarly reports that this is all being driven by “concern that al-Qaida’s African affiliate has become more dangerous since gaining control of large pockets of territory in Mali and acquiring weapons from post-revolution Libya.”

Changing White House response

Last week, I wrote about the false, self-serving claims initially emanating from the White House about the Benghazi attack, and how much that tracked the process that produced similarly false claims from Obama officials about the bin Laden killing. On Monday, Jon Stewart mocked the inability of Obama officials to keep their story straight on these attacks, while today, Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer proposes five questions about Libya which Obama should be asked in tonight’s (last night’s) presidential debate.

Finish the article

Glenn Greenwald: Sweden detains Pirate Bay founder in oppressive conditions without charges
October 02, 2012
The case underscores the prime fear long expressed by Assange supporters about the Swedish justice system.
My very first week writing regularly at the Guardian generated intense conflict with numerous members of the British media because that happened to be the week when Ecuador granted asylum to Julian Assange (a decision I defended), and - for reasons that warrant sustained study by several academic fields of discipline - very few people generate intense contempt among the British commentariat like Assange does. One of the prime arguments I have always made about the Assange asylum case is that his particular fear of being extradited to Sweden is grounded in that country’s very unusual and quite oppressive pre-trial detention powers: ones that permit the state to act with an extreme degree of secrecy and which can even prohibit the accused from any communication with the outside world.
That is what has always led Assange to fear going to Sweden: that those detention procedures could be used to transfer him to the US without any public scrutiny (only the most willfully irrational, given evidence like this, would deny that this is a real threat). And that is the argument on behalf of Assange that has produced the greatest amount of anger: in part because some self-loving westerners find the suggestion inconceivable and offensive that a nice western nation (as opposed to some Muslim or Latin American country) could possibly be oppressive in any real way.
But now we have a case that confirms exactly those claims about Sweden’s justice system, and since it has nothing to do with the WikiLeaks founder, one hopes these issues can be viewed more rationally. Gottfrid Svartholm is the founder of the file-sharing Pirate Bay website who has been prosecuted by the Swedish government for enabling copyright infringements. At the behest of Sweden, he wasrecently arrested in Cambodia and then deported to Stockholm, where he has now also been accused (though not charged) with participating in the hacking of a Swedish company.
Svartholm is now being held under exactly the pretrial conditions that I’ve long argued (based on condemnations from human rights groups) prevail in Sweden:

"Gottfrid Svartholm will be kept in detention for at least two more weeks on suspicion of hacking into a Swedish IT company connected to the country’s tax authorities. According to Prosecutor Henry Olin the extended detention is needed 'to prevent him from having contact with other people.' The Pirate Bay co-founder is not allowed to have visitors and is even being denied access to newspapers and television… .
"Since he hasn’t been charged officially in the Logica case the Pirate Bay co-founder could only be detained for a few days.
"But, after a request from Prosecutor Henry Olin this term was extended for another two weeks mid-September, and last Friday the District Court decided that Gottfrid could be detained for another two weeks.
"To prevent Gottfrid from interfering with the investigation the Prosecutor believes it’s justified to detain him for more than a month without being charged. The Pirate Bay co-founder is not allowed to have visitors and is being refused access to newspapers and television… . The Prosecutor hasn’t ruled out a request for another extension of Gottfrid’s detainment in two weeks, if the investigation is still ongoing.”

The claim that produced the most vitriol was that Sweden vests remarkable power in prosecutors and courts to keep accused suspects completely hidden from public view, with no communication or other contact with the outside world, and that this power is exercised with some frequency. Now we have confirmation of that claim from, of all people, the Swedish prosecutor in this case, Henrik Olin, who said in an interview outside the courtroom:

“‘According to the Swedish system, when the preliminary investigation is finished, I as prosecutor will decide whether to prosecute him… . In the Swedish system it is quite usual for people to be detained on this legal ground, and it gives me the possibility to prevent him from having contact with other people.’”

Unlike in the British system, in which all proceedings, including extradition proceedings, relating to Assange would be publicly scrutinized and almost certainly conducted in open court, the unusual secrecy of Sweden’s pre-trial judicial process, particularly the ability to hold the accused incommunicado, poses a real danger that whatever happened to Assange could be effectuated without any public notice. That has always been, and remains, the prime fear for his being extradited to Sweden: a fear that could be, and should be, redressed by negotiations between Ecuador, Sweden and the UK to assure that he can go to Sweden while having his rights protected.
Source

Glenn Greenwald: Sweden detains Pirate Bay founder in oppressive conditions without charges

October 02, 2012

The case underscores the prime fear long expressed by Assange supporters about the Swedish justice system.

My very first week writing regularly at the Guardian generated intense conflict with numerous members of the British media because that happened to be the week when Ecuador granted asylum to Julian Assange (a decision I defended), and - for reasons that warrant sustained study by several academic fields of discipline - very few people generate intense contempt among the British commentariat like Assange does. One of the prime arguments I have always made about the Assange asylum case is that his particular fear of being extradited to Sweden is grounded in that country’s very unusual and quite oppressive pre-trial detention powers: ones that permit the state to act with an extreme degree of secrecy and which can even prohibit the accused from any communication with the outside world.

That is what has always led Assange to fear going to Sweden: that those detention procedures could be used to transfer him to the US without any public scrutiny (only the most willfully irrational, given evidence like this, would deny that this is a real threat). And that is the argument on behalf of Assange that has produced the greatest amount of anger: in part because some self-loving westerners find the suggestion inconceivable and offensive that a nice western nation (as opposed to some Muslim or Latin American country) could possibly be oppressive in any real way.

But now we have a case that confirms exactly those claims about Sweden’s justice system, and since it has nothing to do with the WikiLeaks founder, one hopes these issues can be viewed more rationally. Gottfrid Svartholm is the founder of the file-sharing Pirate Bay website who has been prosecuted by the Swedish government for enabling copyright infringements. At the behest of Sweden, he wasrecently arrested in Cambodia and then deported to Stockholm, where he has now also been accused (though not charged) with participating in the hacking of a Swedish company.

Svartholm is now being held under exactly the pretrial conditions that I’ve long argued (based on condemnations from human rights groups) prevail in Sweden:

"Gottfrid Svartholm will be kept in detention for at least two more weeks on suspicion of hacking into a Swedish IT company connected to the country’s tax authorities. According to Prosecutor Henry Olin the extended detention is needed 'to prevent him from having contact with other people.' The Pirate Bay co-founder is not allowed to have visitors and is even being denied access to newspapers and television… .

"Since he hasn’t been charged officially in the Logica case the Pirate Bay co-founder could only be detained for a few days.

"But, after a request from Prosecutor Henry Olin this term was extended for another two weeks mid-September, and last Friday the District Court decided that Gottfrid could be detained for another two weeks.

"To prevent Gottfrid from interfering with the investigation the Prosecutor believes it’s justified to detain him for more than a month without being charged. The Pirate Bay co-founder is not allowed to have visitors and is being refused access to newspapers and television… . The Prosecutor hasn’t ruled out a request for another extension of Gottfrid’s detainment in two weeks, if the investigation is still ongoing.”

The claim that produced the most vitriol was that Sweden vests remarkable power in prosecutors and courts to keep accused suspects completely hidden from public view, with no communication or other contact with the outside world, and that this power is exercised with some frequency. Now we have confirmation of that claim from, of all people, the Swedish prosecutor in this case, Henrik Olin, who said in an interview outside the courtroom:

“‘According to the Swedish system, when the preliminary investigation is finished, I as prosecutor will decide whether to prosecute him… . In the Swedish system it is quite usual for people to be detained on this legal ground, and it gives me the possibility to prevent him from having contact with other people.’”

Unlike in the British system, in which all proceedings, including extradition proceedings, relating to Assange would be publicly scrutinized and almost certainly conducted in open court, the unusual secrecy of Sweden’s pre-trial judicial process, particularly the ability to hold the accused incommunicado, poses a real danger that whatever happened to Assange could be effectuated without any public notice. That has always been, and remains, the prime fear for his being extradited to Sweden: a fear that could be, and should be, redressed by negotiations between Ecuador, Sweden and the UK to assure that he can go to Sweden while having his rights protected.

Source

Glenn Greenwald: Iraqi-American is imprisoned by US for saving his family from US sanctions
September 29, 2012
I’m currently traveling around the US on a speaking tour, and as I’vewritten before, one of the prime benefits of doing that is being able to meet people and their families whose lives have been severely harmed by the post-9/11 assault on basic liberties. Doing that prevents one from regarding these injustices as abstractions, and ensures that the very real human costs from these government abuses remain vivid.
Such is the case with the treatment of Dr. Shakir Hamoodi, an Iraqi-American nuclear engineer who just began a three-year prison sentence at the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary for the “crime” of sending sustenance money to his impoverished, sick, and suffering relatives inIraq - including his blind mother - during the years when US sanctions (which is what caused his family’s suffering) barred the sending of any money to Iraq.
Yesterday in Columbia, Missouri, I met with Hamoodi’s son, Owais, a medical student at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Medicine, and Hamoodi’s son-in-law, Amir Yehia, a Master’s student in MU’s School of Journalism. The travesty of this case - and the havoc it has wreaked on the entire family - is repellent and genuinely infuriating. But it is sadly common in post-9/11 America, especially for American Muslim communities.
Hamoodi came with his wife to the US in 1985 to work toward his PhD in nuclear engineering from MU and, not wanting to return to the oppression of Saddam’s regime, stayed in the US. He was offered a research professor position at the university, proceeded to have five American-born children, all of whom he and his wife raised in the Columbia community, and then himself became a US citizen in 2002.
But US-imposed sanctions after the First Gulf War had decimated the value of Iraqi currency and were causing extreme hardship for his large family who remained in Iraq. That sanctions regime caused the death ofat least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including 500,000 Iraqi children. In 1991, the writer Chuck Sudetic visited Iraq, wrote in Mother Jonesabout the pervasive suffering, starvation and mass death he witnessed first-hand, and noted that the US-led sanctions regime “killed more civilians than all the chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons used in human history”.
The sanctions regime decimated Hamoodi’s family. His elderly blind mother was unable to buy basic medication. His sister, one of 11 siblings back in Iraq, suffered a miscarriage because she was unable to buy $10 antibiotics. His brother, a surgeon, was earning the equivalent of $2 per month and literally unable to feed his family.
Hamoodi was earning a very modest salary at the time of roughly $35,000 per year from the university, but - as would be true for any decent person of conscience - could not ignore the extreme and growing suffering of his family back in Iraq. Because sending money into Iraq from the US was physically impossible, he set up a bank account in Jordan and proceeded to make small deposits into it. From that account, small amounts of money - between $20 and $100 - were dispersed each month to his family members.
When other Iraqi nationals in his Missouri community heard of his helping his family, they wanted to help theirs as well. So Hamoodi began accepting similar amounts of money from a small group of Iraqis and ensured those were disbursed to their family members suffering under the sanctions regime. From 1993 until 2003, when the sanctions regime was lifted after the US invasion, Hamoodi sent an average of $25,000 each year back to Iraq, totaling roughly $250,000 over the decade: an amount that fed and sustained the Iraqi relatives of 14 families in Columbia, Missouri, including his wife’s five siblings.
Nobody, including the US government, claims that these amounts were intended for anything other than humanitarian assistance for his family and those of others in his community. Everyone, including the US government, acknowledges that these funds were sent to and received only by the intended recipients - suffering Iraqi family members - and never got anywhere near Saddam’s regime, terrorist groups, or anything illicit. As a Newsweek article on the Hamoodi case made clear:

"The cash … was doled out mostly in dribs and drabs, even the authorities concede; $40 a month to the son of a friend trying to eat while attending medical school, $80 to Hamoodi’s blind mother. There was no suggestion that Hamoodi … aided terrorists, or that the money wound up in Saddam Hussein’s hands; his elaborate email trail served as receipts, as tidy as his bookkeeping at the store.
“‘I would get messages from my sisters, I have 11 siblings,’ he says, as he shares a somber meal - piquant red peppers from South Africa, French cheeses, crusty baklava - with his wife and sons at the long dining room table. ‘They would be starving. Starving. So I did what anyone, any American, would do.’”

But in 2002 and 2003, Hamoodi was not just a nuclear engineer. He was also a very outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s plan to attack Iraq. And his position as a nuclear engineer made him a particularly potent threat to the case for that invasion, as he continuously insisted that Saddam did not have an active nuclear weapons program and that the case for the war was grounded in lies. In his antiwar activism, he emphasized how much already-suffering Iraqi civilians would suffer more, and how the invasion would lead to mass instability.
Finish the article here

Glenn Greenwald: Iraqi-American is imprisoned by US for saving his family from US sanctions

September 29, 2012

I’m currently traveling around the US on a speaking tour, and as I’vewritten before, one of the prime benefits of doing that is being able to meet people and their families whose lives have been severely harmed by the post-9/11 assault on basic liberties. Doing that prevents one from regarding these injustices as abstractions, and ensures that the very real human costs from these government abuses remain vivid.

Such is the case with the treatment of Dr. Shakir Hamoodi, an Iraqi-American nuclear engineer who just began a three-year prison sentence at the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary for the “crime” of sending sustenance money to his impoverished, sick, and suffering relatives inIraq - including his blind mother - during the years when US sanctions (which is what caused his family’s suffering) barred the sending of any money to Iraq.

Yesterday in Columbia, Missouri, I met with Hamoodi’s son, Owais, a medical student at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Medicine, and Hamoodi’s son-in-law, Amir Yehia, a Master’s student in MU’s School of Journalism. The travesty of this case - and the havoc it has wreaked on the entire family - is repellent and genuinely infuriating. But it is sadly common in post-9/11 America, especially for American Muslim communities.

Hamoodi came with his wife to the US in 1985 to work toward his PhD in nuclear engineering from MU and, not wanting to return to the oppression of Saddam’s regime, stayed in the US. He was offered a research professor position at the university, proceeded to have five American-born children, all of whom he and his wife raised in the Columbia community, and then himself became a US citizen in 2002.

But US-imposed sanctions after the First Gulf War had decimated the value of Iraqi currency and were causing extreme hardship for his large family who remained in Iraq. That sanctions regime caused the death ofat least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including 500,000 Iraqi children. In 1991, the writer Chuck Sudetic visited Iraq, wrote in Mother Jonesabout the pervasive suffering, starvation and mass death he witnessed first-hand, and noted that the US-led sanctions regime “killed more civilians than all the chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons used in human history”.

The sanctions regime decimated Hamoodi’s family. His elderly blind mother was unable to buy basic medication. His sister, one of 11 siblings back in Iraq, suffered a miscarriage because she was unable to buy $10 antibiotics. His brother, a surgeon, was earning the equivalent of $2 per month and literally unable to feed his family.

Hamoodi was earning a very modest salary at the time of roughly $35,000 per year from the university, but - as would be true for any decent person of conscience - could not ignore the extreme and growing suffering of his family back in Iraq. Because sending money into Iraq from the US was physically impossible, he set up a bank account in Jordan and proceeded to make small deposits into it. From that account, small amounts of money - between $20 and $100 - were dispersed each month to his family members.

When other Iraqi nationals in his Missouri community heard of his helping his family, they wanted to help theirs as well. So Hamoodi began accepting similar amounts of money from a small group of Iraqis and ensured those were disbursed to their family members suffering under the sanctions regime. From 1993 until 2003, when the sanctions regime was lifted after the US invasion, Hamoodi sent an average of $25,000 each year back to Iraq, totaling roughly $250,000 over the decade: an amount that fed and sustained the Iraqi relatives of 14 families in Columbia, Missouri, including his wife’s five siblings.

Nobody, including the US government, claims that these amounts were intended for anything other than humanitarian assistance for his family and those of others in his community. Everyone, including the US government, acknowledges that these funds were sent to and received only by the intended recipients - suffering Iraqi family members - and never got anywhere near Saddam’s regime, terrorist groups, or anything illicit. As a Newsweek article on the Hamoodi case made clear:

"The cash … was doled out mostly in dribs and drabs, even the authorities concede; $40 a month to the son of a friend trying to eat while attending medical school, $80 to Hamoodi’s blind mother. There was no suggestion that Hamoodi … aided terrorists, or that the money wound up in Saddam Hussein’s hands; his elaborate email trail served as receipts, as tidy as his bookkeeping at the store.

“‘I would get messages from my sisters, I have 11 siblings,’ he says, as he shares a somber meal - piquant red peppers from South Africa, French cheeses, crusty baklava - with his wife and sons at the long dining room table. ‘They would be starving. Starving. So I did what anyone, any American, would do.’”


But in 2002 and 2003, Hamoodi was not just a nuclear engineer. He was also a very outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s plan to attack Iraq. And his position as a nuclear engineer made him a particularly potent threat to the case for that invasion, as he continuously insisted that Saddam did not have an active nuclear weapons program and that the case for the war was grounded in lies. In his antiwar activism, he emphasized how much already-suffering Iraqi civilians would suffer more, and how the invasion would lead to mass instability.

Finish the article here

Remember: the US, we’re frequently told, is in Afghanistan to bring democracy to the Afghan people and to teach them about freedom. But the Afghan government is refusing the US demand to imprison people without charges on the ground that such lawless detention violates their conceptions of basic freedom. Maybe Afghanistan should invade the US in order to teach Americans about freedom.