Human Rights

In late August 2013, President Obama announced a review panel on the intelligence community in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations. The panel, which the president described as composed of outsiders, was actually composed of intelligence community and Obama administration insiders and delivered the whitewash that many observers expected.

On August 9, 2013, President Obama, responded to the never ending NSA surveillance scandal by forming a panel to give him recommendations on how to change the intelligence community's practice of wholesale spying on the whole world. Although the panel was touted as independent and tasked with safeguarding liberties, its function was very different both in its inception and execution.

Daniel Ellsberg, infamous for releasing the Pentagon Papers that exposed government lies and coverups during the Vietnam War, is now publicly supporting a fellow whistleblower in trouble. Ellsberg wrote a letter of support for “hackivist” Jeremy Hammond who is facing 10 years in prison for hacking into a corporation’s private security and public safety servers and releasing the garnered information to Wikileaks.

When the nationwide Occupy crackdown began in late 2011, this author found himself in California. Increasingly I was drawn to Occupy Oakland, where I had lived previously, and where a police raid on  the occupy encampment had nearly killed a protester, Marine Corps Iraq veteran Scott Olson, by shooting him in the face with a tear gas grenade at short range.

Citing the decision by the secure email provider Lavabit to close rather than install NSA spying hardware and/or software directly on its servers, an important and long lived legal news blog shuttered this week. The founder of the blog, Pamela Jones or PJ, had collaboratively covered major intellectual property lawsuits, anti-trust suits and issues around open source software for 10 years with both programmers and lawyers, bridging the gap between the two professions in a masterpiece project of investigative citizen journalism.

David Miranda was traveling from Berlin to Brazil on business. He is Glen Greenwald's partner and also an employee of the Guardian. He was carrying a laptop, USB drives, a camera and gaming consoles. He was traveling between meetings with Greenwald and his co-lead journalist on the Snowden project, Laura Poitras. At his stopover in London, he was detained, allegedly at the behest of United States, based on the special relationship between the two nations and their secret police forces.

While fruitlessly scouring the banks of the Potomac river for the mythical beast known as Robust Congressional Oversight, our eyes were drawn by the light of an eleven star constellation often hidden in the night and fog of post-constitutional America. Behind the clouds of official secrecy the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) cast their invisible light onto the lives of the entire global family, illuminating our every word for the watchful generals and vengeful angels of the national security state.

The United States government continued its attack on internet activists this week, attempting to gag imprisoned journalist Barrett Brown and his defense team while forcing the shuttering of several popular secure mail services and an exit node of TOR, the internet’s most widely used anonymous proxy service.

Army private and whistle-blower Bradley Manning was found guilty of 19 separate charges at his court martial on Tuesday. He was not convicted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, which carried the death penalty. The convictions include six violations of the Espionage Act of 1917. These convictions alone could cost Manning 60 years behind bars. The espionage convictions are considered especially chilling to the press, as now news “sources” can be prosecuted for much more serious charges.

The Texas Senate passed a landmark bill restricting abortion access last Thursday in a second special session called by the Governor. At the same time, the Capital of Texas building was filled with protestors, despite draconian access restrictions and the presence of armed and sometimes violent pro-life partisans.


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