White House Responds to ‘Pardon Edward Snowden’ Petition with Character Assassination

Screen shot of Lisa Monaco speaking at Aspen Institute event
Screen shot of Lisa Monaco speaking at Aspen Institute event

The White House finally responded to a popular petition at WhiteHouse.gov urging President Barack Obama’s administration to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. However, the response is a bald-faced attempt to use the petition as a platform to assassinate Snowden’s character.

First off, the petition to pardon Snowden had nearly 168,000 signatures. Only a few petitions responded to by the White House have more signatures (for example, address gun violence through gun control legislation and legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.

The petition was posted on June 9, 2013, and was largely inspired by the revelation that the NSA was collecting the metadata of phone calls of millions of Americans, who have Verizon as their phone carrier. Nevertheless, it took the White House more than two years to respond to this petition.

The response focuses on the “serious consequences” Snowden’s whistleblowing has had on “national security.” It includes a statement from Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

“Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it,” Monaco declares.

“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions,” Monaco adds. “He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”

Monaco concludes, “We live in a dangerous world. We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation that our intelligence community must have all the lawful tools it needs to address. The balance between our security and the civil liberties that our ideals and our Constitution require deserves robust debate and those who are willing to engage in it here at home.”

Jesselyn Radack, a lawyer for Snowden, a Justice Department whistleblower, and the director of the Government Accountability Project’s National Security and Human Rights Division, reacted to the White House’s response.

“The government loves to fear-monger, but has failed to articulate any clear harm from Snowden¹s revelations,” Radack stated. “The closest it has come, ironically, is a fully-redacted Defense Intelligence Agency internal assessment.” (more…)

Native American Civil Rights Activist Dies Mysteriously In Police Custody

ShippedAway

Originally published on MintPress News

NESHOBA COUNTY, Mississippi — Rexdale W. Henry, a Choctaw activist, died in Mississippi’s Neshoba County Jail earlier this month under circumstances that remain mysterious. Coming just one day after the alleged suicide of black civil rights activist Sandra Bland in Texas, questions are being raised about how an apparently healthy man died in police custody and why autopsy results are being withheld from the public and the media.

Rexdale Henry, a civil rights activist, was found dead in jail the day after Sandra Bland was arrested over failure to pay minor traffic citation
Rexdale Henry, a civil rights activist, was found dead in jail the day after Sandra Bland was arrested over failure to pay minor traffic citation

Henry was arrested on July 9 for an unpaid fine and held over the weekend. He was found dead on July 14 at 10:00 a.m., just 30 minutes after police said they had last seen him alive, according to the local ABC affiliate, WTOK. Cassandra Fairbanks, writing for Photography Is Not A Crime, commented:

Officials have been keeping extremely tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding his death, perhaps hoping to avoid the public scrutiny and backlash that Waller County is facing for their negligence leading to Bland’s death.

The state crime lab conducted an autopsy, but they still have not yet released the results, nearly two weeks following the incident.

Now activists are helping Henry’s family seek answers, starting with demands for an independent autopsy, R.L. Nave reported for Jackson Free Press on Saturday:


‘At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells,’ McDonald said in a statement.”“Helping with the family’s independent probe are civil-rights activists John Steele, a close friend of Henry’s, and Diane Nash, a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as Syracuse University law professors Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson of the school’s Cold Case Justice Initiative.

Henry was an active member of his tribal community and an activist for native rights. The death of an activist in a Mississippi jail is an unpleasant reminder of the death of Michael Deangelo McDougle, who died in the same jail in November, as well as the state’s history of racist violence — in particular, the deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, who were arrested in Neshoba County during the 1964 “Freedom Summer” civil rights movement. Their bodies were later found buried in a dam nearby.

(more…)

On Human Rights, UN Committee Gives US Low Grades for Surveillance, Detention at Guantanamo

Screen shot of CCPR grades for United States
Screen shot of CCPR grades for United States

A United Nations committee, which reviews how countries comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), issued grades for the United States government’s implementation of recommendations issued last year. The committee gave the US low grades for surveillance and detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in facilities in Afghanistan.

The ICCPR is an international human rights treaty. Signatories are supposed to undertake measures to ensure the rights in the treaty are protected in their countries. In fact, since the US ratified the treaty in 1992, the government has an obligation to comply with the treaty as it would any other domestic law.

A committee of the UN, the Human Rights Committee, conducts periodic reviews of countries’ human rights records. It gives countries an opportunity to respond to the committee’s concerns. The committee makes recommendations. It then grades how countries implement those recommendations.

Countries, which are signatories, report to the committee every four years. This is the fourth periodic review of the US.

To understand the grades, “B1″ means “substantive action” took place but the committee still wants more information. “B2″ means some initial action was taken. “C1″ means US replied to UN but did not take actions to implement recommendation. “C2″ means US replied, and the reply was irrelevant to the committee’s recommendation. “D1″ means US did not cooperate with the committee on this recommendation.

The US did not receive any “A” grades. It received a high “B1″ grade for declassifying part of the report of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence into the CIA’s detention and torture of detainees and a lower “B2″ grade for investigating cases of unlawful killing, torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful detention, and enforced disappearances, and expediting the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

The committee issued a “C2″ grade for the continued detention of detainees at Guantanamo and in facilities in Afghanistan.

In regards to surveillance, it gave the US a “C1″ grade for ensuring surveillance complies with the treaty, ensuring “interference with right to privacy, family, home, or correspondence” is authorized by law, reforming oversight of surveillance, and refraining from imposing “mandatory retention” of data on “third parties.”

The worst grade given was a “D1″ for failing to ensure persons are able to obtain remedies if they are the victims of surveillance abuse. (more…)

The Roundup for July 28th, 2015

Almost the end of the month. Keep those suggestions coming, folks.

International Politics

Overall

– Israel hopes to use the Syrian Civil War to bolster its energy independence

– Russian President Vladimir Putin: I think Sepp Blatter should get the Nobel Peace Prize; *Spits out drink*

– The United Nations suspended its health programs in Iraq because of lack of funding

– Both the U.S. and Turkey pledged to kick out the Islamic State from northern Syria; Easier said than done

Middle East

– Even the Jewish community in Iran find Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as ridiculous when it comes to the agreement with Iran

– Chris Hedges: “Why I Support the BDS Movement Against Israel

– A Saudi official criticized Iran’s “aggressive statements” on Bahrain, an ally of Saudi Arabia (more…)

Over Easy: Thunder Storms

Florida Lightning Nathan Gates Flickr creative commons

I was talking the other day with my sister and the subject of thunder storms came up. We have them up here in Ohio but not like the kind we had in Florida. Not by a long shot. From mid June or so until around the end of September, sometimes later, we had nearly every day in the afternoon local thunderstorms generated by by the sea breeze from the gulf and Atlantic.

I mean these suckers could be very intense. With frequent lightning and very heavy rain and some winds approaching tropical storm strength, at times. Getting off of work it could be a challenge to make it to my car at times without getting struck. Dodging the lightning bolts and down pours.  It was not unusual for roads and parking lots to become flooded and at least once it rained so hard and long that the water backed up at the University and caused some damage to one of the class room buildings. Causing it to be lifted out of the ground about six inches.

Most people think of Florida with Hurricanes and tropical storms but just our local storms can cause havoc at times. With them lowering the viability to just a few feet, if that.  Then just like that they would be gone.

It was not uncommon for houses and apartment to be struck by lightning and the one I lived in was hit a number of times, causing the whole building to shake. It could sound like artillery fire, it was so loud.

I oft times think the people up here in Ohio don’t know what a “Real thunderstorm” is like.

 

Late Night FDL: Life’s Been Good

Joe Walsh – Life’s Been Good

Joe Walsh just keeps on going…

Joe Walsh won’t be home for long after the Eagles finish their summer tour.

Walsh has announced a run of solo tour dates that will keep him on the road for at least a month this fall, starting with a Sept. 18 performance in Warren, Ohio, and continuing through Oct. 17 in Boston. Fans who turn out can reportedly expect a career-spanning set that will include favorites from Walsh’s solo records as well as his outings with the James Gang, Barnstorm and the Eagles.

“I’m going back in the catalog to dig out some songs that I haven’t ever played live, but everything everyone’s coming to hear will also be in the show,” says Walsh in a press release. “I’ve got a great band and I’m excited to play with my old friend Joe Vitale again. I also love being able to go into smaller venues. I’ve missed it. … The interaction with the audience is much better, everybody has a good seat and it reminds me of the old days. I think I play my best in a small venue when the bass drums are kicking me in the pants. I’m really looking forward to it all.”

Along with Vitale, Walsh will be touring with new guitarist Gannin Arnold, as well as bassist Tommy Sims and Foo Fighters percussionist Drew Hester on drums. Tickets are scheduled to go on sale to the general public starting July 31, after Joe Walsh Fan Club members get first dibs via a pre-sale that’s set to begin on July 28. For information on how to join Walsh’s fan club and additional tour details, visit his official site.

What’s on your mind tonite…?

US rejects criticism over Turkey’s strikes on Kurdish groups

Of fighting Isil by Marian Kemensky (7/26/2015 Mehrnews)

‘It looks like Washington gave Turkey a green light to drop bombs on PKK,’ analyst tells MEE, though US denies this

By James Reinl

NEW YORK – The United States faced criticism on Monday over claims that it condoned Turkish strikes on Kurdish militants as a quid pro quo for Ankara’s boosted support against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said it was a “coincidence” that Turkey had launched strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets at the same time that Ankara increased its role in the US-led military coalition against IS.

“There’s no connection between what they [Turkey] did against PKK and to what we’re going to try to do together against ISIL,” Kirby told reporters in Washington, using an alternate acronym for the Sunni fighters.

He said Ankara had acted in “self-defence” against the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state partly from bases in northern Iraq and is listed as a “terrorist” group by Turkey, the US and the European Union.

American officials say that the US and Turkey are working on military plans to clear IS from stretches of northern Syria and carve out an “IS-free zone” that would bring more stability to the Turkey-Syria border.

Under an agreement that is reportedly being agreed between the NATO allies, IS would be expelled from a 109km stretch west of the Euphrates River, according to the Washington Post newspaper.

The discussions follow a big shift in Ankara’s approach to IS over recent days in which Turkey – which was previously reluctant to intervene in Syria – has launched raids against IS and permitted US warplanes to use a Turkish military base.

The Turkish strikes have raised tensions with Kurdish militia forces fighting IS in northern Syria and, on Monday, Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said Turkish tanks had shelled their forces near the border town of Kobane. Turkey said it was investigating the claim.

At the same time, Turkey has struck PKK militants in northern Iraq. It follows a week which saw a bomb attack blamed on IS kill 32 people in Suruc, Turkey, and the PKK reportedly kill two Turkish police officers in retaliation for the blast and what it sees as Turkey’s collaboration with IS.

Police have detained more than 1,000 people across Turkey in nationwide raids against militants since last week, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. He did not say how many were suspected PKK fighters and how many are accused of belonging to IS.

According to Edmund Ghareeb, author of The Kurdish Question in Iraq, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken advantage of a crisis following his Justice and Development (AKP) party’s poor showing in last month’s parliamentary elections.

“By changing his strategy, Erdogan is doing several things at the same time. He wants to placate Turkey’s army, which eyes him with suspicion, and to prevent the unification or expansion of the two Kurdish cantons within Syria,” Ghareeb told Middle East Eye.

“He’s mobilising nationalist forces in Turkey, particularly as there could be new elections on the horizon, he’s attacking the PKK in Iraq, which he sees as his biggest threat, and getting Obama and the West back on side by fully participating in the war against IS.”

According to Kani Xulam, director of the American Kurdish Information Network, US support for Turkey is risky because it sets Washington against the PKK and the YPG, two linked Kurdish groups that have been useful allies against IS.

“It looks like Washington gave Turkey a green light to drop bombs on PKK Kurds in Iraq so the US can work with Turkey to eliminate IS in Syria. But this conflicts with another US interest: working with the YPG and PKK, which have been their most effective boots on the ground against IS,” he told MEE.

And, according to Xulam, US President Barack Obama may have chosen the wrong partner.

“Obama thinks he can contain the situation with Turkey’s help, but that’s like mopping up with a dirty cloth. Turkey has its own agenda. The daily bomb attacks that we see in Iraq and Syria we will start seeing weekly in Turkey,” he told MEE.

“The demographics of Iraq and Syria are really not so different from Turkey, and this is propelling the country ever-further into a perfect storm.”

Other analysts agree that Turkey and the US make convenient bedfellows but have divergent agendas. Hussein Ibish, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said Ankara is more interested in defeating the PKK than IS.

“Turkey has pledged to establish a safe zone in northern Syria, under the rubric of its intervention against IS. But one of its primary aims will be to deny the YPG control of a large, contiguous area across the soft Turkish underbelly near its own restive Kurdish areas,” he told MEE.

“In effect, Turkey had relied on IS to deny this to the PKK by holding the territory. Not only is IS attacking inside Turkey now, perhaps even more significantly it is failing to prevent the PKK, Ankara’s main enemy, from expanding into that area.

“Turkey is therefore preparing to push IS aside and do the job itself.”

—————-

© 2015 Middle East Eye

Brain-eating amoeba is eating Republican brains

Mike Huckabee told Breitbart News that President Obama is “naive” and that by doing the deal with Iran, “he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” Politico reports,

The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitism, immediately denounced Huckabee’s language.

“Whatever one’s views of the nuclear agreement with Iran — and we have been critical of it, noting that there are serious unanswered questions that need to be addressed — comments such as those by Mike Huckabee suggesting the president is leading Israel to another Holocaust are completely out of line and unacceptable,” ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “To hear Mr. Huckabee invoke the Holocaust when America is Israel’s greatest ally and when Israel is a strong nation capable of defending itself is disheartening.”

Huckabee refuses to back down from his insanely stupid and offensive statement.

Then along comes Jeb Bush: After criticizing US workers for not working hard enough, even though their productivity has increased as their incomes have fallen while the rich, including Bush, have gotten richer without working, he stepped in it again saying he wants to get rid of Medicare and replace it with vouchers, a remarkably bad idea pushed by Paul Ryan. A Bush spokesperson tried to clean up his mess by saying Bush only meant to say he wanted to raise the age of eligibility. Paul Krugman figuratively slammed him up against a wall today by noting,

There are two things to say about this claim. First, it’s clearly false: in context, Mr. Bush was obviously talking about converting Medicare into a voucher system, along the lines proposed by Paul Ryan.

And second, while raising the Medicare age has long been a favorite idea of Washington’s Very Serious People, a couple of years ago the Congressional Budget Office did a careful study and discovered that it would hardly save any money. That is, at this point raising the Medicare age is a zombie idea, which should have been killed by analysis and evidence, but is still out there eating some people’s brains.

The Washington Post reports today,

On July 9, just a few days after swimming in Minnesota’s Lake Minnewaska, 14-year-old Hunter Boutain was dead. Doctors believe the culprit was the water-dwelling amoeba Naegleria fowleri. Some people know it by another name: the brain-eating amoeba.

It’s the stuff of horror films: The tiny amoeba crawls up the nose to the brain, where it wreaks havoc, killing 97 percent of its victims. But while the amoeba is certainly devastating for the small number of people it infects, calling it a brain-eater may not be quite right. The immune system’s response to infection — not the amoeba itself — is the real killer, some scientists suspect.

Regardless, the damn thing has been detected in the public water supply in Louisiana.

My sources on the street tell me that both men have been seen in Louisiana recently. Therefore, I can confidently report that Naegleria fowleri is eating silly widdle Republican brains.

Death Of Paul Castaway Highlights Denver’s Overlooked Police Brutality Problem

Killer Cops on the Loose

Originally published at MintPress News.

DENVER — The death of a Rosebud Sioux man in Denver earlier this month is a painful reminder that police shootings are not limited to any one part of the United States, and certainly not just to places that received mainstream media attention after recent killings.

Paul Castaway, left, a citizen of the Lakota Nation, was shot and killed by police on July 12. Photo courtesy Facebook.com
Paul Castaway, left, a citizen of the Lakota Nation, was shot and killed by police on July 12. Photo courtesy Facebook.com

On July 12, Lynn Eagle Feather called police for help with her schizophrenic son, Paul Castaway. Witnesses and police give conflicting accounts of an incident that quickly spiraled out of control. Officers shot Castaway multiple times while he held a knife to his own neck. He died the following day at an area hospital. Police say they shot in self-defense, but witnesses and Castaway’s family disagree.

As his family struggles for justice, a diverse coalition of protesters from the American Indian Movement to local groups like Denver Community Defense Committee are working with the families of the victims of Denver police brutality. They’re hoping to draw attention to a largely overlooked epidemic of police violence that rivals other cities like Baltimore or New York City for its ability to destroy lives. Now, police are targeting activists and journalists who support them with arrests and even violence.

 

‘What’s wrong with you guys?’: The death of Paul Castaway

In a conversation with MintPress News last week, Lynn Eagle Feather told MintPress that she wanted police to force her son to calm down and rethink his actions. She says she never intended to risk his life.

“Usually I can control him, and talk him down,” Eagle Feather said by phone last week. That night was different, though. Paul Castaway seemed especially haunted. Eagle Feather snuck out of her house and called 911, because, she said, “I thought if I filed charges, he’d understand that he can’t act like this.”

Not only did she inform the officers and 911 of his mental illness, but Eagle Feather also added that police in her district had encountered him before and should have been familiar with his condition. She also denied police claims that Castaway stabbed her. She said officers saw her neck that night, which didn’t require medical care and shows no sign of injury today.

(more…)

Cleveland Transit Cop Recklessly Pepper-Sprayed Crowd at Bus Stop After Movement for Black Lives Gathering

A transit police officer in Cleveland pepper-sprayed a group of people on July 26 at a bus stop across the street from Cleveland State University. It was about an hour after the Movement for Black Lives gathering concluded.

Video captured by Twitter user @KentaviousPrime shows the white officer in the street rushing into a crowd. He sprays the canister at everyone nearby until it is empty.

The Cleveland transit police apparently believed a 14-year-old black boy was “intoxicated to the point where he was unable to care for himself.” Officers slammed the boy to the ground, detained him, and angered the crowd, which included activists leaving the gathering. The boy was put into a police car, which the crowd surrounded to stop police from taking him.

According to activists at the scene, the boy had a Snapple drink. This was probably the open container the police seized upon as justification for making an arrest.

None of the witnesses at the scene corroborated the police claim that the boy was drunk.

A statement from the transit police declared, “A transit police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to push back the crowd, to no avail.”

Shooting a stream of pepper-spray, especially about an hour after a major conference of freedom fighters, could never be reasonably expected to contain or control a crowd. The one officer spraying is terribly reckless in his attempt to drive people away from the scene, and, as transit police seem to admit, the pepper-spray only inflamed the situation more.

As the local NBC affiliate, WKYC, reported:

 “I was told the police are pepper spraying people down the street, and I’m seeing people run for milk so they can be protected from pepper spray all because people are asking what happening to a young man,” said Rhonda Y. Williams, history professor at Case Western Reserve and member of the Cleveland Eight. “When we have an officer who comes out of nowhere and is pushing people and then takes out and just starts spraying with his pepper spray, that’s not deescalation.”

(more…)