[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 1/22/21 10:06am

In this edition of “Dissenter Weekly,” host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola opens with a couple recent stories involving whistleblowers at police departments, who took a stand against abusive activity.

Later, Kevin highlights a whistleblower complaint against ExxonMobil for fraud and provides updates on COVID-19 data whistleblower Rebekah Jones and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The show concludes with an overtime discussion between Kevin and Shadowproof publishing editor Brian Sonenstein about how citizens could mobilize for whistleblowers and reforms that diminish the ability of the United States government to use the Espionage Act against truth-tellers.

This week’s stories:

Whistleblower In California Files Complaint Over Double Standard For Homeless Taser Joke

Chicago Police Lieutenant Blows Whistle On Quotas For Traffic Stops, Faces Retaliation

Florida Tries To Deny Charged COVID-19 Data Whistleblower Access To Internet

ExxonMobil Accused By Whistleblower Of Unrealistically Estimating Value Of Top US Oil Field

Trump Submitted To Republican Pressure, Abandoned Pardons For Snowden And Assange

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The post Dissenter Weekly: Whistleblowing Cops, ExxonMobil Fraud—Plus, US Appeals Assange Extradition Decision appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, The Dissenter Weekly Update | Shadowproof, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 1/19/21 5:35pm

The following was originally published as part of The Dissenter newsletter.

Although several long shot campaigns were mounted, President Donald Trump did not pardon any whistleblowers who were indicted or prosecuted under the United States Espionage Act. He also declined to pardon the only journalist ever to be indicted under the World War I-era law.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were not offered clemency because Trump “did not want to anger Senate Republicans who will soon determine whether he’s convicted during his Senate trial.”

“Multiple GOP lawmakers had sent messages through aides that they felt strongly about not granting clemency to Assange or Snowden,” according to CNN.

NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, who was the first to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act under Trump, and former CIA officer John Kiriakou pursued pardons. They were effectively denied as well.

On January 17, the New York Times reported that an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Kiriakou a pardon would cost him $2 million.

“I laughed. Two million bucks—are you out of your mind?” Kiriakou told the Times. “Even if I had two million bucks, I wouldn’t spend it to recover a $700,000 pension.”

The report exposed a sliver of the corruption around pardons in the final days of the Trump presidency, as “several people with connections” to Trump apparently “accepted large sums of money” in return for clemency.

Kiriakou said Trump was not the only president in history to encourage this kind of behavior. “Certainly, Bill Clinton did at the end of his administration well. But this just highlights how the pardon process in the United States is broken.”

Throughout the past three months, prominent supporters of Assange, like Pamela Anderson and Glenn Greenwald, were frequent guests on Fox News during primetime in order to communicate the case for a pardon directly to Trump.

A few Republicans in Congress, like Senator Rand Paul and Representative Matt Gaetz, crafted a partisan pitch for pardoning Snowden that went something like Democratic allies, such as former director of national intelligence James Clapper, persecuted him. 

“He revealed that James Clapper, the highest-ranking, most powerful spy in the world, was spying on Americans and lied to us about it,” Paul declared. “So I think what Snowden did was a service to the American people and he ought to be pardoned.”

But Snowden did not have millions of dollars to pay off Trump nor was he ever going to do Trump any political favors.

Trump constantly bashed the “deep state” during his campaign and presidency, but whenever he needed to challenge national security institutions and stand up to their apparatchiks in the Republican Party, he showed there was nothing behind it.

“[The rhetoric] ended up not really serving anybody,” Kiriakou contended.

Which is not to say the pardon campaigns by Assange, Snowden, Winner, Kiriakou, and others were a waste of time. Nobody would have predicted President Barack Obama would commute U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence in 2017 during the final days of his administration.

Assange, who was indicted under Trump, will remain in Belmarsh, a high-security prison in London where COVID-19 has recently spread through his unit. The Biden Justice Department is expected to pursue an appeal of a British court’s decision to deny the U.S. government’s extradition request against Assange.

With a newborn, Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, will remain in Moscow. They will live in exile at least until Snowden can return and defend his whistleblowing acts in a courtroom in the Eastern District of Virginia. (Significant reform is necessary for that to happen.)

Winner will be able to leave Federal Medical Center Carswell and go to a halfway house as early as November 2021. However, she also must worry about COVID-19 outbreaks at Carswell.

Because Kiriakou completed his sentence several years ago, his circumstances are far less dire. He still would like to reclaim his pension.

In the end, a president who built up a brand of standing up to the so-called swamp did not want to take any heat for pardoning individuals loathed by the very establishment that despises him. He was spineless and weak.

Trump risked a scandal over pardons for his son-in-law or any one of his cronies. He was not willing to take the same risk for Assange, Snowden, or Kiriakou.

“No president wants to really be involved in a controversy. Donald Trump [was] no different,” Kiriakou concluded.

The post Trump Reportedly Abandoned Pardons For Snowden And Assange appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 1/19/21 11:53am

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Manchester, New Hampshire’s unhoused population and local community organizers have struggled with state and local officials to secure housing and resources for the unhoused during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Following the November 20 forceful eviction of an encampment by state officials and unwillingness from people in power to support new housing solutions, homeless people and organizers alike are struggling to resolve the lack of access.

Manchester had at least 35 documented homeless encampments as of October 2019, but the unhoused population has risen since the pandemic began. Despite this, the state has not revamped its plan for homelessness since 2006. 

A report released in December 2020 by the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH) found that the number of unsheltered unhoused people in Manchester ballooned from 170 in July to 480 in late November of that year. Nearly 40 percent of the state’s homeless population and 60 percent of the unsheltered population reside in-and-around Manchester.

NHCEH Director Stephanie Savard attributed the rise to problems preceding the pandemic, such as rising housing prices, eviction rates, and unemployment. 

“We were riding a wave of that perfect storm for many years,” Savard told the Concord Monitor. “With the pandemic, we hit a tidal wave.” 

According to the report, Black and multiracial people are four times as likely as white people to experience homelessness in the state; despite making up nearly 3 percent of the statewide population, they make up about 10 percent of the homeless population. The numbers are starkly similar for Hispanic/Latinx people in New Hampshire.

NHCEH’s report was published after weeks of disagreement between state and local officials. On November 5, fourteen New Hampshire mayors sent a letter to Governor Chris Sununu (R) calling on him to prioritize a new plan for the state.

The letter referenced the impact of COVID-19 on the shelter system statewide, which restricted capacity as the service population increased: between 2014 and 2018, there was a 5 percent increase in unhoused individuals and a 6 percent increase in unhoused families.

One month prior, the NH Justice Department denied a request for emergency COVID relief funding for the city of Manchester specifically to address homelessness, saying it did not “qualify as an emergency right now.” The city immediately appealed the decision.

**

The impact on the streets was perhaps most apparent in an eviction battle between community members and state officials. 

On November 10, the state’s Attorney General announced they would evict an encampment in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Manchester by November 16. 

Starting November 16, local community organizers — including members of the state’s decentralized mutual aid network, the New Hampshire Youth Movement, Black Lives Matter New Hampshire, and others — occupied the encampment in solidarity with the unhoused living there, holding off the eviction process. 

Over a hundred community members were counted on the first day, and volunteers took shifts staying in the camp to hold off the eviction process. This effort was successful for five days, until the state proceeded with the eviction on November 20, handcuffing unhoused residents and arresting two, without a plan for supporting the unhoused. 

“It looks like clutter, but they pick up whatever they can to make them feel like they’re human. We’re living in tents,” said Manny, a resident of the encampment, in a video posted on Twitter as he prepared to move. State police milled around in the background. “[Do you know] how many of these people have absolutely nothing?”

With nowhere else to go, a number of former encampment residents moved across the street.

“Imagine if instead of spending resources and time plotting an eviction and erecting additional surveillance on the roof of the court house, our gov put up a medical tent, or staffed multiple mental health counselors on site, or funded harm reduction orgs to be present,” tweeted Emmett Soldati, a business owner in Somersworth running for chair of the state Democratic party.

The NH GOP claimed the city itself, court officials, and others had complained about the encampment, thereby justifying its removal. Hillsborough County District Attorney Michael Conlon replied that his office had in fact not asked for removal of the encampment, responding, “Shame on [the GOP] for lying to twist the narrative about this tragic situation.”

The following week, Mayor Joyce Craig announced a plan to provide housing in an unoccupied building. But a real estate developer named Ben Gamache bought the property within twenty-four hours to prevent it from being used for housing. He offered another property, which organizers say is essentially a parking garage, which the city turned down for being uninhabitable. 

In late November, Gov. Sununu created a new Council on Housing Stability; notably absent from its membership was Mayor Craig. 

Alissandra Rodriguez Murray, the organizing director of New Hampshire Youth Movement and an organizer with the eviction resistance effort, suspects that part of the confusion surrounding resources and funding for Manchester’s homelessness epidemic stems from animosity between Gov. Sununu and Mayor Craig. 

Murray expressed frustration that these politics were causing material harm to the community. “The politicians are going to continue playing politics above you while you’re trying to help people directly on the ground,” they observed. “And that’s a factor in how and what kind of help you get.”

Communication was already tense between organizers and officials, and the situation deteriorated into December. “Over the past month and a half, after everything happened, things started moving more slowly, again, especially because of the holidays,” said Murray. 

Throughout December, three unhoused people died in different encampments in Manchester. Two additional shelter locations were opened during the month, one in a food kitchen space run by a local shelter, and another in a former police building

While Murray acknowledged these additional spaces, they said, “There’s still not enough consistent beds for people.” They’re frustrated the city is advising community members not to donate to the local mutual aid fund, arguing cruelly that giving the unsheltered resources would encourage them not to go into a shelter. 

“People actually need [donations], whether because they can’t access the shelters, or they just don’t want to go to the shelter for whatever reason, they still deserve the things they need to stay warm this winter,” said Murray.

“It’s frustrating when the city doesn’t recognize that unhoused people deserve their own autonomy to make decisions that are best for them. And in some cases, that’s accepting materials so that they can stay outside and camp, as opposed to going into a shelter, [if] for whatever reason, they’re not comfortable doing [that].”

The unhoused face harassment by the police when outside camping, and potential hostility from local shelters if they attempt to go indoors. Murray pointed out that the same shelter service controls all the local shelters, meaning that if you get banned from one, you’re banned from them all. 

On top of all this, the New Hampshire winter has been “pretty brutally cold,” said Murray. “And it’s just hard knowing that three people have died already this winter, and that more will.” 

The solution feels obvious to them: after staying in the encampment while combating the eviction, Murray learned, “When you take the time to get to know people and build relationships and build trust, you can be a lot more successful, helping [others] get the help they need, and building solutions that work for everybody.”

The post New Hampshire’s Homeless Fight For Shelter Despite Forceful Encampment Evictions appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Featured Reporting, Latest News, The Dissenter, Activism, Homelessness, new hampshire, Policing]

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[l] at 1/15/21 1:58pm

For this edition of “Dissenter Weekly” in 2021, host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola highlights complaints from whistleblowers at Voice of America over Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech, which they described as a “publicity stunt.”

Later in the show, Kevin covers some whistleblower stories at the state level: Texas attorney general scandal, COVID-19 data whistleblower in Florida, and the lack of protections for whistleblowers after the Flint water crisis in Michigan.

The show concludes with an update on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s case.

At the end, there is a lengthy take down of former NSA lawyer April Doss, who was invited on to Al Jazeera English’s The Stream to participate in a panel on Assange. Yet she knows very little about the case.

This week’s stories:

Whistleblowers At Voice Of America Protest Mike Pompeo’s ‘Publicity Stunt’

Texas Attorney General Says Exempt From Whistleblower Protection Law

Judge Won’t Order Return Of Computer, Other Electronics To COVID-19 Data Whistleblower

Lack Of Whistleblower Protections In Michigan Fueled Flint Water Crisis

Australian Nonprofit Launches Campaign To Pardon Assange

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This show is brought to you by Shadowproof.com, a 100% reader-funded press organization. If you enjoy our work, you can support us with a donation or by subscribing for $5/month or more: https://shadowproof.com/donate

The post Dissenter Weekly: Pompeo’s Political Propaganda, Plus Pardon Push In Australia For Assange appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Assange Extradition, The Dissenter Weekly Update | Shadowproof, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 1/13/21 4:27pm


John Fogerty, the legendary former frontman of Creedence Clearwater Revival is no stranger to composing socially conscious tunes. Songs such as “Fortunate Son” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain” are timeless anthems that were written in response to the Vietnam War and President Richard Nixon’s administration.

Concerning “Fortunate Son,” Fogerty issued a cease-and-desist order to Donald Trump for playing the tune at his rallies in the fall. It is understandable why this would upset him. Donald Trump personifies what that song protested.

At 75 years old, he wrote another song to comment on the current political
climate. The gospel-tinged “Weeping in the Promised Land” is his first new tune in eight years.

The genesis of the song began 25 years ago when he wrote down the phrase “Weeping in the Promised Land” in his song-writing journal.

A few years ago, he wrote a tune with that title, but never recorded it
because he was unhappy with the result. But the pandemic and the Black protests in response to the murder of George Floyd provided him with the impetus to revisit the phrase.

The lyrics touch upon several current issues such as the government’s failed response to the pandemic (“He dances on their bones/Pharaoh shoutin’ down the medicine man”).

Fogerty also references the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd:

Pharaoh’s army knockin’ on the door
Weepin’ in the Promised Land
Shoot you in your bed just like they done before
Weepin’ in the Promised Land
Out in the street, on your neck with a knee
All the people are cryin’ your last words,
‘I can’t breathe’

And a white judge say
There been no crime here today


In these painful times, we need the healing power of music to help us get through. Fogerty is here to play some piano and help us along.

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Weeping in the Promised Land’ By John Fogerty appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News]

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[l] at 1/13/21 10:46am

During the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo renewed his efforts to incite greater conflict between the United States and Iran. He also used Voice of America (VOA) to broadcast a speech that a group of whistleblowers described as “political propaganda.”

“I read that some VOA employees didn’t want me to speak here today. I’m sure it was only a handful,” Pompeo declared on January 11. “They didn’t want the voice of American diplomacy to be broadcast on the Voice of America. “Think about that for just a moment.”

Pompeo continued, “This kind of censorial instinct is dangerous.  It’s morally wrong. Indeed, it’s against your statutory mandate here at VOA.”
 
The dictionary definition of propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” VOA is United States government media, and on some level, VOA and its affiliates throughout the world are always broadcasting or publishing propaganda—what is in the interest of U.S. foreign policy.

But in the case of VOA, which is overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), Pompeo’s speech was a particularly egregious example of propaganda.

On January 8, days before the scheduled speech, whistleblowers at VOA sent a letter [PDF] through the Government Accountability Project to Michael Pack, CEO of USAGM, and Robert Reilly, VOA director.

“A broadcast speech by the outgoing Secretary of State on topics on which he has been widely covered should be seen for what it is: the use of VOA to disseminate political propaganda in the waning days of the Trump administration. As proposed, the planned coverage by language services will be one-sided and lacking the necessary objectivity protected by the firewall. It is political meddling.”

The letter additionally argued the event was a “gross misuse of government resources.”

“We understand that currently 18 employees are working on event preparations. But for that assignment, they would not be producing editorial content for VOA services. On the day of the event, we further understand that eight employees have been assigned to work in the VOA auditorium and 10 elsewhere around VOA headquarters.”

According to the whistleblowers, “$4,000 in taxpayer funds” were spent on the event. It was “plainly a publicity stunt devoid of public interest.”

Pack was appointed by Trump and confirmed as CEO of the U.S. Agency of Global Media on June 4, 2020, despite concerns about the conservative documentary filmmaker.

As USAGM CEO, Pack accused VOA of “being rife with anti-Trump sentiment.” He fired several VOA employees for producing news segments he disliked.

NPR reported, “An editor was suspended.” Pack’s senior aides “pushed for the network’s White House bureau chief to be sidelined, alleging a tilt toward Democrats, despite policies barring USAGM executives from interfering in coverage.”

A lawsuit against Pack was filed by another group of whistleblowers on September 29. One whistleblowing employee, who was a deputy director for operations at USAGM, alleged Pack had claimed he and others were forced out because of Pack’s belief that they were part of the “deep state.” He maintained they had delayed his confirmation to run the agency.

“We’re all parts of institutions with duties and responsibilities higher and bigger and more important than any one of us individually, but this kind of censorial instinct is dangerous. It’s morally wrong,” Pompeo stated, as he addressed the whistleblowers who opposed his speech.

“Censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction—authoritarianism, cloaked as moral righteousness. It’s similar to what we’re seeing at Twitter, and Facebook, and Apple, and on too many university campuses today.”

“It’s not who we are. It’s not who we are as Americans, and it’s not what Voice of America should be. It’s time that we simply put woke-ism to sleep,” Pompeo concluded.

When Pompeo was CIA director, he was at the forefront of the demonization of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, which ultimately laid the groundwork for indicting a publisher under the U.S. Espionage Act.

In 2017, he delivered a speech in his first days as CIA director that was authoritarianism cloaked with moral righteousness. In fact, nearly every speech from Pompeo is authoritarianism cloaked with moral righteousness.

“The false narratives that increasingly define our public discourse cannot be ignored. There are fictions out there that demean and distort the work and achievements of CIA and of the broader intelligence community.,” Pompeo said while attacking Assange and WikiLeaks.

“And in the absence of a vocal rebuttal, these voices—ones that proclaim treason to be public advocacy—gain a gravity they do not deserve. It is time to call these voices out. The men and women of CIA deserve a real defense.”

Furthermore, “social distancing requirements” were invoked to prohibit outside media from attending the Pompeo speech.

“Given the closure of the event to outside media – ostensibly “due to social distancing requirements” – your decision to stage the speech before a live audience of VOA employees is especially brazen,” the whistleblowers complained. “It is also disingenuous. You cannot use the COVID-19 pandemic’s public health risks to outside reporters as an excuse for excluding them and then ‘invite’ your employees to attend.”

One reporter, Patsy Widakuswara, who was a White House reporter for VOA, attempted to question Pompeo after his speech. She was later removed from her beat in retaliation.

She tried to ask what he was doing to repair the country’s reputation after what happened with the mob on Capitol Hill on January 6. And added, “Do you regret saying there will be a second Trump administration?”

Given what unfolded with a mob descending upon Capitol Hill on January 6, no establishment media outlet would give a Trump official a platform to spread their message without facing questions.

“I tell audiences about American exceptionalism wherever and whenever I can. Because it’s true and because it’s important,” Pompeo proclaimed.

“America is good and great, and everyone who truly grabs our founding understands this.”

Naturally, Pompeo, who still stands with Trump, turned to U.S. government-funded media for a safe space. In doing so, he completed VOA’s transformation into the kind of state media, which elites like Pompeo typically love to condemn because it makes them feel morally and politically righteous.

The post Making US Propaganda Exceptional Again: Mike Pompeo’s Voice Of America Speech appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Mike Pompeo, Propaganda, Voice of America, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 1/12/21 8:09am

In September, Mark Hinkston spent five days in the dark at the Toledo Correctional Institution in Toledo, Ohio. 

Hinkston, who goes by the name Mustafa, was locked in a dimly lit cell, which he compared to a bathroom, for five consecutive days without respite. He had no books or anything with which to stimulate his mind.

At night or when it rained, Mustafa said, “You can’t see your hand in front of your face.” 

Mustafa no longer considers himself a citizen of the United States. His studies and experiences in prison have made him a revolutionary and a prison abolitionist. His heroes are George Jackson and Assatta Shakur. P.O.W., the acronym for “prisoner of war,” is tattooed on his face. 

He is one of several incarcerated people at the Toledo Correctional Institution (TOCI) who claim they are dealing with extralegal and torturous isolation as retaliation for their political views and advocacy. Their suffering is part of a broader history of counterinsurgency efforts by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) aimed at quashing dissent and prisoner organizing in the state. 

Solitary For The Long Haul 

Mustafa is no longer in the dark but he remains in solitary confinement, where he has spent the last 18 months. He is currently confined under the Extended Restrictive Housing (ERH) designation. 

One of the other prisoners in ERH is Greg Curry.  Before coming to Toledo, Curry spent 25 years classified as a super maximum security prisoner, mostly at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OST). A little over two years ago, he successfully worked with a lawyer to get transferred to Toledo, where he hoped he could be in general population. 

After a nine-month stint in solitary when he first arrived, Curry was briefly placed in general population until administrators moved him into ERH in July 2020.

ERH is solitary confinement for the long haul. Curry said he spends 23 hours in his cell during the week, 24 on weekends. He was told he will spend two years there. 

Mustafa expects to remain there until 2030, when he will be released from prison altogether. 

Curry views this most recent sentence as retaliation for being an alleged leader of the 1993 Lucasville Uprising. He told Shadowproof he is working on a lawsuit against ODRC because he does not think he will ever be treated fairly by the internal processes. 

The Lucasville Uprising is named for the town in which one of the largest prison uprisings in US history took place, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. It lasted for 11 days. Hundreds of incarcerated people participated and 10 people–nine prisoners and a corrections officer–died. 

The state alleged Curry and four others were the leaders of the uprising and were responsible for the deaths that occurred. Curry was sentenced to life in prison, which he considers to be a sentence of death by incarceration. 

Curry has spent decades in isolation both as specific punishment for his role in Lucasville and for other incidents where he said he acted in self defense. According to  Curry’s autobiographical zine, “Repression Breeds Resistance,” he had nothing violent on his conduct history prior to the Lucasville Uprising. He also details violent repression he has dealt with at several facilities across Ohio. This included periods of “involuntary hunger strikes,” where guards did not feed him, and time in the “sweat box,” a special cell with all steel walls and no ventilation, where temperatures would reach triple digits routinely in summer. 

Curry is not the only so-called leader of the Lucasville Uprising to be subjected to extended isolation. Imam Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, and Keith LaMar are all on death row for their alleged role in the uprising, and have spent more than two decades in solitary at OST. LaMar is scheduled for execution in November 2023.

As TruthOut has reported, these three incarcerated activists are denied human contact and access to legal resources, and have only garnered outside attention through hunger strikes covered by the media in the early 2010s. 

Extralegal Punishment

Curry said his most recent sentence to solitary was illegal. He alleges TOCI violated his right to due process by putting him in ERH without conducting a hearing before the Rules Infraction Board (RIB). 

Curry said he was told by the prison staff that a “smelly substance” was found on mail addressed to him. He was accused of trafficking an “intoxicating substance,” not drugs. The distinction is important because, if the prison had accused him of drug trafficking, Curry said they would have had to test the substance. He said what they found could have been perfume or paint. 

When an incarcerated person is accused of violating prison rules in Ohio, there is a process they are supposed to go through. After a conduct report is written, it is read to the prisoner by a hearing officer, who is required to ask if the incarcerated person would like to go before the RIB to present witnesses or other evidence to refute the charges. 

Curry said he met with a hearing officer. In the meeting, the officer sat behind a desk typing on a computer. Curry could not see what was on the screen. He  told the officer he wanted to bring witnesses and fight the charge before the RIB. He thought the officer was going along with him. 

Curry was asked to sign a touchpad connected to the computer, which he had been misled to believe would result in his case going to the RIB.

When Curry went to the RIB panel. he was asked if he wanted to begin his time in ERH immediately. He repeated that he wanted to have the hearing and call his witness. They said the witness, a staff member, was on vacation, so he would need to wait two weeks for him to return. 

After two weeks, he was told he was not going before the RIB, but instead the Serious Misconduct Panel (SMP). 

According to the ODRC’s website, the difference between the SMP and the RIB is that the SMP is used to impose longer, more permanent forms of solitary for those already found guilty of allegations during the RIB process. 

“I’m thinking I’m about to argue my guilt or innocence there and they said, ‘Oh no that part is over. The RIB already found you guilty,’” Curry recounted. 

Curry protested, but the prison staff claimed there was paperwork documenting his agreement to forego attending his RIB hearing. So without realizing it, he had signed away his right to the RIB when he signed the touchpad attached to the officer’s computer. 

He said this made a lawsuit necessary because there is no reason to think this kind of abuse will ever stop. 

“This is a plot, this is a plan of theirs, this is a strategy,” he said. “And it’s not going to stop. When I get out again, they gonna do something else.”

The RIB and SMP procedures were also weaponized against Hasan. In the lead-up to the 2018 National Prison Strike, the ODRC central office charged the Imam with five disciplinary violations relating to so-called rioting, according to the Free Ohio Movement. A security barrier and sandbags were placed outside his cell as he went on hunger strike to protest the charges. 

Jay Ward, who is currently incarcerated at TOCI and spent three weeks on hunger strike in solidarity with the 2018 National Prison Strike, is also dealing with false conduct reports and due process violations. 

In September, he was sent to Limited Privilege Housing (LPH), which is akin to solitary, for allegedly exposing himself to a female nurse. He said the prison violated its own procedure because a CO wrote the incident report as if he had seen what happened, though he did not. 

Ward’s punishment began prior to an RIB hearing, which he said is common, though against policy. 

According to Ward, when contradictions like this are raised by incarcerated people, the prison staff joke that it would be really bad for prisoners if all the rules were followed.  

Mustafa is also dealing with staff misconduct.

In September, he was placed into Local Control (LC), a designation intended for prisoners previously in general population. It allows for sentences in solitary between 30 days and six months with fewer “privileges” than ERH. However, there is supposed to be a hearing before a committee every 30 days to determine if it’s “necessary” for the individual to remain there. 

Mustafa alleges Warden Harold May “decided” incarcerated people in this designation do not need to go before the committee. Mustafa was told at the time that he would remain in LC for six months. 

“All of this is against the law, it’s against policy, and it’s against our human rights,” he said. 

On November 10, Mustafa was able to successfully petition for his return to ERH after highlighting how as an ERH prisoner of level 4 designation, he was ineligible for LC confinement. 

Hunger Strikes 

For Ward, fighting alleged rules violations is extremely important. He’s 30 years old and grew up in prison, having spent the last 15 years incarcerated.

Ward exposed his genitals to prison staff in an incident that took place years ago. He said prison staff now use that incident to fabricate rule violations that he said never took place. Ward said often the only way to protest these false reports is to go on hunger strike. He estimates he has undertaken 15 hunger strikes at TOCI since 2018, the longest lasting 24 days. 

Ward went on hunger strike to protest the most recent alleged violation. He did not eat for about four days and was moved from LPH to suicide watch, which is itself another form of solitary confinement. There, he eventually talked to an RIB officer who had him moved back to general population. 

“They didn’t want to deal with me,” he said. 

Mustafa went on a hunger strike in October to protest the conditions of his confinement in LC. 

He is not sure how long this went on, estimating it lasted between three and four weeks. With each day he became weaker, although he said after a few days he lost the desire to eat. 

He said the prison did not acknowledge the strike, which is against ODRC policy. Eventually, he could see there was no point in continuing. 

“I believe that I’m such an enemy of this state of Ohio that they was hoping [for] me to harm myself in a way I couldn’t come back from,” he said. 

Political Repression 

Mustafa, Ward, and Curry believe incident reports are used as tools for political repression or retaliation against those engaged in advocacy. 

Curry, who considers himself a political prisoner for his inside activism, said ODRC Northern Regional Director David Bobby has it out for him. Bobby was the warden at OST for much of Curry’s time there.

“They sent me [to Toledo] with the understanding behind the scenes that [they should] keep their foot on this guy’s neck,” Curry said. The idea being that, “‘Every time you get a chance put him in the hole, put him in lockup, so that we know he’s not moving around and he’s not getting into anything.’”

Bobby’s signature authorized Curry’s most recent trip to solitary confinement. Curry said he could imagine the former warden smiling.

Curry’s activism did not stop after the Lucasville Uprising. He participates in Black August work stoppages, strikes, and inside political education projects. He has written pieces in support of the Free Alabama Movement and in solidarity with incarcerated people accused of rioting in Maryland.  

Curry has also encouraged prisoners to fight back against state violence. There have been many instances where he has fought back physically against prison guards and other state actors who have threatened his life. He said he believes all life is beautiful and that, as a result, he has an obligation to defend his own life and the lives of those around him. 

“I value humanity in general,” he said. “I’m just in charge of keeping my individual self safe and then everyone else. But the priority has to be my own life because without mine there’s no way that I can help the rest of humanity.”

His political work has never been centered around himself. He said he is fighting for a world where all the walls and gates fall, a world where every incarcerated person will be free. 

Curry said the prison accusing him of something adjacent to drug trafficking is a way to try and distance him from his outside allies, who are ostensibly opposed to drug use and drug dealing. 

“This is just a strategy,” he said.

Mustafa’s radical politics are no secret. Guards sometimes ask him about his P.O.W. face tattoo. He tells them he is still fighting the war, that he is behind enemy lines. The tattoo is part of Mustafa’s daily resistance against the prison, resistance he believes constitutes self defense. 

Mustafa’s inside political work began in the mid 2000s, while confined for a different sentence. He helped to create a prison organization called Brothers Against Oppression (BAO) which practiced a strategy of self defense against ubiquitous and often deadly assaults from guards at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.   

Confrontations between BAO and the COs were often violent. 

“Any time the pigs would get aggressive, or would try to stab a prisoner like they used to do, or whatever they would try to do, just some unjust corrupt shit, we would have a demonstration immediately,” Mustafa said. 

By “demonstration,” Mustafa meant fighting back, throwing stuff at guards, and physically stopping them from entering the cell block. He said many incarcerated people he knew have been murdered by guards and that the self defense strategy worked to counteract state violence. 

ODRC eventually transferred Mustafa to the OST supermax to prevent him from continuing his organizing. Mustafa finished his sentence there, including some additional time for a fight with a guard where he alleges he acted in self defense, and was released in 2011, but returned to prison in 2013.

Beyond the hunger strikes, Ward’s activism extends to social media, where his outside supporters post about abuse he faces and often names COs. He said many of the COs have a grudge against him, particularly because of his activity on social media. 

“Anything they can do to make me look bad or get me out of the area that they are in, they’ll do it,” he said. 

Torture by Other Names 

For Curry, solitary confinement demands he find ways to stimulate his mind. 

“[I end up] trying to find something to do everyday to make the day go away,” he said. 

The United Nations Nelson Mandela Rules stipulate that more than 15 consecutive days in solitary confinement constitutes torture. Mustafa is aware of this international benchmark and believes he and all others in isolation are being tortured by ODRC. 

“It’s pure torture and over a period of time it has the ability to diminish the things inside an individual that makes him a human being,” he said. “Guys begin to act like animals locked in a cage, only knowing how to communicate through loud noises, only knowing how to express themselves by throwing feces and urine and doing things that a normal human being would never do.” 

Mustafa said the mental health resources available to people are totally corrupt and do not promote care. 

“They actually tell them, you have to harm yourself to get any attention, any treatment, anything–you have to harm yourself,” Mustafa said. Ward echoed this claim.

In his article, “Mental Health, Abuse, and Neglect At Toledo Correctional Institution,” Mustafa recalls telling prison staff he was having suicidal ideations last fall. He said they laughed in his face and did nothing.

 Mustafa said this happened to a friend of his named Duncan, who died by suicide in 2020 in the same unit where Mustafa is now. 

Duncan’s death was listed as an incident without a perpetrator, but Mustafa believes the prison’s mental health staff are responsible.  

“They allowed him to do [this] for the sake of seeing if he would,” he said. “These tyrants here at the Toledo Correctional Institution feel that prisoners’ lives do not matter at all.”

In ERH, Mustafa said police terror is omnipresent and guards often enter the unit decked out in storm trooper gear. There are regular strip searches and destructive cell searches, and mace is often used.

Ward is suing ODRC over an assault that happened when he was in ERH in 2018. He said guards stormed into the cell while he was listening to music on headphones. They released a full canister of oleoresin capsicum gas and dislocated his shoulder. 

Mustafa said the combination of assaults from guards and the years in isolation have given him and many others Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said political consciousness has been his primary source of motivation to keep fighting. 

“I have to struggle everyday to maintain my humanity,” he said. “The reason I hold onto my humanity is my level of awareness, my level of awareness of the system and what they are trying to do to the individuals trapped inside these modern day plantations.”

The post Ohio Prisoners Argue State Uses Solitary Confinement To Retaliate Against Political Advocacy appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Prison Protest, lucasville uprising, Ohio Department Of Rehabilitation And Correction, Prison Organizing, solitary confinement]

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[l] at 1/8/21 10:52am




On the first edition of “Dissenter Weekly” in 2021, host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola starts off the year with coverage of NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, who allegedly was threatened by a guard over a sexual assault claim she filed.

Later in the show, Gosztola covers the corporate capture and total hollowing out of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under President Donald Trump, as exposed by whistleblowers.

The show concludes with an update on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s case and an overtime discussion with Shadowproof publishing editor Brian Sonenstein about the Trump mob that descended upon Capitol Hill.

This week’s stories:

NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Alleges Guard Threatened Her Over Sexual Abuse Claim

Fifty-Seven Whistleblowers Expose Corruption Around FAA And Boeing 737 MAX

Regulator Ignored Warnings From UPS Workers, Failed To Stop COVID-19 Outbreak

Judge’s Decision To Keep Assange In Prison Strongly Condemned

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The post Dissenter Weekly: Reality Winner’s Sexual Abuse Claim, Trump’s Hollowing Out Of Oversight Agencies appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, The Dissenter Weekly Update | Shadowproof, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 1/6/21 4:53am

A British district judge denied bail for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after a hearing in which the prosecution argued he had helped NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “flee justice” and would abscond if released from the Belmarsh high-security prison.

“As far as Mr. Assange is concerned, this case has not been won,” Baraitser declared. She said the United States government “must be allowed to challenge [her] decision.”

Baraitser referred to the lengthy history of the case and how he “jumped bail” and entered the Ecuador Embassy to obtain asylum in 2012.

She went on to highlight the “huge support networks” he still has “should he again choose to go to ground,” and Baraitser agreed with the prosecution that WikiLeaks’ assistance of Snowden made Assange a flight risk.

Assange has been confined at Belmarsh since he was arrested and expelled from the Ecuador embassy in April 2019. All along, Judge Vanessa Baraitser agreed with prosecutors that he was a flight risk.

“Mr. Assange’s past conduct shows the lengths he is prepared to go to avoid extradition proceedings. If I released him today, he would not return to face these extradition proceedings,” Baraitser declared during a hearing in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was initially intensifying worldwide.

In her ruling on bail, despite evidence of a recent outbreak at Belmarsh, the judge maintained that the facility was properly caring for prisoners and Assange would be safe.

Edward Fitzgerald, an attorney for Assange, argued the extradition decision changed any motive Assange would have to flee London before the case was resolved. In fact, the extradition decision came with an order of discharge for Assange.

“The logical outcome of the ruling would be he regains liberty at least conditionally,” Fitzgerald stated.

Fitzgerald questioned whether the Justice Department is even serious about an appeal, given recent reporting on the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Assange has not seen his family in person since March 2020, and Belmarsh has suspended social visits. It is widely recognized that physical contact would alleviate the mental distress that factored into the judge’s decision against extradition.

London is on lockdown as a mutated variant of COVID-19 rips through the city.



The post British Judge Keeps Assange In Prison, Despite Ruling Against Extradition appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 1/5/21 12:39pm

In March 2020, NSA whistleblower Reality Winner filed a report alleging that a guard sexually abused or harassed her. Now, her mother says days ago the guard she reported came to her unit and threatened her with retaliation.

The report was filed under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), a law passed in 2003 with the intent of ensuring that prisons do more to document sexual abuse and harassment in order to stamp it out of facilities.

Winner has been incarcerated at Federal Medical Center Carswell since October 2018, where she is serving a 63-month sentence after accepting a plea agreement.

According to Billie Winner-Davis, her daughter finally met with an “investigator” on January 4, but “they minimized and blamed Reality Winner for the lack of action and response.”

Winner-Davis received a phone call in the morning on New Year’s Eve. Reality was crying and upset. She was not sleeping and informed her mother for the first time that she submitted a report alleging abuse and harassment. She suggested the grievances she (and others) filed were “blocked.” (It is possible the PREA official claimed the allegations could not be substantiated.)

The night before, a guard and lieutenant reportedly came to Reality’s unit and announced to everyone that they knew Reality complained. “If you lie on me, I go for blood,” the guard allegedly stated.

Reality became afraid the prison might put her in solitary confinement and maintain it was for her safety. She did not want to be removed from her unit, where she believes fellow prisoners would protect her. And she was convinced if she was in isolation the guard would “have access to her.”

Winner-Davis was told by Reality that two or three of the prisoners in the unit also have an active PREA report against the same guard.

A PREA audit conducted in 2019 found Carswell did not always conduct “retaliation monitoring” in a timely manner. Staff were instructed to review the standard and “correct time frame” for such monitoring.

“In November 2017, a former male case manager was sentenced to 12 months incarceration and two years supervised release for sexually abusing a woman incarcerated at FMC Carswell in November 2016,” according to a report [PDF] from a congressional oversight body.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Brady Michael Green was a guard at Carswell and pled guilty in 2014 to “making a false statement to a government agency for lying about having sex with an inmate at least three times.”

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has noted, Carswell, “which currently houses about 1,300 inmates, has a checkered history of accusations of sexual assault and medical neglect.”

A 2009 Inspector General report found “58 inmates at Carswell had reported incidents of staff sexual abuse” from 2001 to 2008. “That was the fourth-most complaints among institutions managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”

Reality Winner survived a COVID-19 outbreak at Carswell and spent most of 2020 fighting for compassionate release. She has submitted a clemency application to the Justice Department.

“Just when we think it can’t get worse, it does. Just when we think the worst is behind us, a new nightmare emerges,” Winner-Davis declared.

Her mother is deeply concerned about the safety of her daughter. “I can’t stop worrying, not knowing what’s happening to her. Is she okay? I just don’t know where to go for help anymore or how to protect her. I just keep doing whatever I can do.”

Winner-Davis contacted both of her senators in Texas—John Cornyn and Ted Cruz—as well as a congressional representative, Filemon Vela. Only Cornyn responded, and he declined to help her.

Reality Winner is not eligible for release from prison until November 2021.

As she has stated, she is a political prisoner, and the staff hate her because she has a voice. She is a veteran, and they hate her because of her service. She is a human being, and they hate her because she knows her worth.

“I am a daughter, sister, auntie, and they hate me because I am loved.”

The post NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Alleges Guard Threatened Her Over Sexual Abuse Claim appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Prison Rape Elimination Act, Reality Winner News]

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[l] at 1/5/21 8:01am

The following was originally published as part of The Dissenter newsletter.

The mass incarceration system in the United States is cruel and inhumane, and as a result, the U.S. government had their extradition request against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied by a British district judge.

As Judge Vanessa Baraitser declared [PDF], “The detention conditions in which Mr. Assange is likely to be held are relevant to Mr. Assange’s risk of suicide.”

She additionally found there was “a real risk” that Assange would be subject to “restrict special administrative measures” or SAMs if confined in a U.S. prison.

Even more specifically, Baraitser determined Assange would be designated to ADX Florence in Colorado, a supermax facility notorious for its conditions and how their effects on mentally ill prisoners.

“I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” Baraitser concluded, after noting he was diagnosed with a recurring depressive disorder and autism spectrum disorder.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) was involved in producing a report in 2017 called “The Darkest Corner.” It was referenced by the judge and outlined the conditions prisoners face at ADX Florence if designated for SAMs.

…[P]risoners are generally allowed a total of 10 hours outside their cell per week; however this time is spent alone in a small indoor room or a cage hardly bigger than their cell; inmates are forbidden from communicating with other prisoners, for example, by yelling though the walls; communications with people outside the prison are usually restricted to their lawyers and a few immediate family members who must be cleared by the US government; SAMs typically restricts prisoners to writing one letter per week to a single family member and this may not exceed three double-sided sheets of paper, forwarded to FBI agents for approval; over time, the delays in receiving mail can degrade the quality of communication between a prisoner and his family to the point where it can feel worthless; phone calls are severely restricted and contemporaneously monitored; during non-legal in-person visits no physical contact is allowed, with conversations taking place thorough a thick glass barrier and prisoners shackled and chained at their wrists, ankles and to the ground; 14-days advance notice is required for visits, and these can take months to coordinate because SAMs prisoners cannot use a visiting room when any other prisoner is present.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, whose defense of the allegations were relied upon heavily by the Crown Prosecution Service, did not offer any assurances that Assange would not be placed under SAMs before or after trial.

As Baraitser acknowledged, “This case was opened on the basis that it related to one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the U.S. The views of the intelligence community are articulated by Mike Pompeo, then head of the CIA, in a speech on April 13, 2017. He described Wikileaks as a ‘hostile non-state intelligence service.’ He told the audience that Russian military intelligence had used Wikileaks to release data it had obtained through cyber operations against the Democratic National Committee and that Russia’s primary propaganda outlet had actively collaborated with Wikileaks.”

“He stated that Mr. Assange ‘and his ilk’ make common cause with dictators and that “Wikileaks will take down America any way they can.’ He told the audience “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.'”

“I have rejected the defense submission that this hostility translated into improper pressure on federal prosecutors to bring charges,” Baraitser stated. “However, it does demonstrate that as recently as 2017, Mr. Assange and Wikileaks were viewed by the intelligence community as an ongoing threat to national security.”

The spying operation conducted against Assange represented a “high level of concern by the U.S. authorities regarding Mr. Assange’s ongoing activities.” To the judge, this was evidence he would be put in extraordinarily restrictive jail or prison conditions that would impact his health and potentially drive him to commit suicide.

Maureen Baird, a former warden for the federal Bureau of Prisons, testified as a defense witness, and Baraitser referred to her summary of conditions she recalled from her time overseeing the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.

Inmates were in solitary confinement, technically, for 24-hours per day. There was absolutely no communication, by any means, with other inmates. The only form of human interaction they encountered was when correctional officers opened the viewing slot during their inspection rounds of the unit, when institution staff walked through the unit during their required weekly rounds, or when meals were delivered through the secure meal slot in the door. One-hour recreation was offered to inmates in this unit each day; however, in my experience, oftentimes an inmate would decline this opportunity because it was much of the same as their current situation. The recreation area, in the unit, consisted of a small barren indoor cell, absent any exercise equipment.

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months at a federal correctional institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, after pleading guilty in a leak prosecution. He has spent the last five years following federal prison issues closely.

“There is a precedent for British courts not sending prisoners back to the United States, and it’s specifically because of the way the U.S. uses solitary confinement. The UN considers the U.S. practice of solitary to be a form of torture. The British courts have held that it is a form of torture, and if somebody is fragile, it’s very, very easy to commit suicide in prisons,” Kiriakou commented.

Jeffrey Sterling, another CIA whistleblower who was sentenced to prison after a leak prosecution, said he found it interesting that the judge thought a U.S. prison was “the most dangerous thing Assange [would] face if extradited.”

“She is correct in her assessment of the harsh conditions in U.S. prisons, but she fails to explain how that aspect is wholly separate from the overall system that Assange would be subject to. One cannot and should not be separated from the other. If he cannot be treated justly in prison, he will not be treated justly in the U.S. courts,” Sterling added.

Sterling sounded an alarm. “What Baraitser has actually done is legitimize the U.S. effort to use the Espionage Act to reach any dissenting opinion anywhere. The danger to press freedom and whistleblowers worldwide remains, and the threat has in fact been increased.”

“If the aspect of mental health is not a factor in any future efforts, there apparently will be nothing to stop the U.S.”

This is what made the decision bittersweet for press freedom organizations, advocates, and supporters, who have opposed Assange’s extradition.

***

It is worth mentioning some further examples of inhumanity that were referenced by the judge.

According to a report from the Corrections Information Council that described conditions at ADX Florence in April 2017, psychological services were limited to “self-help packets and information provided by video.” Only five individual therapy slots were available and participants in group therapy were kept in “individual cages and remained shackled.”

“It expressed concern that those self-harming or who have attempted suicide were describe d by staff as ‘just getting attention many times’ and that ‘inmates who are disciplined are less likely to commit self-harm again.’ It noted that rates of documented instances of inmates ‘threatening bodily harm’ was 8.7/100 compared to the overall BOP rate of 0.9/100.”

Baraitser also highlighted:

The report documents one inmate reporting that he suffered from depression and bipolar disorders but who was taken off medication in January 2017 following which he attempted suicide and, by April 2017, he had yet to receive any medication. It documents another inmate being taken off psychotropic medication following his attempted suicide by swallowing pills. At the time of the inspection one inmate was on suicide watch. Staff reported that the facility had two or three suicide attempts in the past year and the last completed suicide was on December December 25, 2015…

A series published by The Atlantic in 2012 called attention to the horror that unfolds daily. “Prisoners interminably wail, scream, and bang on the walls of their cells. Some mutilate their bodies with razors, shards of glass, writing utensils and whatever other objects they can obtain. Some swallow razor blades, nail clippers, parts of radios and televisions, broken glass, and other dangerous objects.”

On May 5, 2019, “during a routine search of the cell solely occupied by Mr. Assange, inside a cupboard and concealed under some underwear, a prison officer found ‘half of a razor blade,'” the judge wrote.

The decision is ominous for journalists, who engage in the same newsgathering practices that the Justice Department criminalized through the Espionage Act and computer crime charges brought against Assange.

At the same time, it is rather clear that a life was saved. If Assange were incarcerated in a federal prison, it would be a death sentence.

The post US Incarceration System Deemed Too Cruel For Julian Assange appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 1/4/21 9:30am

Coal miners successfully pushed congress to extend the coal excise tax that funds the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund to 2021, as the fund is facing financial struggles due to bankruptcies throughout the coal industry. 

The coal industry cited the pandemic in pushes to decrease the excise tax on coal, with the National Mining Association lobbying for a 55 percent reduction in the tax rate. 

At the end of 2019, congress took action to restore the coal excise tax to $1.10 per ton for underground mines and $0.50 per ton for surface miners for one year after the tax rate was briefly reduced. The tax was included in the fiscal year 2020 government spending bill. 

Without congressional action, the tax would have been cut in half, shifting the financial burden onto the government and further risking the fund of insolvency. The tax was extended in the latest federal government spending bill until the end of 2021, when coal miners with black lung will once again have to worry about pushing congress to take action unless they succeed in passing a longer-term solution this year.

“Black lung is a killer, it just destroys all the organs in your body. There’s no cure for it.” said 74 year old Jimmy Moore who worked as a coal miner for 22 years. “I have black lung. My son has complicated black lung. He’s had good friends in the hospital dying on a ventilator because of black lung. I’ve seen young men, 40 to 50 years old on oxygen, with young wives and children left behind.”

Moore’s lung capacity isn’t low enough to qualify for black lung disability benefits, but he applies annually as the disease progresses. He attributes his less advanced case to the fact his mine was unionized, with safety standards and dust mitigating measures enforced by the union. He explained he’s taken a union organizing approach toward fighting for miners suffering from black lung disease, and has participated in five visits to Washington DC over the past few years to push congress to take action to fund and protect the Black Lung Disability trust fund. 

“Senator Mitch McConnell is the hold up I think for all of this,” Moore added. “Congress needs to take action. We didn’t deserve to get black lung, it’s the company’s fault and I think the company ought to be responsible for us getting black lung benefits. We really need to get their attention someway or another, but this coronavirus going on right now is really affecting our ability to get around and talk to people.”

The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was set up in 1977 by the federal government to pay medical and disability payments to miners affected by black lung disease where responsible coal operators are not able to pay. The primary revenue for the fund is an excise tax on coal produced and sold within the United States and currently supports around 25,000 retired coal miners. 

“Congress has no idea what coal miners go through. We give up our health to put coal out on the market, to supply electricity. They take our health and when we get older they try to take our benefits too,” said Harold Sturgill of Beckley, West Virginia who worked as a coal miner for 35 years and struggles with black lung disease. “Congress really needs to look at these companies and monitor them because they haven’t put what they’re supposed to into the black lung benefit fund. It seems like they’ve just let these companies do whatever they want to do.” 

Black lung disease, more formally known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, is caused by years of coal mine dust inhalation. Between 1968 to 2014, around 76,000 coal miners are estimated to have died from black lung disease, as cases of black lung disease have risen in recent years, especially in Appalachia among young miners

The US Government of Accountability Office estimated in January 2020 that $865 million in black lung benefit responsibility has been transferred to the fund due to coal bankruptcies, with the fund currently in debt of around $4 billion to the US Treasury. 

“We’ve been working on this for years and we just get a one year extension,” said Vonda Robinson, Vice President of the Black Lung Association of Southwest Virginia. Her organization and others have pushed for the current coal excise tax to be extended for at least ten years. “We shouldn’t have to fight every year to get this done.”

Her husband, John Robinson, worked as a coal miner for nearly 30 years. He was diagnosed with black lung disease around 2013, and it took around six years for him to receive his lifetime black lung benefits, which were initially appealed by the coal company where he worked. Robinson explained it often takes several years for coal miners to receive black lung disability benefits, as the coal corporations delay and fight against awarding benefits. 

“There’s a lengthy process of trying to get benefits,” she said. “Some of these miners are in their 70’s and 80’s still fighting for their black lung benefits. The company is hoping these men will die or give up. A lot of men give up, get tired of fighting and that should not be the case for these men or their widows.” 

Though John Robinson has been able to obtain his black lung disability benefits, living with the disease is a daily struggle for him. He described it as using a push mower to mow a lawn with a pillow over your face. At 54 years old, his black lung disease has progressed from stage one to stage two in just a few years, leaving him to rely on supplemental oxygen at night and throughout the day.  

“We’ve been kicked to the side. We should not have to fight for another year to get our black lung benefits,” said John Robinson. “That should never be something we have to fight for, but we have to fight a year to get it for another year, and go back to fight, it’s repetitive, it shouldn’t be like that. It’s not right. It shouldn’t have to be a fight.”

The post Coal Miners Fight Congress To Save Black Lung Benefits appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Featured Reporting, Latest News, The Dissenter, Black Lung, Coal, Coal Miners, Congress]

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[l] at 1/4/21 4:13am

Citing harsh federal prison conditions in the United States, a British district court judge rejected the United States government’s extradition request against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser found Assange suffers from a “recurrent depressive disorder.” Although he functions at a high level, he suffers from autism as well.

She accepted that he would likely be imprisoned at a supermax prison in the U.S. under special administrative measures (SAMs) and would find a way to commit suicide.

“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,” Baraitser declared.

“I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”

The US government will submit an appeal with the High Court of Justice, and he will have an opportunity to apply for bail from Belmarsh high-security prison, where he has been detained since April 2019.

Assange was charged in 2019 with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer intrusion that contains elements of an Espionage Act offense.

A superseding indictment in 2020 contained new general allegations that targeted his speech at conferences and the role he allegedly played in helping NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leave Hong Kong.

The charges criminalized common newsgathering practices, including the receipt and publication of secret government information. Press freedom organizations throughout the world condemned the charges.

Baraitser accepted virtually all of the allegations by the U.S. government as reasonable, which was likely alarming to all press freedom organizations following the case.

She even contended a U.S. court would protect Assange’s due process and free speech rights. But because of the “real risk” that he will be held at ADX Florence in Colorado after his trial, she declined to grant the request.

This is breaking news and updates will be included throughout the day.

The post In Assange Case, British Judge Rejects US Government’s Extradition Request appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 12/23/20 3:53pm

Garrett Felber joins the Beyond Prisons podcast to discuss his most recent project, Study and Struggle, which he helped launch in 2020 as “a bilingual political education program on abolition and immigrant justice which supports and collaborates with grassroots organizations in Mississippi.”

(NOTE: This episode was recorded a few weeks before Felber was wrongfully fired by the University of Mississippi for speaking out against its racist donors and role in perpetuating the carceral state; you can find out more about what happened here.)

Felber is a former assistant professor of history at the University of Mississippi and the author of “Those Who Know Don’t Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement and the Carceral State” and co-author of “The Portable Malcolm X Reader” with the late Manning Marable.  

He was the lead organizer of the Making and Unmaking Mass Incarceration conference and Project Director of the Parchman Oral History Project, a collaborative oral history, archival, and documentary storytelling project on incarceration in Mississippi. In 2016, Felber co-founded Liberation Literacy, an abolitionist collective inside and outside Oregon prisons.  

Felber is currently a fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, where he will be working on his next book project: “We Are All Political Prisoners: The Revolutionary Life of Martin Sostre.”

Episode Notes & Resources

Study And Struggle

Those Who Know Don’t Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement, and the Carceral State” (UNC Press, 2020)

Follow Garrett on Twitter @garrett_felber

Credits

Created and hosted by Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein

Edited by Ellis Maxwell

Website & volunteers managed by Victoria Nam

Theme music by Jared Ware

Support Beyond Prisons

Visit our website at beyond-prisons.com

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The post Beyond Prisons Podcast: Study And Struggle Feat. Garrett Felber appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Beyond Prisons, Latest News, Prison Protest, Shadowproof Podcast Series, Political education, Shadowproof Podcasts]

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[l] at 12/23/20 9:35am

*The following is a collection of some of the best albums of protest music released in 2020. 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.

Fiona Apple — Fetch The Bolt Cutters

In an  NPR interview , Apple described how the motivation of her critically acclaimed masterpiece was to urge listeners to “fetch your tool of liberation. Set yourself free.”

The album is an example of how the personal is frequently political. For instance, when Apple sings, “Kick me under the table all you want. I won’t shut up,” she is referring to an uncomfortable dinner party, but it can apply to any scenario where someone attempts to silence your voice. On “Relay,’ she speaks out against toxic influences, including a pointed rebuke of social media influencers (“I resent you presenting your life like a fucking propaganda brochure”).

Apple also shows empathy for the trauma of others, like on “For Her,” which was composed—with permission—about a friend who used to intern for a Hollywood producer. The unsettling lyric, “Good morning. You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in,” takes on greater relevance in the #MeToo era.

Even though the songs were written and recorded before the global COVID-19 pandemic, the album is impactful because it perfectly encapsulates the feelings of anxiety and isolation that many experienced. And currently, everyone feels the urge to reach for the metaphorical bolt cutters.

(C.J. Baker)

clipping. – Visions Of Bodies Being Burned

This is the experimental hip-hop trio’s sequel to their 2019 horrorcore masterpiece “There Existed an Addiction to Blood” (which was one of the best protest albums of 2019). Just like the predecessor, the tunes effectively employ horror movie themes to explore sociopolitical issues.

The intent of the music is summed up on the album’s Bandcamp page: “There’s a well-worn adage in film scholarship that says: Every era gets the monster it deserves—meaning during each period of history, different monsters come to embody the specific sociopolitical anxieties of the time: Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and antisemitism, Godzilla and the atom bomb, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and McCarthyism, Anne Rice’s vampires and the AIDS crisis.”

“While these figures are largely reactionary, clipping. intentionally recast their figures of monstrosity through the lens of an anti-racist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonial politics to address the struggles of our current era.”

Examples of recasting figures of monstrosity to provide social commentary include “Pain Everyday,” which is a call-to-arm the ghosts of lynching victims to haunt the heirs of their murderers, and “Eaten Alive,” which uses swamp monsters to analyze environmental destruction and gentrification.

Another album standout, “Body for the Pile,” tells the tale of three police officers who are murdered. It is a poignant reminder that unchecked police brutality can’t continue to go on without there being any backlash. 

The album makes for an uncomfortable listening experience, but waking up to real-life horrors is necessary.

(C.J. Baker)

47Soul – Semitics

47Soul makes dance music for resistance. The band is composed of members from Palestine, London, and the United States that perform a style of music they dubbed Shamstep—hip hop and electronic styles combined with Middle Eastern-influenced melodies.

It features British Iraqi rapper Lowkey, British Palestinian rapper and singer Shadia Mansour, Jordan-based musician The Synaptik, and Tamer Nafar, known for founding DAM. Both The Synaptik and Nafar are Palestinian rappers.

Many of the tracks connect the Palestinian struggle to struggles for justice and liberation throughout the world through lyrics in Arabic and English. “Border Ctrl” calls for an end to the “Mexico-Bethlehem wall.” On “Hold Your Ground,” Lowkey delivers a verse that name-checks Donald Trump and Boris Johnson and alludes to the poisoning of discourse along with “censorship that never stops.”

Deliberately, the album reclaims the word “semitic.” They note “semitic languages” include Hebrew and Arabic. People who speak the languages “mixed a lot.” Arabs can be semites, and the album confronts many of the political, theological, and geographical themes that allow apartheid and occupation to persist in Palestine.

(Kevin Gosztola)

Irreversible Entanglements – Who Sent You?

Irreversible Entanglements is a liberation-oriented free jazz collective that pushes boundaries, both lyrically and sonically. Their sophomore album, “Who Sent You?” builds on the sound they created for their debut album in 2017.

Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother), Keir Neuringer, Aquiles Navarro, Tcheser Holmes, and Luke Stewart describe the album as a “holistic jam” of “infinite possibilities coming back around.” It explores traumas in past eras that still have a deep impact on Black lives in America while also turning toward a future of Afrotopia, when oppression no longer holds so many down.

“At what point do we stand up? At the breaking point? At the point of no return?” declares Ayewa on “The Code Noir/Amina.” “At what point? At what point do we pull each other up, up out of the void, up out of a hell? At what point? At what point? At what point do we give a shit? Do we stand up and say something?”

The void of 2020 and the hell of COVID-19, paired with ongoing terror of violence by the carceral state, has been felt in the extreme. A protest song on the breaking point for oppressed people could not be more poignant and called for in these times.

Another track “No Más” revolves around the concept of Africans fleeing Earth to escape oppression. “No más. No more. No longer will we allow them to divide and conquer, divide and oppress, define our humanity.”

This is jazz music that encourages Black people to reclaim their dignity, a poignant listen in a year that demanded clarity from music.

(Kevin Gosztola)

Billy Nomates – s/t

“I’ve never really had money, but I was the poorest I’d been a couple of years ago after working a load of minimum wage jobs.” That’s what Nomates told NME.

Nomates’ working class experiences influenced the British indie rocker’s stunning self-titled debut. She skillfully uses her scathing wit to denounce capitalism, apathy, hypocrisy, and misogyny.

Standout tracks include “Supermarket Sweep,” and “Call in Sick,” which address the monotony and exploitative nature of low-paying jobs. Elsewhere on the album, the satirical “Hippy Elite” comes off like a catchy, modern-day version of Phil Ochs’ “Love Me, I’m a Liberal.” And on “Fat White Man,” Nomates indicts white males, who use their privilege to force their will on others.   

Then there is “FNP,” which stands for “Forgotten Normal People.” The lyrics not only make it clear that the elite doesn’t care about lower class people, but it also features a rousing call to arms for the forgotten masses, who must stand together and force those in power to acknowledge them.

(C.J. Baker)

David Rovics – Notes From A Failed State

One of the most prolific and hardest working protest musicians is David Rovics, who has released a new album just about every year since 1999. This year, the guitarist and folk singer released two albums.

“Notes From a Failed State,” released in June, opens with “Precipice,” where he sings about being on the edge as the state pulls the rug out from under lower class people. He refers to mass graves dug for “essential workers.”

Many of Rovics’ songs tend to be specifically topical. “Essentially Expendable” is a more focused song on “essential workers” that centers on the story of Jason Hargrove, a bus driver in Detroit who died from COVID-19 eleven days after he shared a video expressing his anger over a coughing passenger.

“Each Couch By The Street,” “Don’t Pay The Rent,” and “Rent Party” speak to the looming eviction crisis that still persists for millions of Americans while Congress goes above and beyond to keep corporations afloat (even offering them tax breaks for “three-martini lunches”).

The majority of the songs were written in April and May and largely deal with the pandemic. One song deals with the uprising around George Floyd’s death. Others tell stories known to the left but ignored by the media establishment.

As the movement troubadour sings on the album’s concluding track, “It’s a future of uncertainty, but our liberation can only be as free as our imagination.”

(Kevin Gosztola) 

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 4

And every day
on the evening news
they feed you fear for free
And you so numb
you watch the cops
choke out a man like me
until my voice
goes from a shriek
to whisper,
‘I can’t breathe’

Those lyrics from the album track could have easily been a reference to the murder of George Floyd. But the song was written before that incident and referred to the dying words of Eric Garner.

This exemplifies what made the fourth album by the dynamic rap duo of Killer Mike and El-P so momentous. The album provided a prophetic time capsule that perfectly captured the political climate of 2020 while also expressing the frustrations of continuing to observe systemic injustices.  

Another example of this was “JU$T,” which features the poignant line, “Where murderous chokehold cops still earnin’ a livin’. Funny how some say money don’t matter. That’s rich now, isn’t it? Get it? Comedy. Try to sell a pack of smokes to get food. Get killed and it’s not an anomaly.”

The album included several guest spots, including pioneers of socially conscious music like Rage Against The Machine’s Zack De La Rocha (“JU$T”) and Mavis Staples (“pulling the pin”). Their presence helped connect past generations to the present and offer lessons for the future.

(C.J. Baker)

SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is)

Consider this SAULT’s spiritual contribution to Black people and the African Diaspora in 2020. Through this collection, the British rhythm and blues collective spoke to the hardship and trauma of Black life while agitating for revolutionary change.

The release came weeks after George Floyd was murdered and was dedicated to “all those who have suffered from police brutality and systemic racism.” It received widespread acclaim and was one of the best out of a slew of music put out as the world witnessed a resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests.

“Black Is” features a number of collaborators, including Cleo Sol, an R&B singer-songwriter, and Michael Kiwanuka, another R&B singer-songwriter. Many of the songs use subdued beats or a sparse rhythms to create memos for the movement.

For example, “Hard Life” points to those threatened by Black freedom yet insists things will change if people stay the course. “Wildfires” confronts police murder and says, “We are dying, it’s the reason we are crying.” Yet, there can be no backing down. “We will never show fear.”

An Afrobeat sound distinguishes “Bow” from most of the tracks. The song goes through a roll call of countries in the African continent. “We got, we got, we got, we got rights. We got rights.”

Together, the tracks powerfully celebrate those who threw off their chains in a moment when so many were awakened to injustice.

(Kevin Gosztola)

Toots & The Maytals – Got To Be Tough

Toots Hibbert, one of the forefathers of reggae and ska music, died in September at the age of 77. Before his death, “Got To Be Tough”—his first album in a decade—was released in collaboration with his longtime band, The Maytals.

Much of the music is a kind of fusion of reggae and rock. On “Just Brutal,” he says everything you do is just brutal, and he does not know what the world is coming to. It’s dispirited, but then he follows it with, “Got To Be Tough,” a spirited call to stand up to the hard times. 

“Freedom Train” contains an upbeat keyboard riff that provides a backbone for Toots to address the state of the world for working people. He pairs it with a message to climb aboard the train to freedom.

Those who watched director Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” film anthology, which told stories about West Indian immigrants in London during the 1960s and 1970s, were introduced (or re-introduced) to Toots and the Maytals. Their landmark song, “Pressure Drop,” from 1969 was featured in “Mangrove.” 

Toots never wavered while creating positive vibrations. “Be careful of what you speak and what you doing. It’s not complicated. Don’t take life for granted, be careful, be strong,” he said in one of his last interviews. And remember, the pressure’s going to drop on you if you’re doing people wrong.

(Kevin Gosztola)

War on Women – Wonderful Hell

Many of the best protest albums of 2020 expressed the frustration and anxieties that many feel in the present political climate. “Wonderful Hell,” released right before the United States presidential election by the feminist hardcore band War on Women, was such an album.

It skillfully blends the band’s aggressive musical attacks with the incisive lyrics and impassioned vocals of Shawna Potter. And even though there is plenty of justifiable anger, that anger is directed in a positive way.

Lyrics such as “The fire, the embers, the ash are not the end. If you want it then you’re gonna have to build it yourself,” (“The Ash Is Not The End”) and “There’s got to be a better way. Than giving up and wallowing. Let’s raise some wonderful, beautiful hell. And make this world worth living in” (“Wonderful Hell”) serve as calls for collective and constructive action.

Another album standout is “White Lies,” which contains the potent line, “We politely request you get your boots off our necks.” By exposing the efforts to whitewash systemic oppression, the band plays their part in being allies.

Even though there is understandably a collective relief and elation over President Donald Trump’s defeat, the reality is that Biden is also an older white man with a history of sexual assault accusations known for supporting the status quo.

There will be plenty to remain angry over under Biden, making the music of War On Women all the more essential.

(C.J. Baker)

HONORABLE MENTIONS: “There Is No Year” – Algiers | “South Somewhere Else” by Nana Grizol | “Ghosts of West Virginia” – Steve Earle | “Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet and Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger” |  “We Are Sent Here By History” – Shabaka & The Ancestors | “Spirit of Hip Hop” by David Strickland | “Heavy Light” – U.S. Girls

The post Top 10 Protest Albums Of 2020 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 12/18/20 2:35pm


On this edition of the “Dissenter Weekly,” host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola highlights Jeffrey A. Rosen, the acting attorney general who will be at the Justice Department until the end of President Donald Trump’s administration in January. He was involved in the lawsuit against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s book, Permanent Record.

Later in the show, Gosztola covers COVID-19 data whistleblower Rebekah Jones’ column encouraging would-be whistleblowers to not be intimidated. She had her home raided by Florida agents.

This is the last broadcast of the “Dissenter Weekly” in 2020, and Kevin uses the overtime portion of the show to give a bit of a speech on what lies ahead for whistleblowers in the coming year. He urges viewers to consider the courage of unknown and unsung whistleblowers, who work among us but do not have the kind of support networks high-profile truth-tellers do.

This week’s stories:

Trump’s New Acting Attorney General Backed Lawsuit Against Snowden’s Book

COVID-19 Data Whistleblower Who Had Home Raided Pens Message For Would-Be Whistleblowers

Audio Confirms Assange Claims Around Publication Of Unredacted Diplomatic Cables

[Note: If a headline doesn’t have a link, it is largely original reporting or commentary.]

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The post Dissenter Weekly: New Acting Attorney General Involved In Lawsuit Against Snowden’s Book appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, The Dissenter]

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[l] at 12/14/20 3:35pm

The prosecution against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has invoked my case, making it a haunting reminder of the travesty of justice that befell me.

I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2015, the United States government wrongfully tried, convicted, and sent me to prison for allegedly violating the U.S. Espionage Act. I am one of the few who has ever gone to trial to defend their selves against this ancient and misused law.

If I had succeeded in defending myself, it is possible Assange may not be facing the same impossible hell that ruined my life. As such, I feel a burden to challenge certain statements by the Crown Prosecution Service in Assange’s case.

Sentencing and prison conditions have been key issues during proceedings in the United Kingdom.

At the extradition trial in September, Crown prosecutor James Lewis noted I was sentenced to 42 months in prison, even though I took my case to trial. Lewis brought up the case to inappropriately argue that I was prosecuted fairly and Assange is unlikely to be sentenced to decades in prison.

I find the use of my name and the travesty of justice that was my trial to be an insult to both the sensibilities of justice and truth.

On top of that, one of the biggest lies is the prosecution’s assertion that I provided plans and documents to a reporter, which I did not do. In fact, this was not a part of the case against me—at all. 

The truth of the matter is, the prosecutor in my case was absolutely livid that my sentence was only 42 months. The U.S. government wanted me to spend far more time in prison, much closer to the maximum 100-year sentence I faced.

Judge Leonie Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA), the same district where Assange may face trial, did not hand down my sentence out of any innate benevolence., It was more a result of a begrudging realization of the injustice that resulted in my conviction.

There will be no offer of reasonableness for Assange from either the U.S. prosecutors or the  judge. He will be handed the maximum sentence allowable.

And if anything, my case should serve as a warning that the U.S. government will use the Espionage Act and a biased court to extend its vengeance to reach voices of dissent not only in the U.S. but also anywhere in the world.

Effectively Blackballed After Going To Committees In Congress

While working at the CIA, I was a clandestine operations officer specializing in Iran. I speak Farsi and worked subjects related to Iranian politics, regional dynamics, and weapons of mass destruction. I was good at my job, but to the CIA, I had the wrong skin color. The answer to my question as to why I was not receiving the same opportunities as every other officer at the CIA was that I would stick out as a big black guy speaking Farsi. 

In 2001, I became one of the only African American clandestine officers to ever sue the CIA for racial discrimination. President George W. Bush’s Justice Department argued my lawsuit would jeopardize state secrets, and the EDVA blocked my civil rights complaint. This was the first time the court treated me like a terrorist.

I also was part of Operation Merlin, which was an ostensible effort to hamper Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons program. The CIA assured me the operation was safe and plans we provided were flawed so they would undermine Iran. Yet, I became concerned that safety protocols were not what the agency had promised, and after the invasion of Iraq, I dreaded the operation could be used against U.S. soldiers.

Following whistleblower procedures, I took my concerns to both the Senate and House intelligence committees. Despite their assurances of confidentiality and initial responses to my concerns, neither committee saw fit to act on my disclosures. (For more background, I encourage you to read my book, Unwanted Spy: The Persecution of an American Whistleblower.)

The CIA eventually fired me, and I lost everything. I could not find a job despite my expertise in both Iran and terrorism, during a time when my government was desperate for such resources. No government agency or contractor would hire me, which meant I was effectively blackballed. (The American intelligence community has a long and vengeful memory.)

After years of struggle, I moved to a new state, had a new job, and found love. I believed the turmoil with the CIA was over for good.

Out of the blue, the FBI raided my home. I was under investigation for leaking information related to Operation Merlin to a reporter who put that information in a book. And to emphasize the heights retaliation can take, I was eventually arrested in January 2011 and charged with violating the Espionage Act.

The Shock Of Facing Prosecution Under the Espionage Act

Being tried under the Espionage Act was an experience that destroyed every reasonable notion I ever had about law, government, fairness, and justice in the United States. The initial shock was being branded a traitor by my government.

The arrest left me confused and angry. I never divulged classified information to anyone who was not authorized to receive it. But in a tragic sort of way, it all made sense. I was the only black face involved in Operation Merlin. I was the only individual to complain about the dangers of the operation, and I had the nerve to sue the CIA for discrimination.

I was a spy for my country, not against it. I did not speak to any reporter nor did I ever divulge any classified information to anyone not authorized to receive materials. All I did was stand up for the rights I was guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and oppose a reckless CIA operation by going to the appropriate government intelligence committees.

Yet, I found myself jailed in the same cell block of the Alexandria jail that held infamous 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and accused of a crime I did not commit. It was clear that my government viewed and would treat me as a terrorist.

The next shock was facing trial in the same court, the EDVA, which had previously determined I had no rights as a citizen to challenge how my government discriminated against me.

How the EDVA viewed me was made clear early on when I argued for release from the Alexandria jail. Prosecutors maliciously claimed if I was released I was bound to undertake a murderous spree against CIA employees. During the proceeding to determine whether I was to be released, an old friend who lived in Virginia stood up to attest to my character.

There was no real justification to keep me in the Alexandria jail, yet Brinkema found another way to continue the persecution. With no real expressed authority to do so, Brinkema ordered my friend to give me a place to stay. If my friend did not acquiesce and post a $10,000 bond, I would remain in the Alexandria jail. My friend had no choice but to accept Brinkema’s unjust terms.

I was thankful to have such a wonderful friend, but that release from the Alexandria jail kept me separated from my family at a time trying to defend myself.

A federal judge is unlikely to show this sort of supposed benevolence to Assange. He will most likely be held in the same cell block that I was in at the Alexandria jail until and during a potential trial.

File: A statue of “blind justice” holds a pair of scales, on the exterior of the Albert V Bryan Federal District Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Assange Will Face A Potentially Severe Prison Sentence Like I Did

Should Assange be extradited and put on trial in the EDVA, he will face the same terminal decision I faced: whether to go to trial and risk an unending sentence or plead guilty to a crime created by and imposed on him by the U.S. government.

My trial began in January 2015, and everything I learned in law school about trials and criminal procedures seemed to mean nothing to the Department of Justice prosecutors as well as the EDVA.

The EDVA is a court notorious for siding with the government, and the jury pool consisted of individuals, who either had a U.S government security clearance or maintained a close connection with those who did. That set me up for a battle with the jury in addition to the prosecutors and the judge. 

I can certainly understand why anyone facing such a situation under the Espionage Act would plead guilty to take the prospect of a long prison term off the table. U.S. prosecutors are known for making threats of extensive prison terms against defendants if they take their cases to trial.

Even though I faced 10 years for each of the 10 counts against me—roughly 100 years in prison if I were convicted—pleading guilty to crimes I did not commit was out of the question.

Interestingly, the prosecution never made any efforts to negotiate a sentence with me (not that it would have mattered), though they did indicate they wanted me to plead to something.

If there was any indication that this trial and prosecution was more about retaliation and the CIA saving face, that was all the proof I needed.

Worse Prospects For Justice 

Justice delayed is justice denied is an often ignored legal maxim. My persecution by the U.S. government extended for several years.

Despite being arrested in 2011, my trial did not happen until four years later. Though I was not in prison awaiting the intentionally slow legal process, I was left in a terrible limbo. I clung to not only keeping my life together but also to the notions of justice, which I had grown up with and studied.

Assange has already spent close to two years in a U.K. prison. He’s endured a decade of arbitrary detention in the U.K, and if he is extradited, he will remain confined, putting his already fragile health in jeopardy.

When the time came for my trial, it was a fiasco. There were days of testimony attesting to how well the CIA conducts operations in a clear move to counter the assertions made about the spy agency and its competence.

The government paraded witness after witness in front of the judge to testify that they had access to Operation Merlin—only to claim they never had contact with any reporter or released classified information to anyone not authorized to receive it. Yet, I was not able to challenge the witnesses or even the validity of the government’s case against me.

Barry Pollack, an attorney who represented me and is now part of Assange’s legal team, says Assange’s prospects are worse. In my case, I had access to all the information presented in the case when I was at the CIA so the government had no justification to withhold anything. Assange had no such access and will therefore be blind to the evidence that will be used against him.

Speaking of evidence, at no point during the trial did the government produce any proof of where or when I allegedly conveyed information about Operation Merlin to the reporter. The only fact established by the government beyond a reasonable doubt was the color of my skin and that I didn’t look like any of the CIA witnesses shuffled onto the stand.

Proving that I was black was enough for the EDVA, the jury, and the Espionage Act to find me guilty of offenses I did not commit. I was sentenced to 42 months in prison.

Hard To Believe I Survived Prison

As time has passed, I continue to try and pick up the shattered pieces of my life, the realization that I was fighting a battle impossible to win strikes me like a bolt of lightning. Neither justice, law, nor the truth stood a chance in my trial, and that leads me to believe none of those hollow tenets of American jurisprudence will matter in Assange’s case

Assange has none of the protections under the U.S. Constitution that I supposedly had, and he is continually brandished as an enemy aligned against America.

In my view, having been where Assange could be headed, the U.S. has already found him guilty. The only question is how long will the U.S. put him in prison.  

I still find it hard to believe that I survived my time in prison, and I am rather certain Assange will not survive if sentenced to prison.

While I was in one of the U.S. prisons that the Crown Prosecution Service has repeatedly described as accommodating and attentive, I suffered a cardiac-related medical episode at Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in Colorado that would have been treated urgently if I was not incarcerated.

Instead of providing basic medical care, the prison administration and medical staff were dismissive, blaming me for my condition and refused to provide care. It was only through the effort of my wife, thousands of people who barraged the prison and warden with messages, and the eventual involvement of a U.S. Senator that I received the necessary care.

If those efforts on my behalf had not taken place, I would not have survived. The care available to Assange will be as abysmal if not worse than what I experienced.   

Furthermore, at the onset of my prosecution, the government tried to force reporters to divulge their sources.

Whether there was any such thing as reporter/source protection was a gray area prior to my case. The government had no clear intent to pursue those who received classified information. No presidential administration had taken the direct step of charging a reporter with receiving classified information. But the question was once and for all decided by the EDVA in a government appeal during my case.

In keeping with its staunch defense of the U.S. government, the EDVA determined that there were no such protections for reporters or their sources when it came to criminal prosecutions, especially under the Espionage Act.

That victory for prosecutors under President Barack Obama’s administration set the terrible precedent that the U.S. government could not only use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers but also use the same law to go after those who receive and publish classified information.

Julian Assange | Photo by
Cancillería del Ecuador

We Share The Bravery To Stand Up To Abuses Of Power

Despite the attestations by the Crown Prosecution Service and U.S. prosecutors that Assange’s case is similar to mine—and others who have been prosecuted and persecuted under the Espionage Act, these similarities are manufactured to support the case for extradition.

The case against Assange by the U.S. is new and previously uncharted territory. The U.S. government has not previously prosecuted a reporter under these circumstances.

The only thing that I share with Assange is that neither of us has violated any U.S. law, including the Espionage Act, but we have both been victimized by a vengeful U.S. government. We share the bravery to stand up against government wrongdoing and abuses of power.

I blew the whistle against discrimination at the CIA because it went against all the ideals and values I was taught to hold dear as an American. I blew the whistle against a faulty and dangerous CIA program because doing so was in furtherance of the ideals and values that I believed and held dear. Assange published details of torture, war crimes, and diplomatic misconduct that represented a disregard for these same ideals and values.

In that sense, there are similarities between Assange and me. But overall the assertions of similarity by the prosecution are false invective to support an extradition. 

I also find it very troubling that major media outlets in my country have largely ignored the extradition proceedings. I believe they are suffering from a false sense of security that based on their position and entrenchment with the powers that be they are somehow immune from prosecution under the Espionage Act.

Perhaps the U.S. media feels it is different from Assange and under no such threat. I remind them that  notions of source/journalist protection were eliminated through my case.

The Assange case is a clear example of the government’s willingness to target journalists and media outlets throughout the world, which is why numerous press freedom organizations oppose the prosecution.

I sincerely hope other countries in the world are paying attention to the extradition proceedings in the U.K. What happens may unfold in any country in the world if the U.S. is not prevented from using the Espionage Act to quash dissent and punish those who have dared to take a stand against its contemptible and reckless conduct.

And if there is anything of meaning I can do for the rest of my life, it will be to shine the light of truth on how my country is wrongly using the Espionage Act out of a perverse sense of vengeance to silence and quash dissent.

*Kevin Gosztola edited and contributed a bit of reporting.

The post The Assange Prosecution: A Haunting Reminder Of The Travesty Of Justice In My Case appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Espionage Act, Jeffrey Sterling, Julian Assange, The Dissenter Newsletter, war on whistleblowers]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 12/11/20 2:02pm



On this edition of the “Dissenter Weekly,” host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola comments on the raid that Florida state agents conducted against COVID-19 data whistleblower Rebekah Jones.

Later in the show, Gosztola highlights an anti-money laundering law with major whistleblower-killing loopholes. He also provides updates on NSA whistleblower Reality Winner and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

This week’s stories:

Florida Agents Raid Home Of COVID-19 Data Whistleblower

Eleventh Circuit Court Rules Against NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner’s Appeal For Compassionate Release

Big Banks May Soon Benefit From Law With ‘Whistleblower-Killing Loophole’

Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting Exposes How Monsanto Forced Weedkiller On Farmers

Assange Legal Team Replies To Crown Prosecution Service’s Closing Argument

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The post Dissenter Weekly: COVID-19 Data Whistleblower Targeted In Raid—Plus, Assange Update appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter]

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[l] at 12/9/20 1:15pm

The following was originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Songs.

Billy Nomates is the moniker of Tor Maries, a singer-songwriter in the United Kingdom who released her self-titled debut album back in August.

Although the album was recorded pre-pandemic, it is still politically relevant due to its themes of class struggle and social inequality.

“I’ve never really had money, but I was the poorest I’d been a couple of years ago after working a load of minimum wage jobs,” Maries told NME. “I was miserable and poor and unfulfilled: I couldn’t write about fancying someone or anything nice. I thought: ‘If I’m going to write again, I have no optionbut to write about “ah, it’s all crap.’”

This is exemplified by one of the album’s standout tracks “FNP,” which is short for “Forgotten Normal People.” The song highlights the reality that if you are not part of the elite then the powers that be don’t care about you.

In the United States, this reality has become even clearer considering the government’s response to COVID-19 and their failure to pass an adequate stimulus package. Both sides of the political aisle are using “Forgotten Normal People” as a pawn in their power grab.

The lyrics also contain a message of empowerment:

In a corner of society that they hope disappears
That has more soul than their tiny minds could handle

Forgotten Normal People are a force to remember
And what they havenʼt considered
Is how we hold everything together


By banding together and making their voices heard, Nomates believes Forgotten Normal People can force those in power to remember them.

Listen to “FNP” by Billy Nomates:

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘FNP’ By Billy Nomates appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 12/7/20 5:26pm

The 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against NSA whistleblower Reality Winner’s request for compassionate release from a federal prison, even though COVID-19 remains a pervasive threat.

Narrowly, the appeals court decided [PDF] a lower court did not “abuse its discretion” when it refused to grant Winner a hearing to present evidence about her specific medical conditions that put her at risk at Federal Medical Center Carswell.

“It is true that the court ruled, without holding an evidentiary hearing, that Ms. Winner had not shown ‘that her specific medical conditions under the particular conditions of confinement at FMC Carswell place her at a risk substantial enough to justify her early release’ and that she ‘is in a medical prison,” the appeals court declared.

The court added, “This ruling, while succinct, does not constitute a ‘fail[ure] to apply the proper legal standard’ or a failure ‘to follow proper procedures in making its determination.'”

“We are devastated,” Billie Winner-Davis, Reality Winner’s mother, stated. “It seems like there is so much bias against my daughter,” and, “Even though I had tried not to get my hope up, I am still crushed by this denial.”

Winner filed the appeal on May 12. She urged the 11th Circuit to reverse a district court ruling and release her into home confinement.

Her attorneys warned, “The entire basis for Reality’s motion—and so many like hers—is that she cannot afford to wait until she is removed from FMC Carswell in a stretcher, or worse, before she is afforded relief.”

Winner tested positive for COVID-19 in July, as confirmed cases in Carswell spiked over 500. However, the appeals court showed no sense of urgency as the virus spread in the facility.

Finally, on November 17, the 11th Circuit convened a hearing and granted Winner’s attorney an opportunity to make the case that a district court had wrongly ruled against her.

The 11th Circuit has a notorious reputation when it comes to appeals from prisoners. In June, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated, “The 11th Circuit is significantly out of step with other courts.”

According to the New York Times, the appeals court tends to require that prisoners use a form that is so small one is lucky to fit 100 words. That submission can be the basis for rulings on appeals without “even an individualized response from the government.” 

The 11th Circuit acknowledged that Winner “suffers from depression and an eating disorder, both of which affect her ability to ‘cope with stress and uncertainty, such as incarceration and the invasion of a novel disease.'”

“For Ms. Winner, her ‘routines allow her to cope and hold the things she is unable to control together.’ But as a result of the lockdown of the federal prison system on account of COVID-19, she cannot engage in her regular routine and is left with ‘no way to exercise any coping mechanism for the stress of her own underlying conditions,'” the appeals court further noted.

It did not dispute that Winner’s eating disorder was likely exacerbated in “unhealthy and even dangerous ways” as a result of a lockdown at Carswell and “worries about COVID-19.”

“Ms. Winner says prison is ‘a particularly dangerous place’ for her during the pandemic because of the close living quarters, continual transfer of prisoners in and out, and the lack of supplies such as hand sanitizer,” the appeals court recognized.

But the 11th Circuit showed indifference to her complaint by ignoring confinement conditions during a pandemic. It did not contemplate whether conditions were “extraordinary and compelling” enough to warrant her release under the First Step Act and instead focused on a technical aspect of the judicial process.

Earlier this year, Winner submitted an application for a pardon. It does not seem likely that Trump will pardon Winner, yet there is a campaign among her supporters to convince President-elect Joe Biden to free her.

“My daughter continues to struggle with the reality of COVID-19 and total lockdown conditions within the prison. Everyday the prison staff find new ways to torment her, whether by restricting her ability to exercise or rejecting her mail,” her mother shared.

Winner is eligible for release in November 2021. She pled guilty in 2018 to one count of violating the Espionage Act when she disclosed an NSA report to The Intercept. She believed the report contained evidence that Russian hackers targeted United States voter registration systems during the 2016 election.

She was detained after her arrest in 2017 and has served a majority of her 63-month sentence.

The post Eleventh Circuit Rules Against NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner’s Appeal For Compassionate Release appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, COVID-19, Reality Winner News, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 12/4/20 4:35pm



On this edition of the “Dissenter Weekly,” host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola highlights a report in Vanity Fair that reveals horrendous and unsanitary conditions at a Merck vaccine plant in Durham, North Carolina.

Later in the show, Gosztola covers a lawsuit filed by employees of Denver Health, who have faced retaliation for speaking out on COVID-19 and systemic racism. He also shares some key quotes from the prosecution’s closing argument in Julian Assange’s extradition case.

This week’s stories:

Elite FDA Inspector Blows Whistle On ‘Biohazard Nightmare’ At Merck Vaccine Plant

Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Denver Health Cracked Down On Employees Outspoken Against Systemic Racism

Indiana Local News Outlet’s Whistleblower Investigation Restores Woman’s Unemployment Benefits

Crown Prosecution Service Files Closing Argument In Assange Extradition Trial

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This show is brought to you by Shadowproof.com, a 100% reader-funded press organization. If you enjoy our work, you can support us with a donation or by subscribing for $5/month or more: https://shadowproof.com/donate

The post Dissenter Weekly: FDA Whistleblower Exposes ‘Biohazard Nightmare’ At Merck Plant appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, COVID-19, The Dissenter Weekly Update | Shadowproof, Whistleblowers]

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