Category Archives: Censorship

Winter Soldier


[photo courtesy of]

No one is covering this – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War speak out against the America’s imperial wars, and the hearings do not make a ripple in the corporate media.

Here are voices from the hearings, thanks to Democracy Now!

Part 1

Part 2 

Part 3

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This is what democracy looks like

It’s hard to keep faith in representative democracy after days like today.

This afternoon, the United States Senate voted to preserve retroactive legal immunity for telecom companies who cooperated with intelligence agencies in the wake of September 11, 2001.

What’s more, the Senate also permitted the government to conduct wiretaps without a warrant by reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act without any additional protection for the privacy of Americans.

Here’s Senator Russ Feingold setting forth the implications of this bill in layman’s terms.

You can prove the United States conducts torture, but you still can’t hold anyone accountable. The same goes for tearing asunder U.S. domestic laws regarding privacy and protections against self-incrimination. The same goes for the 24/7 surveillance society that has sprung up over the past seven years.

There was a lot of empty talk about “change” during the ’06 elections. In the ’08 Presidential campaign, that catchphrase has been substituted for genuine discussion of the disaster that is the Global War on Terror, record inequality, the creeping re-segregation (class or racial, take your pick) of American society, and the decrepitude of a bicameral political system beholden to banking and military-industrial institutions that have driven the United States into needless wars and a looming economic catastrophe.

To quote a certain Washington native, “regime change starts at home.”

written by Ali Winston

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Filed under Censorship, Civil Liberties, Economics, Politics, Surveillance

NYC public schools, video surveillance, and the criminalization of a generation


[Stuyvesant students walking to class under video monitoring. Photo by Ali Winston for City Limits]

What do cameras cure? System gets own scrutiny. 

Now in the fourth year of citywide operation, the New York City public school video surveillance program continues full steam ahead even as many parents, advocates, elected officials and students raise serious questions about the system’s effectiveness and transparency.

By the end of 2008, more than 300 middle and high schools in 130 buildings will be equipped with some 6,000 cameras belonging to the Department of Education’s $120 million Internet Protocol Digital Video Surveillance (IPDVS) system, intended to help reduce violence in public schools. Although school officials consider IPDVS a success, problems have cropped up with both its technical workings and people’s ability to gain access to the footage. Read on at City Limits.


Metal detectors and math classes.

The Internet Protocol Digital Video System is only one aspect of New York City’s school safety program, a joint Department of Education – New York Police Department effort that some student advocates consider so aggressive, they’ve dubbed it the “school to prison pipeline.” In addition to security cameras, the public school atmosphere today includes more than 4,500 uniformed officers patrolling the halls, enforcement of zero-tolerance behavior policies, and thousands of predominantly minority students attending “Impact” schools – a designation given to the most crime-ridden – who must walk through metal detectors and past armed police officers just to get to class. Read on at City Limits.

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Filed under Censorship, Education, Mental Environment, Social Justice, Surveillance

Bush Plan Could Axe Scientists’ Access to Sensitive Data

Another day, another sound science policy getting Buswhacked: The Bush administration is quietly pushing for the elimination of a committee that provides crucial intelligence data for scientists studying everything from climate change to hurricanes and pollution. The Civil Applications Committee, which is under the jurisdiction of the USGS, reviews civilian requests for classified information and makes recommendations to intelligence officials – who exercise the final say in deciding what gets declassified.

In its place, the Bush administration would establish a new office in DHS to review these requests and others from various law enforcement agencies. “They are worried. The scientists say this information is very valuable to them, and they are concerned this new office will be looking more at homeland security and law enforcement,” said Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the USGS and a member of the Homeland Security Committee.

Over the years, this sensitive agency has provided information to U.S. Forest Service officials during the forest fire season; to scientists using classified measurements from nuclear submarines to study how the polar ice cap has thinned; and to USGS officials seeking information about volcanic eruptions in the Aleutian Islands. This information has often proven “critical,” as James Devine, a senior adviser to USGS’s director, explained. “Sometimes this information is critical, and we need to know right now,” he said.As far as he knows, he has never been denied a request from the intelligence community that the Civil Applications Committee had already approved. The government’s spy satellites often provide much better resolution than private ones, in addition to precise IR and electromagnetic activity readings.

The government’s plan to replace the Civil Applications Committee with the National Applications Office in DHS was hatched shortly after the attacks of 9/11. The Bush administration had hoped the new office would already be up and running by now; plans have since been put on hold to tackle new questions about scientific and civil liberties.

 Source: Jeremy Elton Jacqout’s article on via: McClatchy Newspapers – Scientists fear losing access to intelligence data

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Panopticon U.S.A.


A just-released report by Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center has classified the United States as one of the worst “Endemic Surveillance Societies” in the developed world, on par with Russia, China, and the United Kingdom.

Among other factors, the report highlights the rising use of CCTV and a highly profitable surveillance industry, presidentially-approved wiretapping of international communications, the absence of constitutional protections for privacy, and the FBI’s impending plan to develop the largest biometric database known to man as root causes of surveillance creep in the “Land of the Free.”

[Source: Privacy International & the Electronic Privacy Information Center]

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It’s bad enough that Americans seeking genuine political reform are hamstrung by a stagnant two-party system in the thrall of corporate interests, an electoral college prone to district gerrymandering and in desperate need of reform, and a Supreme Court whose thumbs-up to election theft would warm Vladimir Putin’s cold, cold heart.

Now Americans who ascribe to dissenting political ideologies or oppose goverment policy run the risk of being branded “homegrown terrorists” or “violent radicals,” if the Senate ratifies a bill currently circulating in Congress.

On Oct. 23, the House of Representatives approved the Prevention of Violent Radicalization Act, intended to combat homegrown terrorism by establishing an advisory committee and a university-based center of excellence (linked to the Department of Homeland Security) to study the “radicalization” process. Sponsored by Representatives Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and David Reichert (R-Wash.), the bill, also known as H.R. 1955, passed by a 404-6 margin. A companion bill, S. 1959, was introduced by Senator Susan Collins (D-Me.) and is being deliberated by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, a committee chaired by known hawk Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Critics have raised red flags on H.R. 1955 for its cloudy definitions of “homegrown terrorism,””violent radicalization,” and “ideologically based violence” that could lead to government targeting of certain ethnic groups and political activists deemed subversive.

Kamau Franklin, a Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, warned the “grave ramifications” H.R. 1955 could have for civil liberties. “The bill uses extremely broad strokes to say that any group which uses a potential threat of violence or intimidation could be labeled a terrorist,” Franklin said. “If you’re anti-war or anti-globalization, those things could be considered ideologically violent,” and be subjected to terrorism statutes if the commission advises Congress to classify such views as threatening.


[photo courtesy of Diego Cupolo]

Currently, the government has no set definition for what constitutes terrorism.

According to the text of the bill, violent radicalization is defined as the promotion of extremist belief systems that advocate ‘ideologically based violence for political, religious, or social change.” “Homegrown terrorism” and “ideologically based violence” are even more loosely defined. Furthermore, H.R. 1955 views the “planned” or “threatened” use of force for political or social purposes in the same light as violent acts of terrorism, and cites the internet as a key tool of radicalization.

In the context of the Bush Administration’s unpopular wars abroad and rising unrest at home with a faltering economy and nonexistent social policies, this bill can be viewed as a preemptive strike on dissent, a revival of McCarthy-era persecution with the operative terms slightly modified.

‘This bill uses terrorism as a code word like the government used to use ‘Communism’ as a code word,” said the CCR’s Franklin. “If you dissent, they start yelling ‘terrorist, terrorist,’ and everything else gets blocked out. Who’s going to take the chance of being labeled a terrorist?”

While the Prevention of Homegrown Radicalization Act has attracted fierce criticism online and even led to a protest outside the permanently unoccupied Harlem office of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), it has gone virtually ignored by major media outlets.

That isn’t surprising when one looks at the government’s success in branding unconventional ideologies and certain types of activism as “terrorism,” and prosecuting those acts accordingly. In 2001, Jeffrey Luers was sentenced to 22 years and eight months in prison for burning three SUVs at a Eugene, Ore. dealership in June 2000. Although no one has hurt, Luers was charged with 13 felonies and given a longer term than Oregon law stipulates for murder or rape.


[photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Indymedia

Luers was closely associated with the Earth Liberation Front, a group of radical environmentalists who use “direct action,” including the destruction of private property, as a means of protest. The FBI includes “special interest extremist movements” like the ELF and animal rights advocates among their “highest domestic terrorism priorities, according to 2005 Congressional Testimony by FBI Deputy Assistant Direct John Lewis.

“Homegrown terrorism” is also considered a threat in New Orleans, as demonstrated by the following excerpt from a New York Times article on controversial plans to tear down 4,600 affordable housing units:

“Meanwhile, James Bernazzani, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation office here, confirmed that its domestic terrorism unit was investigating the source of small posters reading “For Every Public Housing Unit Destroyed a Condo Unit Will Be Destroyed.”

Increasingly, it appears that the “terrorist” label is being employed to shape a new underclass of Americans where certain populations are to be under constant scrutiny. Muslim Americans, who have been under heavy government scrutiny since 9/11, are undoubtedly a target of H.R. 1955. Police in New York City and Los Angeles have undertaken and proposed, respectively, studies of Muslim communities and their potential for radicalization. Both departments were accused of racial profiling, and last month the LAPD abandoned their mapping efforts after vociferous protests.

Law enforcement agencies are employing terrorism statutes in increasing numbers to members of street gangs. On Dec. 10, Edgar Morales, a member of a Mexican-American gang in the Bronx, was sentenced to 40 years on terrorism charges for murdering a 10-year old boy, the first time such statutes have been successfully used to prosecute gang-related crime. Couple that with the use of GPS technology to track known “gang members” (almost always minorities), and we’re fast on our way to a society where “good” cops hunt terrorists/gang members/political dissidents/environmentalists through the streets of an American Fallujah.

Or are we already there?

written by Ali Winston

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