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[l] at 1/19/22 3:03pm
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. An Iowa judge upheld one of the state’s “ag-gag” laws in a case brought against an animal rights activist, hours before dismissing all charges. In Iowa, a person may be criminalized for “food operation trespass” if they enter or remain on the property of a factory farm “without the consent of a person who has real or apparent authority to allow the person to enter or remain on the property.” Matt Johnson, an investigator with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), was charged with violating the ag-gag law after he exposed the extermination of pigs by Iowa Select Farms. He argued the law is “actually intended to punish individuals for expressing viewpoints disfavored by the Iowa legislature” and reminded the court that a similar Iowa ag-gag law was previously ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.State prosecutors abandoned their case two days before trial and moved to dismiss charges, but the court defended the ag-gag charge, which was challenged by Matt Johnson as unconstitutional. District Court Judge Derek Johnson ruled that the law “does not discriminate on the basis of the viewpoint of the offender. A person who trespasses on a food operation to abuse an animal is treated the same as a person who trespasses on a food operation to rescue one.” “That is logically true. It’s factually preposterous, and it’s very clear from the legislative history that the intent of this law was to target animal rights activists, people with a particular viewpoint,” replied Wayne Hsiung, an attorney for Matt Johnson and co-founder of DxE. “You can critique an animal rights activist’s views. You can say that what they’re saying is factually false. What you cannot do under the First Amendment is criminalize their speech, and that is the purpose of this law even if facially it doesn’t say that,” Hsiung added. Iowa already had a law criminalizing trespassing prior to the passage of the “food operation trespass” law. Trespassing is generally a fine between $65 and $625 with the possibility of up to 30 days in prison. But under Iowa’s ag-gag law, trespassing is an aggravated misdemeanor that carries the possibility of up to two years in prison.  A repeat offense may result in a felony charge. Matt Johnson was charged on July 14, 2020, with “burglary in the third degree” and “electronic or mechanical eavesdropping.” He was later charged under the ag-gag law on April 8, 2021. The charges came after Matt Johnson captured “video and audio recordings of pigs screaming in agony for several hours as they died. Thousands of pigs were exterminated at Iowa Select Farms using ventilation shutdown after COVID-19 outbreaks caused the closure of many slaughterhouses,” according to a press statement from DxE. A whistleblower informed the activists of conditions at the factory farm. They rescued a “sickly piglet,” which they later named Gilly. Without saving the piglet, it would have gone to a landfill. During an afternoon hearing on January 19, prosecutors argued for the dismissal of charges while Matt Johnson contended the charges should be dismissed with prejudice and the prosecutors should be required to outline why they were no longer pursuing the case. The judge conceded in his order upholding the ag-gag charge that animal rights activists are disparately impacted because “some animal rights advocates have an ideological motive to gain physical access to the food animal operations.” However, he justified the targeting of animal rights activists by contending the law is “facially neutral” and does not “constitute viewpoint discrimination simply because it may disproportionately affect some speakers or messages more than others.” On that point, Hsiung said the judge is allowing the Iowa legislature to “play games with our constitutional rights.” Iowa has passed four ag-gag laws. The first two ag-gag laws were struck down in part or in their entirety as unconstitutional because they infringe upon First Amendment rights. According to Hsiung, the state legislature went forward with two laws that were constructed to “cover the same conduct” but avoid “constitutional scrutiny” by targeting anyone with severe penalties instead of only animal rights activists, Hsiung also stated, “The notion that someone is going to trespass on property to abuse an animal first of all is just pretty factually unlikely. The only abuse of animals that is happening is by people who own the facility and operate the facility.” Each expansion of ag-gag laws throughout the United States is aimed at suppressing journalism, whistleblowing, and speech around animal abuses. They are designed to protect the interests of agribusinesses and their lobbyists, who are threatened by transparency and accountability. As of August 2021, such laws in Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, Wyoming, and Utah, as well as in Iowa, were declared to be unconstitutional in whole or in part. Iowa Republican State Senator Ken Rozenboom Matt Johnson told The Dissenter in 2019 he led an investigation into a factory farm owned by Iowa Republican state senator Ken Rozenboom. It was a response to his support for ag-gag laws. The investigation was released in spring 2020. “Inside the barns, we documented severe rectal prolapses, intense overcrowding with noxious ammonia in the air, and excrement coating the floors. One piglet was unable to stand, gasping for air while thrashing wildly for several minutes before dying before our eyes,” DxE reported. “It was actually that investigation that led the Iowa Select Farms truck driver to contact us because of the abuse at Iowa Select Farms, which led to the ventilation shutdown exposé,” Johnson shared. After the ventilation shutdown was exposed at the end of May, Rozenboom backed another Iowa ag-gag law, which passed less than two weeks later. He said the law addressed the “gravest threats to animal agriculture in Iowa.” Rozenboom discussed how DxE investigated his farm and described the organization as an “extreme animal rights group.” He cheered the law for imposing a felony against animal rights activists who commit a second offense. The ag-gag law was passed specifically as a response to the investigations and activism of DxE. As Matt Johnson said, it subsequently was used to charge him. He was the “inspiration for the law,” and he became the first person to be charged under the law. Iowa lawmakers escalated their attacks on journalism and whistleblowing around animal abuse in the food industry in 2021, passing a recording ban that explicitly designates audio or video recording as “trespassing” crimes.The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the state of Iowa and argued “the law threatens increased penalties for recording even in public places and locations advocates have long used for public advocacy, such as in open areas of legislators’ offices and parts of businesses in which other members of the public regularly come and go.” The post Iowa Judge Upholds Ag-Gag Charge Brought Against Animal Rights Activist Hours Before Dismissing The Case appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter]

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[l] at 1/12/22 10:39am
The Guardian Angel Platoon is the moniker of Canadian veteran, activist, and singer-songwriter Dennis MacKenzie. He released the self-titled album in 2021, right before Canadas Remembrance Day. The album is a conceptual work that chronologically charts MacKenzie’s journey as a soldier in Afghanistan. It deals with sobering topics such as PTSD, trauma during the war, and mistreatment afterward. It also discusses overlooked issues in connection with veterans. MacKenzie spent nine years in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, where he sawten of his comrades in Afghanistan die. Since returning home, MacKenzie has been a vocal advocate on veterans issues, such as mental health and the ongoing crises that confront veterans when they return home. The album includes three letters that Mackenzie wrote about his personal military experiences. Letter3, for example, highlights the sad reality that he has now lost more friends to suicide than during the war in Afghanistan. Nobody talks about that. The album concludes with the title track, a poignant tribute to fallen soldiers lost to the wars or the wounds that remain. Either by foreign hands or their own, each fated the same. Along with highlighting the grim realities of fighting in the war, it sheds a necessary spotlight on theaftermath veterans experience after returning home. Listen to Guardian Angel Platoon: The post Protest Song Of The Week: Guardian Angel Platoon appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, Protest Song of the Week]

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[l] at 1/11/22 10:45am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. The first “high-value detainee” at Guantánamo military prison was approved for transfer a day before the detention camp marked the 20th anniversary of confining prisoners in the “war on terrorism.” According to lawyers from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who represented him, Guled Hassan Duran was captured in Djibouti in March 2004. The CIA renditioned him to a secret prison site, where he was tortured and abused prior to his transfer to Guantánamo in 2006. He was designated by President Barack Obama’s review task force for indefinite detention, even though he was not charged with a crime. Duran is a citizen of Somalia with “prior residence in Germany and Sweden.” Congress prohibited the United States government from transferring any Guantánamo prisoners to Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen in 2015. Because he cannot return to Somalia, it could be several years before he is released to a country willing to accept him.   Thirty-nine prisoners remain indefinitely detained at Guantánamo. They have been in confinement for the past 15-to-20 years without charge or trial. The withdrawal of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan in 2021 gives the U.S. government even less of a justification for keeping the prison open. However, President Joe Biden’s administration has displayed little to no political will to close Guantánamo once and for all. Or to put it another way, Biden has not demonstrated that his administration will make sure he finishes a job he started when he was part of the Obama administration in 2009 and they formally pledged to close Guantánamo. JTF Guantanamo photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elisha Dawkins This Monstrous Creation Of The U.S. Government CCR, a lead organization in the fight to shut down the detention camp, declared, “For 20 years, this monstrous creation of the U.S. government has been intentionally inflicting human suffering. Today, we think of the victims: the 780 Muslim men and boys, who have faced injustice and brutality, from torture to indefinite detention to sham trials to force feeding to profound indifference, if not hostility, from U.S. political leaders.” “We also think of the families who have been without their loved ones for so long and do not know when or if they will see them again,” CCR added. Twenty-seven prisoners at Guantánamo have never been charged. CCR estimates that 26 prisoners survived CIA torture. Five of them, including Duran, are represented by CCR. Sufiyan Barhoumi, who is from Algeria, was cleared for transfer in 2016, but the the Obama administration failed to transfer him out of Guantánamo before President Donald Trump was inaugurated. He was brought to the detention camp in June 2002. Brought to Guantánamo in 2004, CCR says Sharqawi Al Hajj, who is from Yemen, was tortured at “two CIA black sites.” As a result, he suffers from severe health problems that could result in “total bodily collapse.” The Biden administration approved him for transfer in June 2021, however, he cannot return to Yemen because of the congressional ban that Obama signed into law. A Saudi citizen named Mohammed Al Qahtani was allegedly subject to CIA torture and rendition before he arrived at Guantánamo in February 2002. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia prior to this abuse. His mental health is “deteriorating rapidly,” according to CCR. But he remains in confinement despite the fact that Qahtani is charged with no crime. In fact, in 2009, Susan Crawford, a U.S. Defense Department official who was the head of the military commissions, admitted the U.S. “tortured” Qahtani. “The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent,” Crawford told the Washington Post. “You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge.” Qahtani is apparently the only person the U.S. government ever publicly admitted they tortured. Yet when CCR pushed for the release of videos and photos of Qahtani to show Americans evidence of systematic abuse, the Obama administration blocked their release in federal court. U.S. Central Command Chief of Staff Karl Horst argued the release of photos and video would endanger “U.S. military personnel, diplomats and aid workers serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere” and aid the “recruitment and financing of extremist and insurgent groups” because “enemy forces in Afghanistan” and elsewhere “have previously used videos and photographs [particularly of U.S. forces interacting with detainees] out of context to incite the civilian population and influence government officials.” The media published images in 2004 “relating to allegations of abuse of Iraqi detainees” (i.e. Abu Ghraib) and media reported in 2005 on “alleged incidents of mishandling of the Koran at Guantánamo,” Horst added. To be clear, the Obama administration argued evidence of torture had to be kept secret because it would upset groups the U.S. had designated as terrorist organizations. They even told the courts the photos and videos “could be manipulated to show greater mistreatment than actually occurred, or change the chronology of actual events” in order to help the Pentagon hide torture and abuse. (The courts shamefully accepted these secrecy arguments.) The First Survivor Of CIA Torture At Black Site Prisons To Speak Out—While Still In Custody The Biden administration has yet to “re-establish the special envoy office in the State Department dedicated to the prison’s closure,” according to Amnesty International. “On the contrary, the administration has just announced plans to build a new courtroom at Guantánamo to continue the work by the military commissions – the very opposite of a blueprint to shut the place down,” Amnesty stated on the 20th anniversary. As Amnesty noted, in 2021, the world heard horrific stories of torture and abuse from Majid Khan, Abu Zubaydah, and Mohamedou Slahi, who was the subject of a film called The Mauritanian. Khan is a Pakistani eligible for release in February 2022. He had political asylum status in the United States before he was brought to Guantánamo in 2006. CCR, which represents him, says he is “the first survivor of the CIA torture program to discuss in public his experiences at black sites.” [PDF] Eight U.S. military officers sentenced Khan to 26 years in prison in October 2021. The New York Times called it “symbolic” because he became a “government cooperator” when he pled guilty in February 2012. Seven of the eight officers recommended clemency for Khan. A sentencing statement featuring brutal descriptions of his torture and abuse was read by Khan in a courtroom at Guantánamo. Majid Khan (Photo: Center for Constitutional Rights) “I can say for certain that I was subjected to water torture that induced the feeling of drowning several times,” Khan stated. “It is hard to describe, or put into words, how it felt to be waterboarded. With a hood wrapped around my face and water pouring down my throat, I coughed, gagged, screamed, and couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was going to die.” When Khan was brought to the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan, the CIA removed his clothes and left him cold and naked. He was given no food and afraid to drink the water the CIA officers provided. “I was periodically and repeatedly doused with water,” Khan recalled. “The room was pitch black, but I could feel tiny bugs, smaller than mosquitoes, biting me repeatedly until I bled. With my hands shackled, I couldn’t swat the bugs or scratch the sores they left. There was also music played constantly at deafening volumes. I remember thinking the room was shaking.” “I was hung at a height where I was able to bend my legs slightly, but I was not able to sit or kneel. I remember the intense feeling of uncertainty that I felt; it was horrifying. I was so scared. I had no choice but to urinate on myself and the floor.” Khan continued, “I was so terrified that I had diarrhea. My back and entire body was in a constant state of excruciating pain, partly because I had preexisting back problems. I was left for days with the smell of urine and feces that had collected on my body.” The CIA brought Khan to a secret prison referred to as “Detention Site Orange,” where he was held for a longer amount of time before his transfer to Guantánamo. “In the month of September 2004,” Khan says he was “raped by the CIA medics.” He was engaged in a series of hunger strikes. “While being restrained, they inserted tubes or objects into my anus against my will. This was different than the enemas they had previously used.” “Sometimes it was done in my cell. Other times I was restrained on a stretcher and moved to another room. In either location, I was restrained very tightly and securely by at least two guards. A CIA medic was there to administer the insertions, but it was not a medical procedure.” Khan added, “I remember one time in my cell I asked the medic why he was doing this, and he whispered with viciousness, ‘You’re a fucking terrorist.’ They used green garden hoses and one end was connected to the faucet as they ‘rehydrated me.’” “I remember feeling immense pressure in my bowels, a pain I had never felt. I couldn’t stop myself from evacuating my bowels. I think these forced rectal insertions were done to make it appear like I had eaten, digested food, and used the toilet. To this day, I experience extreme discomfort from hemorrhoids as a result of my treatment.” Faced with repeated torture, Khan told his captors what they wanted. He was scared. He wanted the torture to stop. He made false statements to interrogators in order to convince them he was “compliant and cooperative.” Khan continued to lie when he arrived at Guantánamo because it renewed his fears and forced him to relive prior traumas and experiences at the hands of CIA interrogators. It wasn’t until October 2007 that he finally felt comfortable enough to tell the truth to his defense team and take responsibility for some of what led to his capture. “Mr. Khan has been held without basic due process under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, he was held without charge or legal representation for nine years until 2012 and held without final sentencing until October 2021,” U.S. military officers wrote in their clemency letter [PDF]. The officers acknowledged Khan was “subjected to physical and psychological abuse well beyond approved enhanced interrogation techniques, instead being closer to torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history. This abuse was of no practical value in terms of intelligence, or any other tangible benefit to U.S. interests.” “Instead, it is a stain on the moral fiber of America. The treatment of Mr. Khan in the hands of U.S. personnel should be a source of shame for the U.S. government.” Further Reading: Guantanamo Whistleblowers Who Spoke Up Against a Legal Black Hole The post Twenty Years Of Barbarism At Guantánamo: Biden Could End It But Lacks The Political Will appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Guantanamo, Joe Biden, The Dissenter Newsletter]

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[l] at 12/27/21 8:12am
Most contemporary satirical films are compared to Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb.” It is the standard by which critics and viewers decide if the satire succeeded. Yet in the past decades no film has come close to matching the sharpness and wit of the classic.  However, Adam McKay and David Sirota’s “Don’t Look Up” nearly equals the potency of “Dr. Strangelove,” and as time passes, “Don’t Look Up” may prove to be even more sophisticated and meaningful.McKay and Sirota recognize climate disruption is hurtling humanity toward mass extinction, and corporate, media, and political elites in the United States would rather not act than jeopardize their self-interest. Developing a farce about their lack of a response would probably have a limited impact. So McKay and Sirota take what is most distressing and infuriating about climate inaction and map it onto a story about a comet hurtling toward Earth. Everyone can agree that a comet hitting Earth would be horrifying. Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) believe after spotting the comet that they will have no problem convincing President Orlean (Meryl Streep) to act immediately. Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), the head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (a real agency), is willing to join them in conveying this terrible news about the end of the world.  Hours go by, and the President makes the scientists come back the following day because there is a lurid scandal surrounding the White House’s nominee for the Supreme Court, which they find more important than whatever scientists have to tell them. Orlean and her son (Jonah Hill), the chief of staff, are finally briefed by the scientists the next day and advise the scientists to “sit tight and assess.” They also warn them not to speak to the public about their classified conversations, setting up the ability of them to charge them with crimes if they talk to the press. The scientists face multiple dilemmas at this stage, all illustrating how humanity is fucked. They must find a way to communicate to the news media that a comet will hit Earth. They are not exaggerating about the severity of the threat, and the President of the United States has hesitated to act. Then they must persuade the White House to mobilize the response necessary to destroy the comet before it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, if that is even possible. Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry) and Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett), host “The Daily Rip,” a morning program that exemplifies the obstacles posed by corporate news. The show would rather feature pop music icons and manufacture viral moments than give air time to scientists to warn of a comet that is coming. Talk of gloom and doom is a vibe killer. Still, it is the scientists best hope for informing Americans about the comet, and they use this show to break the news to the world. Another dilemma is Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), the CEO of BASH who is the head of a multinational tech company and an amalgam of Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. Isherwell is a super-donor to the Orlean administration. Whatever Isherwell says the administration will do, and when he has an enterprise in mind for the comet, the White House listens, especially since there is a geopolitical argument to be made for his plan. The Comet could be anything that endangers the lives of the global population. Several viewers have compared the Comet to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is any real and significant threat posed to humanity that goes or has gone unaddressed after officials were fully informed the consequences if they did not act. The scientists trying their damnedest to convince news media producers, business executives, politicians, and the administration in the White House to take action are any individuals or groups that have ever poured their heart and soul into an issue but failed to gain traction. “Dr. Strangelove” skewered how a simple misunderstanding during the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union could lead to the deployment of nuclear weapons and mass extinction. “Don’t Look Up” skewers how the deliberate acts of elites indifferent to 99 percent of the global population will likely result in all of our deaths. When we view “Dr. Strangelove,” a film that was released in 1964, we have the benefit of surviving the Cold War. The Americans and Soviets did not launch nukes against one another, though they were on the brink. But we have not survived the threat of climate change, and that deepens the gallows humor of “Don’t Look Up.”  The characters of “Don’t Look Up” are less caricature than the characters of “Dr. Strangelove. The elites of Dont Look Up eerily resemble those in our own world. They probably had to be more grounded or else the high-concept narrative would not work. Corporate, media, and political elites infest our screens and deny us progress on the most pressing matters of life and death. They have too much wealth and power to be disappeared or brushed aside.  No matter what we do, they will have a say in the course of action we take to save or not save the planet. Or worse, they will choose a plan for saving the planet that enriches them first and foremost, even if it has a diminished chance of success. That may be the most chilling part of “Don’t Look Up.”The dark comedy is not limited to any zinger or one line of dialogue uttered by a character. It is not simply bits of slapstick or screwball humor strung together to reflect the failure of the political class. Instead, the dark comedy is that old equation in the business: tragedy plus time. Every day we proceed on the disastrous trajectory chosen by elites satirized in the film, Dont Look Up will exist as a mirror that reflects how we brought our species closer and closer to extinction. This will heighten the comedy. We will probably laugh less and less as each year goes by, and at a certain point, we will think the film is laughing at us if nothing fundamentally changes. The post Well All Eventually Think Dont Look Up Is Laughing At Us If Nothing Fundamentally Changes appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, adam mckay, comedy, David Sirota, Film Review, satire]

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[l] at 12/23/21 10:42am
*The following is a collection of some of the best albums of protest music released in 2021. They were selected by Kevin Gosztola and C.J. Baker, who publishes writing regularly at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs. They are in alphabetical order by artist. **Full playlist with each album on Spotify Black Monument Ensemble NOW The story behind the making of this album is part of what makes it exceptional. According to Damon Locks and the Black Monument Ensemble, it was recorded in the summer of 2020, “following months of pandemic-induced fear and isolation, the explosion of social unrest, struggle, and violence in the streets, and as the certain presence of a new reality had fully settled in.” BME, which is a “multi-generational collective” with members who range from 9 to 52 years old, entered a garden behind Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio and recorded each track in a few takes. The percussion and wind instruments combine for  transcendent beats and rhythms, and for “The People Vs. The Rest of Us” and “Keep Your Mind Free,” Locks seamlessly weaves in samples to create a sound collage. BME even embraces the presence of cicadas, which enhances the performance in a remarkable way.It is easy, as “The Body Is Electric” recognizes, to be caught up in the grind of life, the struggles around us, the despair and devastation that surrounds us. Yet BME dares to dream of what can be achieved in this new reality, especially if we can all enter that forever momentary space that is now. (Kevin Gosztola) Godspeed You! Black Emperor G_ds Pee AT STATEs END If late-stage capitalism sounds like anything, it is the brooding dissonance of this album from Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their soundscapes survey civilizations ravaged by pestilence and climate disaster. Yet there is a majesty and grandness to their music of desolation.GYBE is a Canadian post-rock band that combines noise with a range of instruments, including violins and an organ. They wrote the album on the road before the pandemic, and then they came home in the pandemic normal to finish completing the project in masks. Radio frequencies on the album are “pulses of rising white static” because “automated militaries” take up so much bandwidth. There are periodic announcements from the watching and killing machines of our world, but then there are also the “ham radio dads,” who stay up all night talking about their dying wives and “what they will do with their guns when antifa comes.”As the band states, the apocalyptic pastors now cry, “End Times Soon!” Their album is about waiting for the end because all “current forms of governance” have failed. It’s also about waiting for a beginning, and for that, they have a list of demands for humanity—empty the prisons, take power from police, give the power to neighborhoods, end forever wars and imperialism, and tax the rich until they are poor. (Kevin Gosztola) Irreversible Entanglements Open The Gates The free jazz collective’s third offering is a sonic exploration of post-colonialism. With Aquiles Navarro’s trumpet blaring out into the universe and Keir Neuringer’s saxophone piercing the sky, the ensemble summons whatever spirits they can connect with from the past and present to propel the music forward.Fragments of poetry from Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother) agitate but also reach for deeper understandings of creation and what brought Irreversible Entanglements to this place, to where they are crying out, “Open the gates!”While some of their previous ompositions have explicitly named the sources of struggle and despair, particularly for Black lives, its lyrics are more understated. They are above all beckoning. This is an evaluation of what has been and what could possibly be. As they put it, “The universe was awash in the sickly static veneer of anti-cosmos, of anti-nation; the halls were emptied, our shadows echoing and staining the walls of our abandoned oases – so we poured out into 2020’s wild streets. The ghosts of our labor danced around the sickness as we set fire to our old ways of thinking and moving, as we set fire to cop cars and bashed in the windows of our own rising disenfranchisement.”“Open the gates!”(Kevin Gosztola) Femi Kuti & Made Kuti Legacy+ The legacy of legendary activist and Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti is carried on by his son Femi and grandson Made on Legacy +. It is a double album that includes Stop The Hate (the 11th album by Femi) and For(e)ward (Mades debut album). Like Felas music, the two albums mix poignant political commentary with infectious beats. Femi takes aim at Nigerian political corruption while touching upon issues of universal concern. On “Na Bigmanism Spoil Government, he says, “Come on, tell them, let them change their ways.” He also encourages the masses to take their stand against authority on tracks like “Set Your Minds Free.Made covers similar themes but experiments more with the music. He also pays tribute to his grandfather on “Different Streets,” (“A prophet is what many of us call Fela. Someone with very special skills to see very far. But grandpa was not predicting the future with songs. He was speaking about everything he saw. Everything that was wrong”). Femi and Made are torch-bearers of Afrobeat, and no doubt Fela would be proud of the music they are creating. (C.J. Baker) The Muslims Fuck These Fucking Fascists The Muslims are what they say they are and fucking mean every fucking word on this fucking album. They describe themselves as a “crunchy, kickass punk band of Black and brown queer muzzies.” They say “your racist dad is a piece of shit and THIS IS NOT A SAFE SPACE.” That is fucking all caps because no one perpetuating vile systems of oppression will be spared. With that said, the band’s messages range from deadly serious to the stuff of anarchic pranksters. “Crotch Pop A Cop” and their song imagining the ghost of John McCain visiting the White House are mischievous fun. The sharp wit of “Illegals” is more biting than the majority of protest songs recorded recently. The average song length is a little less than two minutes because the Muslims don’t need any fucking longer to fucking call out who needs to be called out. They just fucking show solidarity with those feeling spit on and beaten down then get on to pounding out the next riff. Fuck Nazis. All cops are class traitors (and bastards). Take your pleas for unity and fuck yourself. And most importantly, be proud of who you are. (Kevin Gosztola) Leanne Betasamosake Simpson  Theory Of Ice Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is an acclaimed novelist, poet, scholar, and singer, as well as a member of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg, an indigenous group in southern Ontario, Canada. A prominent theme on Theory Of Ice is climate change. On Break Up, the opening track, Simpson poignantly sings, There is euphotic rising and falling. Orbits of dispossession and reattachment. Achieving maximum density: 39 degrees Fahrenheit.” The song Failure of Melting bleakly depicts the impact on our natural world (The caribou sit measuring emptiness. The fish study giving up.)  But the album’s standout is her potent reworking of indigenous musician Willie Dunn’s “I Pity The Country.” The tune not only builds on the theme of climate change but explores other aspects of Canada’s troubled history of colonial oppression. Dunns classic protest song may be from 1971, but the lines, The police they arrest me. Materialists detest me. Pollution it chokes me. Movies they joke me. Politicians exploit me. City life it jades me, still resonate in fifty years later.(C.J. Baker)  Snotty Nose Rez Kids Life After On the indigenous Canadian rap duo’s fourth album, they once again blend banging beats with pointed political commentary.Darren “Young D” Metz of the duo described the origin of the title: “There are times when I don’t want to talk to people about [my struggles], so I just write about it, for my own sanity. “There were things that we needed to say and get off our chest. We came up with [the concept of] Life After because it’s about life after the pandemic, but it could be life after anything, really. Life after depression, or life after success, after grinding for so long.Beyond the pandemic, they confront police brutality on ‘Red Sky at Night, rapping, “We ain’t safe in the streets from the people or police or the system put in place for the wealthy. No Justice, no peace, we’re dying in the belly of the beast. They rap about religious corruption and the numerous children’s graves found at former residential schools on “Grave Digger, saying I been tryna save my people. I’m the one that should be saved. I just wanna catch a body. I’m so tired of digging graves. In Canada, there is much discussion about truth and reconciliation. SNRK play a vital role in amplifying uncomfortable truths that must be part of that process for indigenous communities. (C.J. Baker) Sons of Kemet Black to the Future “I wanted to get a better sense of how African traditional cosmologies can inform my life in a modern-day context,” Sons of Kemet bandleader Shabaka Hutchings told Apple Music. “Then try to get some sense of those forms of knowledge and put it into the art that’s being produced.” The jazz ensembles fourth album takes these cosmologies and explores the Black experience. Field Negus, the opening track (featuring vocals from Joshua Idehen), is a response to Black Lives Matter protests in London.  “Pick Up Your Burning Cross” (featuring MoorMother & Angel Bat Dawid) addresses issues of oppression, and “In Remembrance of Those Fallen” pays tribute to those who have fought for liberation and freedom within anti-colonialism movements.The album reflects upon the past while providing a galvanizing message for moving onward to the future. It is music that successfully engages the mind, the heart, and the body. (C.J. Baker) David Rovics May Day Guitarist and folk singer David Rovics remains one of the most prolific and hardest working musicians writing songs of struggle. In 2021, Rovics reunited with the band he performed with from 1997-2008. Sean Staples played mandolin and guitar, Eric Royer played banjo, and Hazel Royer played bass live in a studio. The banjo and mandolin combine to add a bittersweetness to “If A Song Could Make Your Troubles Go Away,” as Rovics sings about all he wishes he could do for the downtrodden. “I know I’m not the first to feel like I’m knocking on the door of either a new dystopia or some movement of great renown,” Rovics muses on “116 Degrees,” a song that surveys the human sacrifice zones, which are and will continue to bear the brunt of climate-fueled disasters.He pays tribute to Anne Feeney, the late great protest singer who departed this world in 2021, and memorializes more atrocities against Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid. And in the tradition of music’s best topical protest songs, the ballad, “When Chevron Came To Ecuador,” summarizes the sordid events around the oil company’s “Chernobyl of the Amazon” and their imprisonment of human rights attorney Steven Donziger. (Kevin Gosztola) Witch Camp (Ghana) I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used to Be This is an important archival project that collects field recordings from Ghana’s infamous witch camps. Witch camps are settlements, where women accused of witchcraft can seek refuge. Those persecuted as witches often suffer from mental health issues and physical ailments. Others are shunned as a ploy to steal their land after their husband’s passing. “Belief in witchcraft is sometimes also used as simple scapegoating for the arrival of bad luck, such as foul weather or illness,” said photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli, who worked on the archive project. “More commonly, it is a justification for pre-existing hate and prejudice. A member of my own family was driven out of her village in Malawi as a child after she was accused of being a witch due to having a white father— a fate that could have been my own if our places of birth were simply swapped.” The musicians employ unique instruments from the natural environment, such as corn husks, a teapot, tin cans, and tree limbs. Altogether, those involved create a remarkable project that preserves overlooked cultures and elevates the voices of those who often overlooked and rendered voiceless. (C.J. Baker) HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jackson Browne “Downhill From Everywhere” | Evan Greer “Spotify Is Surveillance” | The Halluci Nation One More Saturday Night | Haviah Mighty “Stock Exchange” | Nick Lutsko “Songs On The Computer” | The Weather Station “Ignorance” The post Ten Of The Best Protest Albums Of 2021 appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project, Best Of, Protest Albums, Protest Music Project, Year in Review]

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[l] at 12/20/21 8:41am
The Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility was constructed in the late 1800s when the state of Colorado was still a territory. It is the oldest prison in the state’s prison system. It is also is the site, where the first compilation album for Die Jim Crow Records was recorded.Die Jim Crow is the first record label in the United States dedicated to incarcerated musicians. The label recorded seven musicians at Territorial in Cañon City in April 2018.The tracks laid down during these sessions represented an array of genres—Americana, indigenous Nahuatl chant, blues, and hip hop, etc—and matched the diversity of the musicians, who were indigenous, Black, queer Jewish, and white. Some of these men are serving life sentences.“In the 150 years since the prison’s construction, ‘TLAXIHUIQUI’ is the first recorded music to make it outside the forbidding walls of Territorial into the free world,” according to Die Jim Crow Records.Shadowproof is honored to premiere “Battlecry” from “TLAXIHUIQUI.” It was created by Dane Zealot Newton, who is a Black musician at Territorial.“It was like me writing something to rid myself of a certain past that I was carrying,” Newton said of “Battlecry” in an interview done by Die Jim Crow Records. “It was me trying to come to understand my past and where I was at that point.”  Newton shared, “Just me growing up the way I was, in an abusive environment and me not knowing how to deal with that, growing up in that environment.”Opening up even more, Newton added, “My mom had me when she was 14. My father was 19. And he took off immediately, so you grow up in that kind of world where it’s watching your mom do drugs and come in and out of these abusive relationships.”“I think you have to be honest about the brokenness in everybody, especially your own [self], before you can move forward. You gotta look yourself in the mirror.”  Newton’s first three years of incarceration were from 2007 to 2009. He felt everything stripped away from him. He questioned how he would deal with relationships moving forward, and he eventually learned to write and play music.  “I’ve always sang, but I was never really able to write my feelings, or play any instruments. So, the whole process of me writing music, and singing was me cleansing myself, ridding myself, confronting my past, confronting my failures, being willing to put it all out there.”“Battlecry” centers on the struggle of asking forgiveness. “For the people I’ve harmed and the relationships I’ve damaged, I feel like even today, knowing who I am as a man, I still cannot reach back and ask them for forgiveness.”“I feel like I would still be out of line, and out of place to ask anyone for forgiveness. Because now in my maturity, not just as a man, but as a human being, you realize just the devastation, the scars that you inflict on people.”Die Jim Crow produced a video that Newton particularly liked because of its blooming flowers. He said it reflects a “person coming into, growing into, moving forward, or towards something.” It’s been awhile since Newton was able to pick up a guitar at Territorial. “The funny part is, I’ll get this melody going and this rhythm, and I’ll start writing something. But my memory is bad so then I’m like, what was the melody? And if I start a beat on the wall in here, I don’t think these dudes would like that.”Newton laughs and mentions that he sometimes waits in his cell until it is late at night. With everyone sleeping, he sits up and starts a rhythm.  *Watch or listen “Battlecry” by Dane “Zealot” Newton The post The Things Musicians At Territorial Prison Carry: Battle Cry Video Premiere appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Colorado, Die Jim Crow, Incarceration]

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[l] at 12/10/21 12:30pm
In the summer of 2020 we launched a collaborative writing program to connect incarcerated writers with outside journalists and editors. Our goal was to help them publish their writing in mainstream media publications. We began only a few weeks after COVID-19 came into San Quentin State Prison, where Rahsaan lives. We knew that COVID-19 would be an incredible threat to people incarcerated, but were unprepared for the devastation and loss ahead. At San Quentin — which became home to the largest outbreak in the country — Rahsaan became infected with the virus and experienced the mental health toll of being locked in a cell, 24 hours a day, for days at a time. With a total of 2,607 confirmed cases, 29 people died.  Across the country, over 397,422 incarcerated people were infected and at least 2,700 died. But the story goes far beyond that loss: COVID-19 inside U.S. prisons was marked by outright indifference for basic pandemic safety protocols, facility crowding, the use of segregation to “treat” people with COVID-19, and many other injustices. Through it all, however, the writing persisted. In the early months of our program, called the Empowerment Avenue Writer’s Cohort, a team of volunteers on the outside rapidly transcribed hand-written and typed writing and reporting about San Quentin’s ever-worsening outbreak. (There is no internet or email access from the inside, so the digital transcription, pitching, and email correspondence must be handled by people on the outside.) Correctional officers confirmed Rahsaan’s COVID-19 infection on the night of July 2; the next day he wrote an essay about the experience that was published on Insider. His colleague Juan Haines reported from inside the hole during his own COVID-19 infection.  As our program grew, so did the storytelling. Incarcerated writers from elsewhere in California, Washington State, Ohio, and New York reported what they saw for publications like Insider, The Washington Post, Huff Post, Slate, Jewish Currents, Il Manifesto, and Elle Magazine. They’ve continued writing about the impact of the pandemic even after vaccinations — including a return to prison crowding, hesitations around vaccines, limitations in reuniting with loved ones, and the overwhelming psychological toll.  Because Rahsaan doesn’t have access to digital media, Emily printed out each article and mailed it to his cell. We also collaborated on an extensive survey about COVID-19 — which 16 Empowerment Avenue writers around the country responded to — to further understand their experience navigating the pandemic. Their reporting and survey responses revealed they faced horrible conditions that were eerily similar despite location or facility security level. They just didnt get the same level of media attention as San Quentin. To us, it has never been clearer that conditions in prisons must change to prevent more unnecessary deaths and illnesses. Having access to data, storytelling, and reporting from Empowerment Avenue writers around the country underscores that those changes need to be implemented nationwide. Below, we provide a summary of what went horribly wrong. Empowerment Avenue was born of this pandemic — but that doesn’t mean our writers, or anyone incarcerated, deserves to die from a variant outbreak or the next deadly virus.  *** Punished for Being Sick  “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, TURN . . . One, two, three, four, five, turn . . . Pacing back and forth in the six-by-ten foot cell, LJ, a prisoner at Washington’s Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC), counts each step in an attempt to mask his mounting frustration and retain his sanity.” These are the words of Christopher Blackwell, who published the first piece supported by Empowerment Avenue for Jewish Currents on September 1, 2020. “He’s trying to process the fact that he has been placed in solitary confinement for medical reasons three times in the months since Covid-19 struck MCC, where he and I are both incarcerated.”  The story is aptly titled, “When Tourture is a Health Precaution.” As Christopher points out, the use of solitary confinement increased an estimated 500 percent across the country—with about 300,000 people placed in solitary confinement during the first three months of COVID-19—as “Departments of Corrections use a practice that has been internationally recognized as torture as a stand-in for a safe and humane means of quarantine.” At San Quentin, Rahsaan and thousands of others were trapped inside a 5- by 8-foot cell with another individual. As Rahsaan chronicled for 48 Hills in February, “At San Quentin Prison, Daniel Kramer and others lived in extreme fear of contracting COVID from their cellmates.” The virus rapidly spread within the crowded housing units, and the “solution” was to send people into solitary confinement. As Juan Haines reported at the time, the inhumane conditions in the hole led to a hunger strike.   Many Empowerment Avenue participants were scared to report COVID-19 symptoms because being sick meant going to the hole. You can call it the hole, but they go to a unit and, from what I heard from others thats been there, its dirty and they are treated inhumanely,” writer Darla told us from a California women’s prison. “So a lot of people who may have symptoms are reluctant to speak up because of the mistreatment.” Ryan, a writer in Florida, was on 14-day quarantine during the time of our survey — his prison restarted the quarantine three times in a row, which meant he was isolated for 32 days.  Felix, a writer and social justice advocate incarcerated in Washington State, had a similar experience. I know some folks who reported symptoms a few months ago when my facility had our outbreak, he said. Those guys were taken to the hole that was converted into a makeshift medical isolation unit. They were definitely treated as if they had done something wrong. The  way they were treated did not encourage people to report their symptoms at all.”  Inadequate COVID-19 safety protocols and healthcare  Almost all of the writers surveyed reported inadequate, dysfunctional, or terrible COVID responses by correctional officers and staff. At San Quentin, the Inspector General of California found that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation medical officials disregarded safety protocols during the transfer of people infected with COVID-19. And even though the prison boasts a $136 million healthcare facility, as Adamu Chan pointed out in Slate, it didn’t translate to effective healthcare as infection rates exploded.  In Washington State, Christopher Blackwell wrote about his own facility ignoring safety protocols and transferring new people into his facility for TruthOut. In December, for Jewish Currents, he outlined how his prison continued to flout public health guidelines: they hadn’t received new masks in months, even as correctional staff were lax in wearing theirs; transfers continued; people were getting double and triple bunked inside small cells.  In Ohio, writer Michael Ray described his surroundings for il Manifesto: “Wet coughing and wheezes filled the air. I walked down the aisle to use the bathroom and passed by men lying miserably in their bunks, a mere three inches of mattress separating them from hard steel frames.”  When we surveyed other Empowerment Avenue writers, the responses were just as bleak.  It eventually got to the point where basic medical treatment was being denied and if you werent touching death, bleeding excessively or experiencing symptoms, you werent being seen, said Oltehus, incarcerated in Ohio.  “The most medical attention we got was daily temperature check.” Traci told us from California. Jennifer, also incarcerated in California, was “initially denied COVID-19 tests from March to June 2020.”  Early on, CO’s and medical staff here were disregarding prisoners cries for medical assistance, Brian noted from a New York facility. Many prisoners exhibiting listed symptoms were sent back to their cubes to languish.  Crowding Crowding laid the groundwork for the explosive virus outbreak at San Quentin, as Juan Haines reported for the Appeal. But the prison was hardly an outlier. Eleven of our writers described their facility as crowded or full. The majority added that social distancing and quarantining were “impossible.” Michele Scott described her daily morning routine for Elle Magazine: “I have to go to breakfast to get food. This requires walking between a gauntlet of staff who are clustered on both sides of a narrow sidewalk leading to the chow hall. I note that many of their masks are carelessly dangling off their chin.”  In our surveying, responses hit a similar note. Patrick in New York said, The structure of every prison I have been in makes it impossible to safely guard against any contagious disease, whether viral or bacterial, Brian, also in New York, wrote, “New York State prisons arent designed to handle outbreaks of any kind.” Felix in Washington said, “No, the prison can not protect us… and has not. We all got sick.   At San Quentin, in the cell block where Rahsaan is housed, the population for 409 cells was 813 in September of 2020. In March of 2021, North Block’s population was 550, still leaving some people double celled, including Rahsaan’s. This April, Rahssan wrote an op-ed for High Country News wondering if COVID-19 vaccinations would only mean more prison crowding deaths.  “Despite all the deaths, the population of North Block, where I am housed, remains over design capacity,” wrote Rahsaan. “History teaches us that overcrowding spreads disease. If California does not immediately release more people, the coronavirus vaccines may turn California prisons back into overcrowded petri dishes, with prisoners like me awaiting the next deadly viral outbreak.”  Grievances  There were no accountability processes inside prison facilities, which only increased the urgency of sharing stories about the pandemic from within prison with the public. As Christopher Blackwell emphasized in HuffPost, “we are dependent on government systems to care for our health and well-being.” But as those systems broke down, there was nowhere incarcerated people could go for help.  The uselessness of the prison grievance process — touted by prison administrations as an accountability tool — is a prime example. The majority of Empowerment Avenue writers said that filing grievances about lapses in COVID-19 safety were largely ignored. Grievances are a joke, said Brian in New York. The appeal process is a joke, said Al in California. Even the emergency appeals were not being handled.  Christopher summed it up to us thusly: They are a complete waste of time and if one doesnt plan to file a lawsuit there is no reason to even waste your time going through the process.”  Today buses are rolling into San Quentin, transferring more people despite a positive COVID-19 case found in North Block, according to a July 12, 2021 memo from California Correctional Health Care Services. In May, the prison’s West Block was locked down twice for norovirus quarantines.  Death Count  Twenty-nine people — 28 incarcerated and one correctional officer — are said to have died during San Quentin’s outbreak. But there’s still uncertainty and silence from prison administrations. When Rahsaan wrote about the death of Mike Hampton for High Country News, for example, we couldn’t find any official statement or cause of death from the administration, even though Rahsaan knew “COVID-19 snatched his life months before his scheduled parole board hearing.”  Al, a writer incarcerated alongside Rahsaan at San Quentin, told us, “Twenty-eight people have died, but I suspect the number is higher — these people lie!  Many writers relied on rumors or word of mouth to understand the loss that surrounded them: I didnt lose no one close, but rumor is that three died, said Demetrius in Michigan. Has anyone died? No info, Jessica told us from Washington.  Mental Health One of the gravest long-standing issues concerns mental health. Writers suffered greatly from the stress and anxiety of COVID-19, not seeing or speaking to loved ones, not having access to programs, and not receiving any semblance of mental health care. A number of writers told us their prison relied on surface-level “mental health checks.” “We live in four-day chunks of dread — the length of time it takes to get our COVID-19 test results,” Michele Scott wrote for Elle. “Each time, we fear learning that someone in our room has tested positive; it’s like living a game of Russian Roulette. We’re haunted by the specter of a positive test, of whose room will be relocated to the quarantine unit next.”  This has dramatically impacted my mental health, said Noel from Washington State. I havent seen my family in over a year. Everything that was good in prison or kept people focused was gone. Jennifer, in Washington, told us, “Anxiety. PTSD. Panic. No mental health care has been provided, other than wellness checking in the spring of 2020 (and) those were stopped!  Brian, in New York, simply said: “Need I laugh. What care? Quick to drug you and make money off you thereafter.” Rahsaan was particularly impacted by the extended lockdown, which he detailed for Popula: “Each tier gets yard separately every other day for 90 minutes. During the time, we also get one phone call and a chance to shower. There are ten showers and 12 phones for about 100 people to use in that time frame. Somehow, I squeeze in a workout, phone call and shower before having to lock up for another 40-something hours.”  His body still holds the long term effects of COVID-19. His nose has been congested since July of 2020, making breathing labored and exercise harder. Wearing a heart monitor revealed an irregular heartbeat that needs to be shocked back into compliance. The ghosts of dead friends haunt his thoughts everytime he walks past the cells they once inhabited or the spot on the yard where they worked out. There are invisible scars to wear for the rest of his life.  Telling Our Story — from Rahsaan Thomas  I had to do something. Workers in the receiving room told us of men, with COVID symptoms, getting off a bus from Chino State Prison. As the virus spread, I was hearing alarms blaring and medical staff running to aid another incarcerated man downed by COVID. Six feet trapped in a cell block with a deadly virus, I had to let the world know what was going on so the prison system could be held accountable.  We were dropping like flies and several men would never get up again. Writing was an act of self defense and Empowerment Avenue my weapon. Normally people in prison serving life sentences edit their own tongues. That’s because, despite freedom of speech, our physical freedom is discretionary. Piss off the wrong person and you may never go home. This time was different. Catching COVID-19, the hole so packed with people “quarantined,” we remained in place, infected celled with negative cases, positive and negative neighbors, seeing men carried out barely breathing, made it feel like I had nothing to lose. You have to be alive to go home. I exercised my freedom of speech without restraint, while COVID weakened my body, ranting in Business Insider like it could be my last words.  My voice joined a chorus across the nation. We found safety in numbers and matching accounts. We garnered attention. The world turned its attention to prisons across the nation, especially San Quentin. We were heard.  The post As COVID-19 Raged, Incarcerated Journalists Fought Isolation And Illness To Expose Abusive Conditions appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, Prison Protest, COVID-19 Behind Bars, Incarcerated Journalists]

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[l] at 12/10/21 9:21am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. Attorneys for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plan to appeal to the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom after the country’s appeals court overturned a decision that blocked the extradition of Assange to the United States. The High Court of Justice was “satisfied” with diplomatic assurances offered by the U.S. government related to how Assange would be treated in jail or prison, and they stated, “There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say.” “There is no basis for assuming that the U.S.A. has not given the assurances in good faith,” the High Court also insisted.More significantly, the High Court remitted the case back to the district court and instructed a district judge at this level to send the request to the Secretary of State in the Home Department for extradition. The Home Department previously allowed the extradition request to be considered by a district court. The High Court decision came on Human Rights Day, a day marked by countries in the United Nations, and the decision was immediately condemned by press freedom and human rights groups, and various other civil society organizations throughout the world. Assange is detained at Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in London, a high-security prison where he has been held since he was expelled from the Ecuador Embassy on April 11, 2019. He faces 18 charges—17 of which are charges under the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act is a U.S. law passed in 1917 that the Justice Department has increasingly wielded against media sources who share “classified” documents or talk about sensitive information with journalists. Assange’s attorneys at Birnberg Peirce indicated their “appeal to the Supreme Court would relate to the question of the assurances. Appeals on other important questions, including questions of free speech and on the political motivation of the U.S. extradition request, have yet to be considered by an appeal court.” (They will likely be considered after an appeal of this decision.) This decision marks a disastrous turning point for journalists and journalism around the world, declared Rebecca Vincent, the Reporters Without Borders director of international campaigns. “It falls on the very day when we should celebrate the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to two journalists and urge states to respect their commitments to press freedom, which they have just reaffirmed at the Summit for Democracy organized by United States.” “We call on the U.S. government to truly lead by example and to close this case now, before it does any more damage. Julian Assange should be released immediately and steps should be taken so that no other journalist, editor, or source can be targeted in this way.” “This is a travesty of justice. By allowing this appeal, the High Court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the U.S. that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison,” said Amnesty International’s Europe director Nils Muižnieks. “The fact that the U.S. has reserved the right to change its mind at any time means that these assurances are not worth the paper they are written on.” Stella Moris, who is Assange’s fiancé, called the ruling a “grave miscarriage of justice.” Outside the courthouse, she reacted, Today is international Human Rights Day. What a shame. How cynical to have this decision on this day, to have the foremost publisher [and] journalist of the past 50 years in a U.K prison accused of publishing the truth about war crimes, about C.I.A. kill teams. In fact, Moris continued, every time we have a hearing, we know more about the abusive nature, the criminal nature of this case. The U.S. government offered diplomatic assurances after Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied the extradition request on January 4. According to the assurances put forward, the U.S. government would not impose special administrative measures (SAMs) on Assange before trial or after he was convicted. However, it contained a major loophole. If Assange committed a “future act” that “met the test” for SAMs, the U.S. would designate him for such restrictive confinement conditions. They did not specify what type of acts might justify abandoning this assurance. The U.S. government pledged that Assange would not be designated for ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Colorado. Yet similar to the assurance to not impose SAMs, they indicated if Assange commits a “future act” that meets the test for such designation” he could still be confined in a maximum security prison. Prosecutors pledged to allow Assange to apply for a prisoner transfer to Australia to serve his U.S. sentence under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Artwork by Paul Lacombe. If Assange was extradited and held in a U.S. jail or prison, the U.S. pledged to ensure he received “clinical and psychological treatment” as recommended by a “qualified treating clinician employed or retained” by the facility where he is held. But if a facility lacked resources or the psychologist of staff did not conclude that Assange needed a higher level of care, he might not receive treatment. “The first and fourth assurances wholly exclude the possibility of Mr. Assange being made subject to SAMs, or detained at the ADX, either pretrial or after conviction, unless, after entry of the assurances, he commits any future act which renders him liable to such conditions of detention,” according to the High Court decision. “It is difficult to see why extradition should be refused on the basis that Mr Assange might in future act in a way which exposes him to conditions he is anxious to avoid.” Such a statement by the High Court accepts there are no political motives behind the extradition, and none of the U.S. officials involved in the prosecution intend to inflict harm on Assange. The High Court determined the U.S. has “made its decision as to how it will respond to any request” for a prisoner transfer to Australia if Assange is convicted. They gave “as explicit an assurance as it can.” “The reality is that this court is being invited to reject the U.S.A.’s assurances either on the basis that they are not offered in good faith or that they are for some other reason not capable of being accepted at face value,” according to the High Court. “That is a serious allegation,” especially since “the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. have a long history of cooperation in extradition matters, and the U.S.A. has in the past frequently provided and invariably fulfilled assurances.” But journalist Richard Medhurst obtained documents related to the 2009 extradition of David Mendoza Herrarte from Spain to the U.S. Diplomatic assurances were given by the U.S. government to Spain, but the U.S. violated those assurances. Mendoza was accused of drug trafficking. As the Assange legal team recounted in a filing submitted to the High Court, “The Spanish Court made Mendoza’s extradition conditional on prisoner transfer back to Spain to serve any sentence. In response, the U.S. provided the same assurance offered here to the Spanish Court.” “Upon surrender, the prosecution did, as promised, consent to the application. It was then, however, refused by the [Justice Department]. When the Spanish court complained of the ‘clear breach’ of the assurance, the U.S.A. retorted that ‘the U.S. did not make and therefore could not and did not renege on a promise guaranteeing that Mendoza would comply with the sentence imposed in Spain.” “The promise that was made at the time,” U.S. authorities claimed, was that Mendoza could apply for protection under the Treaty of the Council of Europe to serve his sentence in Spain. Similarly, all the U.S. government is saying at this stage is that they will consent to an application from Assange for prisoner transfer, which is relatively meaningless, and they are not saying they would grant the application. Amnesty International previously stated the so-called “assurances” upon which the U.S. government relies “leave Mr. Assange at risk of ill-treatment,” are “inherently unreliable,” and “should be rejected,” adding that they are “discredited by their admission that they reserved the right to reverse those guarantees.” Though it did not persuade the court to uphold the district judge’s decision, the High Court concluded Baraitser did not make an error when she applied a test and determined extradition would be oppressive for health reasons. “We bear in mind that the judge had to take into account the evidence of a witness called by Mr Assange, who considered the [Alexandria Detention Center] to be a very well-run jail, accepted that there had been no successful suicides at the ADC since its last inspection in 2017, and considered that the ADC had ‘a stellar record’ on preventing suicide.” The High Court continued, “She had to take into account the evidence that Mr. Assange would be entitled to a speedy trial within 70 days, and that the suggested delays caused by pre-trial motions would not arise if he chose to take advantage of that speedy trial provision. She also had to take into account the possibility that Mr. Assange, who asserts that he has a complete defense to the charges against him, will be acquitted.” “She had to consider carefully whether the required link between Mr. Assange’s mental condition was satisfied when the evidence was that he would pursue his intention to commit suicide with a ‘single-minded determination.’” The High Court was sympathetic but ultimately rejected the ground for appeal that amounted to an attack on the professional reputation of Professor Michael Kopelman. He is a clinical psychiatrist who provided the most comprehensive assessment of Assange’s condition in 2019 during the immediate months following his arrest and expulsion from the Ecuador Embassy. Declassified U.K. reported days before the announcement that Assange’s “fate” was in the hands of an appeal judge, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, “who is a close friend of Sir Alan Duncan, the former foreign minister who called Assange a ‘miserable little worm’ in parliament.” “The two have known each other since their student days at Oxford in the 1970s, when Duncan called Burnett ‘the Judge.’ Burnett and his wife attended Duncan’s birthday dinner at a members-only London club in 2017, when Burnett was a judge at the court of appeal.” Duncan was “the key official in the U.K. government[’s] campaign to force Assange from the embassy,” according to Declassified U.K. Through a feed in an “operations room” in the U.K. Foreign Office, he watched the British police drag Assange from the embassy to a van. He could barely keep a smirk off his face and later traveled to Ecuador to personally thank President Lenín Moreno for expelling Assange. Burnett was not present for the announcement of the decision. Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde announced the decision during proceedings that lasted a little more than ten minutes. The post Assange Plans To Appeal High Court Decision Backing Extradition To United States appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, The Julian Assange Case, Assange Extradition, Julian Assange]

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[l] at 12/7/21 9:50am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. Prisoners and prison staff at Her Majestys Prison Edinburgh in Scotland, or Saughton Prison, faced a serious outbreak of COVID-19 at a time when inmates were explicitly discouraged from requesting COVID tests, according to diplomat-turned whistleblower Craig Murray.“There was a major COVID outbreak in the prison in the last 6 weeks of my incarceration, Murray recalled. While COVID was present in the prison throughout his stay there, Murray said that between October 20 and November 20, “there were more than 200 positive tests for COVID in the jail. “That’s 200 out of a population of 900, he added, emphasizing that all of these prisoners would have been symptomatic. (Prisoners who werent symptomatic were not tested.) While the Scottish government urged the entire population to test themselves with lateral flow tests more than twice a week, whether they had symptoms or not, it was difficult for prisoners to get a test.On December 1, one day after his release from prison, Murray spoke in an exclusive interview to The Dissenter. He was the first journalist to be imprisoned for media contempt of court in Scotland in over 70 years, according to his defense team. His conviction stemmed from his coverage of the sex assault trial of former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. Murray, a longtime supporter of Scottish independence, appears to have fallen foul of a split within the Scottish National Party (SNP) over how strongly the administration of the current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is pushing for independence. As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads through Scotland and the wider United Kingdom, and authorities claim they are taking action to prevent outbreaks, Murrays account of his time in prison once again focuses attention on a vulnerable prison population often neglected during the pandemic. “When people started going down like flies all around me, I applied for a COVID test, which I did orally. I didn’t get a response so I put in the application in writing. Two weeks after that I became unwell and had some symptoms, largely upset stomach symptoms. And at that stage, because I was ill they gave me a COVID test, but in general, prisoners who didn’t have symptoms weren’t tested. Prisoners in the cells on each side of Murray became ill with COVID, though the cells themselves are not hermetically sealed and the window, which is separated by bars, cannot open to let in fresh air. Murray said staff discouraged prisoners, even the symptomatic ones, from asking to be tested in an environment Murray described as “filthy” with rats scurrying around cells. One prisoner Murray spoke to had symptoms, including a cough, tight chest, and difficulty breathing. They asked for a COVID test from a nurse. “The nurse had said to him, are you sure you want a COVID test? Because if you’re positive you’ll be banged up basically in solitary confinement for three weeks. So, are you sure you want one?”Murray believes the combination of failing to mass test prisoners whilst also discouraging prisoners from getting tested, meant that authorities were in effect falsifying the COVID-19 figures within Saughton. I Thought They Were Attempting To Kill Me The Dissenter interviewed Murray at his office in his family home, which is situated within a quiet suburb of Scotlands capital, Edinburgh. His face was freshly smooth after his wife Nadira took him for a hot Turkish shave only a couple hours earlier, removing a beard which grew considerably during his incarceration. “It’s a very unpleasant experience,” Murray stated in a manner that was relaxed but also introspective. “I was confined in a cell, which was 12 feet by 8 feet. I was confined in that for a minimum of 22 hours a day. For much of the period of 23 hours a day, with very little association with other prisoners, he said. He was “surrounded by the noise and antagonisms of a jail, which contains a lot of… percentage of the population who are violent or problematic in other ways. They may be suffering from drug addiction and withdrawal for example, but there’s an awful lot of noise clatter and apparent hostility in the background, sounds you hear as you’re locked in your cell.”Murray, who is 62 years old and has heart and lung conditions that make him “highly vulnerable” to COVID-19, found he was surrounded by people catching the virus and falling ill. He considers it quite extraordinary that he was left in such a situation and did not contract the virus. “It led me to have seriously paranoid thoughts whether they were attempting to kill me. It really was and is to me incredible that you would leave a highly vulnerable person deliberately exposed to COVID in that way, Murray shared.Campaign organizations and health experts in the U.K. have made repeated calls over the past two years urging that the rights of prisoners be protected during the pandemic; that they have the same healthcare access as the public and measures be taken to avoid prison outbreaks. In May 2020, the heads of multiple United Nations organizations, as well as the head of the World Health Organization, signed a statement urging political leaders to “consider limiting the deprivation of liberty” to a measure of “last resort, particularly in the case of overcrowding, and to enhance efforts to resort to non-custodial measures,” including release mechanisms for those “at particular risk of COVID-19, such as older people and people with pre-existing health conditions, as well as other people who could be released without compromising public safety.” The Scottish government released nonviolent prisoners early in order to reduce the risk of COVID outbreaks but ended that policy shortly before Murray would have benefited from it. It is unclear as to why the policy was terminated.As Murray recounted, the majority of prison staff in his wing caught COVID and took time off work sick. Some of them were quite seriously ill. “One of them was off for approximately six weeks, and when he came back he had lost a huge amount of weight, and he had trouble speaking. His voice was just totally different. He plainly had been very ill indeed. “Prison staff did their very best in very difficult circumstances”, Murray contended, “displaying extraordinary courage” as they took meals into each cell and dirty dishes out every day with only very rudimentary personal protective equipment (PPE). But staff were spreaders of the illness as they went around from cell-to-cell administering to the prisoners who were locked in.” *Read the rest of this report at The Dissenter. The post Whistleblower Craig Murray Speaks Out After Being Imprisoned In Scotland Over Blog Posts appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, craig murray, Press Freedom, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 11/24/21 8:19pm
The following article was originally published at Ongoing History Of Protest Music.The latest single from Canadian indigenous throat singer Tanya Tagaqs forthcoming album, Tongues, is about accountability. Oh, you’re guilty, she sings. It’s not a question,” a press release from her states.Tongues will be released on March 11, 2022, and it “speaks not to horrors and crisis, as previous Tanya Tagaq albums wordlessly, powerfully encircled, but directly of these things. She says the album is Tagaq at her most explicit and specific. The music is a balance of industrial, electronic sounds with poetic passages from Tagaq’s bestselling mytho-biography, Split Tooth.Colonizer” comes from Tagaq’s improvised live show with Nanook of the North in Manchester,which overlooks New York City’s Columbus Circle. The tune serves as a response to Tagaqs performing inboth visible and symbolic colonial spaces.Tagaq also released a second version, Colonizer (Tundra Mix), which will appear on the album.This mix is a collaboration with producers Saul Williams and Gonjasufi. It is starker andslow-building yet well suited to the songs theme.These two mixes of Colonizer are so different, but we liked them both equally, Tagaq wrote onTwitter, describing both versions as a reflection on accountability and action.Tagaqs album is an invitation to listeners to join her in a personal victory over colonization, over those who take without consent.Listen to both versions of Colonizer: The post Protest Song Of The Week: Colonizer By Tanya Tagaq appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter]

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[l] at 11/22/21 1:26pm
This is Part 2 of a two-part feature on women in Afghanistan and the diaspora after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces in August. Part 1 can be read here.In Albany, New York, three young Afghan women organized a protest at the state capitol that brought out over 100 people. One of the organizers, Audrea Din, said that the “protest had a very general message, which was about addressing the humanitarian crisis and having resources to help out refugees in the area.”  She added that the organizers demanded a ceasefire, the end of proxy wars, and for the United States to accept more Afghan refugees. “We also want all actors engaged in the war of Afghanistan to be held accountable and pressure them to comply with international law,” said Din.   Although the rise of the Taliban and refugees fleeing were the primary concerns of many of the activists, Din believes, like many, that the U.S. government and military should face justice for the 20-year occupation.  One major reason the Taliban were able to rise out of the ashes was because of the incredibly corrupt U.S.-installed government, run by a host of warlords despised by most Afghans. Now, activists in Afghanistan and the diaspora are figuring out how to navigate the aftermath of U.S. military occupation. Helei Iqbal is a 25 year-old born in St. Petersburg, Russia as an Afghan refugee. She later moved to Portland, Oregon with her family. Iqbal organized a protest with two other young Afghan women in Portland’s historic Pioneer Square, the site of many large Black Lives Matter and antifascist demonstrations. Her protest was not reserved solely for the Taliban.  “The previous government of Afghanistan, from the beginning, I knew it was corrupt because I knew that Ashraf Ghani was with the Americans, said Iqbal. “He was always looking for what America had to say to him, and I feel like that was the main point of the corruption.” Iqbal also had much to say about the role that Pakistan played over the years as a breeding ground for the Taliban and as a destabilizing force. “Pakistan has always been the predatory neighbor to Afghanistan.Many Afghan activists share Iqbal’s concern and agree with her that punitive measures should be taken by the international community against the Pakistani government and military.  Iqbal also stated that the recently fallen government was “ethno-nationalist” and gave favorable treatment to the dominant Pasthun ethnic group while others were discriminated.  Afghans Suffer From Three Sides Mariam Rawi, who spoke to Shadowproof on behalf of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), explained the group’s position succinctly, stating that “the people of Afghanistan are suffering from three sides: foreign occupation and meddling, the Taliban and ISIS, and the (former) puppet Afghan government composed of Jihadist warlords and technocrats.” RAWA is a women’s rights organization established in Kabul in 1977. Since its founding, the group has stood alone in its consistent criticism of Afghan rulers and occupying forces amidst a perpetually shifting political terrain.  The recently published Afghanistan Papers provide ample evidence that support RAWA’s view of the former government. They show that not only did U.S. political and military officials know that they were funneling billions of dollars into corrupt warlords and technocrats, but they actively built a government with a culture to enable more corruption.“The U.S.-sponsored so-called ‘civil society’ was in fact a tool to depoliticize and de-radicalize our social life, which hindered growth of a progressive mass movement in Afghanistan. By withdrawal of the U.S./NATO forces, they airlifted most of their major NGO players to Western countries.” Additionally, several Afghan officials fled the country with millions of dollars, which they embezzled from the U.S. government. Former President Ashraf Ghani reportedly left with four cars and a helicopter filled with cash. In 2016,  The New Yorker reported his net worth at $4 million.  Other Afghans come from families who amassed fortunes from the occupation, such as Daoud and Hamed Wardak, the multi-millionaire sons of Abdul Rahim Wardak who served as the Minister of Defense from 2004 2012.Hamed Wardak made his fortunes running a military supply contracting company, NCL Holdings. His younger brother Daoud, who owns a $5.2 million Miami Beach resort property, recently purchased a $20.9 million Beverly Hills mansion. Perched on the hills surrounding L.A., Daoud is far removed from so many of the working class Afghan immigrants that populate the city.   With the Taliban now firmly in power, and despite their reassurances that they have changed dramatically from when they ruled the country in the 1990s, are back to their old ways. Taliban forces continue to be accused of massacres, extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations, and increased repression of journalists and political dissidents. The discovery of the bullet-ridden body of activist Frozan Safi in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif was a grim reminder of the current risks facing women activists. (Activists suspect the Taliban was behind the killing, but they have not been able to prove it.)  The Taliban also abolished the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in September, replacing it with the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. The new agency is tasked with carrying out their interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence, which is a conservative strain of Deobandi Islam. Despite the harrowing climate, Rawi expressed more hope than many Afghan activists in her long term outlook of the crisis. “Now the people of Afghanistan can easily comprehend that no foreign troops can deliver us humane values. It is for us to struggle for these values against the Taliban or any other bloodthirsty group,” she said.  An increasing number of Afghans at home and in the diaspora, many of whom supported the U.S.-backed government or saw the U.S. occupation as safeguarding some semblance of women’s and human rights, now embrace RAWA’s view: that the only people who can liberate them are themselves. Resisting The Taliban While activists in the diaspora organized their own protests around the world, resistance continued against Taliban in a variety of forms within Afghanistan. Even back in early July, spontaneous demonstrations of armed women took place across the nation as the Taliban continued to gain more ground. The unprecedented armed protests showed that women were willing to confront the Taliban on the battlefield. It’s uncertain how many women, if any, followed through on these threats. After the fall of Kabul, protests led by women took place in response to the reintroduction of restrictions on the rights of women and girls in public life, work, and school. Although there has been less coverage in Western media lately, women’s rights and civil rights protests have taken place daily across Afghanistan. The demonstrations range in size from the hundreds to smaller gatherings and take place in the streets of Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, and other major cities as well as in smaller towns in rural areas.  The demonstrations were an act of defiance against the Taliban’s ban on protests that are not given government approval.In numerous instances, the Taliban used force against peaceful demonstrators by whipping and hitting people and firing their weapons into the air. At one of the demonstrations in Herat on September 7, three people were killed by the Taliban.  Targeted attacks on journalists covering the protests were also common.Reporters Taqi Daryabi and Neamat Naghdi for the independent Afghan newspaper Etilaat Roz were detained in Kabul at a demonstration the following day. They allegedly were tortured while in Taliban custody. The two were eventually released.Both journalists had been in Kabul to cover support for the armed resistance against the Taliban in the Panjshir Valley, which is north of Kabul. A History Of Repression Of Ethnic and Religious Groups Shabnam Nikzad is a 19-year-old Afghan American who lives in West Lost Angeles. Her family fled Afghanistan in the early 1980s. They went to Iran and later the United States.Nikzad and her family are ethnically Uzbek and Tajik, which are both minority groups in Afghanistan. She is keenly aware of the types of repression that other ethnic and religious groups have faced in Afghanistan. Of particular concern for her is the plight of the Hazara people. She made a sign for the protest she assisted others in organizing in L.A. that read: “Hazaras, Shias, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, LGBTQ+ will never be safe under the Taliban.”  “I think that people have to recognize the Hazara genocide, which is technically ongoing; it wasnt just something that happened years ago,” said Nikzad. There was a mass genocide of Hazara people in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries under the rule of Abd-al-Raḥmān Khan. Scholars say that half of the Hazara population was killed off or displaced.  “They get murdered; they dont have the same rights as the other people in Afghanistan. I feel like its essential to have the community recognize that as a whole, before we can move forward and talk about unity,” Nikzad said, hinting at the contending views held by some Afghan activists on how and when to bring up the persecution of minority groups. When the Taliban were first in power, they were accused by Human Rights Watch of killing 2,000 Hazara people in Mazar-i-Sharif. Fears of ethnic cleansing were again renewed when the Taliban regained control this year and reportedly massacred Hazara people on two occasions.  Nikzad’s grandfather fought the Russian occupation alongside famed military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud from the Panjshir Valley who successfully defeated the Russians, then fought the Taliban.It was Massoud, who encouraged her family to flee. “My familys house was bombed, and they had to escape in the middle of the night,” Nikzad said.Massoud, lionized by many as a national hero and compared to Che Guevara, has a complicated legacy. Mariam  Rawi of RAWA said the comparison with Che others have is not appropriate and that warlords allied with Massoud, an anti-Communist who received funding from the CIA, committed “heinous crimes during the civil war” of the 1990s. Massoud was assassinated by al-Qaeda militants posing as journalists two days before the September 11th attacks in 2001, but his siblings and children have remained active in Afghan politics.  Following in the footsteps of his father, Ahmad Massoud founded the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan and rallied 1,000s of fighters to carry out an armed struggle against the Taliban from the rugged mountains and hills of Panjshir. At their disposal were the remnants of what past occupations left in the valley over the years and a determination to make a last stand against the Taliban against all odds.  Unlike his father, the younger Massoud lacks a key element which led to both the defeat of the Russians in the 1980s and the ongoing fighting against the Taliban in the 1990s: the financing, and backing from other governments. Isolated, underfunded, ill-equipped, and surrounded by the Taliban, now equipped with the best weapons the US had to offer, who were still high off their lightning takeover of Afghanistan, the resistance in Panjshir was all but destroyed.  Conflicting reports covering the rapidly changing situation in the Panjshir Valley continue. While The Intercept reported that Ahmad Massoud and other leaders had finally fled to Tajikistan, to wage their struggle from abroad, National Resistance Front spokesperson Ali Meysam Nazari told Deutsche Welle in an October 22nd interview that Massoud is still in Panjshir and resistance forces are still fighting the Taliban. Although Massoud’s current whereabouts are still unknown, National Resistance Front social media accounts have shared photographic and video footage of resistance forces in Panjshir, and claiming that small battles are being fought, and won, against the Taliban. Keeping Hope Alive In Afghanistan Asma Yawari (center) speaks at an Afghanistan rally held in Chicagos Federal Plaza August 22, 2021. Masooma Mohamadi (far left) is draped in an Afghan flag. The two took the lead with other Afghan women to organize the protest. Photo credit: Ishaq Hameed @isaqshoots Numerous Afghan activists, thousands of miles away from Panjshir, often find themselves glued to the news and social media, but also admit they step away from it all from time to time. Looking away is their only option to cope with the anxiety and trauma they experience from the news of a crisis they see as getting worse with each passing day.Sana, who was profiled in the first part of this feature, is still trying to find a way to get her family out of Afghanistan. She sees few, if any, realistic options at the moment and misses her family. Still, she feels fortunate to be out of direct harm’s way, even if it happens to be in the country that invaded and subsequently occupied her home country for 20 years. Sana is convinced that if she was still in Afghanistan, she would be targeted for assassination by the Taliban. The last time Sana was in Afghanistan she facilitated workshops at a conference for Afghan youth to learn about opportunities to study abroad. She and two other women, who attended the conference, later received an anonymous letter. “It was written on a piece of paper and there was a plastic bullet wrapped inside. A written note said ‘stop spreading the message of the West or we will behead you in your bed at night.’” Her two friends, both sisters, eventually fled Afghanistan with their family, Sana recalled. They moved to the Philippines because of that threatening letter. Sana herself did not stay around long enough to see if anyone would follow through on that threat. Other friends were not as fortunate. One of Sanas friends, someone she met while studying in Kyrgyzstan, moved back home to Afghanistan after graduating. “She started working with the Human Rights Commission, and she was targeted because she was a womans rights activist. She was a free woman. The way she carried herself, the way she walked on the street, the way she talked, was seen as a threat,” Sana shared.     Fatima Natasha Khalil and her co-worker Jawid Folad were killed when a sticky bomb attached to their car detonated. No group claimed responsibility, and it came at a time when targeted assassinations of human rights workers and activists like Natasha was sharply rising.  Sana is waiting on a response to a request for asylum in the U.S. that may take years for her family. She is frustrated by what she sees as an underfunded, broken government agency that is far behind where it should be in accepting Afghan refugees. “There are so many refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, whove been waiting for six years to just get a single interview,” Sana said. Although President Joe Bidens administration has allowed over 66,000 Afghans in the U.S. since August 17, Sana believes this doesn’t go far enough. After 20 years of destruction, she said that the U.S. has an obligation to “accept as many refugees and immigrants as possible.” Other women remain as determined as ever to keep struggling, despite their feelings of hopelessness. In Chicago, Masooma Mohammadi and Asma Yawari—both highlighted in the first part of this feature—spend much of their free time outside of school dedicated to the activist work of Afghans for Chicago, a new organization they co-founded with other local Afghan women. They hold fundraisers to help resettle Afghan refugee families and have held online sessions to mobilize support for Afghans living in Chicago. In Afghanistan, women’s protests occur daily. There is no sign of them letting up any time soon. More prominent activists like Malalai Joya have since left Afghanistan. She recently spoke at the World Peace Conference in Barcelona, Spain. She gave a riveting speech to a packed audience, reminding those gathered, “That only nations can liberate themselves.” While Massoud and others involved with the armed resistance in Panjshir continue to reach out to Western and Middle Eastern governments to support their struggle, Belquis Roshan offers a different approach. “International solidarity, we can initiate,” she said, “by creating harmony and unity and working together not with governments, but the people.” Time will tell what kind of grassroots resistance can be forged by women and if, ultimately, it will be successful.  “Right now, whats important is the resistance. Because I feel like if that dies out, then theres actually no hope for Afghanistan,” said Nikzad.   The post Trapped Between Taliban And US Empire: Afghan Women Keep Hope Alive After Occupation appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Afghanistan War, taliban, Womens Rights]

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[l] at 11/17/21 1:35pm
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. Whistleblowers in the United States military exposed a strike in Syria that resulted in the massacre of around 70 women and children, according to an investigation by the New York Times. The command responsible for the strike conceded a war crime may have taken place, but a report by the Office of the Inspector General for the Defense Department removed this opinion. Officials in the Pentagon impeded an investigation and ensured no one would ever be held accountable for the civilian deaths. They also turned on one of the whistleblowers, forcing them out of their position in the I.G.’s office. What happened proves once again that going through proper channels can be a fruitless and risky career-ending effort. Lisa Ling, a former tech sergeant who worked on drone surveillance systems and is a known whistleblower, reacted, “Again, the public is notified of a ‘possible’ war crime by a brave whistleblower who was eventually forced out of their job.” “This is a pattern that exemplifies the need for robust whistleblower protections especially for the intelligence community so often carved out of them. We need more light shined in these secret spaces so that this doesn’t happen again, and again, and again, without the public knowing what is done in our name.”As the Times reported, on March 18, 2019, “In the last days of the battle against the Islamic State in Syria, when members of the once-fierce caliphate were cornered in a dirt field next to a town called Baghuz, a U.S. military drone circled high overhead, hunting for military targets. But it saw only a large crowd of women and children huddled against a river bank.”U.S. military forces launched a double tap strike. An American F-15E “attack jet” dropped a 500-pound bomb. As survivors scrambled for cover, another jet dropped a 2,000-pound bomb that killed “most of the survivors.” A high-definition drone recorded the scene prior to the bombing. Two or three men were near a compound. Though they had rifles, neither engaged coalition forces. Women and children were observed in the area.“At nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike. The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized, and classified,” and the Times added, “Coalition forces bulldozed the blast site.” The strike was the work of a classified U.S. special operations unit known as Task Force 9. They were responsible for the third-worst “casualty event” in Syria. According to the Times, an unnamed Air Force intelligence officer in the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar contacted Lieutenant Colonel Dean Korsak, who was an Air Force lawyer. They were ordered to preserve video and other evidence from the “F-15E squadron and drone crew.” Korsak concluded a “possible war crime” was committed that required an independent investigation. He noted that Task Force 9 was “clearly seeking to cover up” incidents like this strike by logging false entries after the fact—for example, the man had a gun. The Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations was notified. However, as the Times recalled, a major refused to investigate because civilian casualties were only investigated if there was a “potential for media attention, concern with outcry from local community/government, [and/or] concern sensitive images may get out.” In other words, if the Pentagon needed to get ahead of a potential scandal, they would investigate and craft a narrative that could tamp down outrage. But they did not believe the Baghuz strike would ever make headlines. Korsak tried once more to convince his superiors to investigate in May 2019. They still refused. So Korsak filed a “hotline complaint” with the I.G.’s office in August 2019. Gene Tate, a “former Navy officer who had worked for years as a civilian analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center before moving to the inspector general’s office,” told the Times, “When [Korsak] came to us, he wanted to make it very clear he had tried everything else first. He felt the I.G. hotline was the only option remaining.”Roadblocks prevented Tate from having any success. He could not find the footage from the task force drone that called in the strike. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) removed the war crime finding from a report on the massacre. In January 2020, according to the Times investigation, the deputy inspector general refused to sign off on a memo that would have alerted authorities to the war crime. Tate did not hesitate to criticize leadership in the I.G.’s office, and by October 2020, he was forced out of the office. In May 2021, Tate contacted the Senate Armed Services Committee and sent a 10-page letter that detailed the Baghuz strike. However, as of November 13, he was still waiting for any member of the committee to call him back. *To further illustrate how stunning it is that senators on the committee ignored what Tate shared, CIA officers in Syria were so alarmed by the conduct of Task Force 9 that they complained to the I.G.’s office for the Defense Department. “CIA officers alleged that in 10 incidents the secretive task force hit targets knowing civilians would be killed,” according to one former task force officer quoted by the Times.The New York Times shared their reporting with CENTCOM prior to publication and asked for official comment. CENTCOM acknowledged “80 people were killed” but insisted the strike was justified. “The bombs killed 16 fighters and four civilians.“As for the other 60 people killed, the statement said it was not clear that they were civilians, in part because women and children in the Islamic State sometimes took up arms,” according to CENTCOM. This is part of the legacy of President Barack Obama’s administration. He developed a method of counting civilian casualties that would not “box him in.” In 2012, the Times reported all “military-age males in a strike zone” found dead were presumed to be “combatants” unless there was “explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”If commanding officers refuse to support an investigation into a massacre, then they never have to worry about an investigation moving deaths in the “combatant” column to the “civilian” column, which would make them look bad.On November 3, the Air Force released the findings of the investigation into the U.S. drone strike in Kabul on August 29 that killed Zemerai Ahmadi, an aid worker and father, his three sons, two of his nephews, and three girls who were toddlers. They exonerated themselves.“The investigation found no violation of law including the law of war,” Air Force Inspector General Sami Said declared. “We did find execution errors.” Combined with “confirmation bias” and “communication breakdowns,” that “regrettably led to civilian casualties.”But Said is undoubtedly implicated in the coverup of countless war crimes committed by Task Force 9 and various other special operations units, which engage in similar bombing attacks.Meanwhile, drone whistleblower Daniel Hale is in a communications management unit (CMU) at a medium-security federal prison in Marion, Illinois. He is closely monitored by the FBI and Bureau of Prisons officials so they can prevent him from further commenting on the bloodshed caused by U.S. drone strikes.Reflecting on how the cycle of violence with militant groups continues, Ling stated, They don’t hate our way of life. They rightfully hate our way of killing. Seventy innocent women and children were needlessly killed in Syria, 10 killed in Afghanistan, and plenty more we will never know about.” “These are human beings, and we took their lives while using sanitized words with fancy legal footwork to get away with breaking international law. It is wrong. It is terror, and I believe Americans are complicit as long as we remain silent about what is being done in our name.”“We cannot fight a war on terror with more terror,” Ling concluded. The post Pentagon And Its Overseers Suppressed Whistleblowers Who Challenged Massacre In Syria appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, Pentagon, Syria, whistleblower]

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[l] at 11/15/21 9:03am
Sana, a 26-year-old Afghan asylum seeker living in the United States, received a phone call from her mother in Afghanistan, which she long dreaded would come. Her mother calmly told Sana: “I’m going to tell you something. It happened yesterday.” After over a year of begging her family to leave Afghanistan, Sana’s younger sister was arrested by the Taliban while walking on the streets of Jalalabad to go shopping with her friend. Unaccompanied by a man, the two young women caught the attention of Taliban security forces on patrol. They were taken into custody, questioned for hours, and falsely accused of prostitution.  While in detention, they were permitted one phone call. “They called my mom who went there right away with my father,” recounted Sana, who agreed to be quoted for this story on the condition that we use a pseudonym. The situation escalated when Sanas parents arrived at the police station. Her father and the Taliban security officers had a heated argument. He called the Taliban “slaves of Punjab,” a common insult Afghans use for the Taliban who many see as a foreign group from “Punjab,” or Pakistan.  The Taliban fixed their weapons on him and told Sana’s mother to look away. Sana says that her mother “was quick enough to de-escalate the situation. She said lets not do that. Hell calm down.” She was able to somehow convince the Taliban to release her daughter and her daughter’s friend. But before Sana’s family left the police station, one of the Taliban chillingly declared: “A womans place is either in the house or in the grave.”  Since then, Sana’s family has mostly stayed locked indoors, afraid of any further provocations. A male friend of the family was kind enough to go out on their behalf to pick up groceries for them, although food has been harder to find as Afghanistan teeters near famine. Sana works as a translator and lives in between places. She is separated from her family by over 6,500 miles and terrified that she will one day get another call from her family telling her that the Taliban arrested—or worse, killed—one of her loved ones.  Trapped in the U.S., a nation that invaded her country 20 years ago, the future of an Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban leaves her anxious.  From Kleptocracy To Taliban Rule President Joe Biden’s announcement to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan marked an end to the longest running war in U.S. history, but for countless Afghans, it was a shocking scene to see the Taliban once again sitting in the countrys presidential palace. The recently published Afghanistan Papers by Washington Post journalist Craig Whitlock shed considerable light on how the Taliban returned to power so rapidly. The Taliban took advantage of the inability of a woefully inept and bewildered American political and military leadership, which lacked an understanding of Afghan culture, politics, or history, and had no strategy to win.  One major reason the Taliban were able to rise out of the ashes was because of the incredibly corrupt U.S.-installed government, run by a host of warlords despised by most Afghans.  Some of the warlords jockeyed into power by the U.S. included Abdul Rashid Dostum, who served as deputy defense minister and vice president. He had long been accused of numerous crimes, including the mass suffocation of up to 1,500 Taliban POWs, and possibly thousands more, under his custody. He was reportedly given $100,000 a month by the CIA. According to Christopher Kolenda, a retired U.S. Army colonel, who worked as a strategic adviser to three commanders in Afghanistan, By 2006, the Afghan government had self-organized into a kleptocracy.”  “A number of senior positions were purchased for a price,” said Kolenda. “People didn’t pay for the position as a national service, but in the expectation that you’d recoup the cost, through cuts from assistance programs, selling uniforms or ammunition on the black market, drug trafficking, or kidnapping.” While the Taliban had a reputation for being brutal, it was easy for them to recruit fighters and supporters based on people’s resentment over the state of the Afghan government. The human death toll of the war also aided the Taliban, increasing contempt from Afghans. Civilians were killed in pre-dawn raids, wedding parties bombed by fighter jets, and men and boys rounded up and thrown in CIA black sites or in cages in Guantanamo Bay, where they were stripped of their rights and tortured.  In other gruesome episodes of the war, “kill teams” murdered Afghans and kept severed fingers of their victims as war trophies. Entire villages were razed to the ground by occupation forces. The 2009 Granai massacre was one such atrocity where an estimated 140 civilians were killed, most of them children.  President Barack Obamas administration unleashed a major troop surge in Afghanistan and expanded a drone assassination program. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that upwards of 10,000 people in Afghanistan, and Pakistan were killed by drones, many of them non-combatants.  Brown Universitys Costs of War published a report in 2015 that showed, in addition to 176,000 deaths directly caused by the war, an estimated 360,000 people were also killed indirectly from the war. Not afraid to deploy their own violent tactics and target civilians, the Taliban were able to capitalize on the fact that they were fighting a foreign occupation. As the only major armed group fighting the occupation, it was an easy task to find willing recruits, many of whom were unemployed, hopeless, angered by the deaths of civilians, and frustrated over the corrupt government.  Malalai Joya, the longtime political dissident and youngest woman to ever be elected to Afghanistan’s parliament, lambasted the U.S. for paving the way for the Talibans rise to power. While the Afghanistan Papers reveal the regrets and lessons learned from former U.S. military and government officials, the focus is centered around where things went wrong after the war started. Joya and other political dissidents are convinced that the war itself was the source of the problem. The seeds for future Taliban rule were planted from day one. “The rise, and now the return, of the Taliban, and the ideological brothers of these extremists such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and dozens of other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, is the result of decades of foreign intervention and corruption which has turned the hope of life and a relatively bright future into a terrible nightmare for our helpless compatriots,” said Joya. Another former member of parliament who had to go into hiding is Balquis Roshan. Like Joya, Roshan had been a major critic of the occupation. “With the mask of democracy and false slogans and promises of freedom for the people and for the women of Afghanistan, [the U.S. has] practically proved to the whole world that they have done nothing except create miseries. They have fulfilled their own imperialistic and capitalist demands by making Afghanistan a war zone to reach its own purposes and to get closer to its competitive aims with Russia and China.” The emperor’s clothes, in all appearances, had finally fallen completely off. Former President Donald Trump’s peace plan with the Taliban was viewed by many Afghans as the proverbial nail in the coffin But as their nation fell into further chaos and disarray, Afghan activists around the globe, who were united in their opposition to the Taliban, the fallen government, and any form of foreign occupation, took action. I Didnt Know Other Afghans Existed Here Like countless other Afghans in the diaspora, Asma Yawari, a 17 year-old who is a first generation Afghan American, felt completely helpless amidst the rapidly changing political crisis in her homeland.  Yawari and her mother tried in desperation to find a way to get their relatives and friends safely out of Afghanistan. “My mom was going from congressmen to USCIS to the senator, and none of them really helped. So it was really frustrating,” stated Yawari.  Realizing that politicians were not going to assist in any way, Yawari turned to the internet to find an alternative approach. Her search brought her to an Instagram account popular with many young Afghan activists, @TheAfghan. Global protests were organized through the account to draw attention to the political and refugee crisis in Afghanistan.  “I asked if anyone was doing anything for Chicago. At that point, they said that there was no rally. So they assigned me Chicago,” recounted Yawari. She previously felt isolated in the predominantly white suburbs of Chicago, stating, “I didnt know other Afghans existed here.”  Yawari was put in touch with Masooma Mohammadi, a 15-year-old high school student in Skokie, Illinois, who had also expressed interest in planning a protest.  The two became instant friends as they organized together. They set up social media accounts, connected with other Afghans and activists in Chicago, and created flyers for the march.  Mohammadi moved the demonstration to an earlier date after watching Biden’s August 16 speech on the unraveling situation.  “My family, as well as many Afghans, were all sitting in the living room or were on our phones, watching him speak, expecting for him to say something like we will gladly be accepting refugees,” she shared. She was outraged when he said little on the matter. “The frustration that Afghans felt that day, the betrayal. I cant even explain it,” she said. Mohammadi’s hope, one shared by many Afghans, was that Biden would help facilitate a mass acceptance of Afghan refugees.  Afghans across the U.S. and around the world had several points: Biden’s speech, the fall of one city after another, the heartbreaking scenes at the Kabul airport of civilians, desperate to flee, falling from an airplane to their deaths as it took off, or the escalation of ISIS-K attacks, including the Kabul airport bombing that killed 60 Afghans.  Throughout dozens of cities around the world and across the U.S., Afghans, alongside activists and supporters, gathered in the streets, at government buildings, and outside American embassies, demanding other nations bring in more Afghan refugees, an end to proxy wars, and an end to military occupations once and for all. In Los Angeles, which claims one of the largest Afghan populations in the U.S., the Afghan community was particularly well organized. A series of demonstrations unfolded, including some at the Pakistani embassy. Afghan Women Are The Backbone Of This Society As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated, activists around the world kept pushing back. In what was billed as a “day of global solidarity” on September 26, protests occurred across 30 countries. Over 400 organizations signed on in support of the demonstrations, including women’s activist groups, immigrant justice organizations, and unions.  While the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), One Billion Rising, and V-Day took the lead in organizing the protests, the “call to action [was] developed in consultation with grassroots women leaders and activists on the ground in Afghanistan” according to the One Billion Rising, which was founded by playwright and philanthropist Eve Ensler.  The September 26 actions had an explicit anti-imperialist and feminist message, much more so than previous protests. Demands included calls to cut the Pentagon budget, abolish the military industrial-complex, and an end to “imperialism, militarism, fascism, and religious fundamentalism.” Significantly, the protests that have swept the world are decidedly led by women. In a Democracy Now! interview that aired on September 24, Roshan spoke about the global protests. “Indisputably, we believe where there is oppression, there is resistance that will begin and grow against it. The resistance has been initiated by women. Fortunately, this time women took the lead. And we are hopeful that Afghan women will resist and press ’til the end and unite for achieving the rights of all, but especially our half of the Afghan population,” Roshan added. Roshan is currently living in hiding, and the U.S. State Department noted she was assaulted before and during Afghanistan peace negotiations, which commenced on September 12, 2020.  To Mohammadi, who helped organize the Chicago protest, it made sense that this wave of protests was almost entirely organized by women and girls. “I personally do it for the people. I do it for my generation. I do it for the future generation, and I do it so I [can] have a bloodline. I do it so I dont go extinct,” she proclaimed.  Sana stated that her confidence to speak out derives from her heritage: the long tradition of strong women before her. “I come from a family of matriarchs, women leading the household. And that has been the case in the whole country, but people just dont acknowledge it. Afghan women are the backbone of this society and of their families. I was raised by three very smart and very, very brave women.” This is Part 1 of a two-part feature on women in Afghanistan and the diaspora after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces in August. The post Trapped Between The Taliban And US Empire: Afghan Women Mobilize For A Democratic Afghanistan appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Afghanistan War, taliban, Women's rights]

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[l] at 11/10/21 9:43am
The post was originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Music. No strangers to socially conscious music, veteran Australian rock band Midnight Oil speaks out against climate change with their latest single and video “Rising Seas.”The tune was released just in time for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).Doing what the band does best, the song is an urgent plea for real change. Politicians cant just offer lip service; they need to take concrete action, as highlighted by the lyric: Let’s confess we did not act with serious urgency. So, open up the floodgates to the rising seas.” “‘Rising Seas’ has been burning a hole in our pockets ever since we started tracking it two years ago,” stated guitarist/songwriter Jim Moginie. “The climate crisis calls for a real sense of urgency so we decided not to wait any longer to share it.” “We encourage everyone to make their voices heard in their own way on this existential issue,” added lead singer Peter Garrett. “The Prime Minister is fiddling while Australia literally burns. Scott Morrison may have reluctantly accepted net zero emissions by 2050 at last, but that’s nowhere near enough. No more coal or gas and a clear plan to cut carbon pollution by at least 65% below 2010 levels by 2030 is urgently needed. “The rest of the world knows that our future will be all about renewable energy – that’s where the jobs are and that’s our only way to avoid a climate catastrophe. We all have a right to let our leaders know that they need to do much more to address carbon pollution. And they need to start right now.”Listen to Midnight Oils Rising Seas: The post Protest Song Of The Week: Rising Seas By Midnight Oil appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project, Protest Song of the Week]

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[l] at 11/4/21 9:54am
As the national lockdown went into effect in March 2020, Susana, a Latina woman in her early 60s, was living alone on the Northside of Minneapolis. She had been getting by as a childcare provider for an affluent family. But when her employer began working from home, that source of income became impromptu at best—and, more importantly, unsustainable. Susana’s decade-long source of income came to a close.  With living expenses rising and few job opportunities, Susana, her two adult daughters, and four grandchildren doubled up in a three-bedroom apartment to cut costs. A new routine developed: Susana’s daughters would go to work, regardless of COVID surges, and she would stay with the grandkids while they tried to make the most of online schooling.  Sometimes, to help contribute to the household income, Susana would cook large batches of food to sell to her neighbors. While she expected to return to work in the near future, even then she feared that she would still be barely scraping by.  The cramped living quarters and the fear of contracting COVID under such circumstances took a toll. Susana was permanently stressed and anxious, not just for her family but the broader immigrant community in Minneapolis.   “If one person has COVID, the whole family has COVID. And you cant isolate yourself if youre in a home with six people; theres no way to be isolated from each other,” Susana explained in Spanish. “So you just kind of have to all stay in the house and either hope you get better. Im afraid to be in my home. If one of us is positive, were all positive.” The issue of insufficient, crowded residencies—and their negative impact on public health—have been documented since the beginning of the industrial era. But much like every other socio-economic inequality, COVID-19 exacerbated the discrepancies between the housing of the working poor and everyone else.  “There are some people I know who had to leave their apartments to then live with others just to limit costs,” Susana said. “Some apartments are just one bedroom, [but] you’ll have someone living in the living room. We cant pay for a $900 one-bedroom, especially with little work right now—people working fewer hours, the salaries are pretty minimal. You just have to do this out of necessity.”  “I dont think Im the only one in my community,” she continued. “This is happening to a lot of people. And you know, some people can get help, some people are able to qualify for certain types of support, and then others arent, so thats kind of the situation Im seeing.” Housing for both documented and undocumented people has become even more precarious over the past decade. Low wages and high rents often compel immigrant families, who are overrepresented among frontline workers, to crowd into residencies to make ends meet.  In the context of the pandemic, the consequences have proven deadly. One national study found that “with each 5 percent increase in households with poor housing conditions, there was a 50 percent higher risk of COVID-19 incidence and a 42 percent higher risk of COVID-19 mortality.” And similar to prisons, jails, and deportation centers during the pandemic, quarantining was essentially impossible.  Another piece of public health research, focused uniquely on Los Angeles County, noted that overcrowded housing was “a major risk factor for COVID-19 mortality” and a more useful indicator for the number of deaths an urban area would endure, as compared to the elderly population or “total number of COVID-19 cases.”   Policies Of Neglect Push Migrant Families To Margins Despite this obvious impact on public health, both federal and state governments failed to properly alleviate the compounding effects of housing deprivation, vulnerable tenants, and the social consequences of a pandemic that pushed exposed communities even further into the margins.  Because many undocumented households don’t have access to proper financial and legal channels, these populations frequently struggle to procure the necessary assistance they need. Furthermore, migrant tenants, particularly those that are undocumented, often don’t qualify for the full slate of protections and subsidies offered to native-born renters—such as in red states with tight welfare regulations.  Indeed, the reverberations of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation  Act of 1996 (PRWO) continue to haunt working-class, migrant families. This Clinton-era law explicitly prevents immigrant households—with some exceptions—from accessing a slew of welfare benefits and social services.  “Undocumented immigrants are left out of a lot of federal programs, some of those federal programs have stronger eviction protections than local programs, certainly more than market-rate housing,” said Samuel Stein, a New York-based housing policy analyst and urban geographer.  In part due to living in “illegal” residencies, like apartments that are subdivided into smaller units, migrant tenants are harder to protect. And their inability to utilize public benefits—whether they are, for example, officially excluded or lack a Social Security card—makes occupants even more vulnerable to apathetic landlords or property managers.   As such, overcrowding units with multiple generations is a sure way to self-subsidize.  Though the CDC, until recently, enforced an eviction moratorium under both the Trump and Biden administrations, individual states have their own specified processes. While immigrants do technically have access to such protections, it can be difficult to exercise them.  Even before the pandemic, landlords had used ICE to pressure, harass, and evict undocumented tenants, despite it being blatantly illegal to do so. But as COVID infiltrated every corner of the globe, pregnable renters weren’t always protected by the eviction moratorium—especially if they were undocumented.  “Most [eviction moratoriums] require that you say you lost income because of the pandemic. I do think its highly likely that immigrants lost income and jobs at a higher rate than U.S.-born workers just because of the kinds of jobs that they are pushed into doing,” Stein said.  If you’re undocumented, your boss may not record your wages on an official ledger. As such, it can be difficult for immigrant workers to demonstrate that the pandemic reduced their revenue. When this was the case, eviction security proved difficult to enforce.  “They [also] maybe dont have access to credit and banking systems, and they cant get into public housing or get a voucher to get into private housing, like Section 8, so theyre more likely to be in the kinds of situations where people get evicted. Sometimes it doesnt even go through the formal system,” Stein concluded.  The byzantine, exclusionary logic of federal and state welfare systems, alongside the xenophobic and nativist tendencies of the Trump administration, seems to have played a substantial role in leaving households like Susana’s at the mercy of the market.  Some of Trump’s efforts to exclude undocumented households from a variety of COVID relief funds were nullified when Biden came into office, but plenty of exceptions remain.  “If there was an eligible person in your household, you were eligible for the stimulus check, that was not the case with respect to the Trump administration,” Kate Walz, a senior attorney at the National Housing Law Project, said. “With respect to the emergency rental assistance dollars, homeless prevention assistance, those types of dollars, I dont think that there was a change in the eligibility for those sets of funds, whether under Trump or Biden,” she added.  “Both were silent with respect to the language about if PRWO applied.”  Federal agencies that helped deploy the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), did not discriminate between native-born or immigrant families. The rental assistance dollars and relief funds distributed to states were designed to stave off all evictions, and even staunchly Red states were barred from imposing a citizenship requirement.   Yet many undocumented households never received the aid to which they were entitled.  “Because the feds also remained silent on this, theres been a host of confusion. And this is what I go back to: Some states are so afraid—because theyre probably feeling the after-effects of the Trump administration—that they are just imposing [restrictions] on their own,” Walz elaborated. “Theyre misinterpreting the guidance that theyve read. They think they get to define what a federal benefit is. Or, in some states, theyre saying ‘no, we were not serving immigrants.’”   Meanwhile, Bidens decision to waive ineligibility for certain funds has only been applied to DACA recipients, a relatively small population when compared to the overall number of economically precarious immigrants. And, even more jarring, the administration’s equitable housing proposal within the “Build Back Better Act” appears to be on the chopping block.  The federal government’s inability to address the housing crisis isn’t just setting us up for another suffocating pandemic, it’s leaving people like Susana without even a modicum of oxygen—and exhausted with uncertainty.  “This has impacted me a lot as an immigrant. We pay taxes, and how is it possible now that I need help, I dont qualify for help? The companies and the landlords are saying that ‘we can wait, we can wait, we can wait,’ but what happens after?” Susana asked.  “How will we pay once they stop offering the support? In one year or two years, when everything is over, what kind of debt will we be facing? Are they going to just keep giving us more time or are they going to be evicting people from their homes?” The post For Migrant Families, COVID-19 Made Precarious Housing Much Worse appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, The Bullpen, COVID-19, Housing Rights, immigrant rights, immigration]

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[l] at 10/29/21 8:43am
The Central Intelligence Agencys record of retaliation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, including reported plans to kidnap or assassinate him, was focused on during the second day of the United States governments appeal hearing. It was part of the Assange legal teams effort to convince the High Court of Justice in the United Kingdom of the gravity of the risks, which Assange would face if they overturn a district judges decision and allow extradition. Mark Summers QC, one of Assanges attorneys, contended this was the first time the U.S. had sought the assistance of a U.K. court in obtaining jurisdiction over a person that a U.S. government agency had planned to poison or assassinate. That is worthy of an investigation in relation to the assurances, Summers added, referring to the pledges involving how they would treat Assange. The U.S. government offered these assurances with the hope of salvaging their case. On January 4, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser concluded it would be “oppressive to extradite Assange to the U.S. because of his mental health condition. However, she kept him detained at the Belmarsh high-security prison while the U.S. government pursued their appeal. Assange was charged with 18 offenses, 17 of which are under the Espionage Act. The law passed in 1917 has increasingly been wielded by the Justice Department against media sources, who disclose classified documents or talk about sensitive information with journalists. After two days of proceedings, the High Court indicated it would take some time to fully consider all the arguments and issue a decision. But whatever they decide, there will still be a cross-appeal that the defense has indicated they plan to submit to challenge the parts of Baraitsers decision that are particularly threatening to press freedom. Also, both the U.S. government and the Assange legal team are likely to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court, if they are unsatisfied with the judgement of the High Court. The assurances now offered are as follows: the U.S. government will not designate Assange for special administrative measures (SAMs); the U.S. government will not send Assange to ADX Florence, a super-maximum prison in Colorado if he is convicted; Assange will receive clinical and psychological treatment as is recommended by the prison clinician; and if convicted, the U.S. government will allow Assange to apply for a prisoner transfer to serve his sentence in Australia. Both the assurances involving SAMs and ADX Florence contained an important stipulation. The U.S. government retains the power to designate Assange for either SAMs or ADX Florence if he commits any future act that meets the test for such designation; for example, if officials deem they must prevent a breach of national security. Can The High Court Trust The U.S. Government? Altogether, the assurances from the U.S. government turn on the trustworthiness of them. The defense would start from the basis that they were offered in good faith, but if the High Court allows them, Assanges attorneys would like to hold a hearing where they can call witnesses and submit evidence in order to determine the reliability of these assurances. The defense noted in their submission to the High Court, One agency with power to recommend SAMs to the attorney general (on the basis of some unspecified ‘act’ they perceive Mr. Assange to have committed) is the CIA—the very same agency whose criminal acts Mr Assange has sought to expose, and who are under active investigation in Spain for plotting to kill him. These issues are stark. And not capable of being grappled with properly by this court without knowledge of the alarming evidence adduced below.   Assanges legal team was referring to a Yahoo! News report published in September published under the headline, Kidnapping, assassination and a London shoot-out: Inside the CIAs secret war plans against WikiLeaks. It revealed the legal significance of CIA Director Mike Pompeo redefining WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence agency in the first speech he gave as the agencys director in April 2017. Pompeo became obsessed with Assange and WikiLeaks after the publication of “Vault 7” materials that exposed the CIAs cyber warfare capabilities. He oversaw agents who escalated a disruption campaign against WikiLeaks and permitted hacking into the personal devices of staff and individuals viewed as associates of the media organization. The agency was allowed to paralyze WikiLeaks digital infrastructure, provoke internal disputes within the organization by planting damaging information, and even though there are no members of WikiLeaks, they could try to steal WikiLeaks members electronic devices. Plotting against Assange led to proposals for kidnapping him in the summer of 2017. They discussed breaking into the Ecuador embassy, where he was living under political asylum, in order to put him on a rendition flight. “Agency executives requested and received ‘sketches’ of plans for killing Assange and other Europe-based WikiLeaks members who had access to Vault 7 materials, said a former intelligence official. There were discussions ‘on whether killing Assange was possible and whether it was legal,’ the former official said,” the Yahoo! News report further revealed. As Summers contextualized the damning nature of this report, he linked it to the evidence that was put before the district judge involving UC Global, a Spanish security company that the Yahoo! News story largely confirmed had passed audio and video footage from cameras, which were spying on the embassy, to the CIA. What we are talking about with the Spanish evidence is “potentially the tip of the iceberg, Summers added. In trying to convince the High Court of the threat the CIA poses to Assange, Summers also noted Joshua Schulte, the gentleman alleged to be [Assanges] source for Vault 7, is currently two years into SAMs. Defending A Distinguished Psychiatrist Attacked By Prosecutors During the mornings argument, Assange attorney Edward Fitzgerald QC defended neuropsychiatrist Professor Michael Kopelman, who Lewis sought to discredit during the first day of the hearing. The U.S. government would like Kopelman’s expert testimony, which concluded that there was a “very high risk” Assange would commit suicide if extradited, to be ruled inadmissible. To get it thrown out, the prosecution claims Kopelman failed in his duty to the court when he withheld the fact that Stella Moris was Assange’s partner at the time, and that she was the mother of his two young children, which were conceived while he was living in the Ecuador embassy. At the time, Kopelman became aware of revelations of extreme and unlawful surveillance of Assange, his family, and his legal team. But he still wanted to adhere to his obligations to the court, Fitzgerald said. Kopelman testified in 2020 that “he was concerned about the privacy and safety of someone who had expressed a wish for their privacy to be respected. Twenty-four hours before he submitted his initial report to the judge, he sought legal advice from experienced human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, the head of the solicitor’s firm representing Assange. But Peirce was herself facing “a mass” of documents, which had to be served on the court at that time, including submissions that related to surveillance, attempts by CIA to obtain their childrens nappy to compare its DNA to that of Assange, and plans to kidnap or poison Julian. Peirce was “simply overwhelmed” with issues to be addressed. She was not able to secure legal advice to Kopelman about his query before his initial report was due. Far from being the actions of a dishonest actor, Baraitser determined that Kopelman’s omission, though misleading, had not misled the court. She was already aware of Moris identity before she read Kopelmans initial report. What Kopelman did was a “very human response” under all of the circumstances, Baraitser wrote in her decision. Prosecutors tried to make light of the phrase “a very human response,” treating it as meaningless. However, Fitzgerald noted that within the context he described that involved UC Global spying, it made perfect sense. To defend the professional reputation of Kopelman, the opinion of Professor Keith Rix, a recognized expert on the ethical duties of psychiatric experts, was shared with the High Court. According to Rix, Kopelman “acted ‘professionally’; ‘responsibly’ and he ‘exercised appropriate and reasonable caution” in not disclosing the full position in his initial report. (Photo by Mohamed Elmaazi, NUJ Member) Assange Informed US Medical Expert of His Relationship With Moris Fitzgerald challenged the U.S. government’s claims that they were “shocked” to discover Moris was in a relationship with Assange, especially because Assange informed Dr. Nigel Blackwood, one of the U.S. governments preferred doctors, that he was in a relationship with Moris. He told him about their children two days before applying for bail in March 2020. Moris provided a statement in support of Assange’s bail application on the basis that having a partner in a committed relationship with Mr Assange, who is also the mother of two of his children, would help reassure the court that he would abide by bail conditions. Yet, Lewis mocked the idea that Moris and their two children’s safety was of any real concern, precisely because she opened up her identity to potentially being discovered by supporting bail for Assange. Lewis also contended Assange had actually informed Blackwood of his relationship with Moris because he knew the information would become public anyway due to the bail application (something which was not guaranteed, since they sought an anonymity order to protect her privacy). These remarks ignored the obvious point that Assange and his family were engaged in balancing their desire to protect their privacy and safety with the understandable objective of freeing Assange from what at the time was seven-plus years of confinement (first in the Ecuador embassy, then at Belmarsh). In fact, Lewis told the court when Moris pursued the anonymity order that the prosecution was neutral and took no position on whether it should be granted. The True Crime Is Journalism Assanges defense characterized him as the CIAs most prominent critic, especially because the information that is the subject of this prosecution included details of war crimes, torture, and atrocities against civilians by the U.S. government and the CIA in particular. He is a witness against the CIA in criminal cases that are unfolding against their conduct in Spain, Germany, and before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The CIA views Assange as a hostile enemy of the United States, who poses very real threats. His attorneys assert there is no reason to believe that vengeful attitude will not be reflected in his treatment should the High Court allow him to be placed in U.S. custody. Outside of the Royal Courts of Justice, where over a hundred supporters gathered, WikiLeakseditor-in-Chief, award-winning Icelandic investigative journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson, sought to remind the crowd what this case is all about. This is a political persecution of a journalist who exposed war crimes and the secrets of the United States. Were here because a journalist is being prosecuted for doing his job, Hrafnson told a cheering crowd. “The true crime is journalism. This must end. The post Appeal Hearing: CIAs War On Assange, Their Most Prominent Critic, Takes Center Stage appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Assange Extradition, Julian Assange]

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[l] at 10/27/21 5:56pm
The Crown Prosecution Service, which represents the United States government, went before the British High Court of Justice and bashed the work of the district judge, who blocked the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in January. James Lewis QC argued Judge Vanessa Baraitser approached the extradition law incorrectly when she focused on predicting future uncertain events, which might result in a deterioration of his mental health. Baraitser wrongly assessed Assanges risk of suicide, and she should have weighed crucial factors in the psychiatric evidence significantly differently. He said the High Court should accept the appeal on the basis that the U.S. government offered assurances that Assange won’t be subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) or incarcerated in ADX Florence, a super-maximum prison in Colorado. Plus, key medical testimony offered by defense experts and accepted by the district judge should in fact have been rejected. According to Lewis, if the law and facts had been properly construed by the district judge, there would only have been one outcome. The extradition of Assange would have been granted. But Edward Fitzgerald QC, who is part of the Assange legal team, maintained it was inappropriate to scoff at the district judges decision. The district judge issued a carefully reasoned and carefully thought out judgment. I just wonder some time if my learned friend’s reading the same judgment as we are, Fitzgerald added, prodding Lewis. Baraitser concluded it would be “oppressive to extradite Assange to the U.S. because of his mental health condition. However, she kept him detained at the Belmarsh high-security prison while the U.S. government pursued their appeal. Assange faces 18 charges, 17 of which are offenses under the Espionage Act. The law passed in 1917 has increasingly been wielded by the Justice Department against media sources, who disclose classified documents or talk about sensitive information with journalists, even if what they reveal is in the public interest. During the court proceedings, Fitzgerald informed the High Court that Assange was not feeling well due to his medication. Yet close to an hour into the hearing, Assange appeared in a room at Belmarsh. He was wearing a white dress shirt and black necktie. He looked very tired and rested his head on his hand. Later, Stella Moris, Assanges partner, claimed the court denied him permission to attend proceedings in person.Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon and Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde presided over the appeal hearing. Lewis presented the following grounds for appeal: the district judge improperly applied the United Kingdoms extradition law; the district judge should have sought assurances from the U.S. government after she decided to deny the request; the district judge ought to have disqualified a key psychiatric expert; the district judge erred when considering evidence of suicide risk; and the U.K. government was issued a package of assurances that address the problems the district judge detailed in her decision. The prosecutor contended the U.S. government was allowed under the law to offer assurances at any time, and that it was standard in extradition cases. In fact, he insisted assurances are binding and to be trusted. It is unclear how the U.S. government would be bound to abide by its pledges or what the consequences would be if they abandoned them. Fanciful Pronouncements From Prosecutors In advancing the assurance that Assange would not be designated for SAMs or imprisoned at ADX Florence, Lewis mentioned the Communications Management Units (CMUs) at Federal Correctional Institution Terre Haute in Indiana and the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, where drone whistleblower Daniel Hale, who pled guilty to violating the Espionage Act, was sent in early October. Seeking to assure the High Court that CMUs would respect Assanges human rights, Lewis read from a declaration submitted by Gordon Kromberg, the Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia who was the lead prosecutor in the Hale case. (Note: Kromberg has been the chief representative for the Justice Departments effort to secure extradition.) CMU inmates are afforded the same opportunities to communicate with individuals outside of prison as regular inmates, Kromberg stated. Their communications may be more extensively monitored, however, or the BOP [Bureau of Prisons] may impose certain limitations, as noted in the Bureau Program Statement, to prevent them from engaging in additional criminal conduct. When the BOP imposes certain limitations, prisoners no longer have the same opportunities to communicate as regular inmates. So Krombergs characterization is misleading. If Assange was in a CMU, he would likely be limited to two scheduled 15-minute phone calls per week. Those calls could be restricted to immediate family, and the prison could deny him a call if an FBI agent was not available to monitor his conversation. The visitation policy for a prisoner in a CMU is harsher than the policy for SAMs. Contact visits are not allowed, meaning Moris and his children, Gabriel and Max, would not be able to hug or kiss him. (Photo: Mohamed Elmaazi, NUJ member) In spite of the assurance related to SAMs, Lewis still told the judges the U.S. government must be allowed to hold Assange in these restrictive conditions if they fear he could be responsible for a breach of national security. Otherwise, he would have a blank check to do whatever he liked, and those conditions could not be imposed. The lead prosecutor raised the issue of sentencing, complaining that Assanges attorneys had supposedly exaggerated the potential sentence he could face if convicted. He touted the 45-month sentence against Hale and the 63-month sentence against NSA whistleblower Reality Winner as lenient and proof that Assange would not face a sentence that would effectively imprison him for the rest of his life. (Assange is 50 years-old.) When one of the justices presiding over the hearing said it was possible he would not be sentenced at all if acquitted, Lewis put forward a rosy but unrealistic scenario, where Assanges legal team could apply for a speedy trial, challenge the prosecution on First Amendment grounds, and then Assange would prevail and go free. A number of defendants charged with Espionage Act violations have tried to challenge the constitutionality of using this law to punish unauthorized disclosures of information. There is little reason to believe Assange would succeed, where others have failed. Additionally, someone charged with violating the Espionage Act does not apply for a speedy trial and move the government to expedite the case. Cumbersome classified information procedures must be followed. It could take one to two years to prepare all the evidence and witnesses for a trial. The only way Assange would have his speedy trial rights respected is if he pleaded guilty to the charges or accepted some kind of a plea deal that would include prison time, but avoid a trial. That presumes the prosecutors would bargain with him. Attempts To Discredit A Key Psychiatrist During the extradition hearing in September 2020, Professor Michael Kopelman, the section head of neuropsychiatry at Kings College London, advised the district judge that there was a “very high” risk Assange would attempt or commit suicide should he be extradited. The district judge accepted Kopelman’s assessment as credible and reliable, and it formed a key part of her decision. Thus, Lewis  focused a substantial amount of his argument on discrediting his analysis. In Kopelmans initial report, the neuropsychiatrist failed to note that Moris—whom Kopelman interviewed as part of his assessment for the court—was also Assange’s partner and mother of two of his young children. Although he ultimately noted this fact in his final report to the court, Kopelman was “actively misleading” when he omitted that crucial information, Lewis repeatedly stated. “In our respectful submission this was not an honest statement of truth, Lewis said, referring to the declaration that all expert witnesses must sign in their reports. He argued that the district judge made a crucial error in “not taking that firmly into account” when considering Kopelmans psychiatric evidence. Since Kopelman did not disclose the relationship to the district judge, Lewis argued she should have given his entire medical testimony “little to no weight. Then Baraitser would have had no alternative but to rely upon U.S. medical experts, who were not as confident of Assange’s suicide risk. Throughout his oral submissions at the High Court, Lewis characterized Kopelman as a combative, even deceitful, figure who violated his oath to the court. He also described Baraitser as a judge, who inexplicably accepted and preferred Kopelman’s (and autism expert Dr. Quinton Deeley’s) findings over those of the U.S. experts. The two senior High Court judges seemed sympathetic to the arguments, with one of them remarking that it appeared that the district judge may have considered the obligation of honesty owed by experts to be flexible. However, Fitzgerald painted a very different picture during the brief time he had to respond to the prosecution. The idea that Kopelman is “a lone wolf is absolute nonsense, Fitzgerald replied. Fitzgerald noted Kopelman’s conclusions were supported by Deeley and “to a large extent” things he said were also supported by U.S.. expert Professor Fazel. Moris made a similar point to The Dissenter. “It isnt true that there is real divergence between the doctors. They all accepted autistic traits, but the autism expert concluded and diagnosed [Autism Spectrum Disorder],” she explained. “The U.S. doctors also accepted [that Assange] suffers from a major depressive disorder,” the point of divergence between the experts was a “matter of degree,” she said. The district judge took the position that, although Kopelman’s failure to identify Moris as Assange’s partner was misleading, she was already aware of Moris’s identity at the time of reading the preliminary report and was not misled. Baraitser concluded that it was a “very human response” to the predicament of being asked by Assange and Moris not to disclose the information to safeguard their privacy and their safety, given the witness testimony detailing the Spanish security company UC Globals espionage operation against Assange. Kopelman took the matter of withholding Moris’ relationship seriously and was waiting for legal advice on the subject, Fitzgerald told the High Court. The district judge “reasonably and justifiably concluded that Kopelman’s expert evidence was independent and impartial,” a finding that she was “fully entitled to make,” according to Assange’s lawyers. In essence, Fitzgerald added, the U.S. government was re-litigating the case at the High Court before judges who have not had the benefit of 18 months of evidence, legal arguments, and extensive cross-examination of witnesses. On October 28, Assange’s lawyers will have most of the day to fully respond to the U.S. government’s attempt to overturn the district judge’s decision. The post Appeal Hearing: Prosecutor Attacks Judges Decision, Which Blocked US From Extraditing Assange appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, The Julian Assange Case, Assange Extradition, Julian Assange]

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[l] at 10/27/21 8:57am
This article was funded by the Marvel Cooke Fellowship. Read more about this reporting project and make a contribution to fund our fellowship budget. In the months since COVID-19 wreaked havoc inside California’s 35 prisons and claimed 240 incarcerated lives, practically nothing has been done to address the crowded and poorly ventilated housing units that have helped the virus spread. At San Quentin State Prison, COVID-19 infected three-quarters of its incarcerated residents and dozens required hospitalization. It killed 28 prisoners and a correctional sergeant, prompting a court to call the incident the “worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history” last October. A near full-scale shutdown from March 2020 to May 2021 didn’t thwart the virus’ disastrous effect on San Quentin residents. The deaths took place while prisoners spent more than 23-hours-a-day locked inside their cells with two people assigned to each one. They ate their meals in their cells and were only let out every other day for 90 minutes. Then, they could shower in one of the racially segregated community showers, and/or go to the prison yard, and/or make a 15-minute telephone call, if sign-up slots were available.  The only exceptions were furniture factory workers, kitchen workers, hospital janitors, and housing unit porters an estimated 100-150 people. Besides getting out of their cells regularly, the employed prisoners received daily showers and phone calls, as well as the ability to earn meager wages of between .08 cents and $1.00-per-hour. Yet, inside the housing units, phone banks, pill lines, and hallways remained high traffic areas. During the shutdown, prison officials implemented a “Surge Mitigation and Management plan.” It involved putting tents on the prison grounds, as well as opening up the churches and sections of the furniture factory to provide additional bed space for medical treatment and to extend social distancing.  The plan increased testing, contact tracing, and called for isolating COVID-19 infected prisoners in one of the facility’s 98 cells with a solid door. It also provided an unlimited supply of N-95 masks and surgical face coverings for every prisoner and guard. But it did not address the chronic overcrowding by identifying prisoners for release, nor did it seek to renovate the enclosed and poorly ventilated housing units. Prison officials contend that since the outbreak is over, and San Quentin is getting vaccinated (87 percent of prisoners and 60 percent of staff) there is no need to reduce the population. After May, the claustrophobic and dusty housing units reopened to allow prisoners access to limited rehabilitative services, such as adult education, vocational training, and substance abuse programs. But by August, the delta variant made its way inside and plunged the prison back into another shutdown. It’s under these circumstances that the incarcerated residents have to deal with adversities, such as watching a cellmate die, or pre-existing mental health problems, or prepare for a parole hearing after serving more than two decades on a life sentence. Some face deportation even if they secure release. ******* Alan Mabrey, 57, spent eight of the 12 years he’s been incarcerated at San Quentin. He’s housed in North Block (NB), a stuffy, pigeon-infested building with its windows welded shut. The unit has 414 cells stacked five tiers high. Each cell measures about four feet wide and 10 feet long, roughly the size of a parking space. Metal-frame bunk beds are in the cells and storage lockers are bolted to the walls. Each cell has a stainless steel sink and toilet. Open bars cover the front side of the windowless cells. On July 1, 2020, Mabrey’s cellmate John Stevens, died in their cell from COVID-19. “John had no way to protect himself,” Mabrey said. “We both took all the precautions, but because of overpopulation and poor ventilation, John lost his life.” He added, “What we went through was atrocious. There was no compassion on how John was treated. That was despicable.” Stevens was 72-years-old when he died. Mabrey said within a few days, a new person showed up at his front door. “I still had John’s stuff in there. The [corrections officers] hadn’t even come and get John’s property,” Mabrey said. “I didn’t have a choice. Luck as have it, we were compatible. We get along as well as two men could in a cell not big enough to hold a dog.” As of September 8, 635 prisoners occupied NB’s 414 cells. Prison officials have not indicated that they plan to prevent double-celling of COVID positive and COVID negative prisoners. Mabrey later reflected on how he and Stevens were treated. “The warden needs to have more insight into what’s happening in this prison.” ******* NB also houses dozens of prisoners with mental illness. Alex Ross, 54, has been incarcerated 27 years, residing in NB for about five years. Since the beginning of his incarceration, he’s struggled with a germ phobia. He says he’s prescribed anxiety medication, but doesn’t like “feeling drowsy.” He also struggles with the pill line because seeing diabetic patients receive injections makes him anxious. “The person in front of me who takes a diabetic shot leaves bloody cotton balls around. That makes the space look messy. Then, I’d have to go to that same nurse for a pill,” Ross said.  “I ask myself how being too clean can be a problem,” Ross said. “So, when I hear a cellie say they don’t like to smell bleach or disinfectant, that’s a red flag for me. If a cellie gets irritated about me wiping and keeping clean, I get irritated about that and it leads to conflict. I may not be the neatest person, but I take germs seriously.” Over the decades, Ross has had more than two dozen cellmates — most he’s asked to move. He’s only felt compatible with a few.  Since he’s been in San Quentin, he’s had seven cellmates. “Now that I’m in the cell by myself, I can think clearer,” Ross said. ******* For Carlos Ramirez, 43, doing the work necessary to show the parole board he’s ready for release is challenging.  Ramirez has been incarcerated for 24 years under California’s Three Strikes Law. He’s been housed in NB for 11 years. “I’m working on centering myself,” Ramirez said as he reflected on appearing before the parole board for the second time in less than two years.  When a person is denied a release date by a Californbia parole board, three years is the shortest amount of time for the person’s next appearance. Fifteen years is the longest. There are circumstances, however, when the board uses its discretion to call a person back to a hearing before then. Previously, Ramirez was denied parole for possessing contraband. The board ordered him to take classes on “criminal thinking” and victim impact. He began the classes and enrolled in a computer literacy program. But the shutdown stopped all in-class programs at San Quentin. He continued rehabilitating himself by enrolling in correspondence courses. The board recognized his efforts and called him back early. “The programs will help me be prepared to get out of there and how to live a productive life and integrate into society,” Ramirez said. A native of El Salvador, Ramirez knows if he’s released from prison, he’s subject to deportation. He says he knows he broke the law and must pay a consequence, but says he’s not the same person he was 24 years ago. He’d like a second chance at staying in the U.S. “I fled El Salvador because of the war and violence,” Ramirez said. Thinking about getting deported stresses him.  “I will be found suitable because the board knows that since I’ve been incarcerated, I’ve changed to be a better person,” Ramirez said. He’s torn between going back to El Salvador to care for his elderly father as opposed to staying in the U.S. to be away from war and violence. “My dad is 93 and I’d like to go home and take care of him and my family. I can work in a restaurant or in construction,” Ramirez said. Ramirez was found suitable for parole in July, yet he continues to struggle with what to do next. Witnessing friends die, dealing with mental health issues, completing programs to show that a person is ready for release or deportation are some of the challenges that prisoners must undergo at San Quentin during the Age of COVID-19—all stressors that are compounded by overcrowding. The post In San Quentin, COVID-19 Prevention No Match For Crowded And Poorly Ventilated Housing appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Marvel Cooke Fellowship, Prison Protest, COVID-19 Behind Bars, San Quentin]

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[l] at 10/26/21 5:32pm
[Editors Note: I expect to be credentialed to remotely cover the Assange appeal hearing on October 27-28 and will have live updates on proceedings that can be followed on Twitter from @kgosztola] On October 27, the High Court of Justice in the United Kingdom will hear the Crown Prosecution Service argue on behalf of the United States government that a lower court improperly blocked the U.S. from extraditing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The proceedings in London are expected to last two days and will involve five grounds for appeal that were previously approved by the High Court of Justice. (Two were reinstated by the court after a hearing on August 11.) District Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled on January 4 that Assange’s mental health was such that it would be “oppressive to extradite him” to the U.S. But two days later, she accepted the U.S. government’s objections and ordered him to remain in jail while her decision was appealed. Assange is detained at Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in London, a high-security prison where he has been held since he was expelled from the Ecuador Embassy on April 11, 2019. He faces 18 charges—17 of which are charges under the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act is a U.S. law passed in 1917 that the Justice Department has increasingly wielded against media sources who share “classified” documents or talk about sensitive information with journalists. Because Assange is the first publisher to be charged under the law, press freedom organizations around the world have roundly condemned the political prosecution. It also is part of a troubling development where the U.S. government increasingly seeks to impose its domestic laws on foreign nationals. Assange is an Australian citizen and has no ties whatsoever to the United States. Each of the charges, aside from a conspiracy to commit a computer crime offense, solely relate to the documents that were submitted by U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to WikiLeaks in 2010: the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, the U.S. State Embassy cables, and the Guantanamo Files. The general allegations in the indictment against Assange directly criminalize the publication of information. Corruption has marred the case at every stage. Yahoo! News reported in late September that CIA Director Mike Pompeo obsessed over Assange after WikiLeaks released CIA files in 2017 exposing the agency’s cyber warfare capabilities. Agents sketched out plans to kidnap or even kill Assange. The CIA backed an espionage operation against the Ecuador embassy that was conducted by Undercover Global. They collected legally-privileged conversations among attorneys and broke into the personal devices of guests visiting Assange. The FBI worked with an informant named Siggi Thordarson, a serial liar and sociopath who embezzled funds from the WikiLeaks store and sexually preyed on underage boys. He fabricated allegations against Assange that were later retracted in an interview with an Icelandic reporter. Icelandic authorities jailed Thordarson on September 24 to stop him from perpetrating additional financial fraud schemes. Assange’s personal archive, confidential medical data, and legally privileged materials were seized from the embassy following his arrest and handed over to the FBI. Nevertheless, President Joe Biden’s administration has pressed onward with the case against Assange, refusing to answer questions from reporters about why they will not drop the charges. *** The following is a guide to each of the grounds for the U.S. appeal that the Crown Prosecution Service will present to the High Court of Justice. Assange’s legal team will have an opportunity to respond to each argument. It is based on the submissions to the appeals court from the Crown Prosecution Service and Assanges legal team. From the United States Justice Departments own website and in the public domain Ground 1: The judge improperly applied the UKs extradition law Under section 91 of the Extradition Act passed in 2003 in the United Kingdom, the “physical or mental health of the requested person may act as a bar to extradition, if it is such as to render extradition oppressive or unjust.” If a judge concludes it would be oppressive, the judge may discharge that person, as happened in this case (although Assange was ordered to remain in jail during the appeal). Prosecutors assert Judge Baraitser failed to correctly apply something called the Turner test, which stems from a 2012 case where a test for discharging a person on mental health grounds was set out. According to that case, the court forms a judgment based on the facts. A “high threshold” must be reached to satisfy the court that a “person’s physical or mental condition is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.” The court must determine there is a “substantial risk” the person would attempt to commit suicide. The person must lack the capacity to “resist the impulse to commit suicide, otherwise it will not be his mental condition but his own voluntary act, which puts him at risk of dying and if that is the case there is no oppression in ordering extradition.” There must be evidence that the person may succeed in committing suicide. The prison system of the country requesting extradition must lack the ability to manage the person’s mental condition and risk of suicide. And, finally, treaty obligations must be weighed in the decision. In response to the Crown Prosecution Service, Assange’s legal team meticulously shows how the test was applied appropriately by the judge. One is an “overall value judgment.” Like the case against activist and computer scientist Lauri Love, the judge focused on the degree of Assange’s mental disorder, the extent of his risk of suicide, and the extent to which U.S. prison conditions would result in a deterioration of health. Assanges attorneys contend, “Her fact-findings, at least where she has heard evidence, should ordinarily be respected in their entirety.” As to the “high threshold” and whether there is a “substantial risk,” Baraitser noted Assange faces the “bleak prospect of severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a bare minimum. He faces these prospects as someone with a diagnosis of clinical depression and persistent thoughts of suicide.” Assange was designated for the care planning process for prisoners identified at risk of suicide or self-harm when he arrived at Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh and largely has remained under care aimed at dealing with his health and risk of suicide, Baraitser acknowledged. He takes medication and is afraid for his future, putting him at a “very real” risk of attempting to end his life. Baraitser engaged the question of whether a suicide attempt would be impulsive or the result of a voluntary act. She accepted the findings of Professor Michael Kopelman, who was the only psychiatrist who gave testimony who assessed Assange between May and December 2019. “Professor Kopelman gave his clear and unequivocal view that Mr. Assange’s suicidal impulses will come from his psychiatric condition rather than his own voluntary act,” she determined. Whether the procedures in place in a U.S. jail or prison would prevent Assange from succeeding in suicide or attempting suicide were considered and deemed insufficient. “Assange undoubtedly has the intellect to circumvent these suicide preventative measures; in order to avoid suicide watch or increased isolation at HMP Belmarsh, he has already adopted a strategy of disguising his suicidal thoughts,” Baraitser added. “I accept that oppression as a bar to extradition requires a high threshold,” Baraitser stated. “I also accept that there is a strong public interest in giving effect to treaty obligations and that this is an important factor to have in mind. However, I am satisfied that, in these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange’s mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the ‘single minded determination’ of his autism spectrum disorder.” Along with the Turner test, Assange’s team contends she incorporated what they call the Lauri Love approach. Like Love, Assange has been diagnosed with depression and autistic spectrum disorder. Both were considered by psychiatrists to have the determination to take their lives “irrespective of precautionary measures.” Baraitser recognized once transferred from Belmarsh to a U.S. facility he will lose many of the “protections” that have helped his health stabilize. He will likely lose access to support of family and friends. He will no longer have the Samaritans phone line, a suicide prevention service. And he will likely lose the “trusting relationship” he has built up with the psychologist, who has been treating him. Westminster Magistrates Court in the United Kingdom, where Julian Assanges extradition hearing was held. (Photo by Ludhi85) Ground 2: The judge should have let the US offer assurances if she was going to deny the request The U.S. procedurally objects to Judge Vanessa Baraitser not asking for assurances before denying the extradition request. It points out the U.S. did not agree with Julian Assange’s legal team that he was likely to be designated for special administrative measures (SAMS) and if convicted incarcerated at ADX Florence, a super-maximum prison in Colorado. Assange’s legal team counters that the judge was under “no duty to invite the prosecution to address concerns about prison conditions by offering them an opportunity to provide assurances.” In fact, his attorneys add the Crown Prosecution Service never requested the judge seek assurances if the judge was concerned about potential prison conditions as a factor that could contribute to suicide risk. Baraitser concluded the evidence put forward by defense attorneys was persuasive enough to conclude if Assange was subject to the “extreme conditions of SAMs,” his mental health would “deteriorate to the point” where he committed suicide. In the Lauri Love case, the High Court of Justice quashed his extradition over possible prison conditions that could have resulted in his death due to his “difficult mental conditions, Asperger’s syndrome and depression” and physical conditions, “notably eczema, which would be exacerbated by stress.” Assange’s legal team points out the U.S. did not suggest in the case against Love that the High Court of Justice had a duty to seek assurances before denying the extradition request. Ground 3: The judge ought to have disqualified a key psychiatric expert Prosecutors maintain Judge Vanessa Baraitser should have disqualified psychiatrist Professor Michael Kopelman because he withheld his knowledge that Assange was in an undisclosed relationship with Stella Moris and fathered two children while he was in the Ecuador embassy in London. Clair Dobbin QC, who is with the Crown Prosecution Service, accused Baraitser of not appreciating the “significance of the fact that Kopelman was willing to mislead” the court. However, Baraitser acknowledged that Kopelman’s decision to “conceal their relationship was misleading and inappropriate in the context of his obligations to the court” as an impartial witness. She contextualized what Kopelman did as an “understandable human response” to Moris’ predicament. Moris was concerned about the risk to her family if it became known that she was in a relationship with Assange, especially given the Spanish private security company Undercover Global’s espionage operation against Assange, his legal team, and all visitors while he was living in the Ecuador embassy. “[Kopelman] explained that her relationship with Mr. Assange was not yet in the public domain and that she was very concerned about her privacy. After their relationship became public, he had disclosed it in his August 2020 report. In fact, the court had become aware of the true position in April 2020, before it had read the medical evidence or heard evidence on this issue, Baraitser recalled. Baraitser made it clear the court was not misled by Kopelman’s initial omission. She assessed all the medical evidence while considering the fact that Assange’s new family could potentially diminish his risk of committing suicide. Ground 4: The judge erred when considering evidence of suicide risk The U.S. government would like to disqualify Professor Kopelman so the particular evidence from him on suicidal impulses no longer weighs so heavily against their extradition request. But if that fails, they argue Judge Vanessa Baraitser committed an error when assessing the evidence of suicide risk. Prosecutors plainly accuse the judge of impropriety because she gave more weight to Kopelman and less to Professor Seena Fazel, a forensic psychiatrist who was one of their preferred doctors because he did not view “Assange’s risk factors to be strongly predictive of suicide and rejected Kopelman’s opinion. “The district judge did not properly take this into account in her assessment of all the expert evidence before her. She regarded Professor Fazel’s analysis as ‘helpful’ but ‘preferred’ Professor Kopelman’s opinion that ‘statistics only take you so far,’ prosecutors argue. “This was a mischaracterization of Professor Fazel’s evidence. His evidence went to demonstrating that high risk of suicide did not mean a probable risk of suicide (far from it) and that it was not possible to predict a risk of suicide on the sort of long-term basis envisaged here.” Assange’s defense counters, “The district judge rightly noted that Professor Fazel generally supported Professor Kopelman’s assessment of Mr Assange’s mental state.” She referred to Fazel’s evidence of what would constitute a high risk of suicide and how that did not necessarily mean a “high probability of suicide.” However, Baraitser based her conclusions on the capacity Assange would have to resist suicidal impulses, and Kopelman, Fazel, and a third doctor, Dr. Quinton Deeley who “agreed that severe depression and isolation might reduce” his ability to resist suicide Ground 5: The UK government was offered a package of assurances to address the judge’s decision The United States government offered assurances after Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied the extradition request. The package included an assurance that the U.S. would not seek to impose special administrative measures (SAMs) on Assange before trial or after he was convicted. However, it contained a major loophole. If Assange committed a “future act” that “met the test” for SAMs, the U.S. would designate him for such restrictive confinement conditions. They did not specify what type of acts might justify abandoning this assurance. Prosecutors pledged to allow Assange to apply for a prisoner transfer to Australia to serve his U.S. sentence under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. But that agreement was in force during and before the extradition hearing, and the Crown Prosecution Service never entered any evidence into the record during the extradition hearing that related to this agreement. In fact, invoking the agreement is too clever by half, a way for the U.S. government to avoid scrutiny over the systematic abuses and due process violations that take place within the U.S. incarceration system, which are well-known to the world. If Assange was extradited and held in a U.S. jail or prison, the U.S. pledged to ensure he received “clinical and psychological treatment” as recommended by a “qualified treating clinician employed or retained” by the facility where he is held. However, this assurance is as problematic as the SAMs assurance that contains a major loophole. Should a psychologist assigned to the jail or prison decide Assange’s condition is not serious enough for care, he could be denied treatment. As reported in 2018 by The Marshall Project, the BOP’s own data showed—despite promising better care for prisoners with mental health issues—the number of prisoners “designated for higher care levels” decreased by more than 35 percent. The BOP lacked the staff necessary to provide increased care to prisoners’ with mental health problems. It incentivized staff to “downgrade inmates to lower care levels.” The U.S. government pledged that Assange would not be designated for ADX Florence, the supermax prison. Yet similar to the assurance to not impose SAMs, they indicate if Assange commits a “future act” that meets the test for such designation” he could still be confined in the maximum security prison. Importantly, the assurance ignores the possibility that Assange would be confined in a Communications Management Unit (CMU) at Federal Correctional Institution Terre Haute in Indiana or U.S. Penitentiary Marion in Illinois. In early October, the BOP designated Daniel Hale for a CMU, even though a federal judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys had discussed sending him to Federal Medical Center Butner in North Carolina, a low-security facility where he could receive attention for post-traumatic stress. Hale pled guilty to violating the Espionage Act when he disclosed documents on the U.S. military’s drone program to Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill. Joel Sickler, the head of a criminal defense litigation support firm, who testified as an expert on federal prisons during the extradition hearing, declared, “For any inmate, and many of my clients, the level of monitoring of their lives can—and often does—cause distress leading to significant levels of depression. In my experience, those inmates who are placed in CMUs experience this exponentially.” The visitation policy for prisoners designated for a CMU is harsher than the policy for SAMs. All visits with his partner Stella Moris and his children, Gabriel and Max, would be non-contact visits where he could only speak with them through a partition. He would not be allowed to hug, kiss, or sit next to them the entire time that he was incarcerated. Additionally, all of his phone calls would likely be restricted to immediate family, and he would only be allowed two scheduled 15-minute calls per week. (Regulation permits prison staff to restrict Assange to three 15-minute calls per month with “immediate family only.”) Though Assange would have a bi-annual review to determine whether his CMU designation should continue, former USP Marion warden Maureen Baird testified that it is extremely rare for a prisoner to be transferred out of a CMU. The problem with offering assurances for the first time during the appeal is articulated by Assanges attorneys. It gives the U.S. government a tactical advantage at the expense of fairness and in a manner that prolongs Assanges detention. The Justice Departmant has actively engaged in these proceedings for nearly two years, providing significant volumes of evidence, without making any suggestion assurances were being considered, though the offer of assurances at first instance is commonplace. This meant that none of the defense witnesses could comment on the assurances that are now produced. Assanges legal team concludes, The DOJ’s approach of not offering assurances in the court below gave them the further advantage that they could obtain extradition without providing any assurances if they could persuade the district judge of the correctness of their approach. Now that they have failed, they seek belatedly to bring forward these conditional and untested assurances in the High Court. The post A Guide To The U.S. Governments Appeal In The Assange Extradition Case appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Assange Extradition, Julian Assange]

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[l] at 10/26/21 9:45am
[Editors Note: To mark the 20th anniversary of the rise of the American security state after the September 11th attacks, The Dissenter continues a retrospective on this transformation in policing and government.] Mark Klein worked for over twenty years as a technician for the AT&T Corporation. He blew the whistle on the AT&T’s collaboration with the National Security Agency, which allowed for warrantless wiretapping of phone and internet communications. In 2006, Klein came to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) with documents of AT&T’s involvement in the United States’ domestic spying program. His whistleblowing became the basis of the organization’s lawsuit against the NSA. According to Kevin Bankston [PDF], who was an EFF staff attorney, Klein described the “technology behind AT&T’s participation in the program, whereby the NSA had been given complete access  to  the  Internet  traffic  transiting  through  at  least  one,  and  probably  more,  AT&T  Internet  facilities.” “A secret, NSA-controlled room in an AT&T office” was constructed and splitters copied light signals that were transferred across fiber-optic cables in order to give the government access to AT&T customers’ private data. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, or the PATRIOT Act, helped to create a security climate that encouraged this kind of public-private partnership between AT&T and the NSA. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. However, versions of the legislation, which gave the government expanded authority to engage in mass surveillance and data collection, including against American citizens, were passed earlier in October. Only a few members of Congress raised the kind of objections which contemplated the types of abuses, which Klein and other whistleblowers exposed. Debated In The Most Undemocratic Way Possible, Opposed By Only One Senator The PATRIOT Act was developed in 45 days. Several representatives admitted they had not read the bill. Open debate was largely forbidden and amendments to the legislation were discouraged. Only one U.S. senator voted against the bill—Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Feingold nobly attempted on October 11 to amend the PATRIOT Act to remove some of its worst elements. He tried to amend it so an anti-hacking provision was narrowed. He believed it could “allow universities, libraries, and employers to permit government surveillance of people who are permitted to use the computer facilities of those entities. Such surveillance would take place without a judicial order or probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed.” A second amendment offered urged senators to a safeguard in the “roving wiretap authority” section of the bill. Feingold believed an order in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act should have been required to “ascertain that the target of the surveillance [was] actually in the house that [was] bugged, or using the phone that [was] tapped.” Yet another amendment involved section 215, which stated all business records could be compelled for production by the FBI, including medical records from a hospital or doctor, educational records, or records of books a person checked out from a library. Feingold tried to make sure this provision did not become “the platform or an excuse for a fishing expedition for damaging information on American citizens who are not the subjects of FISA surveillance.” Feingold tried to warn senators of what would happen if terrorists were rewarded by the United States weakening freedoms. He also cautioned against the “mistreatment of Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, South Asians, or others” in the United States. “Already, one day after the attacks, we were hearing news reports that misguided anger against people of these backgrounds had led to harassment, violence, and even death.” “Our national consciousness still bears the stain and the scars of those events: the Alien and Sedition Acts, the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the injustices perpetrated against German Americans and Italian-Americans, the blacklisting of supposed communist sympathizers during the McCarthy era, and the surveillance and harassment of antiwar protesters, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Vietnam War. “We must not allow this piece of our past to become prologue,” Feingold declared. But the Senate did not heed his words of caution. All three of the amendments were defeated. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota, opposed the amendments on procedural grounds, claiming there was no time to delay passage of the PATRIOT Act. In the House of Representatives, a small number of representatives objected. Representative Bobby Scott contended the legislation was not “limited to terrorism.” It reduced standards for foreign intelligence wiretapping, allowed for a roving wiretap, and the ability to use information from a roving wiretap in a criminal investigation. This would allow the government to “conduct a criminal investigation without probable cause.” Both Scott and Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee were concerned about provisions that could be used to permit the indefinite detention of Americans. Scott was bothered by the parts of the bill that would permit secret searches referred to as “sneak-and-peak.” Representative Tom Udall protested the fact that members were not allowed to offer amendments.  “At no point in the debate in this very profound set of issues have we had a procedure whereby the most democratic institution in our government, the House of Representatives, engages in democracy.” “This bill, ironically, which has been given all of these high-flying acronyms, it is the PATRIOT bill, it is the U.S.A. bill, it is the stand up and sing the Star-Spangled Banner bill, has been debated in the most undemocratic way possible, and it is not worthy of this institution,” Udall added. While Congress granted U.S. security agencies enormously expanded power, the FBI detained and questioned hundreds of Arabs, Muslims, or South Asians about the 9/11 attacks. They were held for months and not charged with any crimes. Under the pretext of “immigration violations,” Attorney General Ashcroft kept them in squalid jail conditions and then deported most of them. Thomas Tamm, who was an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department (Screen shot from PBS FRONTLINE and fair use as it is included for the purpose of news commentary) Exposing Warrantless Wiretapping By The Bush Administration As journalist Michael Isikoff reported for Newsweek, Thomas Tamm, an attorney at the Justice Department, “stumbled upon the existence of a highly classified National Security Agency program” that involved spying on citizens. Special rules for the unit enabled the section to hide NSA activities from judges on the FISA court. (It was often referred to as “The Program.”) Tamm contacted the New York Times and became a source for the Eric Lichtblau and James Risen report published in 2006, which revealed that Bush secretly authorized the NSA to engage in warrantless wiretapping through a program known as Stellar Wind. “I asked a supervisor of mine if she knew what ‘The Program’ was about,” recalled Tamm during an interview for PBS FRONTLINE. “She told me that she just assumed that what we were doing was illegal and she didnt want to ask any questions. That really ate away at me and bothered me, because I thought I had gone into law enforcement to enforce the law. I didnt like the fact that I thought, or that a supervisor thought, that we might be doing something illegal.” Tamm contacted someone with a top-secret security clearance on Capitol Hill, who he knew from working on a prior case. He asked her to find out what Congress knew and if representatives, especially those on the intelligence committees, understood what was being done. She did not really help him uncover any answers. He emailed and asked again for her assistance. When she said she could not help him, he said he would have to go the press. “You know, Tom, whistleblowers frequently dont end up very well,” Tamm’s contact replied. At first, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller allowed the Bush White House to pressure the media organization into not publishing the story before Bush was re-elected in 2004. After Risen threatened to include it in his book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, the Times moved to publish in December 2005 before Risen’s book was released. In retaliation for exposing this “separate track” in the government for authorizing secret and illegal surveillance, the FBI raided Tamm’s home on August 1, 2007. His family endured a lot of hardship. He believed he could be indicted by the Justice Department at any moment and turned to Isikoff to get his story out on what he did and why he did it. Tamm was granted immunity in April 2011 to testify before a grand jury investigating leaks published by Risen from the CIA. He testified on details that were not previously agreed upon, but since he was not ashamed of what he did, Tamm felt no reason to hold back. And once that was over, the Justice Department indicated there would be no charges. All The Lawyers Have Approved It. Its Legal NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake spoke over the phone in October 2001 with one of the top lawyers in the NSA. He was concerned that Stellar Wind or “The Program,” which gathered the phone calls and Internet communications of millions of Americans, was illegal. When asked about this conversation by PBS FRONTLINE, that lawyer, Vito Potenza, pretended not to remember the phone call. He also indicated he would have ignored Drake’s concerns. “Don’t bother me with this. I mean, you know, the minute he said, if he did say you’re using this to violate the Constitution, I mean, I probably would have stopped the conversation at that point quite frankly. So, I mean, if that’s what he said he said, then anything after that I probably wasn’t listening to anyway,” Potenza told PBS FRONTLINE. Drake said he “confronted” Potenza “directly in the most direct language possible,” accusing the NSA of “violating the Constitution.” Potenza knew the truth and “chose to go with ‘The Program.’ And anybody questioning ‘The Program’ was a threat.” Along with NSA whistleblowers Bill Binney, Ed Loomis, and Kirk Wiebe, Drake found that a program called ThinThread no longer had its privacy protections when collecting data. The automatic encryption of U.S. person-related data was suspended. Instead, an algorithm called Mainway linked phone numbers together as data was collected. The agency then went to telecommunications companies like AT&T and requested “bulk-copy records” of Americans. This convinced Binney, Loomis, and Wiebe to leave the NSA, but Drake remained and attempted to blow the whistle through “proper channels.” In September 2002, Binney, Wiebe, and Diane Roark, who worked for the House Intelligence Committee, filed a “confidential complaint” with the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Defense. They complained about a “billion dollar boondoggle” called Trailblazer and how officials all the way up to NSA chief Michael Hayden violated regulations by going with this project instead of ThinThread. It was a felony to engage in this kind of warrantless surveillance, but the names of these individuals who worked for NSA were passed along to the Justice Department for investigation. After the New York Times finally published the story from Risen and Lichtblau exposing the Bush wiretapping scandal, the FBI targeted them. They had their homes raided. Drake was prosecuted under the Espionage Act. During that phone call, Drake attempted to warn the the NSA’s top lawyer that what the NSA was doing after the 9/11 attacks was illegal. “The hair literally was up on the back of my neck, because he proceeded to tell me: ‘You don’t understand. All the lawyers have approved it. It’s legal. The White House has authorized NSA to serve as the executive agent for ‘the Program.’” Stumbling Across More Warrantless Surveillance By Major Telecom In 2008, Congress deliberated over legislation known as the FISA Amendments Act that included retroactive immunity for telecommunications corporations like AT&T, which were vulnerable to lawsuits following revelations from whistleblowers like Mark Klein and Thomas Tamm. Babak Pasdar, an information technology security expert, came forward [PDF] in February 2008 with evidence that indicated a “major telecommunications giant” likely gave a U.S. government entity “access to every communication coming through that company’s infrastructure, including every email, internet use, document transmission, video, and text message, as well as the ability to listen in on any phone call.” Members of Congress, including John Dingell, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter, described the “Quantico Circuit” that Pasdar observed. “In the course of his work, he discovered that an unidentified third party had been given unfettered and unsecured access to all of the data transmissions it carried,” the letter added. “When Mr. Pasdar identified this security breach and made suggestions about how to correct the situation, representatives of the carrier reportedly refused to secure the network. Moreover, they refused to implement tracking programs to identify what data were accessed.” According to Pasdar, the access to the carrier’s data center infrastructure included the carrier’s fraud detection system. That was not benign to him. The fraud detection system had the ability to “track all mobile devices by geography.” Pasdar’s allegations echoed those from Klein, but one key issue for members of Congress was that the telecommunications companies that participated in wiretapping without any court orders or warrants were prohibited from talking to Congress. President George W. Bush would not let them. Unfortunately, the whistleblowing of Klein and Pasdar was disregarded by Congress. The FISA Amendments Act, as the ACLU put it, legalized “mass, untargeted, and unwarranted spying” on international phone calls and emails. It restricted judicial oversight of surveillance by the FISA court and granted companies like AT&T retroactive immunity. Senator Barack Obama made it clear during his presidential campaign that he would “support a filibuster of any bill that [included] retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” When it came time, he declined to filibuster, and he voted for the FISA Amendments Act, which passed 69-28 in the Senate. First interview NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden did where he revealed he was behind the revelations around mass surveillance programs (Screen shot from Guardian and included for purposes of news commentary) Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden made the decision to become a whistleblower after he came across a classified 2009 inspector general’s report on the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program developed under Bush. “You can’t read something like that and not realize what it means for all of these systems we have,” Snowden declared in an interview with Risen in 2013. “If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all, secret powers become tremendously dangerous.” In 2013, Snowden provided numerous documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras that exposed NSA mass surveillance programs, especially those established after the 9/11 attacks, to unprecedented scrutiny. The first major revelation from Snowden concerned a document that showed the NSA was collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily under section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. In 2015, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined [PDF] the collection was illegal and outside the scope of what Congress authorized. Further revelations included (but were not limited to): a program called PRISM, which involved real-time collection of communications from companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Skype, etc; the collection of email and chat contact lists from millions of people around the world; a “Dishfire” program that collected 200 million text messages per day that the NSA could use to mine contact information, location data, and credit card details; an NSA “loophole” that allowed agents to search U.S. citizens’ emails and phone calls without a warrant; and the targeting of messaging apps like Signal or WhatsApp or encryption tools like Tor. What Snowden disclosed about surveillance, which was justified by the passage of the PATRIOT Act, showed U.S. security agencies were collecting all the data they could vacuum and copy on to their servers. It prompted a serious but rare conversation among lawmakers and the media about the powers the NSA abuses and the legal authorities the government claimed, which were never granted. Quite a number of programs that officials could not publicly defend were paused or discontinued. Even a Drug Enforcement Administration program called USTO that harvested the records of billions of American’s international phone calls for more than two decades was ended by the Justice Department in September 2013 because of Snowden’s whistleblowing. As the New York Times wrote in an editorial in January 2014, “Snowden told The Washington Post earlier this month that he did report his misgivings to two superiors at the agency, showing them the volume of data collected by the NSA, and that they took no action. (The NSA. says there is no evidence of this.) That’s almost certainly because the agency and its leaders don’t consider these collection programs to be an abuse and would never have acted on Mr. Snowden’s concerns. “Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not.” Despite the modest reforms embraced by lawmakers and the shift in public attitudes toward mass surveillance, Snowden continues to face charges under the Espionage Act and lives in exile under asylum in Russia.Obama reauthorized key provisions in the PATRIOT Act in 2012, but in 2020, the PATRIOT Acts provisions mostly expired in 2020 when the House of Representatives failed to renew them. The post The PATRIOT Act And The Whistleblowers Who Challenged Mass Surveillance After 9/11 appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, 9/11, Edward Snowden, Patriot Act, surveillance, Thomas Drake]

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[l] at 10/18/21 9:51am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. Drone whistleblower Daniel Hale, who pled guilty to violating the Espionage Act, was transferred from a jail in Virginia to a communication management unit (CMU) at United States Penitentiary Marion in southern Illinois.He is the first person convicted for an unauthorized disclosure of information to the press to be incarcerated in a CMU, which the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) claims is for terrorists and “high-risk inmates.”The decision may effectively cut him off from his entire support network, including friends and fellow whistleblowers who were by his side as federal prosecutors aggressively pursued charges against him.Hale was a signals intelligence analyst in the U.S. Air Force. He was deployed to Afghanistan and stationed at Bagram Air Base. He later worked as a contractor for a firm known as Leidos. His contracting job gave him access to documents on the drone program, and he shared copies with journalist Jeremy Scahill. He pled guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act on March 31. The Justice Department had him jailed at the Alexandria Detention Center after he pled guilty, and he was sentenced to 45 months in prison on July 27.After sentencing, Hale was transferred to Northern Neck Regional Jail, where he expected to be held for two or three weeks until a bed opened at Federal Medical Center Butner in North Carolina, a facility that could offer him some form of mental health treatment.But he was held at Northern Neck until October 1, when the BOP transported him to Marion. He arrived on October 6. Another Draconian Move By The Government To Silence And Punish Whistleblowers Jesselyn Radack, who represented Hale as one of his lawyers, told the Dissenter, “It can only be seen as punitive that Daniel Hale, who has no criminal history and pled guilty to a nonviolent crime, got put in a secret, Kafkaesque, and isolated ‘terrorist unit’ with virtually no access to outsiders—or even other prisoners.”“It’s another draconian move by the government to silence and punish whistleblowers,” Radack added.On October 17, Radack shared that she had called the case management unit at Marion twice to seek some explanation but was routed to voicemail each time. “No one has returned my calls. It’s unprofessional, bordering on unconstitutional.”“Our worst fear when we discovered that he was sent to Marion was that he would be placed at their notorious CMU,” declared Noor Mir, a close friend and member of his support team. “Daniel is a curious loving person, who craves contact with the outside world. It’s going to be really hard for him to not be able to call his support system.”Mir spoke with Hale on October 14, however, Hale did not share any details about what happened between his arrival and their phone call. The support network believes he was placed in quarantine under COVID-19 protocol.“We know he has a case manager, and that he has to submit contact lists and addresses for approval to mail, email, and call people,” Mir added. “He is able to go outside once a day and that makes him happy.”According to Mir, Hale did not say anything more about the conditions at Marion—except that “it would be tough to not be able to talk” as much with his support team.Give a Gift Subscription Political Prisons For Isolating Individuals Whose Ideas Are Deemed Dangerous By BOP The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit in 2010 against the Bureau of Prisons and officials involved in overseeing CMUs. They had oral argument before the D.C. Court of Appeals on October 18, where they urged the court to reverse a lower court’s decision and recognize the necessity of preventing due process violations.“Since the BOP secretly opened its first communication management unit in 2006, it has used them as political prisons—to isolate individuals whose ideas the government considers dangerous,” declared Rachel Meeropol, a senior staff attorney for CCR who represents prisoners held in CMUs.”Meeropol noted they were before the appeals court to argue “CMUs violate due process, as people sent to the unit are not told the true reason for their placement and have no meaningful way to rebut the factual basis for that placement.”“The BOP has no right to inflict CMU-level isolation and restrictions on anyone without proper procedural protections but especially not an individual struggling with PTSD and depression, and in need of significant medical care,” Meeropol commented, when asked about Hale’s placement in a CMU.There are CMUs at two federal prisons—USP Marion and Federal Correctional Institution Terre Haute in Indiana. The BOP’s Correctional Programs Division sets the policies for designating prisoners to CMUs, and the assistant director approves designations. The assistant director is currently Andre Matevousian.Initially, the BOP did not develop “written procedures or criteria at all.” That meant prisoners like Yassin Aref, Kifah Jayyousi, and Daniel McGowan, all plaintiffs in CCR’s lawsuit, were subject to “haphazard and retaliatory” decisions to put them in a CMU. CCR’s appeal, which was submitted in 2015 [PDF], outlined the differences between restrictions for general population and restrictions in a CMU.“Most federal prisoners live in general population prison units, where they interact with a large population of fellow prisoners, receive 300 minutes of social telephone calls per month, and can enjoy contact visits with family and friends limited only by visiting hours and visiting room space—for up to 49 hours per month.”“The BOP encourages these prisoners to use social telephone calls, visits, and letters to stay in touch with family and other loved-ones, due to the critical role such communication plays in a prisoner’s personal development and successful reentry back into society,” according to CCR.However, prisoners in CMUs are not allowed interaction with other prisoners. All avenues of communication with the outside world are restricted and monitored. All CMU social visits are live-monitored by BOP staff and must occur in English, unless previously scheduled for simultaneous translation.”Prisoners and their visitors “meet in partitioned rooms separated by thick plexiglass, speak over a telephone, and are forbidden from hugging or even touching hands.” They are only allowed two four-hour blocks of visitation per month, but regulation allows Marion to limit visitation to only four hours with “immediate family.” There are currently no visits allowed due to COVID-19, which means Hale is limited to restricted phone calls.CMU prisoners are allowed two scheduled 15-minute calls a week, but regulation permits Marion to restrict calls to three 15-minute calls per month with “immediate family only.” Calls are subject to the same strict monitoring as visits, and that monitoring is done by an FBI agent.Tip Jar Silenced By The Bureau Of Prisons CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou faced a similar Espionage Act prosecution under President Barack Obama. He eventually pled guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in order to ensure he only went to prison for 30 months.At his sentencing hearing, the judge, prosecutors, and his attorneys agreed Kiriakou would serve his sentence at the minimum security camp at Federal Correctional Institution Loretto in Pennsylvania. But when he arrived, Kiriakou learned the Justice Department had decided he was a “threat to public safety” and put him in the prison instead of the camp. While in Loretto, Kiriakou wrote the “Letters from Loretto,” which were published by Firedoglake. They offered him a level of security in prison by ensuring people were watching how authorities handled him as a high-profile prisoner.Kiriakou, along with NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, have been mentors to Hale, offering him advice based on their experiences with Espionage Act prosecutions. They each talked with him regularly while he was jailed at Alexandria and Northern Neck. Both attended his sentencing hearing, where he delivered a 15-minute statement to the court.When asked about Hale’s placement in a CMU, Kiriakou was in a state of disbelief. Hale was supposed to be headed for Butner Low. He was recommended for Butner Low, and they put him in Marion Medium, CMU. For what reason?”“How is he a danger to society? There are terrorists at Marion, like bonafide terrorists at Marion. And the purpose of putting him in Butner was because it’s a medical unit, and he needs medical and psychiatric treatment,” Kiriakou added.Kiriakou last spoke to Hale in the final days of September, and he is certain the prison will not allow him on the list of approved contacts.“Last time I spoke with him was on the 22nd of September,” Drake shared. “I expect to have trouble getting on his list while he is in the CMU at Marion.” Lisa Ling, a former tech sergeant and whistleblower who worked on drone surveillance systems, is another close friend. She spoke to him just about every week after he was jailed in April.“I was at his sentencing hearing, and now I may not be able to speak with him until he is released from prison on July 5, 2024,” Ling stated. “There is no telling what the requirements are for being on his call list. It’s not something they disclose to people.”Ling added, “The man that told us strikes like the one in Kabul on August 29 are commonplace, and who told those erroneously placed on the No Fly List how lawyers could help them get off of the list, has now been silenced by the Bureau of Prisons.”“These units are deleterious to anyone’s mental health. The military and the Veterans Affairs Department’s own study states social support is an integral part to healing from moral injury and post traumatic stress.” But CMUs are designed to prevent prisoners from having such social support.As the lawsuit by CCR uncovered, “Prisoners are not told why they have been transferred to a CMU until after they arrive. Even then, the reasons they are provided are frequently vague, inaccurate, and/or completely false, and they are given erroneous—and even impossible— instructions for earning their way out of a CMU.”It is likely Hale will remain cut off from the vast majority of his support network for his entire sentence, and his ability to weather the isolation will depend on how he manages to maintain his mental and physical health, which was already at a low point before he pled guilty. The post Drone Whistleblower Daniel Hale Imprisoned In Communications Management Unit Designed For Terrorists appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, The Dissenter, Daniel Hale, Espionage Act, The Dissenter Newsletter, war on whistleblowers]

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