Bulletin N° 213
Subject : ON WORLD CLASS
STRUGGLE: FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN
16 November 2005
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
We have received many articles from readers expressing their hopes (and anxieties) concerning the evolution of democracy in the
Eventually, an international social class consciousness is likely to take shape, despite new levels of repression. As individuals find themselves compelled to acknowledge their genuine needs, to confront their own disappointments and seek a better understanding of the nature of those forces that would prevent them from realizing their legitimate desires, they will find strength by organizing around their social class interests instead of continuing to compete individually for small favors and commodities handed out for "good behavior".
We can look forward to more propaganda and more psychological warfare aimed at dissolving this emerging class consciousness before it blossoms into a full blown democratic movement and becomes a real threat to entrenched capitalist interests. One voice representing these capitalist interests at the time of the Vietnam War was recorded on audio tape, when President Richard Nixon instructed his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger :
This forthright imperialist declaration of war against humanity by a United States President is an illustration of one current of American political tradition. It is part of the Euro-American imperialist heritage, which sustains the Bush/Cheney cabal to this day, with strategic collaboration by the media.
On the other hand, representing an anti-imperialist element in western tradition, the international socialist professor of history, Eric Hobsbawm, concludes his book, The Age of Extremes, with the following observation :
The international conflicts we see today represent a continuous, but highly accelerated, episode in the historic struggles for democratic control over the political economies of institutions that govern every aspect of our lives. Periodically, throughout history, the intensity of conflicts during confrontations, such as wars, labor strikes, or mass demonstrations, has laid bare some of the political and economic contradictions which served to alienate working people from one another and from the centers of power.
CEIMSA associates, by
sending us articles and their essays, continue to
our efforts to understand WHY we now find ourselves at this historical
conjuncture, and WHAT we might do to improve our lives and the
which we live.
Below are nine communications recently received by CEIMSA which shed light on the process of social-movement formations today that are linking ordinary American citizens to the rest of the world. By engaging in activities that would disarm their common sources of oppression, the scholars and students associated with CEIMSA have given formal recognition to the existence of a world class struggle. Their intellectual commitment to "science for the people" is a necessary element in this struggle for participatory democracy and economic equality.
Item A. is an article from
Item B. is an interview with Dahr Jamail, by "Unknown News" editor, Don Nash, who asks him "ten questions on
Item C. is a brief report form Kathleen Allee in
Item D. is a article describing FBI spying on
Item E. is an international perspective of the Bush-II administration from
Item F. is an article sent to us by our research associate, Michael Parenti (author of Democracy for the Few), on the political history of the Supreme Court, lest we forget. . . .
Item G. is an article by Howard Zinn, (author of Voices of a People's History of the United States)who also warns us not to expect much from the Supreme Court : as the stakes rise, the Supreme Court Justices could always be counted on to protect privilege and wealth against the interests of the people.
Item H. is Professor Noam Chomsky's analysis of the October attack on his work by the London Guardian, and what lessons can be learned from the dishonesty, which now threatens the reputation of this "progressive" paper.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Universsité Stendhal-Grenoble III
from Jay Arena :
12 November 2005
This war abroad, as some sections of the
The Bi-Partisan Neoliberal Assault on Public Housing
In the early 1980s
Ethnic and Class Cleansing: The Case of the St. Thomas Housing Development
The location of the pre-hurricane demolished housing developments is important for understanding the destruction Katrina heaped on poor families. For example, the now-destroyed St. Thomas development, which at one time had been home to over 1,500 Black, and some white, working class families, was located along the riverfront, where flooding did not occur or quickly receded. In the late 1990s, after a decade long effort, local and federal officials demolished the
In contrast to the misery faced by most of the former Black working class residents removed from the area, influential white businessmen prospered. For example, real estate tycoons like Pres Kabacoff and Joe Canizaro--both of whom Mayor Ray Nagin has appointed to the Rebuild New Orleans Commission--made millions through the ethnic and class cleansing of the area. In addition, community activist Barbara Major, a close associate of Joseph Canizaro who helped facilitate and legitimate
In contrast to the "winners," only a handful of residents have been able to return to the renamed, privatized, "
The "public-private partnership" that oversaw the
What will happen to the residents at these former developments, you might ask? Well, HUD secretary Jackson reassured people that "We will be involvedIf they want to go back home, we will do everything in our power to make sure they are comfortable." Yet, he added that most people, after staying away for over six months, will not want to come back. Adonis Expose, communications director of the Housing Authority of
Iberville Housing Development: Katrina as Pretext for Seizing Prime Real Estate
The policy of refusing re-entry to homes is particularly criminal in the case of the Iberville housing development, where floodwaters did not enter apartments. HANO is not allowing the over 600 Black working class families that resided at Iberville, which sits next to the French Quarter, from moving back into their homes. The official explanation is that soil and other environmental tests must first be undertaken to guarantee safety--yet this "concern" is only raised with regard to public housing residents. No timetable is given for when tests will be completed.
Timothy Ryan, a pro-business economist and University of New Orleans chancellor, in another brief instance of public candidness by local elites, pointed to the real motives behind blocking re-entry of Black working class families to the development: "[Iberville] has retarded French Quarter development for 30 years", he bemoaned [NB: Housing authority officials began desegregation of the-then all white development beginning only in 1965]. The good professor proffered "taking Iberville and mak[ing] it a retirement community" as a "solution" to the (Black working class) "problem."
More Neoliberal Air Strikes Launched Against Education, Health, Civil Liberties
The over 60,000 students that attended New Orleans public schools before Katrina came primarily from Black working class families. As with public housing, public education had faced a barrage of attacks from business and government officials. For example, over the last several years the New Orleans school board have instituted rules--such as not posting important agenda items until just before meetings start-- to make it much more difficult for parents and other members of the public to give input at school board meetings. To further stifle debate, the local press and school board members, such as James Fahrenholz, have vilified courageous local activists, such as Assata Olugbala, who consistently speak out at board meetings. In addition, semi-privatized charter schools, often with pressure from the state department of education, have been imposed. Finally, this summer the State legislature and Board of Education, along with local school board "reformers", hired a private management "turnaround" firm, Alvarez & Marsal, to manage the district. This outfit was previously used in
Under cover of the disaster, Alvarez and Marsal, with full support from local and state officials, are systematically dismantling the school system. First to go were teachers and support staff, who were all laid-off indefinitely, and their union contracts ripped up. Next, local and state school officials announced that schools opened on the non-flooded west bank of
On the east bank of
The same pattern of using the hurricane to deepen the neoliberal agenda is evident in the health care arena. Since taking office two years ago Governor Blanco has decimated the public Charity hospital system budget, partly by allowing private nursing homes and hospitals to raid the state's Medicaid allotment. As a result, the state closed or reduced vital services, such as the walk-in clinics, over the last several years. Now, State officials plan to permanently close
To manage the discontent these cuts inevitably generate the government is beefing up its repressive forces. Wherever working class people go for help in the
Join the Working Class Fightback!:
The racist, anti-working class agenda being pursed by the ruling class is not going unchallenged. Local social justice activists, some of whom have the spent decades on the front lines in New Orleans fighting for economic justice and social equality are currently involved in ongoing struggles in the Greater New Orleans area to stop unfair evictions, reopen public housing, schools, and secure alternative housing for storm victims. They recognize that it will take a national movement to stop the post-Katrina offensive against affordable housing, public healthcare, public education and police repression now besieging the community. Yet, they also realize that this struggle must incorporate the people of
In contrast to the neoliberal agenda, activists in New Orleans-based grassroots groups, such as the anti-war, pro-public housing group C3/ Hands Off Iberville, are proposing a pro-working class, anti-racist reconstruction plan that demands:
" No to ethnic and class cleansing-a pro-worker and African-American friendly environment, affordable public and private housing, universal healthcare, a mass public works rebuilding program that pays a living wage, an end to police brutality in our community.
" We call for financing this through, one, taxing the oil companies---$1 tax for every $1 price increase since the run up the
These activists, argue that "the utter failure of all levels of government to look after the most basic needs of the working class and the African-Americans of the
For more information on how you an support this effort call C3/Hands Off Iberville representative Mike Howells at 504-587-0080 or the author, Jay Arena at 504-520-9521 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jay Arena is PhD student in the Department of Sociology at
from Don Nash :
Nov. 4, 2005
Questions and Answers about
(Dahr Jamail Interviewed by *Don Nash*/, /Unknown News/)
*Q.* /What does
The security situation is more accurately described as a brutal,
guerrilla war which spiraled out of control over a year ago. Attacks on
US forces even now average over 70 per day, and are expected to increase
in coming months.
The myth that the
just that-a myth. Even the heavily fortified "Green Zone" is mortared on
a regular basis. If one wishes to fly in or out of
necessary for also over a year due to the inability of the military to
safeguard the area around the airport. Like in
shot down if they don't use the spiral method of taking off/landing.
The infrastructure is in shambles. For most of the western companies who
were awarded the no-bid cost-plus contracts in
contract -- guaranteed profits with no oversight. Companies like Bechtel
have been paid out in full for their initial contract worth $680 million
and awarded contracts totaling over $3.8 Billion, despite the fact that
many of their projects in their initial contract were not even begun.
Meanwhile, Iraqis suffer and die from waterborne diseases, child
malnutrition is worse than during the sanctions, and there is over 70%
*Q.* /How do the Iraqi people feel overall about the U.S. occupation?/
According to *a recent poll*
< http://www.unknownnews.org/0510281023Iraquispolled.html> commissioned
by the British military, 82% of Iraqis want all occupation forces
removed from their country, less than 1% feel occupation forces have
improved security, and 45% openly admitted to feeling that attacks
against US forces are justified. This is quite similar to what I've seen
during my 8 months in
larger percentage (greater than 45%) of Iraqis in support of the Iraqi
*Q.* /Is there anyway to know how many Iraqis are being held in
detention by the
No. But there is now a huge number of missing persons in
100,000 according to two
of), many of which are feared to be detained by the
detention facilities in
*Q.* /What really happened in Fallujah and Ramadi?/
During the November, 2004 siege of Fallujah, 60% of the city was
completely destroyed. Most of the rest of it had moderate to severe
damage done as well. Iraqi NGO's and medical workers in and around
Fallujah estimate over 4000 dead, mostly civilians. To this day, over
50,000 residents of Fallujah remain displaced.
white phosphorous (a new form of napalm) during the siege, and appear to
have used forms of chemical weapons as well.
I have described Fallujah as a modern day
it a massacre rather than a siege. Fallujah is the model of Bush
Administration foreign policy. There has been next to no reconstruction
completed inside the city, as was promised by occupation authorities.
*Q.* /Are there other towns in
we havent heard about?/
Many in the
during the Muqtada al-Sadr intifadas), Haditha, Hit and parts of Baquba,
Yes, state-sponsored civil war. The US-backed puppet Iraqi government is
using the Badr Army (Shia) and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia to battle a
primarily Sunni resistance. Most ordinary Iraqis loath the idea of civil
war, but fear the possibility of it occurring as the U.S.-backed tactic
of divide and conquer moves forward in occupied Iraq.
*Q.* /How do the Iraqi people feel about the American people?/
Fortunately, most are quick to differentiate between the
and American people. But unfortunately, in places like Fallujah, Haditha
and Al-Qa'im where US operations have caused so much death and
destruction, that distinction is being blurred and lost.
*Q.* /Is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi alive?/
Personally, I don't believe he is alive. I researched this heavily when
I was last in
(al-Zarqa), and after interviewing many of his neighbors and old friends
found that most of them believe he was killed in
Any claim that he is a leader of the
*Q.* /Do the Iraqi people have any hope for a future?/
Not much nowadays. Most who can afford it are leaving
have little choice but to stay in Iraq can look forward to continued and
increasing violence, no reconstruction, a fundamentalist state and an
endless US occupation which was failed before it even began.
*Q.* /Are the American people obligated to help the Iraqi people? And
what could be done?/
The American people are completely obliged to help the Iraqi people
because it is the fault of the American people that the Bush cabal was
allowed to invade
their power to end this illegal and immoral occupation as quickly as
possible is complicit with the war crimes being committed in
Thank you, Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by
More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com
from Kathleen Allee
5 November 2005
Thank you again for keeping us (Americans) updated on what's going on in our country.
It is still quite difficult to get information that is accurate and unbiased here.
This is an unfolding story and I don't have much information but, here in
barred on Nov. 2 from leaving their schools for an anti-war, anti-Bush rally. PUBLIC schools actually
chained their doors to keep them in. Some students handing out flyers announcing the rally have been
suspended and may be expelled.
This is all I know, because I heard it on KPFK 90.7, alternative radio in
to locate any other information.
But, it a very strange, fear based climate we are in these days. It is very hard to be a liberal (or
How is everyone. . . .
from Barton Gellman :
The Washington Post
6 November 2005
The FBI's Secret Scrutiny :
In hunt for terrorists, bureau examines records of ordinary Americans
By Barton Gellman
The FBI came calling in
Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow.
Christian refused to hand over those records, and his employer, Library Connection Inc., filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in public. The
The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters - one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people - are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.
Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.
The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks - and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.
National security letters offer a case study of the impact of the Patriot Act outside the spotlight of political debate. Drafted in haste after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law's 132 pages wrought scores of changes in the landscape of intelligence and law enforcement. Many received far more attention than the amendments to a seemingly pedestrian power to review "transactional records." But few if any other provisions touch as many ordinary Americans without their knowledge.
Senior FBI officials acknowledged in interviews that the proliferation of national security letters results primarily from the bureau's new authority to collect intimate facts about people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. Criticized for failure to detect the Sept. 11 plot, the bureau now casts a much wider net, using national security letters to generate leads as well as to pursue them. Casual or unwitting contact with a suspect - a single telephone call, for example - may attract the attention of investigators and subject a person to scrutiny about which he never learns.
A national security letter cannot be used to authorize eavesdropping or to read the contents of e-mail. But it does permit investigators to trace revealing paths through the private affairs of a modern digital citizen. The records it gathers describe where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work.
As it wrote the Patriot Act four years ago, Congress bought time and leverage for oversight by placing an expiration date on 16 provisions. The changes involving national security letters were not among them. In fact, as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches and Congress prepares to renew or make permanent the expiring provisions, House and Senate conferees are poised again to amplify the FBI's power to compel the secret production of private records.
The House and Senate have voted to make noncompliance with a national security letter a criminal offense. The House would also impose a prison term for breach of secrecy.
Like many Patriot Act provisions, the ones involving national security letters have been debated in largely abstract terms. The Justice Department has offered Congress no concrete information, even in classified form, save for a partial count of the number of letters delivered. The statistics do not cover all forms of national security letters or all
"The beef with the NSLs is that they don't have even a pretense of judicial or impartial scrutiny," said former representative Robert L. Barr Jr. (
'A Routine Tool'
Career investigators and Bush administration officials emphasized, in congressional testimony and interviews for this story, that national security letters are for hunting terrorists, not fishing through the private lives of the innocent. The distinction is not as clear in practice.
Under the old legal test, the FBI had to have "specific and articulable" reasons to believe the records it gathered in secret belonged to a terrorist or a spy. Now the bureau needs only to certify that the records are "sought for" or "relevant to" an investigation "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."
That standard enables investigators to look for conspirators by sifting the records of nearly anyone who crosses a suspect's path.
"If you have a list of, say, 20 telephone numbers that have come up . . . on a bad guy's telephone," said Valerie E. Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, "you want to find out who he's in contact with." Investigators will say, " 'Okay, phone company, give us subscriber information and toll records on these 20 telephone numbers,' and that can easily be 100."
Bush administration officials compare national security letters to grand jury subpoenas, which are also based on "relevance" to an inquiry. There are differences. Grand juries tend to have a narrower focus because they investigate past conduct, not the speculative threat of unknown future attacks. Recipients of grand jury subpoenas are generally free to discuss the subpoenas publicly. And there are strict limits on sharing grand jury information with government agencies.
Since the Patriot Act, the FBI has dispersed the authority to sign national security letters to more than five dozen supervisors - the special agents in charge of field offices, the deputies in
"Congress has given us this tool to obtain basic telephone data, basic banking data, basic credit reports," said Caproni, who is among the officials with signature authority. "The fact that a national security letter is a routine tool used, that doesn't bother me."
If agents had to wait for grounds to suspect a person of ill intent, said Joseph Billy Jr., the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, they would already know what they want to find out with a national security letter. "It's all chicken and egg," he said. "We're trying to determine if someone warrants scrutiny or doesn't."
Billy said he understands that "merely being in a government or FBI database . . . gives everybody, you know, neck hair standing up." Innocent Americans, he said, "should take comfort at least knowing that it is done under a great deal of investigative care, oversight, within the parameters of the law."
He added: "That's not going to satisfy a majority of people, but . . . I've had people say, you know, 'Hey, I don't care, I've done nothing to be concerned about. You can have me in your files and that's that.' Some people take that approach."
'Don't Go Overboard'
In Room 7975 of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, around two corners from the director's suite, the chief of the FBI's national security law unit sat down at his keyboard about a month after the Patriot Act became law. Michael J. Woods had helped devise the FBI wish list for surveillance powers. Now he offered a caution.
"NSLs are powerful investigative tools, in that they can compel the production of substantial amounts of relevant information," he wrote in a Nov. 28, 2001, "electronic communication" to the FBI's 56 field offices. "However, they must be used judiciously." Standing guidelines, he wrote, "require that the FBI accomplish its investigations through the 'least intrusive' means. . . . The greater availability of NSLs does not mean that they should be used in every case."
Woods, who left government service in 2002, added a practical consideration. Legislators granted the new authority and could as easily take it back. When making that decision, he wrote, "Congress certainly will examine the manner in which the FBI exercised it."
Looking back last month, Woods was struck by how starkly he misjudged the climate. The FBI disregarded his warning, and no one noticed.
"This is not something that should be automatically done because it's easy," he said. "We need to be sure . . . we don't go overboard."
One thing Woods did not anticipate was then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's revision of Justice Department guidelines. On May 30, 2002, and Oct. 31, 2003, Ashcroft rewrote the playbooks for investigations of terrorist crimes and national security threats. He gave overriding priority to preventing attacks by any means available.
Ashcroft remained bound by Executive Order 12333, which requires the use of the "least intrusive means" in domestic intelligence investigations. But his new interpretation came close to upending the mandate. Three times in the new guidelines, Ashcroft wrote that the FBI "should consider . . . less intrusive means" but "should not hesitate to use any lawful techniques . . . even if intrusive" when investigators believe them to be more timely. "This point," he added, "is to be particularly observed in investigations relating to terrorist activities."
'Why Do You Want to Know?'
As the Justice Department prepared congressional testimony this year, FBI headquarters searched for examples that would show how expanded surveillance powers made a difference. Michael Mason, who runs the Washington field office and has the rank of assistant FBI director, found no ready answer.
"I'd love to have a made-for-Hollywood story, but I don't have one," Mason said. "I am not even sure such an example exists."
What national security letters give his agents, Mason said, is speed.
"I have 675 terrorism cases," he said. "Every one of these is a potential threat. And anything I can do to get to the bottom of any one of them more quickly gets me closer to neutralizing a potential threat."
Because recipients are permanently barred from disclosing the letters, outsiders can make no assessment of their relevance to Mason's task.
Woods, the former FBI lawyer, said secrecy is essential when an investigation begins because "it would defeat the whole purpose" to tip off a suspected terrorist or spy, but national security seldom requires that the secret be kept forever. Even mobster "John Gotti finds out eventually that he was wiretapped" in a criminal probe, said Peter Swire, the federal government's chief privacy counselor until 2001. "Anyone caught up in an NSL investigation never gets notice."
To establish the "relevance" of the information they seek, agents face a test so basic it is hard to come up with a plausible way to fail. A model request for a supervisor's signature, according to internal FBI guidelines, offers this one-sentence suggestion: "This subscriber information is being requested to determine the individuals or entities that the subject has been in contact with during the past six months."
Edward L. Williams, the chief division counsel in Mason's office, said that supervisors, in practice, "aren't afraid to ask . . . 'Why do you want to know?' " He would not say how many requests, if any, are rejected.
'The Abuse Is in the Power Itself'
Those who favor the new rules maintain - as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, put it in a prepared statement - that "there has not been one substantiated allegation of abuse of these lawful intelligence tools."
What the Bush administration means by abuse is unauthorized use of surveillance data - for example, to blackmail an enemy or track an estranged spouse. Critics are focused elsewhere. What troubles them is not unofficial abuse but the official and routine intrusion into private lives.
To Jeffrey Breinholt, deputy chief of the Justice Department's counterterrorism section, the civil liberties objections "are eccentric." Data collection on the innocent, he said, does no harm unless "someone [decides] to act on the information, put you on a no-fly list or something." Only a serious error, he said, could lead the government, based on nothing more than someone's bank or phone records, "to freeze your assets or go after you criminally and you suffer consequences that are irreparable." He added: "It's a pretty small chance."
"I don't necessarily want somebody knowing what videos I rent or the fact that I like cartoons," said Mason, the
Barr, the former congressman, said that "the abuse is in the power itself."
"As a conservative," he said, "I really resent an administration that calls itself conservative taking the position that the burden is on the citizen to show the government has abused power, and otherwise shut up and comply."
At the ACLU, staff attorney Jameel Jaffer spoke of "the profound chilling effect" of this kind of surveillance: "If the government monitors the Web sites that people visit and the books that they read, people will stop visiting disfavored Web sites and stop reading disfavored books. The FBI should not have unchecked authority to keep track of who visits [al-Jazeera's Web site] or who visits the Web site of the Federalist Society."
Links in a Chain
Ready access to national security letters allows investigators to employ them routinely for "contact chaining."
"Starting with your bad guy and his telephone number and looking at who he's calling, and [then] who they're calling," the number of people surveilled "goes up exponentially," acknowledged Caproni, the FBI's general counsel.
But Caproni said it would not be rational for the bureau to follow the chain too far. "Everybody's connected" if investigators keep tracing calls "far enough away from your targeted bad guy," she said. "What's the point of that?"
One point is to fill government data banks for another investigative technique. That one is called "link analysis," a practice Caproni would neither confirm nor deny.
Two years ago, Ashcroft rescinded a 1995 guideline directing that information obtained through a national security letter about a U.S. citizen or resident "shall be destroyed by the FBI and not further disseminated" if it proves "not relevant to the purposes for which it was collected." Ashcroft's new order was that "the FBI shall retain" all records it collects and "may disseminate" them freely among federal agencies.
The same order directed the FBI to develop "data mining" technology to probe for hidden links among the people in its growing cache of electronic files. According to an FBI status report, the bureau's office of intelligence began operating in January
Data mining intensifies the impact of national security letters, because anyone's personal files can be scrutinized again and again without a fresh need to establish relevance.
"The composite picture of a person which emerges from transactional information is more telling than the direct content of your speech," said Woods, the former FBI lawyer. "That's certainly not been lost on the intelligence community and the FBI."
Ashcroft's new guidelines allowed the FBI for the first time to add to government files consumer data from commercial providers such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint Inc. Previous attorneys general had decided that such a move would violate the Privacy Act. In many field offices, agents said, they now have access to ChoicePoint in their squad rooms.
What national security letters add to government data banks is information that no commercial service can lawfully possess. Strict privacy laws, for example, govern financial and communications records. National security letters - along with the more powerful but much less frequently used secret subpoenas from the
'What Happens in Vegas'
The bureau displayed its ambition for data mining in an emergency operation at the end of 2003.
The Department of Homeland Security declared an orange alert on Dec. 21 of that year, in part because of intelligence that hinted at a New Year's Eve attack in
The FBI sent Gurvais Grigg, chief of the bureau's little-known Proactive Data Exploitation Unit, in an audacious effort to assemble a real-time census of every visitor in the nation's most-visited city. An average of about 300,000 tourists a day stayed an average of four days each, presenting Grigg's team with close to a million potential suspects in the ensuing two weeks.
A former stockbroker with a degree in biochemistry, Grigg declined to be interviewed. Government and private sector sources who followed the operation described epic efforts to vacuum up information.
An interagency task force began pulling together the records of every hotel guest, everyone who rented a car or truck, every lease on a storage space, and every airplane passenger who landed in the city. Grigg's unit filtered that population for leads. Any link to the known terrorist universe - a shared address or utility account, a check deposited, a telephone call - could give investigators a start.
"It was basically a manhunt, and in circumstances where there is a manhunt, the most effective way of doing that was to scoop up a lot of third party data and compare it to other data we were getting," Breinholt said.
Investigators began with emergency requests for help from the city's sprawling hospitality industry. "A lot of it was done voluntary at first," said Billy, the deputy assistant FBI director.
According to others directly involved, investigators turned to national security letters and grand jury subpoenas when friendly persuasion did not work.
Early in the operation, according to participants, the FBI gathered casino executives and asked for guest lists. The MGM Mirage company, followed by others, balked.
"Some casinos were saying no to consent [and said], 'You have to produce a piece of paper,' " said Jeff Jonas, chief scientist at IBM Entity Analytics, who previously built data management systems for casino surveillance. "They don't just market 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.' They want it to be true."
The operation remained secret for about a week. Then casino sources told Rod Smith, gaming editor of the
What happened in Vegas stayed in federal data banks. Under Ashcroft's revised policy, none of the information has been purged. For every visitor, Breinholt said, "the record of the
Grigg's operation found no suspect, and the orange alert ended on Jan. 10, 2004."The whole thing washed out," one participant said.
'Of Interest to President Bush'
At around the time the FBI found George Christian in Connecticut, agents from the bureau's Charlotte field office paid an urgent call on the chemical engineering department at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. They were looking for information about a former student named Magdy Nashar, then suspected in the July 7 London subway bombing but since cleared of suspicion.
University officials said in interviews late last month that the FBI tried to use a national security letter to demand much more information than the law allows.
David T. Drooz, the university's senior associate counsel, said special authority is required for the surrender of records protected by educational and medical privacy. The FBI's first request, a July 14 grand jury subpoena, did not appear to supply that authority, Drooz said, and the university did not honor it. Referring to notes he took that day, Drooz said Eric Davis, the FBI's top lawyer in
The next day, July 15, FBI agents arrived with a national security letter. Drooz said it demanded all records of Nashar's admission, housing, emergency contacts, use of health services and extracurricular activities. University lawyers "looked up what law we could on the fly," he said. They discovered that the FBI was demanding files that national security letters have no power to obtain. The statute the FBI cited that day covers only telephone and Internet records.
"We're very eager to comply with the authorities in this regard, but we needed to have what we felt was a legally valid procedure," said Larry A. Neilsen, the university provost.
Soon afterward, the FBI returned with a new subpoena. It was the same as the first one, Drooz said, and the university still had doubts about its legal sufficiency. This time, however, it came from
'Unreasonable' or 'Oppressive'
The electronic docket in the Connecticut case, as the New York Times first reported, briefly titled the lawsuit Library Connection Inc. v. Gonzales . Because identifying details were not supposed to be left in the public file, the court soon replaced the plaintiff's name with "John Doe."
George Christian, Library Connection's executive director, is identified in his affidavit as "John Doe 2." In that sworn statement, he said people often come to libraries for information that is "highly sensitive, embarrassing or personal." He wanted to fight the FBI but feared calling a lawyer because the letter said he could not disclose its existence to "any person." He consulted Peter Chase, vice president of Library Connection and chairman of a state intellectual freedom committee. Chase - "John Doe 1" in his affidavit - advised Christian to call the ACLU. Reached by telephone at their homes, both men declined to be interviewed.
The central facts remain opaque, even to the judges, because the FBI is not obliged to describe what it is looking for, or why. During oral argument in open court on Aug. 31, Hall said one government explanation was so vague that "if I were to say it out loud, I would get quite a laugh here." After the government elaborated in a classified brief delivered for her eyes only, she wrote in her decision that it offered "nothing specific."
The Justice Department tried to conceal the existence of the first and only other known lawsuit against a national security letter, also brought by the ACLU's Jaffer and Ann Beeson. Government lawyers opposed its entry into the public docket of a
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, in a ruling that is under appeal, held that the law authorizing national security letters violates the First and Fourth Amendments.
Resistance to national security letters is rare. Most of them are served on large companies in highly regulated industries, with business interests that favor cooperation. The in-house lawyers who handle such cases, said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, "are often former prosecutors - instinctively pro-government but also instinctively by-the-books." National security letters give them a shield against liability to their customers.
Kenneth M. Breen, a partner at the New York law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, held a seminar for corporate lawyers one recent evening to explain the "significant risks for the non-compliant" in government counterterrorism investigations. A former federal prosecutor, Breen said failure to provide the required information could create "the perception that your company didn't live up to its duty to fight terrorism" and could invite class-action lawsuits by families of terrorism victims. In extreme cases, he said, a business could face criminal prosecution, "a 'death sentence' for certain kinds of companies."
The volume of government information demands, even so, has provoked a backlash. Several major business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, complained in an Oct. 4 letter to senators that customer records can "too easily be obtained and disseminated" around the government. National security letters, they wrote, have begun to impose an "expensive and time-consuming burden" on business.
The House and Senate bills renewing the Patriot Act do not tighten privacy protections, but they offer a concession to business interests. In both bills, a judge may modify a national security letter if it imposes an "unreasonable" or "oppressive" burden on the company that is asked for information.
'A Legitimate Question'
As national security letters have grown in number and importance, oversight has not kept up. In each house of Congress, jurisdiction is divided between the judiciary and intelligence committees. None of the four Republican chairmen agreed to be interviewed.
Roberts, the Senate intelligence chairman, said in a statement issued through his staff that "the committee is well aware of the intelligence value of the information that is lawfully collected under these national security letter authorities," which he described as "non-intrusive" and "crucial to tracking terrorist networks and detecting clandestine intelligence activities." Senators receive "valuable reporting by the FBI," he said, in "semi-annual reports [that] provide the committee with the information necessary to conduct effective oversight."
Roberts was referring to the Justice Department's classified statistics, which in fact have been delivered three times in four years. They include the following information: how many times the FBI issued national security letters; whether the letters sought financial, credit or communications records; and how many of the targets were "
Committee members have occasionally asked to see a sampling of national security letters, a description of their fruits or examples of their contribution to a particular case. The Justice Department has not obliged.
In 2004, the conference report attached to the intelligence authorization bill asked the attorney general to "include in his next semiannual report" a description of "the scope of such letters" and the "process and standards for approving" them. More than a year has passed without a Justice Department reply.
"The committee chairman has the power to issue subpoenas" for information from the executive branch, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a House Judiciary Committee member. "The minority has no power to compel, and . . . Republicans are not going to push for oversight of the Republicans. That's the story of this Congress."
In the executive branch, no FBI or Justice Department official audits the use of national security letters to assess whether they are appropriately targeted, lawfully applied or contribute important facts to an investigation.
Justice Department officials noted frequently this year that Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reports twice a year on abuses of the Patriot Act and has yet to substantiate any complaint. (One investigation is pending.) Fine advertises his role, but there is a puzzle built into the mandate. Under what scenario could a person protest a search of his personal records if he is never notified?
"We do rely upon complaints coming in," Fine said in House testimony in May. He added: "To the extent that people do not know of anything happening to them, there is an issue about whether they can complain. So, I think that's a legitimate question."
Asked more recently whether Fine's office has conducted an independent examination of national security letters, Deputy Inspector General Paul K. Martin said in an interview: "We have not initiated a broad-based review that examines the use of specific provisions of the Patriot Act."
At the FBI, senior officials said the most important check on their power is that Congress is watching.
"People have to depend on their elected representatives to do the job of oversight they were elected to do," Caproni said. "And we think they do a fine job of it."
Researcher Julie Tate and research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.
from Ezequiel Adamovsky :
November 5, 2005
by Ezequiel Adamovsky
A few years ago, Tulio Halperin Donghi,
Indeed, the very word "imperialism" (not to mention "capitalism") was for most of the 90s something of a relic in
George Bush's visit, quite expectedly, was to be resisted by local activists and social movements. That we all knew. Somewhat unexpected was the general strike called by CTA, one of the main national unions, which was observed by many workers throughout the country. But nobody would have guessed such an intense participation of common people and even mainstream public figures in anti-Bush activities.
The first surprise came when the soccer hero Diego Maradona - something of a pagan (politically incorrect) God in
On Thursday night they all took an "anti-FTAA train" to
The charismatic president of
But he went even farther: by quoting extensively from Marx, Mao Tse Tung, Che Guevara, and Rosa Luxemburg, as well as some Latin American myths (such as Evita, Jos頍artnd, of course, Fidel Castro), Chavez argued strongly in favor of a post-capitalist society, which he called "socialism of the 21st century". Maradona, like everybody else in the stadium, clapped their hands to death.
Meanwhile, there were massive anti-Bush demonstrations in the streets of
The information about these political activities, and also about the debates in the III "Counter"
A poll in today's (Saturday 5 November) Clarin, the most important Argentine newspaper, confirms that we are dealing with a wide cultural phenomenon. Only 9% of the population believe that these kind of summits will be of any help for the people. In the ranking of popularity, Hugo Chavez got 38% of "positive image", while George Bush barely obtained 5%.
Indeed, it is the American negative role in
To be sure, this is not a new phenomenon. Anti-American feelings became more and more widespread in the 90s, while the role of the
As a leftwing teenager in the 80s, I remember how hard it was to win a political debate with my friends. Whenever I tried to make the point that "socialism" was what we needed to make our lives better, there was always someone pointing to the example of the
American imperial domination is not only loosing control of some peripheral countries; it is also loosing the war over people's minds and hearts. Long ago, Antonio Gramsci argued that domination rests upon a combination of coercion and consensus. If the Italian thinker was right, American imperialism may be coming to an end.
from Michael Parenti :
4 November 2005
before the Senate Judiciary Committee as nominee for Chief
the Supreme Court, John Roberts assured the senators that he would not
of those noisome activist judges who inject their personal values into
He would behave like an umpire calling balls and strikes. With a completely open mind, he would judge each case solely on its own merits, with only the Constitution to guide him, he said.
None of the senators doubled over with laughter.
A fortnight later, while George Bush was introducing another Court nominee---his right-wing Jesus-freak crony Harriet Miers---he prattled on about his judicial philosophy and how he wanted jurists to be strict constructionists who cleave close to the Constitution, as opposed to loose constructionist liberals who use the Court to advance their ideological agenda.
It is time to inject some reality into this issue. In fact, through most of its history the Supreme Court has engaged in the wildest conservative judicial activism in defense of privileged groups.
Be it for slavery or segregation, child labor or the sixteen hour workday, state sedition laws or assaults on the First Amendment---rightist judicial activists have shown an infernal agility in stretching and bending the Constitution to serve every inequity and iniquity.
Right to the eve of the Civil War, for instance, the Supreme Court asserted the primacy of property rights in slaves, rejecting all slave petitions for freedom. In the famous Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the Court concluded that, be they slave or free, Blacks were a subordinate and inferior class of beings without constitutional rights.
Thus did reactionary judicial activists---some of them slaveholders---spin racist precepts out of thin air to lend a constitutional gloss to their beloved slavocracy.
When the federal government wanted to establish national banks, or give away half the country to speculators, or subsidize industries, or set up commissions that fixed prices and interest rates for large manufacturers and banks, or imprison dissenters who denounced war and capitalism, or use the U.S. Army to shoot workers and break strikes, or have Marines kill people in Central America---the Supreme Courts conservative activists twisted the Constitution in every conceivable way to justify these acts. So much for strict construction.
But when the federal or state governments sought to limit workday hours, set minimum wage or occupational safety standards, ensure the safety of consumer products, or guarantee the right of collective bargaining, then the Court ruled that ours was a limited form of government that could not tamper with property rights and could not deprive owner and worker of freedom of contract.
The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868 ostensibly to establish full citizenship for African Americans, says that no state can deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny any person equal protection of the laws.
In another act of pure judicial invention, a conservative dominated Court decided that person really meant corporation; therefore the Fourteenth Amendment protected business conglomerates from regulation by the states.
To this day, corporations have legal standing as persons thanks to conservative judicial activism.
By 1920, pro-business federal courts had struck down roughly three hundred labor laws passed by state legislatures to ease inhumane working conditions.
Between 1880 and 1931 the courts issued more than 1,800 injunctions to suppress labor strikes. No trace of conservative restraint during those many years.
When Congress outlawed child labor or passed other social reforms, conservative jurists declared such laws to be violations of the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment says that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states or the people. So Congress could not act.
But, when states passed social welfare legislation, the Courts right-wing activists said such laws violated substantive due process (a totally fabricated oxymoron) under the Fourteenth Amendment. So the state legislatures could not act.
Thus for more than fifty years, the justices used the Tenth Amendment to stop federal reforms initiated under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fourteenth to stymie state reforms initiated under the Tenth. Its hard to get more brazenly activist than that.
A conservative Supreme Court produced Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), another inventive reading of the Fourteenth Amendments equal protection clause. Plessy confected the separate but equal doctrine, claiming that the forced separation of Blacks from Whites did not impute inferiority as long as facilities were equal (which they rarely were). For some seventy years, this judicial fabrication buttressed racial segregation.
Convinced that they too were persons, women began to argue that the due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment (applying to state governments) and the Fifth Amendment (applying to the federal government) disallowed the voting prohibitions imposed on women by state and federal authorities.
But in Minor v. Happersett (1875), the conservative Court fashioned another devilishly contorted interpretation: true, women were citizens but citizenship did not necessarily confer a citizens right to suffrage. In other words, due process, and equal protection applied to such persons as business corporations but not to women or people of African descent.
At times, presidents place themselves and their associates above accountability by claiming that the separation of powers gives them an inherent right of executive privilege. Executive privilege has been used by the White House to withhold information on undeclared wars, illegal campaign funds, Supreme Court nominations, burglaries (Watergate), insider trading (by Bush and Cheney), and White House collusion with corporate lobbyists.
But the concept of executive privilege (i.e. unaccountable executive secrecy) exists nowhere in the Constitution or any law. Yet the wild-eyed right-wing activists on the Supreme Court trumpet executive privilege, deciding out of thin air that a presumptive privilege for withholding information belongs to the president.
Bush just recently talked about how important it is for us to guard executive privilege in order for there to be crisp decision making in the White House. Crisp? So Bush presents himself as a strict constructionist while making claim to a wholly extra-constitutional juridical fiction known as executive privilege.
With staggering audacity, the Courts rightist judicial activists have decided that states cannot prohibit corporations from spending unlimited amounts on public referenda or other elections because such campaign expenditures are a form of speech and the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech to such persons as corporations.
In a dissenting opinion, the liberal Justice Stevens noted, Money is property; it is not speech. But his conservative colleagues preferred the more fanciful activist interpretation.
They further ruled that free speech enables rich candidates to spend as much as they want on their own campaigns, and rich individuals to expend unlimited sums in any election contest. Thus poor and rich can both freely compete, one in a whisper, the other in a roar.
Right-wing judicial activism reached a frenzy point in George W. Bush v. Al Gore. In a 5-to-4 decision, the conservatives overruled the
By preventing a recount, the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush.
In recent years these same conservative justices have held that the Fourteenth Amendments equal protection clause could not be used to stop violence against women, or provide a more equitable mode of property taxes, or a more equitable distribution of funds between rich and poor school districts.
But, in Bush v. Gore they ruled that the equal protection clause could be used to stop a perfectly legal ballot recount. Then they explicitly declared that the Bush case could not be considered a precedent for other equal protection issues. In other words, the Fourteenth Amendment applied only when the conservative judicial activists wanted it to, as when stealing an election.
We hear conservatives say that judges should not try to legislate from the bench, the way liberal jurists supposedly do. But a recent study by Paul Gewirtz and
By this measure, too, the conservatives are the more activist.
In sum, the right-wing aggrandizers in black robes are neither strict constructionists nor balanced adjudicators. They are unrestrained power hustlers masquerading as sober defenders of lawful procedure and constitutional intent.
If this is democracy, who needs oligarchy?
Michael Parenti's recent books include Superpatriotism (City Lights), The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New
Press), and The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press), all available in paperback; also visit: www.michaelparenti.org.
from Howard Zinn :
13 November 2005
Kulturkrieg in Journalism: Using Emotion to
The Origins of the Guardian Attack on Chomsky
by Diana Johnstone
Halloween, The Guardian ran an attack on Noam Chomsky that amazed many readers who had
The Guardian to be one of
her clever self. The interviewer was a young
Ms Brockes obviously had scant familiarity with Chomsky's work. For all one can tell, her sole background preparation for this assignment was an article written by her colleague Ed Vulliamy and published by the Balkan Crisis Report of International War and Peace Reporting (IWPR, an outfit heavily subsidized by NATO governments) on 27 August 2004. Vulliamy's article, "We Must Fight for Memory of Bosnia's Camps", calling for monuments to perpetuate the memory of the 1992 Bosnian Serb detention camps
which he visited as a reporter (but not, of course, the Muslim and Croat camps which he did not visit), includes an attack on me which is echoed very precisely by Ms Brockes, even to misspelling my name in the same way. The entire background for her attack on Chomsky seems to be drawn from two paragraphs of Vulliamy's article:
Revisionism over the carnage in
After all, who would know best: they or the woman (and her peers and subordinates) on whose orders the pogrom was carried out? But no. In
and the true figure of Bosnian war dead (the official estimate is more than 200,000 - Johnstone claims 50,000). And just as before, members of the chattering classes, unbelievably, have hailed this poison as "outstanding work", in a letter signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali, John Pilger, et.al.
In her write-up of the interview, Ms Brockes interprets Chomsky's defense of publication of my book as a "defense of those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated" and drags in the ITN-Living Marxism (LM) controversy, confusing the facts just as in Vulliamy's article. She lauds "my colleague, Ed Vulliamy", as one of the "serious, trustworthy people" who disagree with Chomsky. So it is not far-fetched to see Vulliamy's influence in the Brockes hatchet job.
(The above citation from the Vulliamy article misrepresents the ITN-LM case, as does Ms Brockes. The issue raised by LM had to do with the way photographs taken at Trnopolje camp, by focusing on a thin man on the other side of a wire fence which in reality did not surround the Muslim inmates, but rather the ITN crew itself, was used to create the impression that what was happening in Bosnia was a repetition of a Nazi-style Holocaust. I corrected that misrepresentation in my reponse to The
Guardian, which was published by Counterpunch, but not by the Guardian. I pointed out then that the judgment of the court was based solely on the subjective issue as to whether or not the ITN journalists "deliberately" set out to deceive the public. Moreover, in reality, nobody denied the "existence" of the camps, which Vulliamy claims to have "discovered", although he was led there by Bosnian Serb guides. There are other misrepresentations in his article. For example, I have never made any claim as to the number of victims in
highest, which was offered without any evidence by the information ministry in
killed by Serbs, which is quite impossible.)
From this citation, it emerges that the Brockes interview was a continuation of the vicious attack on me and the managing editor of the Swedish magazine Ordfront, BjEcklund, following his long article in the July/August 2003 issue on "lies about Yugoslavia" which featured an interview with me and excerpts from my book, "Fools' Crusade".
The first shots in that assault were fired by Maciej Zaremba, anex-Maoist of Polish origin turned ideological watchdog, in a flailing article published by
This shameful campaign was used to bring to heel Ordfront, which until then had been the most important left-oriented alternative to
For starters, there is an introduction on Al Burke's web site:
Two Kinds of Journalism
Ms Brockes colleague Ed Vulliamy is a proud practitioner of what is called "advocacy journalism", a reporter who openly and passionately takes sides in conflicts he covers. I would prefer to describe it as sort of literary journalism, where phrase-making and emotional arousal take precedence over reason, or even, on occasion, facts. The striking feature is the unrestrained use of a florid style, reflected in his choice of adjectives. In the article cited above, for instance, he speaks of the "putrid afternoon" when he had "the accursed honor" of seeing "heinous walls", etc. As to content, in the case of the Yugoslav disintegration wars, the emotional approach works best by reducing events to a certain number of notorious atrocities, proper to chill the blood and close the
mind to contemplation of political complications. Beyond advocacy, he writes as a sort of professional mourner and literary avenger.
Now, that is his right and suits his talent. I make no attempt to interfere with his mourning and his advocacy. But I do object when his style of journalism is used to condemn a quite different type of journalistic writing: one that attempts to be analytical and fair to all sides.
I readily acknowledge that emotional commitment is probably the most powerful motor for even the most analytical writing. But the difference is the attempt to be dispassionate, to exercise a certain self-control over the emotional flow of words. The watchdogs condemn efforts to be fair to all sides in the Yugoslav conflicts as "inflicting new pain on the victims"; Vulliamy wrote (article cited) that "Johnstone's book has inflicted new pain on those who matter the most: those who underwent endless days of mindless torture and survived; on the brave and almost forgotten women of Srebrenica who are still desperately searching
for their loved ones; and dishonours the memory of the victims."
In short, I am accused of being a sort of torturer, and Vulliamy is no doubt able to round up some poor Bosnian Muslim victims of his acquaintance, wave my book at them, and tell them that they have been dishonored and that he is busily defending them from the pain I am inflicting.
This does not really do much for the victims, but it does serve to preserve the Bosnian conflict as a purely emotional issue, a manichean issue of good versus evil, which keeps it firmly on the terrain commanded by Vulliamy himself, and the likes of Zaremba. It enforces the notion of a dualistic world, in which all is either black or white, good or evil, and anyone who tries to understand all sides of an issue is condemned as an appeaser, a coward, and perhaps even a handmaiden of the Devil.
In reality, trying to be fair and analytical does not at all preclude feeling sympathy for victims, and other human emotions. But for some writers, their emotional commitment seems to exclude all fairness and reasonable analysis. Whatever the political aims of such writers, a matter I cannot judge, their militant rejection of dispassionate analysis can only play into the hands of political powers who cloak their geostrategically motivated military interventions in the rhetoric of humanitarian imperatives.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble-3