Generation Opportunity, a national, non-partisan youth advocacy organization, released its Millennial Jobs Report for May 2013, revealing that the effective unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds, adjusting for labor participation rate by including those who have given up looking for work, is 16.1 percent.
In a series of interviews, UN investigator Carla del Ponte said that the sarin gas used in Syria was fired by the U.S.-backed opposition, not the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Her account explodes the lies on which Washington and its European allies have based their campaign for war with Syria, according to which the U.S. and its allies are preparing to attack Syria to “protect its people from Assad’s chemical weapons,” when, in fact, available evidence of sarin use implicates the Islamist-dominated “rebels” who are armed by U.S.-allied Middle Eastern countries, under CIA supervision. Del Ponte’s statements coincide with the flagrantly illegal Israeli air strikes on Syria, which were endorsed by President Obama.
IRS and Spying
Paul Street writes on ZNet about the Obama administration’s “three big scandals this spring”: (1) the Internal Revenue Service’s alleged special targeting of Tea Party organizations; (2) the continuing brouhaha over the State Department and White House’s early statements about the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya last year; (3) revelations that the FBI secretly seized phone records for more than 20 telephone lines (including cell and home phones) of reporters and editors at the Associated Press (AP)—this in pursuit of government leaks regarding the administration’s dirty war in Yemen.
The IRS and Benghazi dramas are grossly inflated affairs, created and kept alive by the powerful right wing media echo chamber. The AP story, by contrast, is gigantic—or at least it ought to be. The AP scandal was just the tip of the iceberg. Stories in the British paper the Guardian and in the Washington Post exposed two gigantic Orwellian “data collection” programs running out of the National Security Agency (NSA). Under the first program, the NSA collects the phone records of millions of Verizon customers “to detect suspicious patterns,” constructing a database through which it claims it can detect terrorist plots. Under the second program, code-named PRISM, the NSA and FBI are permitted to tap directly into nine U.S. Internet companies to assemble all Internet usage—emails, video, photographs, searches, audio, etc.—by any and all users. The companies caught up in this epic web dragnet include Google, Face- book, and Apple. A related NSA program, called Boundless Informant, maps, catalogues, and tracks the geographical source of all the personal data the agency collects worldwide.
According to Snowden, who left his job as a federal security contractor to expose these authoritarian programs (and who the Obama administration is hunting down for rendition), “NSA targets the communications of everyone,” U.S. citizens included. Any analyst at any time can target anyone. The intrusive practices exposed by Snowden involve the executive branch arrogating to itself the right to spy 24-7 on Americans in the name of national security.
ACLU Sues NSA
Common Dreams sent news that the ACLU has sued the Obama administration over the NSA dragnet surveillance, stating it will have a “chilling effect.” As a Verizon customer, the ACLU was targeted by the NSA and has had their ability to engage in legitimate communications—with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, and others—undermined.
The ACLU says the unprecedented metadata now known to be collected by the NSA, gives the government a comprehensive record of the ACLU’s associations and public movements, revealing a wealth of detail about familial, political, professional, religious ,and intimate associations, adding that it is likely to have a chilling effect on whistleblowers and others who would otherwise contact the ACLU.
Their lawsuit maintains that, given recent revelations, the NSA has violated the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment and that the NSA has surpassed even the vast authority awarded to them by Congress through the Patriot Act.
Said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation.”
Not the First Time
Christopher Pyle, who teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College, wrote in his article “Edward Snowden: Profile in Courage,” that Snowden may go down in history as one of this nation’s most important whistleblowers”—like Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon Papers (and who is supporting Snowden).
This is not the first time that the American people have learned that their intelligence agencies are out of control–for example, the military’s surveillance of the civil rights and anti-war movements in 1970 when, among other things, investigations discovered that the National Security Agency had a huge watchlist of civil rights and anti-war protesters whose phone calls it was intercepting. Other dubious activities include:
- The FBI bugged the hotel rooms of Martin Luther King and tried to blackmail him into committing suicide rather than accept the Nobel Peace Prize
- The CIA tried to hire the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro
- President Nixon used the Internal Revenue Service to audit the taxes of his political enemies
- Nixon’s aides tried to destroy Daniel Ellsberg for leaking a history of the Vietnam War, both by prosecuting him and by burglarizing his psychiatrist’s office
- The FBI opened enormous amounts of first-class mail of law-abiding citizens in direct violation of the criminal law
Since then the technology has changed. It is now attached to the Internet, where it secretly collects the contents of everyone’s audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs’ from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. It also siphons billions of telephone communications and Internet messages off the fiber optic cables that enter and pass through the United States.
Secret government was curbed in the 1970s when President Nixon was driven from office; NSA’s watchlist was shut down; the FBI was returned to law enforcement; wiretapping was brought under the supervision of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; assassinations were forbidden by executive order; and the campaign to punish leakers ended when White House aides were caught trying to suborn Ellsberg’s judge.
Unfortunately, these efforts have largely failed. Judge Vinson’s order to Verizon proves beyond cavil that the secret FISA court is a rubber stamp for the indiscriminate seizure of all sorts of personal records
Seventy percent of the federal government’s intelligence budget now goes to private contractors. Far from overseeing the agencies, members of Congress court them, hoping to obtain business for companies that contribute generously to their campaigns.
Declaring a federal ban on expressive activity on the U.S. Supreme Court plaza to be “repugnant” to the Constitution, a District of Columbia federal court has struck down a 60-year-old statute which broadly prohibits speech and expression in front of the United States Supreme Court.
The court’s ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Rutherford Institute on behalf of Harold Hodge, a 46-year-old African American man who was arrested in January 2011 while standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building wearing a sign voicing his concerns about the government’s disparate treatment of African Americans and Hispanics.
In a ruling issued in Hodge v. Talkin, et al., District Court Judge Beryl L. Howell struck down a federal law that makes it unlawful to display any flag, banner, or device designed to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement while on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court, declaring that the “the absolute prohibition on expressive activity [on the Supreme Court plaza] in the statute is unreasonable, substantially overbroad, and irreconcilable with the First Amendment.”