TSA and America’s Zero Risk Culture
November 16, 2010
By Richard Forno
The lede on the DRUDGEREPORT most of Monday showed a Catholic nun being patted down at an airport security checkpoint, with the caption starkly declaring that
“THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON.”
Ten years after 9/11, Americans who fly are facing a Faustian choice between subjecting themselves to a virtual (and potentially medically damaging) strip search conducted in questionable machines run by federal employees or a psychologically damaging pat-down of their bodies. Osama bin Ladin must be giggling himself silly this week.
But what should we expect in a society that requires adults to wear bicycle helmets while pedaling in the park, provides disclaimers of liability on TV advertisements, or prints warnings on fast-food coffee cups? The name of the game is zero risk. Not risk mitigation, or accepting responsibility for one’s actions, but risk aversion. It’s a failure to acknowledge that we can’t protect against everything bad that can happen to us, so we must protect against everything we think might — might — be harmful at some point.
It’s living in fear.
TSA has established itself as the lead federal agency charged with perpetuating this risk-averse culture at airports around the country. The proof is evident over the past ten years: Because of the Shoebomber, we have to remove our shoes. Thanks to the Christmas Crotchbomber, we are subjected to invasive scanning or government-mandated molestation. Because there’s a potential for explosives in liquid or gel… Continue reading
By William Fisher
NEW YORK, Sep 27, 2010 (IPS) – Hundreds of people who believe they were falsely detained and imprisoned by the Department of Justice in the wake of the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks are now seeking redress through the U.S. courts.
The exact number of detainees is unclear, as no lists were ever released publicly. But according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General in 2002, 475 9/11 detainees were arrested and detained in New York and New Jersey. Hundreds more were arrested across the country.
Some of these men are plaintiffs in a federal class action lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other top officials in the administration of President George W. Bush (2001-2009) who were responsible for their illegal roundup, abuse and detention.
The suit charges that the detainees were kept in solitary confinement with the lights on 24 hours a day; placed under a communications blackout so that they could not seek the assistance of their attorneys, families and friends; subjected to physical and verbal abuse; forced to endure inhumane conditions of confinement; and obstructed in their efforts to practice their religion.
Some of the abuse included beatings, repeated strip searches and sleep deprivation. The allegations of inhumane and degrading treatment have been substantiated by two reports of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, and several defendants in the case have been convicted on federal charges of cover-ups and beatings of other prisoners around the same time… Continue reading
by Elaine Brower
The government had alleged that Lynne had facilitated communication between a man she was defending in court, fundamentalist Islamic cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, and people in Egypt. The judge in Lynne’s trial sentenced her to 28 months in prison. An appeal to the conviction and sentencing resulted in a different judge upholding the conviction, while ordering a re-sentencing that was not “trivial”, since Lynne had “indicated a lack of remorse”. After her sentencing, her prosecutor praised the work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force for its role in the persecution of Lynne Stewart, and thanked U.S. Bureau of Prisons for its assistance.
On July 15, radical lawyer and War Criminals Watch Advisory Board member Lynne Stewart was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In February 2005, Lynne had been convicted on 7 counts of “conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and defrauding the U.S. government”.
Words Lynne Stewart spoke after her original conviction still ring true: “I see myself as being a symbol of what the people rail against when they say our civil liberties are eroded. This case could be, I hope it will be, a wakeup call to all of the citizens of this country and all of the people who live here that you can’t lock up the lawyers. You can’t tell the lawyers how to do their job. You’ve got to let them operate. And I will fight on. I am not giving up. I… Continue reading
They tried and tried to put the glove on, but it just didn’t fit. I kid, I kid.
On March 20th 2010, I was arrested for crossing a police line. Today, I was acquitted for the crime, along with Cindy Sheehan, and Jim Veeder. Sadly, Matthis Chiroux, Elaine Brower, and Lafloria Walsh were found guilty of failing to obey.
This was my first arrest and trial so all of this was new to me. Before the trial began, our lawyers and the prosecutor tried to work things out so there wouldn’t be a trial. The prosecutor offered a “pay and forfeit” without any conviction, and all of us declined. We stood our ground, and wanted the chance to clear our names. We felt strongly that our arrests were unjust, and wanted our day in court.
Cindy told me a couple of times before the trial that it was going to be boring, and it was. The only “excitement” came when Elaine, Laflora, and Cindy were allowed to testify. Everyone did great. When Casey was brought up, Cindy started to cry. I leaned over to Ann Wilcox (one of our attorneys, Mark Goldstone was the other), and said I want to testify. I wanted to come to the aid of Cindy because I was angry that she was made to cry, and the thought, “WTF?!? Hasn’t she been through enough already?” went through my mind. I was told that my testifying wouldn’t do any good, so I… Continue reading
June 10, 2010
By Michael Doyle
WASHINGTON — A federal judge has forcefully put Yemeni citizen Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini on the path to freedom after eight years of incarceration at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
In a 36-page opinion formally released Thursday, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. called Odaini’s continued detention “unlawful” and said he’d “emphatically” grant Odaini’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
The ruling issued secretly last month but published Thursday sets the 26-year-old Odaini up for potential release, though when and where he’ll go remains unclear. The ruling also represents the latest defeat for U.S. officials in their efforts to keep Guantánamo detainees behind bars.
“(U.S.) officials kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age eighteen to age twenty-six,” Kennedy wrote. “They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career.”
Pointedly, Kennedy added that “the evidence before the court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure.”
Kennedy’s ruling brings to 36 the number of Guantánamo Bay detainees who have successfully challenged their detentions through U.S. court proceedings. Over the Bush administration’s objections, a divided Supreme Court two years granted the Guantánamo detainees the right to file habeas corpus challenges.
In a decision striking both for its extensive redactions and its occasionally passionate language, Kennedy noted that Odaini’s story has remained consistent… Continue reading
by Philip Shenon
June 10, 2010
The Daily Beast – Blogs & Stories
Anxious that Wikileaks may be on the verge of publishing a batch of secret State Department cables, investigators are desperately searching for founder Julian Assange. Philip Shenon reports. Plus, Daniel Ellsberg tells The Daily Beast: “Assange is in Some Danger.”
(This story has been updated to reflect new developments on Assange’s whereabouts, including the cancelation of a scheduled appearance in Las Vegas.)
Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast.
The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.
“We’d like to know where he is; we’d like his cooperation in this,” one U.S. official said of Assange.
American officials said Pentagon investigators are convinced that Assange is in possession of at least some classified State Department cables leaked by a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist, Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now in custody in Kuwait.
And given the contents of the cables, the feds have good reason to be concerned.
As The Daily… Continue reading
June 9, 2010 Update
from Cindy Sheehan
On the 7th anniversary of the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, eight people were arrested in front of the White House protesting the continuing crimes-you know that place! It’s a big White House-as a matter of fact it’s a HUGE White House in the middle of a park-like estate where heavily armed thugs protecting war criminals roam. It’s okay to stop and gawk and take pictures if you are decked out in Hawaiian shirts or sundresses, but exercising fundamental rights to free speech or to peaceable assemble is not.
On March 20th, about 8000 people attended a permitted and almost lethargically tame protest in Lafayette Park, which is next to the HUGE White House. Then there was a march around in circles that landed the protest right back in front of the White House. Four people decided to lie down on the sidewalk in protest (four out of 8000), and four of us decided to cross the police line (a metal barrier on the sidewalk between the street and the high iron-barred, sniper guarded fence that surrounds the HUGE White House), to try and join the measly four that were lying there begging people to join them.
I was one of the ones arrested for crossing the police line. I did not push the barrier down, but when it fell, I crossed-I was immediately body slammed and arrested. That was at approximately 2:44pm. An amended police report misleadingly lied and said that I was given three warnings to leave-I was not and subsequent evidence shows that the warnings to disperse over the bullhorn didn’t even begin until after I had been arrested.…Continue reading
March 31, 2010
From the Huffington Post:
In anticipation of a final announcement as to the trial venue for the 9/11 plotters, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows is warning the president against “buckling to political pressure,” calling the use of military tribunals the “wrong thing to do.”
In a nearly four-minute long video, Donna Marsh O’Connor — a Peaceful Tomorrows member who lost her pregnant daughter when the Twin Towers collapsed — speaks both to the broad notion that America has a “historic commitment to justice” and, more narrowly, to the horse-trading politics that now surround terrorist trials. Reflecting disappointment with recent signals from the White House, O’Connor calls specifically for the president to reject a reported compromise proposal with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in which the administration would drop plans for civilian trials in exchange for Republican support for the closure of Gitmo.
“As 9/11 families, we have suffered greatly and waited almost nine years to see justice done with our own eyes,” O’Connor says. “We understand that you face political pressure to back down. We ask that you do not allow fear and prejudice to govern your decision as we are not afraid. We know our country is strong enough to hold on to our values in the face of terrorism.”
The video follows other efforts from Peaceful Tomorrows to advocate for civilian trials for the 9/11 suspects.
by Philip Giraldi
April 1, 2010 edition of American Conservative
Even in World War II, the United States did not attempt to assassinate U.S. citizens who went over to the enemy, but that has now changed with President Obama’s overseas contingency operations. On Feb. 3, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that the United States government has developed procedures for killing American citizens abroad who are “involved” with groups threatening to carry out terrorist acts directed against other Americans. Three U.S. citizens have already been approved by the White House for summary execution as soon as actionable intelligence is developed to enable a pilotless drone’s hellfire missiles to do the killing. One is Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi; the second is American al-Qaeda member Adam Perlman, who goes under the name Adam Yahiye Gadahn; and the third is believed to be a Somali from Minnesota who has joined the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa. Anwar al-Aulaqi, linked in the media to the Christmas underwear bombing and with Major Malik Nadal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, has denied any involvement in either incident. Perlman, a propagandist for al-Qaeda, is in Waziristan. Killing these men would involve using military drones to attack targets in three countries with which the United States is not at war.
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee a citizen due process and a public trial, as well as the right to confront his accuser. The Obama administration… Continue reading
February 9, 2010
A reader asked whether the U.S. is still in an official state of emergency, and if so, what that means.
The answer is yes, we are still in a state of emergency.
On September 11, 2001, the government declared a state of emergency. That declared state of emergency was formally put in writing on 9/14/2001:
“A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America,
by virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby declare that the national emergency has existed since September 11, 2001 . . . .”
That declared state of emergency has continued in full force and effect from 9/11 [throughout the Bush administration] to the present.
On September 10 2009, President Obama continued the state of emergency:
The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2009, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.
Does a State of Emergency Really Mean Anything?
Does a state of emergency really mean anything?
Yes, it does:
A talk delivered to the New England Antiwar Conference, MIT, January 30, 2010.
by Peter Dale Scott
Hello everyone! I’m honored to be invited to this important anti-war conference. As I am in the final stages of editing my next book, The Road to Afghanistan , I have been turning down invitations to speak. But I was eager to accept this one, and to join my friends and others in debunking the war on terror, the false justification for the Afghan-Pakistan war.
Let me make my own position clear at the outset. There are indeed people out there, including some Muslim extremists, who want to inflict terror on America. But it is crystal clear, as many people inside and outside government have agreed, that it makes this problem worse, not better, when Washington sends large numbers of U.S. troops to yet another country where they don’t belong. 1
A war on terror is as inappropriate a cure as a U.S. war on drugs, which as we have seen in Colombia makes the drug problem worse, not better. The war on terror and the war on drugs have this in common: both are ideological attempts to justify the needless killings of thousands — including both American troops and foreign civilians — in another needless war.
Why does America find itself, time after time, invading countries in distant oil-bearing regions, countries which have not invaded us? This is a vital issue on which we should seek a clear message for the American… Continue reading
By Glenn Greenwald
January 27, 2010
(updated below – Update II)
The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest today reports that “U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people.” That’s no surprise, of course, as Yemen is now another predominantly Muslim country (along with Somalia and Pakistan) in which our military is secretly involved to some unknown degree in combat operations without any declaration of war, without any public debate, and arguably (though not clearly) without any Congressional authorization. The exact role played by the U.S. in the late-December missile attacks in Yemen, which killed numerous civilians, is still unknown.
But buried in Priest’s article is her revelation that American citizens are now being placed on a secret “hit list” of people whom the President has personally authorized to be killed:
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. . . .
The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a U.S. citizen joins al-Qaeda, “it doesn’t really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them,” a senior administration official said. “They are then part of the enemy.”
Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists… Continue reading
By Daniel Tencer
In a 2008 academic paper, President Barack Obama’s appointee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs advocated “cognitive infiltration” of groups that advocate “conspiracy theories” like the ones surrounding 9/11.
Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor, co-wrote an academic article entitled “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures,” in which he argued that the government should stealthily infiltrate groups that pose alternative theories on historical events via “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine” those groups.
As head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Sunstein is in charge of “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs,” according to the White House Web site.
Sunstein’s article, published in the Journal of Political Philosphy in 2008 and recently uncovered by blogger Marc Estrin, states that “our primary claim is that conspiracy theories typically stem not from irrationality or mental illness of any kind but from a ‘crippled epistemology,’ in the form of a sharply limited number of (relevant) informational sources.”
By “crippled epistemology” Sunstein means that people who believe in conspiracy theories have a limited number of sources of information that they trust. Therefore, Sunstein argued in the article, it would not work to simply refute the conspiracy theories in public — the very sources that conspiracy theorists believe would have to be infiltrated.
Sunstein, whose article focuses largely on the 9/11 conspiracy theories, suggests that the government “enlist nongovernmental officials in the effort to rebut the… Continue reading
Justice department to accuse FBI of invoking crises to obtain details of more than 2,000 calls, Washington Post reports
by Chris McGreal in Washington
19 January 2010
The US justice department is preparing a report which concludes that the FBI repeatedly broke the law by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist to obtain more than 2,000 telephone call records over four years from 2002, including those of journalists on US newspapers, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post.
The bureau also issued authorisations for the seizure of records after the fact, in order to justify unwarranted seizures.
The Washington Post said the emails show how counter-terrorism officials inside FBI headquarters breached regulations designed to protect civil liberties.
The FBI’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni, told the Washington Post that the agency violated privacy laws by inventing non-existent terrorist threats to justify collecting the phone records. “We should have stopped those requests from being made that way,” she said.
Caproni said that FBI’s issuing of authorisations after the fact was a “good-hearted but not well thought-out” move to give the phone companies legal cover for handing over the records.
After the 9/11 attacks, the USA patriot act greatly expanded the government’s ability to monitor American citizens, including increased access to their phone calls with the approval of lower-level officials than previously allowed. But the authorisation had to be tied to an open terrorism investigation.
The Washington Post said two FBI officers had raised concerns. Special agent Bassem Youssef observed… Continue reading
by David Edwards and John Byrne
As noted below, a Giuliani spokesman “clarified” the mayor’s statement later in the day, arguing that the mayor meant no attacks after 9/11.
“Whatever the mayor meant, it’s not what he said,” Stephanopoulos wrote on his ABC blog. “All of you who have pointed out that I should have pressed him on that misstatement in the moment are right. My mistake, my responsibility.”
Original story follows below
The former New York City mayor who has sometimes been mocked for using “a noun, a verb and 9/11″ in stump speeches appears to have forgotten — or has mentally reclassified — the worst terrorist attack on American soil. “We had no domestic attacks under Bush,” Rudy Giuliani told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Friday.
Even if Giuliani doesn’t consider the attacks on 9/11 a “domestic” attack then surely he forgot about the anthrax attacks of 2001 or an Egyptian national who attacked the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002.
While ABC’s George Stephanopolous let Giuliani get away with his misstatement both during the interview and on his blog, ABC’s Jake Tapper called the former mayor out.…Continue reading
January 6, 2010
In an extended interview, award-winning journalist and activist Allan Nairn looks back over the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security decisions over the last twelve months. “I think Obama should be remembered as a great man because of the blow he struck against white racism,” Nairn says. “But once he became president…Obama became a murderer and a terrorist, because the US has a machine that spans the globe, that has the capacity to kill, and Obama has kept it set on kill. He could have flipped the switch and turned it off…but he chose not to do so.” He continues, “In fact, as far as one can tell, Obama seems to have killed more civilians during his first year than Bush did in his first year, and maybe even than Bush killed in his final year.”
Guest: Allan Nairn, award-winning journalist and activist.
Website: News and Comment (www.allannairn.com)
ANJALI KAMAT: On Tuesday, President Obama made another statement on the failure of intelligence agencies to intercept the Christmas Day plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight. He said the US government had the necessary information to stop the twenty-three-year-old Nigerian suspect from boarding the Detroit-bound flight, but he excoriated the intelligence community for failing to connect the dots in time.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will accept that intelligence, by its nature, is imperfect. But it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed… Continue reading
by Chris Hedges
Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.
This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements–who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism–have discovered that his fate is their fate. Courageous… Continue reading
The Trial of Splitting the Sky as a Trial of the Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld Cabal of War Profiteers
by Anthony J. Hall,
Professor of Globalization Studies, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
December 3rd, 2009
printable version (pdf)
Who and what is on trial ?
When Splitting the Sky broke through police lines in his attempt to conduct a citizen’s arrest of former US President, George W. Bush, the Mohawk Freedom Fighter pierced a thick wall of tyranny. He broke through a tight phalanx of state protection for the perpetrators of War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Crimes Against the Peace.
With his courageous act, Splitting the Sky announced the unwillingness of millions of global citizens to tolerate any longer the culture of impunity that places a small, interlinked global plutocracy above the law. By breaking police lines, the Attica Brother and American Indian Movement activist scouted a route of liberation for those of us seeking to get out from under the weight of complicity in International Crime committed in our name. We are all deeply implicated in the state terror permeating the 9/11wars because it is our tax dollars that fund these imperial assaults.
Splitting the Sky’s action in Calgary highlights the abject failure of law enforcement agencies to do their job. It highlights the unwillingness of police and those who direct them to apply the law equitably and independently.
When he broke through police lines last march, Splitting the Sky built on the message of Muntadarar al-Zaidi, the Baghdad journalist who… Continue reading