Why Is the Government Spying on the Black Lives Matter Protests?

It’s comforting that we have the assurance of everyone from the president on down that the government has no interest in intruding on the lives of fellow Americans without cause as they did back in the bad old days. After all, in these days of hyper awareness over the terrorist threat, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how that sort of thing could get out of hand, so it’s important that they follow the rules. Now there was a time when the cause of anti-communism required that we be extra-vigilant because the Russians were coming and dissent was closely monitored by police and the FBI in order that the government keep tabs on all those potential commie infiltrators such as Martin Luther King and John Lennon.

And even quite recently, it was found that the authorities had peace activists under surveillance in the wake of 9/11. The Washington Post reported in 2006:
A database managed by a secretive Pentagon intelligence agency called Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, was found last month to contain reports on at least four dozen antiwar meetings or protests, many of them on college campuses. Ten peace activists who handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches outside Halliburton’s headquarters in Houston in June 2004 were reported as a national security threat. So were people who assembled at a Quaker meeting house in Lake Worth, Fla., or protested military recruiters at sites such as New York University, the State University of New York and campuses of the University of California at Berkeley and at Santa Cruz.

The protesters were written up under a Pentagon program called Talon, which is supposed to collect raw data on threats to defense facilities in the United States. CIFA, an agency created just under four years ago that now includes nine directorates and more than 1,000 employees, is charged with working to prevent terrorist attacks.
The logic that peace activists must be in league with terrorists has never been adequately explained, but it follows along the same line of thought which leads conservatives to assume that decadent left-wing hippies are natural allies of Muslim fundamentalists. The great sage of late 20th Century conservative philosophy, Ann Coulter, said it best:
We need to execute people like John Walker [Lindh] in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors.

She later clarified that statement by saying, “When I said we should ‘execute’ John Walker Lindh, I mis-spoke. What I meant to say was, ‘We should burn John Walker Lindh alive and televise it on prime-time network TV’. My apologies for any misunderstanding that might have occurred.” Yes, she said we should burn him alive on television.

The Pentagon ended the appropriately dystopian sounding program Talon, although it’s hard to know exactly what any of the agencies charged with keeping the terrorist threat at bay are really doing because they are secret. Edward Snowden’s revelations only involved the most sophisticated of high tech government surveillance activities. It was shocking because of the sweeping nature of the programs and the fact that the NSA said outright that the mission was to ”collect it all.”
But perhaps the more prosaic forms of domestic surveillance activity should concern us as well. For instance, Lee Fang reported this story at The Intercept:

Members of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force tracked the time and location of a Black Lives Matter protest last December at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, email obtained by The Intercept shows.

The email from David S. Langfellow, a St. Paul police officer and member of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, informs a fellow task force member from the Bloomington police that “CHS just confirmed the MOA protest I was taking to you about today, for the 20th of DEC @ 1400 hours.” CHS is a law enforcement acronym for “confidential human source.”
Jeffrey VanNest, an FBI special agent and Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisor at the FBI’s Minneapolis office, was CC’d on the email. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces are based in 104 U.S. cities and are made up of approximately 4,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The FBI characterizes them as “our nation’s front line on terrorism.”

It should be noted that this so-called threat happened months before the al-Shabab video vaguely implying a threat to the Mall was released in late February. In this earlier incident, a confidential informant told the police that someone was preparing to vandalize the mall as part of the Black Lives Matter protest. An FBI spokesman told The Intercept they have absolutely no interest in that campaign and that they make certain not to interfere with people exercising their rights under the First Amendment. They also noted that vandalism is not a “crime” that the Joint Terrorism Task Force is authorized to track and had no idea why it would have been informed of this information. Unfortunately, considering the federal government’s history of illegally spying on Americans for any number of reasons, the burden to explain such activity belongs to them.

One thing to keep in mind is that there is no prohibition against using information of other potential crimes gleaned during terrorism related investigations to pursue non-terrorism investigations. So perhaps it’s also useful to recall this exposé from a while back in which it was revealed that the DEA routinely lies about where it got information:

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
One of the ways they do that is by “re-creating” the investigative trail to hide how they got the information. This is routinely done to protect confidential sources from being revealed in open court but the government has evidently decided that its secret surveillance activities now qualify for that designation as well.

There is no evidence that anything like this happened in this Black Lives Matter surveillance, but those stories illustrate just how incestuous all these police agencies are. It’s not difficult to see how easy it is that members of the joint terrorist task force, whether local or federal or both, might be doing what these agencies have always done — monitor the peaceful activities of American citizens protesting their government under the guise of keeping us safe from foreign threats. Whether their information comes from secret wiretaps or secret informants it’s wrong.
All that is part of an old story in American life and one which requires that civil libertarians be constantly vigilant in keeping an eye on them and pushing back wherever possible. But Fang reports that we have gone to a new level of Big Brotherism with the Mall of America:

As reported by the Star Tribune, emails released earlier this week reveal apparent coordination between Sandra Johnson, the Bloomington city attorney, and Kathleen Allen, the Mall of America’s corporate counsel. “It’s the prosecution’s job to be the enforcer and MOA needs to continue to put on a positive, safe face,” Johnson wrote to Allen two days after the protest, encouraging the mall company to wait for a criminal charge from the city before pursuing its own lawsuit. “Agree — we would defer any civil action depending on how the criminal charges play out,” Allen wrote back.

This means that the city was working hand in hand with a private corporation, using the criminal justice system as “the enforcer” to help the corporation collect money in a civil action. Evidently they felt it would look better in civil court if the protesters who were being asked to pay the costs of policing the mall during the protest had been charged. 11 of them were hit with misdemeanors, none of them having to do with property damage or theft.

But that’s not the most chilling part. In a follow-up article, Fang revealed something even more insidious:

Documents obtained by The Intercept indicate that security staff at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota used a fake Facebook account to monitor local Black Lives Matter organizers, befriend them, and obtain their personal information and photographs without their knowledge.

Evidence of the fake Facebook account was found in a cache of files provided by the Mall of America to Bloomington officials after a large Black Lives Matter event at the mall on December 20 protesting police brutality. The files included briefs on individual organizers, with screenshots that suggest that much of the information was captured using a Facebook account for a person named “Nikki Larson.”
Metadata from some of the documents lists the software that created them as belonging to “Sam Root” at the “Mall of America.” A Facebook account for a Sam Root lists his profession as “Intelligence Analyst at Mall of America.”

The Mall of America corporation had been privately collecting dossiers on protesters of many kinds for months. In fact, one of the Facebook accounts used to stalk them online was created all the way back in 2009.

The Mall is quite proud of its “counter-terrorism” unit called Risk Assessment and Mitigation, or RAM which is known for its aggressive behavior toward patrons, especially those who look as though they just might be terrorists (whatever those patrons look like.) For some strange reason, they seem to have thought the Black Lives Matter.

Read more at: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/why-government-spying-black-lives-matter-protests


Israel bulldozers conduct incursion of Rafah in Gaza

Thu Mar 19, 2015 6:43PM
An Israeli Merkava tank rolls near Gaza’s border on July 17, 2014.

An Israeli Merkava tank rolls near Gaza’s border on July 17, 2014.

Israeli bulldozers and military vehicles have reportedly intruded into the Palestinian border town of Rafah in the blockaded Gaza Strip, locals say.

Witnesses said four bulldozers and vehicles belonging to the Israeli military conducted an incursion into the southern town in Gaza, where Egyptian forces demolished over 1,000 homes earlier this week to create a so-called buffer zone.

Egyptian officials said Tuesday that the country’s military had razed to the ground at least 1,020 homes in Rafah, near the border with southern Gaza Strip, in the second phase of an operation to create a buffer zone with the Israeli-besieged territory.

In a separate development on Thursday, Israeli naval forces also opened fire at Palestinian fishermen across the al-Sudaniya coastline off Gaza City, the Palestinian news agency cited witnesses and sources as saying.

The sources also said one fishing boat had been damaged in the Israeli assault.

Palestinian fishermen pull their nets as they collect fish at the seaport in Gaza city on January 11, 2015. © AFP

The shooting came despite an August 26 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinians, under which Tel Aviv agreed to immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, allowing fishermen in the blockaded sliver to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore. The agreement also stipulated that the regime would expand the area gradually up to 12 miles.

The ceasefire deal put an end to the Israeli regime’s 50-day military offensive against Gaza, which claimed more than 2,100 lives and injured nearly 11,000 last summer.

Since September 1, however, Israeli forces have killed two Palestinian fishermen, arrested over 49 more, injured 17, confiscated 12 fishing boats and damaged fishing tools in nine other such incidents.

The Gaza Strip has been under Israel’s blockade since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.


V For Vendetta

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You can purchase ‘V For Vendetta’ by clicking on the image above

Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, this tense thriller tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked man (Hugo Weaving) known only as ‘V’.

Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he urges his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression.

As Evey uncovers the truth about V’s mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself – and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plan to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.

Turkish journalist detained over criticism of graft law

Turkish journalist and anchorwoman Sedef KabaşTurkish journalist and anchorwoman Sedef Kabaş

A prominent Turkish female anchorwoman and journalist has been arrested for criticizing the country’s dropping of a controversial corruption investigation involving key allies of the government.

The arrest of Sedef Kabas on Tuesday came after she made remarks on Twitter about the dismissal of the corruption probe, which was launched late last year.

Kabas was detained after police raided her house in Istanbul. She faces charges of “targeting people who are involved in anti-terror operations” after the prosecutors involved in the recent decision filed a complaint against her.

“Do not forget the name of the prosecutor who dismissed the December 17 case,” the journalist had written earlier on Twitter, in addition to providing the name and a photograph of the prosecutor.

Earlier this month, a Turkish prosecutor formally dropped all charges against government officials involved in the largest corruption and bribery investigation in the history of the country.

Back in October, prosecutors dropped the case against 53 people, including sons of former ministers.

On December 17, 2013, dozens of government officials and prominent businessmen close to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minister and current president, were arrested on graft charges.

Days later, Erdogan announced a major cabinet reshuffle, replacing 10 ministers, including the economy, interior, and environment ministers, who had resigned from their posts after their sons were arrested in the scandal.


Kiev, US Westinghouse to sign nuclear fuel deal

This file photo shows Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.This file photo shows Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says Kiev is to sign an additional nuclear fuel supply deal with a US nuclear power company aimed at easing Ukraine’s energy dependence on Russia.

Yatsenyuk said the contract between Ukraine’s Energoatom state nuclear power provider and Westinghouse Electric Company would be finalized later on Tuesday in the European Union’s de facto capital, Brussels.

The prime minister did not give any further details regarding the contract. A top Energoatom official said earlier this month that Kiev would like to buy additional nuclear fuel from Westinghouse for 13 of the country’s reactors.

Earlier this year, the two sides extended an existing agreement through 2020. The US giant electric company currently supplies nuclear fuel for just one of Ukraine’s 15 operating units.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia struck a historic low this year as a result of the ouster of former president, Viktor Yanukovych, in February by Western-backed groups.

The ouster of Yanukovych sparked massive protests in the southeastern parts of the country.

Tensions between Kiev along with Western governments and Russia heightened after Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea joined the Russian Federation following a referendum in March.

Relations were strained further after Ukraine launched military operations in mid-April to silence the pro-Russia protests in the country’s mainly Russian-speaking regions in eastern Ukraine.

The US and the European Union accuse Russia of having a hand in the chaotic situation in eastern Ukraine and have imposed a series of sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia figures. Moscow, however, rejects the accusation.


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