Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Greg Palast, Amy Lubik, Christina Nikolic October 19, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


October 19, 2017

"They saw it coming!" and yet the masters of Puerto Rico's debt allowed the island's infrastructure to deteriorate so far, Hurricane Maria merely provided the coup de grace. Now, a month after that devastating storm, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, "unincorporated territory of the United States," shattered in every sense, is ripe for the vulture's picking.

It's 'disaster capitalism' in its purest form, leveraging catastrophe to privatize and monopolize essential services, while gorging on aid money provided ostensibly to ease the people's suffering. And it's those people, says my first guest, the ones who's needs are most dire, who'll pay dearest.

Investigator, journalist, author, and filmmaker, Greg Palast has reported from the jagged edge of the news on both sides of the Atlantic for the better part of two decades, breaking stories for BBC flagship news program, Newsnight and The Guardian newspaper in Britain, and filing stories with the Nation Magazine and Rolling Stone stateside.

His books, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse, and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy have all resided on the New York Times' bestseller list, while Vultures' Picnic was named Book of the Year by BBC Newsnight Review. His latest documentary film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits is newly recut, and can be got through his website, Gregpalast.com.

Greg Palast in the first half.

And; the election of a new government in British Columbia hasn't eased fears of expanded Liquid Natural Gas, or LNG, mining in the province. LNG means "fracking", or hydraulic fracturing, the environmentally detrimental method currently used to extract hydrocarbons locked in rock formations beneath the surface; and, the newly ensconced NDP government is curiously quiet about the future of this most fractious industry.

In the dying days of BC's recent elections, a group of health professionals concerned an issue posing such deleterious environmental and human health effects was not getting the media coverage it deserved rallied supporters to make of it an election issue.

Amy Lubik holds a PhD in cancer research, and is a member for the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Public Health Association of BC and Bridge for Health Coop. Amy mobilized along with the BC chapter of CAPE, or the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment last April in an operation hoping to deliver a moratorium on Fracking in BC.

Following up with Dr. Amy Lubik and FRACTURED BC: Fracking, Site C, Health and Human Rights in the second half.

And; Victoria-based horticultural guru and green entrepreneur, Christina Nikolic will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with this week's installment of the Left Coast Events bulletin. But first, Greg Palast and Puerto Rico's vultures.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live Thursdays, 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and streaming at: cfuv.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/ and @Paciffreepress on Twitter.

Puerto Rico's Circling Vultures

Greg Palast - Puerto Rico On the Brink & How Trump Really Lost

by The Big Picture - RT


September 27, 2017 

Big Picture Interview - The devastation in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria is on an apocalyptic scale. Eighty percent of the island's agricultural industry was destroyed - flooding is rampant - and most of the population could be without power for as many as six months. This is the kind of disaster we're only going to see more of as climate change kicks into gear - but for the banksters that already have Puerto Rico in their grasp - it could be just another chance to bleed the island dry.



For more on how the vulture capitalists have ruined Puerto Rico - and how they could use Hurricane Maria as a launching bad for more of their financial piracy - I'm joined by Greg Palast. For more information on the stories we've covered visit our websites at thomhartmann.com - freespeech.org - and RT.com.

Where's Santiago Maldonado! 'Disappeared' Indigenous Activist Stark Reminder of Argentine 'Dirty War'

Fate Of Seized Activist May Point To New Era Of State Violence In Argentina

by Roqayah Chamseddine - MintPress News


September 11th, 2017

It has been a month since Argentinian indigenous activist Santiago Maldonado was bundled into a government van. Amidst government denials, demonstrators–cognizant of the nation’s bleak history of state violence–want answers: evidence of Maldonado’s safety and whereabouts.



The streets of Argentina are boiling over with demonstrations, as thousands of locals demand that the government produce an indigenous activist last seen one month ago when border police forced a group of the indigenous Mapuche off of indigenous land in Patagonia — land unjustly owned by the Italian clothing company Benetton.

According to witnesses, 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado was forced into a van by government officials and disappeared, but so far the Argentinian government has denied any involvement. Argentinian demonstrators, including groups like Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo, are increasingly concerned for the wellbeing of Maldonado in light of the nation’s troubled history of state violence. The US-backed military dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla, which plagued Argentina from 1976 until 1983, killed, kidnapped, and disappeared at least 30,000. Backed by Ronald Reagan, Videla and his security apparatus went on to torture and murder thousands more in a right-wing military hellscape. 

The case of Santiago Maldonado has revived memories of the Argentinian military junta, and suspicion among activists is growing that he has become President Mauricio Macri’s first disappeared victim—nearly 40 years after the end of General Videla’s rule. Despite how long it has been since they have had contact with Maldonado, his family does not believe that he is dead. They are demanding the state give them information on his whereabouts and are asking for his immediate return.

President Donald Trump is cozying up to Argentina’s Macri, so the prospect of the Trump administration changing attitudes in support of the rights of indigenous communities is, it is safe to say, nonexistent. In a joint statement issued by Trump and Macri, the U.S. government made it plain that it wishes to “deepen the close partnership between the United States and Argentina.” Examples of this partnership are U.S. support of Argentina’s role in the wider drug war, cooperation on border security, and a shared interest in targeting of Venezuela for ‘regime change.’

With so much on the line in Argentina, the people have decided that they will not return to the era of the U.S.-backed “Dirty War” — drawing an early line in the sand with their demand that Santiago Maldonado does not become another victim of the state’s military apparatus.


Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy. 



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Losing the Plot on Weinstein Scandal

Harvey Weinstein and the politics of Hollywood 

by Jonathan Cook


18 October 2017

There is something truly exasperating about digesting the steady flow of horror stories relating to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

In part, of course, it is because the reports that Weinstein allegedly raped and sexually assaulted women over decades are deeply disturbing.

In part, it is because one can be certain that there are still young aspiring actresses desperate for a big break who are being exploited by the Hollywood system – both in “casting” sessions and in the movies they must make to get noticed.

But most of all, these stories are exasperating because the women who are speaking out – and one senses they are still just the tip of the iceberg – and the journalists who are feeding off their revelations are drawing precisely no political conclusions from these incidents.

In fact, the Weinstein story perfectly illustrates how politically disempowering identity politics can be. Certainly, there can be no doubt that Weinstein, who has admitted that he abused his position with many women, while denying many of the actual reports of sexual misconduct, exploited his power. It should hardly surprise us that a rich man who had the ability to give desperate young women a shot at stardom preyed on them. The Hollywood employment system is capitalism in microcosm, at its rawest and most naked.

The Weinstein revelations tell us much less about relations between men and women than they do about the nature of power and the ability of the strong to exploit the weak.

Under capitalism, the weak – the working class – eventually gained the consciousness and discovered the tools to assert their own form of power. As individuals they were vulnerable and exploitable. As a collective, they gained the power to bargain. That led to the trade union movements, and the gradual improvement in wages and conditions.

The capitalist class has been trying to reverse those gains ever since. The new turbo-charged form we call neoliberalism has been atomising western societies since the 1970s to return us to new forms of economic dependency, culminating in zero-hours contracts and an Uber culture.

What does this have to do with Weinstein? This week Reese Witherspoon spoke out about her own sexual assault by a movie director when she was 16. She has joined a list of famous actors like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and Gwyneth Paltrow who have cited their own experiences. One suspects that most of Hollywood’s A-list could tell similar horror stories from their early years in search of stardom.

So what is the lesson that none of them is drawing? Precisely the one that workers learnt more than a century ago. You must get organised.

One can understand why teenage actresses, as Witherspoon was at the time, are fearful of speaking out in a system dominated by predatory men who can destroy their careers. One can also understand that, at the very bottom of the Hollywood food chain, they are in no position to organise against the Hollywood mogul class. But none of that is true for the now fabulously rich and well-connected Witherspoon, Jolie, Paltrow, Lawrence, and all the others who have yet to speak out – or for the A-list men who would surely want to be seen publicly supporting them.

Why are they not organising? There are many things they can do. Here is one simple idea. They could set up a union, a sort of women’s Equity, that would allow actresses, in private, to register incidents of exploitation and sexual abuse with the union, naming those who committed the abuse and their modus operandi. By creating such a database, the union and its lawyers would be able to identify serial abusers and discover patterns of behaviour. The victims could then be encouraged to come forward in a group action, knowing that they would not be facing the Hollwood elite on their own. The union would redress, at least in part, the power of these male producers and directors. They, in turn, would grow more fearful of exposure.

That would be a political act of organised resistance to the power of Hollywood moguls. It would have much more impact than the trickle of stories from immensely successful actresses bewailing their past abuse. Creating such a union would be loose change for Jolie, Witherspoon, Lawrence, Paltrow and the other A-listers.

And yet in the degraded political culture we live in, they prefer to remain disempowered individuals rather than become part of a much stronger collectivity. They prefer their confessionals in the corporate media that exploited and abused them to independent, organised action to curb the corporate system’s excesses.

As long as these household names nurse their individual pain rather than seek to bring about change through organised action, the next generation of young actresses will face the same exploitation and the same abuse they had to endure in their younger days.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Next Witch Hunt: Hangin' with Steve Bannon and Miles Kwok

China Witch Hunt Warning…Courtesy of Steve Bannon and Miles Kwok

by Peter Lee - China Matters


October 11, 2017

I have an interesting story up at Newsbud concerning Miles Kwok, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and Chinese agents at Voice of America a.k.a. VOA.

As a parallel narrative, I also touched on Steve Bannon's rather sinister interest in the BBG.




Well...

...the stories intersected on October 10 with this tweet from Kwok:




 
半年来班农先生一直与我通过朋友有联系.但始终未能见面!10月5日华盛顿记者会后.我请杨建利先生Billl与我一起在我的房间与班农先生一起午餐!我们都无比激动高兴!今天10月10日班农先生又与团队到纽约我的家一同了3个半小时晚餐!我经他及他的团队同意向我的推友发这个些照片!!



Miles and Steve do lunch!


And maybe discuss some unfinished business i.e. the timidity of the prestige media outlets in amplifying Miles Kwok's rather interesting allegations about the PRC, the CCP, and Chinese spook and influence ops inside the USA.

A few days ago, in an appearance at the National Press Club, Miles Kwok responded to what looked like a planted question in order to “name a name”, rather bluntly giving the name of a manager at Voice of America who is, he alleged, an agent of the Chinese security services.

I didn’t name the name for the simple reason that I don’t do witchhunts. Gimme a crime, a court, and due process, not outrage and innuendo funneled through the media is what I say.

The flock of journos from the national media in attendance (at least moderator Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon, and reporters from the Wall Street Journal and NPR, who identified themselves when asking questions) chose not to lead their reports with this rather juicy allegation, even without naming any names.

Wonder why. I don't think the US media is down on witch hunts of foreign influence in our media and politics.

I’ve been following the witchhunt against Chinese influence down in Australia and consider it a template/trial run/warmup for a similar effort by China journos up here. In Australia they fling mud with a free hand and name names; but so far, in the case of China, the US media hasn’t.

In this instance, one possible reason is that Miles Kwok is so polarizing and, quite frankly, skanky a figure that nobody wants to rely on him as a primary source, at least in public…at the same time every national outlet has been in contact with Kwok, his large, well-funded team, and his lovingly curated dossiers on CCP sleaze, either leaked to him by his allies in China or gathered by his investigators overseas.

Instead, I’m guessing the big outlets are busily engaged in parallel construction, that is taking the name Miles Kwok put out and trying to put together a story based on their own reporting and steno from the security services…and that doesn’t mention Miles Kwok.

The New York Times has apparently taken this route in the past, having run at least one story about Wang Qishan and his allegedly corrupt and arcane financial holdings that parallels what Miles Kwok had been talking about…but didn’t mention Miles Kwok.

Understandable, perhaps, because one PRC strategy to silence Kwok seems to be a firm and convincing promise that anybody and everybody who mentions Kwok’s allegations are going to get sued.

So, better part of valor-wise, it’s smarter to run with Miles Kwok’s allegations without being seen to be running with Miles Kwok. And no cause for the VOA manager with a bulls-eye on his back to breathe easier just because an allegation, with or without a name attached, wasn't in the papers the next day.

In addition, there might be some journalistic omerta going on, since the VOA is a US government-affiliated organization with lots of buddies in the media world.

Maybe the Broadcasting Board of Governors were able to prevail upon journalists not to take the incendiary step of starting a witchhunt inside VOA until the story was absolutely locked down…and/or the BBG had ample time to clean its own house/prep for the public relations fallout.

This genteel, old school crisis management may not prevail because Steve Bannon has his eyes on China, Voice of America, the BBG…and Miles Kwok.

With Steve Bannon involved, I’d say we might be looking at torches and pitchforks instead of a nice, orderly kangaroo court…and something other than the inspiring story of a noble struggle against insidious Chinese influence that China hawks hope to use as a framing device for their political and policy campaign.


Watch the whole episode by joining Newsbud. Or you can watch it simply by renting the Vimeo feed for $1.95.

Quitting UNESCO

The Real Reasons Trump is Quitting Unesco

by Jonathan Cook - Dissident Voice


October 16th, 2017

At first glance, the decision last week by the Trump administration, followed immediately by Israel, to quit the United Nation’s cultural agency seems strange. Why penalise a body that promotes clean water, literacy, heritage preservation and women’s rights?

Washington’s claim that the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) is biased against Israel obscures the real crimes the agency has committed in US eyes.

The first is that in 2011 Unesco became the first UN agency to accept Palestine as a member. That set the Palestinians on the path to upgrading their status at the General Assembly a year later.

It should be recalled that in 1993, as Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, the watching world assumed the aim was to create a Palestinian state.

But it seems most US politicians never received that memo. Under pressure from Israel’s powerful lobbyists, the US Congress hurriedly passed legislation to pre-empt the peace process. One such law compels the United States to cancel funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians.

Six years on, the US is $550 million in arrears and without voting rights at Unesco. Its departure is little more than a formality.

The agency’s second crime relates to its role selecting world heritage sites. That power has proved more than an irritant to Israel and the US.

The occupied territories, supposedly the locus of a future Palestinian state, are packed with such sites. Hellenistic, Roman, Jewish, Christian and Muslim relics promise not only the economic rewards of tourism but also the chance to control the historic narrative.

Israeli archaeologists, effectively the occupation’s scientific wing, are chiefly interested in excavating, preserving and highlighting Jewish layers of the Holy Land’s past. Those ties have then been used to justify driving out Palestinians and building Jewish settlements.

Unesco, by contrast, values all of the region’s heritage, and aims to protect the rights of living Palestinians, not just the ruins of long-dead civilisations.

Nowhere has the difference in agendas proved starker than in occupied Hebron, where tens of thousands of Palestinians live under the boot of a few hundred Jewish settlers and the soldiers who watch over them. In July, Unesco enraged Israel and the US by listing Hebron as one of a handful of world heritage sites “in danger”. Israel called the resolution “fake history”.

The third crime is the priority Unesco gives to the Palestinian names of heritage sites under belligerent occupation.

Much hangs on how sites are identified, as Israel understands. Names influence the collective memory, giving meaning and significance to places.

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has coined the term “memoricide” for Israel’s erasure of most traces of the Palestinians’ past after it dispossessed them of four-fifths of their homeland in 1948 – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israel did more than just raze 500 Palestinian towns and villages. In their place it planted new Jewish communities with Hebracaised names intended to usurp the former Arabic names. Saffuriya became Tzipori; Hittin was supplanted by Hittim; Muyjadil was transformed into Migdal.

A similar process of what Israel calls “Judaisation” is under way in the occupied territories. The settlers of Beitar Ilit threaten the Palestinians of Battir. Nearby, the Palestinians of Sussiya have been dislodged by a Jewish settlement of exactly the same name.

The stakes are highest in Jerusalem. The vast Western Wall plaza below Al Aqsa mosque was created in 1967 after more than 1,000 Palestinians were evicted and their quarter demolished. Millions of visitors each year amble across the plaza, oblivious to this act of ethnic cleansing.

Settlers, aided by the Israeli state, continue to encircle Christian and Muslim sites in the hope of taking them over.

That is the context for recent Unesco reports highlighting the threats to Jerusalem’s Old City, including Israel’s denial for most Palestinians of the right to worship at Al Aqsa.

Israel has lobbied to have Jerusalem removed from the list of endangered heritage sites. Alongside the US, it has whipped up a frenzy of moral outrage, berating Unesco for failing to prioritise the Hebrew names used by the occupation authorities.

Unesco’s responsibility, however, is not to safeguard the occupation or bolster Israel’s efforts at Judaisation. It is there to uphold international law and prevent Palestinians from being disappeared by Israel.

Trump’s decision to quit Unesco is far from his alone. His predecessors have been scuffling with the agency since the 1970s, often over its refusal to cave in to Israeli pressure.

Now, Washington has a pressing additional reason to punish Unesco for allowing Palestine to become a member. It needs to make an example of the cultural body to dissuade other agencies from following suit.

Trump’s confected indignation at Unesco, and his shrugging off of its vital global programmes, serve as a reminder that the US is not an “honest broker” of a Middle East peace. Rather it is the biggest obstacle to its realisation.

• First published in The National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

Trump's Six is Nine "Election Integrity" Ploy

Trump Seeds “Election Integrity” Commission With Voter Suppression Heroes

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

 
October 17th, 2017 

Taking aim at a “voter fraud” epidemic conjured up with no evidence by Trump to explain his popular vote defeat, his “Election Integrity” commission’s real aim is to provide data and cover for beefed up voter restrictions, and its enormous and willful blind spot is fraud in the computerized counting of votes.

Prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump warned on several occasions that the upcoming electoral contest would be “rigged” against him, despite the fact that he would later win that very election. Trump’s basis for calling the elections “rigged” was his assertion that voter fraud in the United States is rampant. While some studies have pointed to irregularities with voter registration systems and others – along with undercover journalism — have at least entertained the possibility for voter fraud to occur, several other studies have found that voter fraud is extremely rare.

Despite winning the election, Trump later claimed that as many as three million unlawful votes were cast last November, a claim that spurred the president to create a commission to investigate voter fraud earlier this year in May.

Officially named the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, the body is co-chaired by Vice President Mike Pence – who downplayed Trump’s “rigged” election claims last year – and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (pictured above) – whose desire to make major changes to voting systems nationwide is well known. Since May, the commission has yet to turn up evidence of the “widespread” voter fraud it was tasked with investigating.

The commission has been highly controversial since its inception. Critics have maintained from the beginning that it actually seeks to undermine the right to vote and to increase voter suppression — as opposed to protecting against voter fraud, as it claims. In addition, the commission’s request for personal voter information in June sparked widespread condemnation, leading more than 20 states to refuse to comply with the request.

Even Kansas, where commission co-chair Kris Kobach is the state’s top election official, was unable to comply with the request that Kobach himself had drafted, due to existing state law. More recent scandals have involved commission staff, such as a researcher who was arrested last week on child pornography distribution charges. 

While the commission’s members have rejected assertions that they are seeking to further voter suppression, several of those picked to serve on the commission have dark histories of promoting voter suppression legislation — which some have compared to the tactics used during the Jim Crow era to thwart the turnout of minorities. Given the strong ideological agendas of several of the commission’s members as well, as their apparent lack of interest in examining much more potent modes of election rigging – such as vote counting fraud – Trump’s “Electoral Integrity” Commission seems to be driven by an ulterior political motive.

Commission led by rogue’s gallery of vote suppressors


Critics of the commission often point to the body’s vice chair, Kris Kobach, as proof of the commission’s ulterior aim in reviving Jim Crow-era voter suppression tactics. Indeed, Kobach’s actions and rhetoric – prior to the commission’s formation as well as after – suggest that Kobach is fiercely determined to overhaul the national voting system. He is well known for exaggerating the extent of voter registration fraud and for championing restrictive voting laws well beyond Kansas.

Kobach’s tenure as Kansas Secretary of State — specifically his involvement in pushing through restrictive voting laws and prosecuting alleged instances of voter fraud — has led to his office becoming embroiled in ongoing litigation with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has dubbed him the “King of Voter Suppression.” The ACLU argues that the Kansas voter ID law Kobach championed has disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters who would otherwise be allowed to vote legally in other states.

Kellyanne Conway and other Trump advisors have cited Kobach as the originator of Trump’s claim that millions of illegal votes were cast for Clinton last November. However, Kobach has provided no concrete evidence to support that claim beyond referencing the titles of a few studies. As the Kansas City Star reported, the author of one of the studies Kobach cited said that his research actually found that the rate of noncitizen voting was near zero.

Even Kobach’s supporters have acknowledged that Kobach is increasingly unlikely to look at any of the commission’s findings objectively and is set to be guided by his strong a priori opinions. For instance, even Mark Kahrs, a member of Kansas’ Republican National Committee, called Kobach an “inspired pick” for the commission but also conceded that “I think he’s got strong opinions and positions, so I think it’s more than likely that he’ll go in with ideas about what needs to be done to reform our election law.”

Another member of the commission whose selection has caused controversy is Hans von Spakovsky, an attorney and senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank. He previously served as a member of the Federal Election Commission and worked at the Justice Department under the George W. Bush administration, where he sparked several legal battles over voting laws. More than half of the career lawyers in the Justice Department’s voting section left in protest during his tenure.


A frequent guest on conservative news outlets, Hans von Spakovsky 
has been dubbed the “Dark Prince of Voter Fraud Alarmism.” 
(Photo: YouTube)

Nicknamed the “Dark Prince of Voter Fraud Alarmism,” von Spakovsky has championed controversial voter eligibility laws, including a 2005 Georgia law that many at the Justice Department argued would disproportionately disenfranchise the state’s African-American voters. The federal judge who eventually overturned that law compared it to a “Jim-Crow era poll tax.” Since then, some analysts have argued that von Spakovsky has “done more than anyone else” to bring fears of voter fraud into mainstream Republican discourse.

Yet, as darkly purposeful as the Kobach and von Spakovsky appointments seem to many, perhaps the most troubling member of the commission is Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state who made an unsuccessful run for governor in 2007. Blackwell is particularly notorious for his role in the 2004 presidential election, where he helped generate unprecedented voting irregularities and anomalies in the election that many observers claimed “threw” the election to Bush.

The substantial evidence of voter intimidation and fraud that took place led to more than 50,000 complaints from voters and a congressional inquiry. A federal judge later accused Blackwell of seeking to “accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.”

Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio noted in 2011 that Blackwell’s role in the 2004 election is a textbook example of voter suppression in the service of furthering partisan political goals:

“The secretary of state is supposed to administer elections—not throw them. The election in Ohio in 2004 stands out as an example of how, under color of law, a state election official can frustrate the exercise of the right to vote.”

Ignoring the kind of fraud that actually changes election outcomes


While the members of Trump’s electoral integrity commission are squarely focused on the issue of voter fraud — a phenomenon that most argue is a non-issue, because it is both very rare and very unlikely to affect the outcome of elections — they ignore the graver threat to elections posed by vulnerabilities to vote counting fraud resulting from a now near-total dependence on electronic voting machines.

As Real Clear Politics noted last year, Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines with no paper trail (i.e. a paper record of votes) can easily be tampered with in such a way that could be “impossible to detect” and there is a mounting body of evidence that such “meddling” has been happening for years. Reports of electronic vote counting fraud have been widely reported over the past several years by both liberal and conservative sources, as have the security flaws of such electronic voting machines. In the absence of a paper trail, auditing any such suspect elections becomes impossible.

DRE security flaws are particularly concerning. For instance, most voting machines run Windows XP, which has not had a new security patch issued since 2014, and also lack other safeguards that could prevent manipulation, such as data encryption. In addition, voting machines can be hacked in a matter of minutes at negligible cost, resulting in the undetectable manipulation of entire elections. As computer security experts at Symantec told CBS News last year, “for $15 and in-depth knowledge of the card, you could hack the vote.” As a result, some states have begun phasing DREs out, but they are still used to a significant degree.

Concerns have also been raised regarding the manufacturers of the voting machines themselves, several of whom have close ties to top politicians or partisan figures. For instance, in 2012, Forbes noted that an investment firm run by Mitt Romney’s son had close ties to a prominent company manufacturing electronic voting machines. During last year’s election, it emerged that another prominent voting company, Dominion Voting Systems, had held a $2.25 million charity initiative with the Clinton Foundation two years prior, causing some to decry a potential conflict of interest.


A vote counter inserts a tally card from an electronic voting machine 
into a card readers as they count votes at the Lake County Government 
Center in Crown Point, Ind., Nov. 4, 2008.

The voting machine company Smartmatic International, with machines in 16 states, is chaired by Mark Malloch-Brown, a member of the board of the George Soros-run Open Society Foundations and former vice chairman of Soros’ Investment Funds. Soros has been frequently accused of “meddling” in domestic political affairs as well as those of other nations.

In addition, in the 2016 election, there was evidence of such vote counting fraud taking place during the Democratic primary. An article published in Counterpunch last year noted that hundreds of voting districts throughout the U.S. were using voting machines that had repeatedly failed security tests. It also noted that these same districts showed Hillary Clinton substantially outperforming her opponent Bernie Sanders, relative to other districts and despite substantial exit poll-vote count disparities in which the vote counts shifted in Clinton’s favor relative to the exit poll results.

It must be noted that while much attention has recently been paid to the security issues with paperless DREs, even when voter-marked paper ballots are instead scanned and verification is theoretically possible, U.S. elections are hardly secure from vote counting interference and fraud. Many states have no provision for audits and the audit protocols currently enacted by most other states are too weak to detect or deter vote-count manipulations in close races. Recounts, as witnessed in the aftermath of the 2016 election, can be shut down by legal action or made prohibitively expensive and thus thwarted. And exit polls have long been written off as simply “wrong” for some reason when they depart substantially from reported vote-counts.

Stubbornly and purposefully spitting at the wrong spot


Given that about 70% of states use some form of electronic voting, much of it paperless — and given that about 98% of votes, including those cast on paper, are counted by computer — the commission’s failure to raise concern about this issue gravely undermines its stated mission. Despite the evidence that this fraud directly threatens election integrity and played a role in the outcome of the 2016 primaries and perhaps again in November, Trump’s electoral fraud commission has instead chosen to focus on the apparent red herring of voter fraud.

Nearly six months later, its examination of voter rolls and its investigation into “non-citizens” voting has turned up nothing, despite the fact that the commission’s members assert that this type of fraud is a widespread practice. Driven by an agenda to put more restrictive voting laws in place, the commission is quickly proving that the personal missions of its members — and what appears to be an unwritten, politically motivated charter — are its focus, not repairing the “integrity” of the U.S. election process.

Realization of Life and Late-Stage Capitalism

Human Anxiety in Late-Stage Capitalism

by Phil Rockstroh  - Consortium News


October 17, 2017

Superficial explanations for today’s social anxiety and political discontent miss the underlying reality: the crisis of late-stage capitalism in its frantic death throes, explains poet Phil Rockstroh.


A number of recent, press articles, including an over 8,000-word feature piece in The New York Times have asked, to quote the Times’ headline, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

Although the question was proffered, the reporters and editors responsible for the articles remain resolutely obtuse to the obvious:  
The bughouse crazy environment of late-stage capitalist culture evokes classic fight-or-flight responses attendant to episodes of severe anxiety and panic attacks.

The typical modern response to people suffering
from anxiety is to prescribe medication.

The word panic has its derivation in reference to Pan, the Greek god of wilderness and wildness, of the animal body encoded within human beings and its attendant animalistic imperatives. To wit, deracinate an animal from its natural habitat and it will evince, on an instinctual basis, a fight-or-flight response.

If caged, the unfortunate creature will pace the confines of its imprisonment, chew and tear at its fur and flesh, become irritable, enervated, languish and even die from the deprivation of the environment it was born to inhabit. A caged animal, even if the unfortunate creature endures captivity, is not the entity nature conceived; the living being has been reduced to A Thing That Waits For Lunch.

Human beings, animals that we are, respond in a similar fashion. Experiencing anxiety is among the ways our innate animal spirits react to the capitalist cage. Inundate a teenager with the soul-defying criteria of the corporate/consumer state, with its overbearing, pre-careerist pressures, its paucity of communal eros, its demands, overt and implicit, to conform to a shallow, manic, nebulously defined yet oppressive societal order, and insist that those who cannot adapt, much less excel, are “losers” who are fated to become “basement dwellers” in their parents’ homes or, for those who lack the privilege, be cast into homelessness, then the minds of the young or old alike are apt to be inundated with feelings of angst and dread.

Worse, if teenagers are culturally conditioned to believe said feelings and responses are exclusively experienced by weaklings, parasites, and losers then their suffering might fester to the point of emotional paralysis and suicidal inclinations.

No Real Remedies 

 

What does the capitalist state offer as remedy? Obscenely profitable, corporately manufactured and widely prescribed psychoactive medications. Treatment, which, at best, merely masks symptoms and bestows the illusion of recovery.



A graphic representing conformity
in the modern world.

As R. D. Laing observed: “What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience. It is radically estranged from the structure of being.”

In short, it is insanity to be expected to adapt to socially acceptable insanity. Yet we are pressured to adapt to, thus internalize odious, groupthink concepts and tenets. To cite one such groupthink example: homelessness is natural to the human condition and is a communally acceptable situation.

Closer to fact: The problem of homelessness is the result of a societal-wide perception problem — the phenomenon is the very emblem of the scrambling, twisting, dissociating, and displacing of perception that capitalist propagandists specialize in. Homelessness would be considered a relic of a barbaric past if this very simple principle was applied: Having access to permanent shelter is a human right and not a privilege.

What kind of a vile, vicious people would deny that simple proposition? Those conditioned by a lingering Puritan/Calvinist mindset to believe: Punishment for resisting the usurpation of the fleeting hours of one’s finite life must be severe. If the over-class can no longer get away with, as was once common practice in the Puritan/Calvinist tradition, public floggings to whip the labor force into line, then those who will not or cannot comply will be cast onto the cold, unforgiving concrete of a soulless cityscape.

It comes down to this, societies that are ridden with vast wealth inequity, due to the machinations of a rapacious over-class, create the obscenity known as homelessness. Moreover, the situation is only one of the numerous obscenities inherent to state capitalism. Obscenities that include, events that are dominating the present news cycle, e.g., the predations of a lecherous movie mogul, to the sub-cretinous doings and pronouncements of a Chief of State who is a bloated, bloviating, two-legged toxic waste dump.

Trump, No Aberration


How is it then, liberals fail to grasp the fact that the Trump presidency is not an aberration; rather, his ascension to power should be regarded as being among the high probability variables of late-stage capitalism and empire building? The psychopathic, tangerine-tinged clown Trump is the embodiment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a development that is concomitant to over-expanded empires. Thus he will continue to flounce deeper into the quagmire of crash-engendering, economic legerdemain and perpetual war.

Empires are death cults, and death cults, on a subliminal basis, long for their own demise. Paradoxically, the collective mindset of imperium, even as it thrusts across the expanse of the world, renders itself insular, cut off from culturally enhancing novelty, as all the while, the homeland descends into a psychical swamp of churning madness.
The crowd at President Trump’s inauguration on
Jan. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

A draining of the swamp of the collective mind cannot come to pass, for the swamp and citizenry are one. Withal, the likes of leaders such as Trump rise from and are made manifest by the morass of the culture itself. In a swamp, the gospel of rebirth and redemption is heard in the song of humus. New life rises from its compost.

In the presence of Trump’s debased mind and tombified carcass, one is privy to arias of rot. While Hillary Clinton’s monotonous tempo was the dirge of a taxidermist — cold, desiccated of heart, and devoid of life’s numinous spark — Trump’s voice carries the depraved cacophony of a Célinean fool’s parade … its trajectory trudging towards the end of empire.

As liberals new BFFL (Best Friend for Life) George W. Bush might ask, “Is our liberals learning.”

In a word, no. For example, the collective psyche of U.S. culture as been enflamed by the revelations that actresses were coerced into sexual encounters with a movie mogul whose power in the industry was only matched, even enhanced, by his sadistic nature. The staff of his company assisted, was complicit in, or remained silent about his lechery, as did the whole of the movie industry and the entertainment press. All as NFL athletes are being threatened with expulsion from the League if they kneel during the national anthem.

The Great Unspoken 

 

Yet the great unspoken remains: The enabling of and submission to the degradation, exploitation and tyranny, and the lack of resistance thereof share a common and singular factor: The careerism of all concerned. The cultural milieu concomitant to capitalism is at the rotten root and noxious blossoming of the situation.

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 cinematic barnburner “Two or Three Things I Know About Her” should be required viewing for those unaware or in denial of the acuity of the film’s theme i.e., becoming enmeshed within the psychical landscape of dominance, degradation, and submission inherent to and inseparable from capitalist/consumer culture will cause one to become party to societal sanctioned prostitution.

When life is negotiated within a collective value system that devalues and deadens the individual’s inner life thus warps every human transaction, anomie descends, the worst among a people ascend to positions of power.

“Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.” — William S. Burroughs, from Ghost of Chance


When friends visited me in New York, where I lived for decades, I would take them on walking tours through the city. We would cross the Westside Highway and stroll the pedestrian walk along the Hudson River, or cross the East River by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The effect of these excursions on people was often profound … the combined elements of the elemental beauty of the rivers and vastness of the city’s architecture and scope, clamor, and the dense interweaving of traditional ethnic customs and ad hoc social codes of New Yorkers often would heighten the visitors’ senses and open them to larger, more intricate awareness of themselves and extant reality … the freeways of the contemporary mind (conditioned to be constantly engaged in manic motion, with one’s mind either frenzied by an obsession with performing (ultimately futile) maneuvers directed to saving time — or stalled at a frustration inducing standstill) were replaced by the exigencies of life at street level, i.e., novel situations that had to be apprehended and negotiated.

The possibilities of life seemed greater. The crimped eros of insular suburban thought became loosened before the city’s intricacies and expansiveness. Although: Not all, or even a scant few, New Yorkers can maintain the state of being. Few of us can live by Rilke’s resolve to “make every moment holy.” Life, in the city, becomes grotesquely distorted … High rents, inflicted by hyper-gentrification, in combination with the deification of success and its cult of careerism overwhelm one’s psyche … There is so far to fall.

Angst (the word originally can be traced to the ancient Greek deity Ananke, the immovable by prayer and offering bitch Goddess of Necessity and the root word of anxiety) clamps down one’s sense of awareness. Ananke dominates the lives of the non-privileged citizenry while Narcissus, Trump’s, the Clintons’, et.al. and their financial and cultural elitists’ patron God rules the day. The pantheon of possibility has been decimated, a cultural cleansing has been perpetrated, by the egoist caprice of the beneficiaries of the late capitalist dictatorship of money.

Hence, we arrive at the primal wisdom tacitly conveyed by anxiety-borne states of fight or flight. Due to the reality that capitalism, on both an individual and collective basis, drives individuals into madness, all as the system destroys forest and field, ocean and sea and the soul-scape of all who live under its rapacious dominion, our plight comes down to this: We either struggle and strive, by and any and all means, to end the system — or it will end us.

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living, now, in Munich, Germany. He may be contacted: philrockstroh.scribe@gmail.com and at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/phil.rockstroh

Hollywood Creeper Land: Harvey and IT

Weinstein’s Hollywood & Stephen King’s IT – A Curious Parallel (Video)

by Jay Dyer  - 21st Century Wire


October 17, 2017

Harvey Weinstein is being portrayed as the root of all problems in Hollywood – “patriarchal males” – as if this were solely a feminism issue.

The root problem is much worse, which is the systematic using of people and children, as well as promoting a mass agenda that is intent on the psychosexual damaging of humanity, globally.

Hollywood is a weaponized covert operation of mind control and cults that is, thank God, falling apart.

In this video I compare the plot of Stephen King’s IT and its portrayal of abuse and the eerie parallels of Hollywood moguls and cults in their abuse.






Jay Dyer is the author of the best selling title, Esoteric Hollywood: Sex, Cults and Symbols in Film from Trine Day. Focusing on film, philosophy, geopolitics and all things esoteric, JaysAnalysis and his podcast, “Esoteric Hollywood,” investigates the deeper meanings between the headlines, exploring the hidden aspects of our sinister synthetic mass media matrix.

READ MORE HOLLYWOOD NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Hollywood Files

SUPPORT OUR WORK BY SUBSCRIBING & BECOMING A MEMBER @21WIRE.TV

A Pattern of Propaganda Apparent in Catalan, Maidan Separatist Narrative

Are Catalonian nationalists copying Maidan's ‘propaganda’ handbook? (VIDEOS) 

by RT


October 17, 2017


A new video promoting Catalonian democracy looks suspiciously similar to a production made about the 2014 Maidan protests in Ukraine – and many online are not impressed.

‘Help Catalonia. Save Europe’ is a new video published on the YouTube account of Catalonian cultural organization, Omnium Cultural.




It starts with a woman standing on an out-of-focus street, saying, “This is Barcelona.” She points to people on the street and says, “We, the Catalans are taking back the streets to protest peacefully.”


The 2014 Ukrainian video also begins with a woman standing on an out-of-focus street, saying, “I am Ukrainian,” before going on to say, “I want you to know why thousands of people in my country are on the streets.”



Both videos contain footage of police brutality, and both call on the audience to help them by sharing the video to defend democracy, or European values.

At the end of both videos, viewers are warned to support the cause, “before it’s too late.”

The video was shared on social media and raised some questions, criticisms and debate.

Vancouver Island Fish Farm Occupiers Served with Injunction

Tensions Rise between RCMP and First Nations Against fish farms

by Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw - Cleansing Our Waters


17 October 2017

RCMP, Marine Harvest, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans today arrived on site to where Members from six First Nations of the Kwakwaka'wakw have been occupying fish farms, in their territorial waters for nearly two months near Alert Bay, B.C.

Yesterday, the peaceful occupiers, were served with notices of injunction applications to be heard in court on Wednesday.

Sources have reported significantly increased numbers of RCMP, Marine Harvest employees and Fisheries and Oceans employees in nearby Port McNeill headed to Port Elizabeth with boats and water equipment.

RCMP have been escorting the Norwegian vessel, Viktoria Viking, contracted by Marine Harvest to refill salmon pens with juvenile stocks, against local First Nation consent. The company is restocking, despite that most of the farm tenures and/or licenses expire before the fish mature.

The escalation in tactical teams, equipment and police numbers deeply concern First Nation members who have been asserting their rights to consent and consultation. Communities oppose the open net salmon farms' effects on wild salmon including spread of disease, sea lice and other environmental concerns.

The police have no jurisdiction to remove the occupiers, and are supporting the illegal restocking of destructive open net salmon pens in their territory, instead of defending rights and title, and right to wild salmon assert community members.

The police escalation follows a gathering of Namgis, Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw, Mamalilikulla hereditary leadership and community members this weekend. David Suzuki, UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Elected Chief Bob Chamberlain, and Elected Chief Rebecca David representative from the BC AFN, were present to show support for those occupying the farms, messages indicated over 90 First Nations are in support of the collective nations’ demands for removal and ongoing occupations.

Last week, Premier John Horgan met with approximately forty Kwakwaka'wakw leaders - elected and hereditary alike,and supporting community members - First Nations and non First Nations, alike. of the community who demanded the fish farms be removed.


For Immediate Release
October 17, 2017

Media Contact:
Ernest Alfred Email: alertbayalfred@gmail.com

Carla Voyageur Email: gwayee_jane@yahoo.ca

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Return of Gitmo

"Enemy Combatants" Again? Will Washington Never Learn?

by Karen J. Greenberg - TomDispatch


October 15, 2017

Eight years ago, when I wrote a book on the first days of Guantanamo, The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days, I assumed that Gitmo would prove a grim anomaly in our history. Today, it seems as if that “detention facility” will have a far longer life than I ever imagined and that it, and everything it represents, will become a true, if grim, legacy of twenty-first-century America.

It appears that we just can’t escape the perpetual pendulum of the never-ending war on terror as it invariably swings away from the rule of law and the protections of the Constitution.

Last month, worries that had initially surfaced during the presidential campaign of 2016 over Donald Trump’s statements about restoring torture and expanding Guantanamo’s population took on a new urgency. In mid-September, the administration acknowledged that it had captured an American in Syria.

Though no facts about the detained individual have been revealed, including his name or any allegations against him, the Pentagon did confirm that he has been classified as an “enemy combatant,” a vague and legally imprecise category. It was, however, one of the first building blocks that officials of George W. Bush’s administration used to establish the notoriously lawless policies of that era, including Guantanamo, the CIA’s “black sites,” and of course “enhanced interrogation techniques.“

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, Gitmo's Living Legacy in the Trump Era

Karen Greenberg first arrived at TomDispatch in January 2005 in tandem with defense attorney Joshua Dratel. Their book The Torture Papers was just being published and they were asking questions. Thirty-seven of them, to be exact, all pointed, all uncomfortable, all directed at then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, all focused on the Bush administration’s torture policies and what, after a visit to Guantanamo in 2007, Greenberg would term “the jewel-in-the-crown of American offshore prisons or, to be Pentagon-accurate, 'detention facilities.'" Here were just four of those questions: “Do you fear review by the courts? Why do you dismiss the role of the courts and ordinary law enforcement in eliciting information from prisoners in the war on terror? Isn't it possible that the art of interrogation, practiced by law enforcement officers and professional lawyers, might, in fact, elicit more important and more accurate information in assessing the motives, networks, and plans of terrorists than, say, dogs at Guantanamo Bay or waterboarding in some CIA holding area? What exactly was it you felt it was so important to keep secret from the courts?”

Almost 13 years later, Guantanamo remains open. It is still officially a “detention facility,” not a “prison,” and those held within it still aren’t “prisoners” -- you weren’t even allowed to use that word there in 2007 -- but “enemy combatants,” a category the Bush administration believed put them beyond all legal norms, American or international. As Greenberg reports today, the Trump administration has just classified its first American prisoner off the battlefields of Syria as an “enemy combatant.” Gulp.

And sadly, you already know just where our president, who praised torture to the heavens during campaign 2016 (while threatening to “take out” the families of terrorists), is likely to go with this. It seems that we’re heading back to the future, back to what Greenberg, in another piece, written a mere two and a half years ago, called “the Age of Barbarism Lite.” Let her then bring you up to date, while the rest of us only hope that she won’t be back 13 years from now to tell us that the latest American president is once again stashing “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Tom
 

"Enemy Combatants" Again? Will Washington Never Learn?

by Karen J. Greenberg

Placing terrorism suspects apprehended while fighting abroad in American custody is hardly unprecedented. The U.S. government has periodically captured citizen and non-citizen members of ISIS, and fighters from the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab, as well as from al-Qaeda-linked groups. To those who have followed such matters, however, the Trump administration’s quick embrace of the term “enemy combatant” for the latest captive is an obvious red flag and so has elicited a chorus of concern from national security attorneys and experts, myself included. Our collective disquiet stems from grim memories of the extralegal terrorism policies the Bush administration institutionalized, especially the way the term “enemy combatant” helped free its officials and the presidency from many restraints, and from fears that those abandoned policies might have a second life in the Trump era.

Guantanamo’s Detainees


What, then, is an enemy combatant? After all, memories fade and the government hasn’t formally classified anyone in custody by that rubric since 2009. So here’s a brief reminder. The term first made its appearance in the early months after 9/11. At that time, then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo -- who gained infamy for redefining acts of torture as legal “techniques” in the interrogation of prisoners -- and others used “enemy combatant” to refer to those captured in what was then being called the Global War on Terror. Their fates, Yoo argued, lay outside the purview of either Congress or the courts. The president, and only the president, he claimed, had the power to decide what would happen to them.

“As the president possess[es] the Commander-in-Chief and Executive powers alone,” Yoo wrote at the time,
“Congress cannot constitutionally restrict or regulate the president's decision to commence hostilities or to direct the military, once engaged. This would include not just battlefield tactics, but also the disposition of captured enemy combatants.”

The category, as used then, was meant to be sui generis and to bear no relation to “unlawful” or “lawful” enemy combatants, both granted legal protections under international law. Above all, the Bush version of enemy-combatant status was meant to exempt Washington’s captives from any of the protections that would normally have been granted to prisoners of war.

In practice, this opened the way for that era’s offshore system of (in)justice at both the CIA’s black sites and the prison camp at Guantanamo, which was set up in Cuba in order to evade the reach of either Congress or the federal court system. The captives President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent there beginning in January 2002 fell into that category. In keeping with the mood of the moment in Washington, the U.S. military personnel who received them were carefully cautioned never to refer to them as “prisoners,” lest they then qualify for the legal protections guaranteed to prisoners of war. Within weeks, the population had grown to several hundred men, all labeled “alien enemy combatants,” all deemed by Yoo and his superiors to lie outside the laws of war as well as those of the United States, and even outside military regulations.

American citizens were excluded from detention there. Some were nonetheless labeled enemy combatants. One -- Jose Padilla -- was arrested in the United States. Another -- Yaser Hamdi -- was initially brought to Gitmo after being captured in Afghanistan, only to be flown in the middle of the night to the United States as administration officials hoped to escape public attention for their mistake.

Padilla had been born and raised in the United States; Hamdi had grown up in Saudi Arabia. To avoid the federal detention system, both would be held in a naval brig in South Carolina, deprived of access to lawyers, and detained without charge. For years, their lawyers tried to convince federal judges that keeping them in such circumstances was unconstitutional. Eventually, the Supreme Court weighed in, upholding Yoo’s position on their classification as enemy combatants, but allowing them lawyers who could challenge the grounds for and conditions of their detention.

Although the government defended the use of enemy combatant status for years, both Padilla and Hamdi were eventually -- after almost three years in Hamdi’s case, three and a half for Padilla -- turned over to federal law enforcement. Never charged with a crime, Hamdi would be returned to Saudi Arabia, where he promptly renounced his U.S. citizenship, as the terms of his release required. Padilla was eventually charged in federal court and ultimately sentenced to 21 years in prison.

By the time Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, both cases had been resolved, but that of another enemy combatant held in the United States, though not a citizen, was still pending. Ali Saleh al-Marri, a Qatari and a graduate student at Bradley University in Illinois, was taken from civilian custody and detained without charges for six years at the same naval base that had held Padilla and Hamdi. Within weeks of Obama’s inauguration, however, he would be released into federal civilian custody and charged. Meanwhile, in June 2009, for the first and only time, the Department of Justice suddenly transferred a Guantanamo prisoner, Ahmed Ghailani, to federal custody. A year later, he was tried and convicted in federal court for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The message seemed hopeful, and was followed by other potentially restorative gestures. On the day Obama entered the White House, for instance, he signed an executive order to close Guantanamo within the year. In March, he abandoned the use of the term enemy combatant for the detainees there. Aiming to release or try all who remained in that prison camp, he appointed a task force to come up with viable options for doing so.

In other words, as his presidency began, Obama seemed poised to restore rights guaranteed under the Constitution to all prisoners, including those in Guantanamo, when it came to detention and trial. The pendulum seemed potentially set to swing back toward the rule of law. In the years to come, there would, nonetheless, be many disappointments when it came to the rule of law, including the failure to close Guantanamo itself. There was, as well, the Obama administration’s 2011 reversal of its earlier decision to take the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators -- including the “mastermind” of those attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- into federal court rather than try them via a Gitmo military commission.

In reality, that administration would even end up preserving an aspect of the enemy-combatant apparatus. In 2011, before bringing Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali defendant, and in 2014 before bringing Abu Khattala, the alleged mastermind in the deaths of an American ambassador and others in Benghazi, Libya, to the United States and putting them in federal custody, and in 2016 before bringing two Americans found fighting in Syria court here, the Obama administration would carve out a period for military detention and interrogation prior to federal custody and prosecution.

In each case, the individuals were held in military custody and first interrogated there. Warsame, for instance, was kept aboard a U.S. Navy vessel for two months of questioning before being charged with, among other things, providing material support to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab and to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. (In December 2011, he would plead guilty in a federal court in New York City.) Khattala was held for 13 days. Once U.S. intelligence agents had the information they felt they needed, they turned the detainees over to those who would help prosecute them -- to the “clean team.”

Until the recent Trump administration designation, however, no one in the ensuing years would be newly labeled an enemy combatant and sent to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility or held without charge on U.S. soil. In fact, a number of individuals who, in the Bush years, would undoubtedly have become detainees there landed in federal court instead, including bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, and Abu Hamza al-Masri, an al-Qaeda operative accused of trying to build a terrorist cell in the United States.

As a result, this fall there are a surprising number of terrorism trials taking place, including that of the alleged Benghazi mastermind, of the two Americans who were fighting alongside ISIS in Syria, and of U.S. citizen Muhanad Mahmoud al-Farekh, who was just found guilty in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, of conspiring to aid al-Qaeda and bomb a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

In these years, the belief that terrorism suspects belong within the federal criminal justice system was reestablished. In addition, Obama appointed two consecutive special envoys to take charge of transferring detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo, which Congress refused to close. As a result, a total of 197 were released during the Obama years, leaving only 41 in indefinite detention as Trump came into office.

Meanwhile, during the tenures of Attorneys General General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the federal courts would handle an increasingly wide array of terrorism cases, ranging from the Boston Marathon attack to the attempts of a woman in Colorado to travel abroad to marry an ISIS member and serve the caliphate. Taken together, these developments seemed to signify an end to the era of indefinite detention and of detention without charge. Or so we thought.

Back to the Future


Now, it seems, the term “enemy combatant” is back and who knows what’s about to come back with it? Was the Trump administration’s very use of that label meant to get our attention, to signal the potential Guantanamo-ish future to come, to quash any cautious hopes that the modest gains realized during the Obama years might actually last? Remember that, during the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump swore that he would add some “bad dudes” to Guantanamo and insisted that even American citizens could end up in that persistent symbol of American injustice.

In the meantime, in August it was revealed that the Pentagon was already requesting from Congress $500 million dollars to build new barracks for troops, a hospital, and a tent city for migrants at Gitmo. In other words, the United States now stands at a worrisome and yet familiar crossroads in its never-ending war on terror and the signs point to a possible revival of some of the worst policies of the national security state.

In reality, so many years later, enemy combatant status should be a nonstarter, a red flag of the first order, as should indefinite detention. In the past, such policies produced nothing but a costly quagmire, leaving George Bush to personally release more than 500 detainees, Barack Obama nearly 200, and the government to eventually take citizens declared to be enemy combatants out of military custody and transfer them to federal court. Meanwhile, the hapless military commissions tied directly to Gitmo that were to replace the federal court system have yet to even begin the trials of the alleged co-conspirators of 9/11, while such courts have already tried more than 500 terrorism defendants.

Is this really what the Trump years have in store for us? A return to a policy that never worked, that brought shame to this country, cost a fortune in the bargain (at the moment, nearly $11 million annually per Gitmo detainee), and undermined faith in the federal court system, even though those courts have proved so much more capable than the military commissions of dealing with terrorism cases?

For those of us who thought this country might have learned its lesson, the use of the term “enemy combatant” for new detainees and for an American citizen is more than a provocative gesture, it’s the latest attack on the rule of law. It represents a renewed attempt to dismantle yet another piece of the fabric of American democracy and to throw into doubt a founding faith in the importance of courts and the judicial system. It’s another reminder that the rise of the national security state continues to take place outside the bounds of what was once thought of as fundamental to the republic -- namely, institutions of justice. Suitably, then, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas petition on October 5th challenging the detention of the newest enemy combatant, asserting, among other things, “John Doe’s” right to an attorney and calling for him to be transferred into civil custody and charged or released.

Though the future is so often a mystery, if the Trump administration goes down this same path again, it should be obvious from the last decade and a half just where it will lead: toward a renewed policy of legal exceptionalism in which the American scales of justice will once again be decisively tipped toward injustice.

Karen J. Greenberg, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School and author of The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days. Her most recent book is Rogue Justice: the Making of the Security State. Rohini Kurup, an intern at CNS, helped with the research for this article.
Copyright 2017 Karen J. Greenberg