Thursday, June 13, 2013
by Thom Hartmann
The surveillance state is even bigger, and scarier, than we thought.
And, as a result, it's time that we broke up the failed national security experiment known as the Department of Homeland Security. Returning to dozens of independent agencies will return internal checks-and-balances to within the Executive branch, and actually make us both safer and less likely to be the victims of government snooping overreach.
Last Wednesday, the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald revealed that the National Security Agency is secretly collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon users. The agency received authorization to track phone "metadata" over a 3 month period from a special court order issued in April.
We now also know that what the Guardian uncovered is just the tip of the iceberg of an ongoing phone and internet records collection program that likely includes almost all major U.S. telecommunications companies.
President Obama - who promised the "most transparent administration ever" - now finds himself and his DHS at the center of yet another civil liberties controversy. That controversy has deepened in the wake of two reports published last night in both the Washington Post and the Guardian that outlined a different NSA snooping program – a data mining initiative code-named "PRISM."
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
by Daniel Ellsberg
Originally posted on OpedNews.com
In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material -- and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago. Snowden's whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an "executive coup" against the US constitution.
Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.
The government claims it has a court warrant under FISA -- but that unconstitutionally sweeping warrant is from a secret court, shielded from effective oversight, almost totally deferential to executive requests. As Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst, put it: "It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp."
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Friday, June 7, 2013
by Susanne Posel
President Obama came out to publicly endorse PRISM because it promotes public safety and protects of civil liberties.
Obama said that this “modest encroachment on privacy . . . helps us prevent terrorist attacks.”
According to the president Americans must accept this “trade-off” that creates balance between privacy and safety. He said: “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program is about. In the abstract you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, I think we’ve struck the right balance. There are trade-offs involved.”
In defense of unnecessary government surveillance on all Americans, Obama said: “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
Simply put, Obama explained that “if the intelligence community actually wants to listen to a phone call, they’ve got to go back to a federal judge.”
Disclosure of the PRISM program in mainstream media has alerted the general public to the fact that the US government has been collecting information on US citizens for national security purposes over several presidencies.
The revelation that the US government has been spying on all Americans is nothing new.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
by Aviva Shen
Florida will be allowed to outsource its prison health care system to a private contractor, the First District Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday. The privatization plan was blocked by a judge last year, after a lower court found that the state Department of Corrections had circumvented the legislative process. Another judge killed the plan in 2011 because some state lawmakers had tried to sneak privatization through a budget rather than attempt to pass a bill explicitly about prison health care.
It’s no wonder Florida officials have tried to downplay the privatization plan. Private prison contractors have become popular with many Republican lawmakers across the country because of their promises to cut costs. But these companies also often cut corners to increase their own profits, leading to abysmal conditions, inmate abuse, and frequent riots.
Private health care companies have especially bad records on inmate treatment. Nightmarish stories of inmates dying from treatable diseases because they were refused care are frighteningly common in prisons that have outsourced their healthcare. One of the largest prison health care providers, Correctional Medical Care, is under criminal investigation in New York after its negligence led to nine deaths.
Other states with private prison health care can forecast the conditions Florida inmates will now face. A Kaiser report on these systems found “inhumane” conditions, with terminally ill inmates left in soiled linens without food or water for days. One Arizona man with lung cancer begged for treatment, only to be told by medical staff that he should drink energy shakes to cure his symptoms. Others who have begged for medical aid have been told they were simply making it up or that they should “pray to be cured.”
Florida has already privatized several prisons entirely, with terrible consequences. One prisoner, Robert Boggon, was sent to jail after suffering a mental episode in a Dollar Tree store. Boggon never received a psychiatric evaluation even though he was rocking on the floor of his cell and urinating on himself. After 11 days in jail, Boggon was found dead, naked, and strapped to an emergency restraint chair with a towel around his head in his cell in the jail infirmary. The death was ruled a homicide, but the medical examiner placed the blame on no one.
Moreover, Gov. Rick Scott’s claims that privatization saves the state money have not lived up to their promise. However, private prison companies have donated heavily to Florida lawmakers to ensure they continue to back privatization. The industry donated nearly $1 million to mostly Republican campaigns in 2010, and have already padded Scott’s re-election campaign with more than $100,000.
Contributed by Sherwood Ross
Originally posted on Veteran's Today
|Walls of Doom - Desktop Nexus|
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. --- Overall, President Obama has been “a force for destruction” who has “advanced inequality, wealth concentration, deportations, imprisonments, and the de-funding of basic services in order to fund banks, billionaires, and bombers,” distinguished peace activist David Swanson says.
In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Swanson, a former staff aide to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaigns, said Obama has done nothing to better the lot of the nation’s poor, including Americans in the ghettos, apart from reducing “the disparity in crack-powder cocaine sentencing.”
Noting that Obama has attempted to identify himself with the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Swanson was asked if he saw any resemblance. His reply was “Two eyes and two ears and two feet and in Obama’s case two mouths. He got a Nobel Peace Prize before he did anything for peace,” Swanson said. “So did King, and King followed through and retroactively earned it. Perhaps that led to the ludicrous bestowing of the prize on Obama, who proceeded to give a pro-war acceptance speech in which he insultingly and arrogantly denounced King’s approach to world change.”