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TBR News October 7, 2016

Oct 07 2016

The Voice of the White House


Washington, D.C.  October 7, 2016: “The Florida hurricaine is being covered everywhere and so we are relieved of the chore of wading through pro-Hillary and anti-Trump articles that clog the news sites. Obama’s Endless Wars are grinding on, costing many lives and American tax-payer’s money, Sausi Arabia is still backing IS and everyone is threating everyone else. Eventually, as tensions rise, some idiot will make a mistake and more war will break out. The UN is a uselese talk shop and can do nothing to defuse the global situations and American legislators are now fully engaged, not in dealing with crisis but the political campaigns. The First World War, that ruined European nations, started not because of malice but because of incompetence on the part of second-rate politicians.”

The curious case of San Francisco’s leaning tower: ‘There is nothing like this’

The city’s tallest residential building is sinking, and has been compared to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Now the blame game is coming swift and furious

October 6, 2016

by Julia Carrie Wong

The Guardian

San Francisco-The luxury condominiums at the Millennium Tower in San Francisco include every conceivable perk – from a wine cellar and screening room to the opportunity to attend “fireside chats with local and international thoughts leaders” – but for Frank Jernigan, one of the best features is the “engineering” button on the house phone.

“If you have a stopped up toilet or a leak, you just hit the button and someone comes up and fixes the problem within 15 minutes,” the retired Google engineer and owner of two units (one for himself and his husband, another for his husband’s father) said of the building he has called home since 2011.

It’s a nice touch, but residents like Jernigan are now facing an engineering problem that cannot be solved with a simple button.

The 58-story structure – the tallest residential building in San Francisco and, according to developers, the tallest reinforced concrete structure in the western US – has sunk 16 inches since its completion in 2008, and has tilted at least two inches toward the north-west.

All buildings settle into their foundations, but this building was only projected to sink between four and six inches over its lifetime. The revelation of the building’s unexpected decline has set off a round of lawsuits, government inquiries, and recriminations that promise to last for years.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Steven Blum, one of the attorneys representing Millennium residents in a class action lawsuit. “I’ve been doing cases involving sinking buildings for almost 30 years, and I have not seen anything like this.”

“The only thing that comes close is the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” he added. “But that’s a joke. There is nothing like this.” •••

San Francisco is flanked by seven subparallel fault lines. The most notorious, the San Andreas Fault, produced the 1906 earthquake that leveled most of the city as well as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake collapsed portions of the freeway and the Bay Bridge.

The prospect of the next “big one” has long kept San Francisco architecture relatively low to the ground, but in the early 2000s, developer ambitions shot skyward. Despite the fact that much of the city is at risk of “liquefaction” during an earthquake, and despite the fact that a group of engineers from the University of California Berkeley reportedly pushed for stricter standards for skyscrapers, developers raced ahead.

The Millennium Tower was among that first wave of new high-rises. Though it opened in 2009, just after the housing market crashed, the 420 units eventually all sold, for a total of $750m. As recently as February, a three-bedroom unit was listed for nearly $9m.

Much of that value of appears to have vanished when news of the sinking broke in August. The same three bedroom is now listed for $3.79m, and owners of 163 units have applied for property tax adjustments. In aggregate, the appeals claim a reduction in value of those 163 condos from $374m to $153m, according to city records.

Owners of 40 of those units are claiming that their residences – currently assessed at $563,000 to $5.1m – are worth $0, $1, or $2.

“It’s horrifying,” said Jernigan, who filed property tax appeals. “A third of my wealth is tied up in that property. The reason we put the value at zero is because no one wants to buy there now. If you can’t sell it, then it’s got a value of zero on the market.”

  • ••

Thus far, the consequences of the sinking and tilting appear to be confined to some cracks in the concrete walls in the basement. But with so much money – and liability – at stake, the blame game has been swift and furious.

The developers, Millennium Partners, are pointing the finger at the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), a government agency that is building a massive transit terminal next door to the Millennium.

The TJPA, said Millennium spokesman PJ Johnston, has engaged in “five years of dewatering [that] has severely dropped the water table beneath our building, causing the soil to compress more than normal, resulting in the building settling beyond what could have been predicted”.

But the TJPA argues that most of the building’s settlement occurred before it began underground construction in the adjacent plot, and blames the developer.

“The only plausible explanation for the poor performance of the Millennium Tower is a completely inappropriate foundation for such a heavy structure,” the agency said in a statement.

Aaron Peskin, a San Francisco supervisor, is raising concerns about the efficacy of the city’s department of building inspections (DBI). City documents reveal that the DBI and the developers were aware of “larger than expected settlements” in February 2009, before the building received a final sign off by the DBI.

On Tuesday, the developer released a report asserting that the building remains seismically safe, despite the unexpected settlement.

“The effect of settlement on most building elements and its ability to resist large earthquakes is negligible,” stated the report, which was prepared by respected structural engineer Ronald Hamburger.

For Jernigan, it’s hard to know what to think.

“We’re not sure what to do or who to believe,” he said. “We hardly believe anything we’re told anymore.”

Philippines says it wants to ‘break away’ from dependency on US

The Philippines has said it wants to end the country’s dependency on the United States. The country is moving to balance its interests.

October 6, 2016


Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay said in a statement on Thursday that “America has failed us,” a sharp rebuke against longtime ally the United States as President Rodrigo Duterte charts a new foreign policy course.

Yasay slammed the United States for holding on to “invisible chains that reined us in towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom.”

“Breaking away from the shackling dependency of the Philippines to effectively address both internal and external security threats has become imperative in putting an end to our nation’s subservience to US interests,” he said.

The unusually blunt statement comes as Duterte seeks to reduce dependency on its longtime treaty ally and former colonial master at a time the United States is looking to the island nation as a key partner in Asia, especially to counter China.

The brash-talking Duterte has gone on a number of verbal tirades, calling President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” and telling him he can “go to hell.” Earlier this week, he said the Philippines would “break up” with the United States and move closer to Russia and China.

The rhetoric comes as the former mayor of Davao City enters his third month of a six-year term amid mounting concern from the United States, European Union and the United Nations over Duterte’s flagship policy since taking office: a war on crime that has sparked human rights concerns over as many as 3,000 extrajudicial killings.

Over the weekend, the firebrand president controversially said he would be “happy to slaughter” 3 million drug users in the country.

Three months into his term, 76 percent of Filipinos are “satisfied” with Duterte’s performance, according to poll conducted by Social Weather Stations on Thursday.

Speaking in a televised speech at a police ceremony on Thursday, Duterte said that if the United States and European Union did not like his war on drugs they could cut assistance. “Go ahead, we will not beg for it,” he said.

The United States has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the Philippines over the years. But Duterte has threatened to reach out to Russia and China for weapons and said over the weekend that joint military exercise with the United States that started this week would be the last.

However, it’s unclear if Duterte will really translate his threats into policy, or if he would even be able to implement them in the face of resistance from the military. US officials have said Duterte’s tirades have yet to impact military relations, though they have expressed concern over his language.

Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters during joint military exercises this week that the armed forces needed US aid and benefited from the relationship.

Calling Duterte “misinformed,” Lorenzana said the “the information he is getting is incomplete.”

“Maybe, the defense ministry and the armed forces were remiss in providing him the correct information. This, we will address in the coming days,” he said.

Duterte has said he would not repeal a 1951 mutual defense treaty between the two countries, but he has questioned enhanced defense pacts signed between the United States and his predecessor, Benigno Aquino.

The enhanced defense deal sets up storage facilities for maritime, humanitarian and disaster operations. It also grants US troops access to Philippine bases.

Corrupt Chicago Police Were Taxing Drug Dealers and Targeting Their Rivals

October 6, 2016

by Jamie Kalven

The Intercept

Part 2

Operation Brass Tax

Chicago police officers Shannon Spalding and Danny Echeverria began investigating an elaborate criminal enterprise within the department that included extortion and possibly murder.

In the spring of 2007, converging police scandals in Chicago threatened to engulf the Daley administration. Against the background of the long-running Jon Burge torture saga, stories of police criminality dominated the media. A major scandal involving the department’s special operations section had erupted. The charges included not only robbing drug dealers but also stealing from ordinary citizens and attempted murder for hire. This was a particular embarrassment to Mayor Daley, for SOS had been strongly identified with his campaign against, as he often put it, “gangs, guns, and drugs.”

The SOS scandal was a textbook example of systemic police abuse in several respects. It was a group phenomenon, not a matter of individual actors. The setting was the war on drugs, and the victims — in this instance, mostly Hispanic and often undocumented — were relatively marginalized and voiceless. Yet it was not the SOS case but a less typical incident that excited the most public attention.

On February 19, 2007, Anthony Abbate, an off-duty officer, had been drinking heavily at a tavern on the Northwest Side. When the bartender, Karolina Obrycka, refused to serve him more alcohol, he came behind the bar and punched and kicked her. Other customers intervened, and Abbate left. Obrycka called 911. She told the officers who responded that she had been attacked by a police officer and the incident had been recorded by the bar’s security camera. Neither of these statements was included in the police report. In the days that followed, other officers put pressure on Obrycka and the bar owner not to file charges.

When it became apparent that the Chicago Police Department was not going to take meaningful action against Abbate, Obrycka’s attorney released the video recorded by the bar’s security camera. The footage of the lumbering Abbate flailing away at the petite bartender went viral. Felony charges quickly followed and he was found guilty. Superintendent Phillip Cline was forced to retire. (He didn’t help himself when he said, in an effort to convey the depths of his disapproval of Abbate, “If I could hit him with a baseball bat, I would.”) Mayor Daley began the search for a new superintendent and an antidote to growing public concerns that his police department was out of control.

hat was the moment, in the spring of 2007, that Chicago police officers Shannon Spalding and Danny Echeverria went to the FBI to pass on evidence of a scandal more extensive and damaging than those dominating the headlines: A CPD sergeant named Ronald Watts was running an elaborate criminal enterprise within the department, extorting a “tax” from drug dealers and targeting their rivals.

Spalding and Echeverria went on their day off and took precautions to ensure that no one saw them enter the building. They were acutely aware that it was a cardinal sin to go outside the department to another agency, because, as Spalding put it, “that means the bosses can’t control the cover-up.”

They had hoped to meet with Ken Samuels, the FBI agent who had contacted Spalding years earlier at the suggestion of Mickey Spaargaren, an officer who had previously been on Watts’s team, but Samuels was not available. Instead, they met with Special Agent Patrick Smith.

Contrary to their expectation that they would have no further involvement with the FBI once they passed on their information, Spalding and Echeverria found themselves in regular contact with Smith. He called frequently. And they occasionally met with him after work or on their days off.

During this period, Mayor Daley made two concurrent moves in response to demands for police reform. First, he appointed Jody Weis superintendent. Not only was Weis an outsider to the department, he had been a high-ranking official within the FBI, prompting speculation that his appointment was designed to head off federal intervention. Second, the CPD’s Office of Professional Standards, which had long been criticized for failing to vigorously investigate citizen complaints, was rebranded the Independent Police Review Authority, and Daley installed a well-regarded police monitor from Los Angeles to run it. Whatever else might be said about these moves, they served to deflate the public debate about police accountability. The attention of the press soon moved elsewhere.

As Weis was entering into what would prove a difficult tenure as superintendent, Spalding and Echeverria were becoming increasingly uneasy about their interactions with the FBI. Smith had begun to ask them to break away to do work for him on the clock, which they refused to do. After more than a year of intermittent contact with Smith, they felt the need to make sure they were working within department guidelines. In August 2008, they met with Tina Skahill, the chief of the CPD’s internal affairs division. Also present were Smith, Sgt. Tom Chester of the confidential section of internal affairs, who served as a liaison to the FBI, and Lt. Barbara West, commanding officer within internal affairs.

Spalding was gratified by Skahill’s response. “She was wonderful.”

“This is an important investigation,” Spalding recalled her telling them. “It’s been on our radar for a long time, but we haven’t been able to accomplish anything. You two have the means to get results.”

Skahill told Spalding and Echeverria they would be detailed to the FBI to work undercover on the investigation of Watts and his team. Spalding expressed concerns about possible damage to their careers were their identities revealed. Skahill assured them their identities would remain confidential. “You will be protected,” she said.

Skahill emphasized the need for secrecy. “Don’t tell anybody. This goes higher than the blue shirts. They have access to your files, your home information. You’re working with people who are criminals with badges.”

(In her deposition in Spalding and Echeverria’s lawsuit, Skahill confirms that this meeting took place, but her account is considerably less detailed and she repeatedly responds to questions by saying that she does not recall.)

According to Spalding, the formal mechanism for assigning them to the FBI was to transfer them from the organized crime bureau to Unit 543 — “detached services” — a miscellaneous detail that would provide cover for their work on the Watts investigation. They were to report to Tom Chester. Only a handful of people within the department were to know of their assignment; among them, Debra Kirby, general counsel for the superintendent. Skahill would report directly to Superintendent Weis on the progress of the investigation.

he joint FBI-IAD investigation was christened “Operation Brass Tax.” When Spalding and Echeverria were transferred to 543 and began reporting to the FBI, no explanation was given to the organized crime bureau. Officers are often detailed to “narcotic task forces” at the FBI, Spalding explained. So, if someone asked what they were working on, that was a sufficient response.

Soon after they came to the FBI, Spalding ran into Ken Samuels, the agent who had called her years earlier to inquire about Watts. She asked him what had become of the case he was working on then and was surprised to learn it was still open. She said Samuels expressed frustration. “The case never went anywhere,” he said. “Whenever it started to go somewhere, it was like Watts was getting a heads-up. We haven’t been able to get inside.”

From the start, Spalding and Echeverria encountered a good deal of interagency distrust. On the first day they reported to the FBI, Spalding recalled, Special Agent Julie Anderson expressed surprise that Watts had become a sergeant. “They promoted him?” she said. “What the fuck is wrong with CPD?”

Anderson was also openly suspicious of internal affairs. “Your department will sabotage this investigation,” she remarked. “As soon as it gets to white shirts, they’ll shut it down.”

For their part, the two street-smart narcotics cops quickly grew skeptical about the FBI’s way of doing things. Among the first tasks they undertook was re-transcribing dozens of CDs of wiretaps in the Watts case, having found transcripts marked “not pertinent” that contained highly relevant material. In one instance, “lu” for “lieutenant” was mistaken for a first name.

In another, “Obama” was mistaken for the president of the United States, when in fact it was a reference to the dope line at the Ida B. Wells Homes operated by a drug dealer named Kamane “Insane” Fears. His crew wore Obama T-shirts (“Yes We Can!”) as a form of marketing rather than an expression of political allegiance. When challenged by the police — “What’s with the shirts?” — they would respond that they were supporting the black presidential candidate from the South Side of Chicago.

On December 12, 2008, a few months after Spalding and Echeverria were formally assigned to the FBI, Fears was shot down at 37th and Calumet. The shooter or shooters pumped 17 rounds into his body. As in the case of Big Shorty, the word on the street was that the murder was the work of Watts.

Spalding and Echeverria expected to be at the FBI for six months, but the investigation moved painfully slowly. Sometimes this was due to circumstances beyond their control. In one instance, Watts had an accident and went on medical leave, but mostly the slow pace of the investigation was dictated by the FBI.

For example, Bernard Brown, then in prison, had been prepared to give a statement for more than a year before Smith told them to bring him in. When Smith finally interviewed him on August 7, 2009, Brown described in detail the structure of Watts’s extortion operation. Smith showed him a photo array. He recognized several officers in Watts’s crew, including one whom he said once proposed giving someone a pass on 60 bags of dope in exchange for an AK-47.

While the FBI had resources not readily available to the CPD — high-tech surveillance tools, funds to pay informants and use as bait in stings — Operation Brass Tax was built, according to Spalding, on the foundation of the street informants she and Echeverria had developed over the years.

Before they were detailed to the FBI, while they were in the narcotics division, they had gone looking for Chewbacca to see what he knew about Watts and his team. Although they had worked with him for years, they had never had occasion to talk with him about Watts. They had always been focused on the particular case they were developing at the time. They couldn’t find Chewbacca at any of his usual haunts. It turned out he was in prison.

He later told them that Watts had put a case on him. At one of the Wells buildings, Watts had approached him and pressed him for information about where some drugs were stashed. In the past, Chewbacca had cooperated with Watts, but this time he simply didn’t know where the drugs were. When he wasn’t forthcoming, Watts put someone else’s package on him. Knowing he wouldn’t be believed over Watts, he pleaded guilty. Chewbacca was often in and out of jail on relatively lightweight charges such as drinking in public, but the drug conviction resulted in a two-year sentence.

After they began working with the FBI, Spalding and Echeverria finally spotted Chewbacca looking for food in a dumpster outside a White Castle at 35th and King. He had recently been released. He climbed into the backseat of their car. After they exchanged greetings and Chewbacca filled them in on his incarceration, they asked, “What’s all this shit we’ve been hearing about Watts?” Chewbacca started talking and it was a long time before he stopped. He was an avalanche of information, confirming the scope of the protection racket Watts was running. They asked him how many times he had seen Watts paid off by drug dealers.

“Hundreds of times,” Chewbacca replied. “For years. The boys call him Thirsty Bird. You have to pay taxes to sell dope. Watts ain’t nothing nice. You come up missing if you go up against Watts. Look at Shorty. Look at Kamane.”

Chewbacca said he had witnessed a confrontation that Big Shorty had with Watts in front of one of the Wells buildings in the days before he was murdered. Watts was pressing Big Shorty for more money. “We don’t eat like that anymore,” Shorty told Watts. “I’m done. I’m going to the feds on your ass.”

A few days later, he was shot down. “Nobody lives to tell, when they get into it with Watts,” said Chewbacca. “Watts leaves no witnesses.”

On many occasions over the years, Chewbacca said, he had seen Watts take drugs off one person and put them on another. He imitated Watts passing drugs from hand to hand, saying, “Hmm, who’s going to ride the train today?” Growing up on South State Street, Chewbacca had known Watts before he joined the department. Watts was not, he said, a cop who went bad. He was a dope dealer who got the badge to further his criminal vocation.

Angry about being falsely arrested, Chewbacca was prepared to work with Spalding and Echeverria, including wearing a wire, to bring Watts down.

Another one of their informants, a drug dealer at the Harold Ickes Homes on South State Street, had traveled a similar path. Like Chewbacca, he had his own reasons for working to bring Watts down.

“He was really good,” said Spalding. “We could never get him.” They had built a relationship with the man. “He said, ‘You’re never gonna get me.’ But he helped us get everybody else.”

Watts came to the Ickes dealer to get paid off, Spalding recounted. There were drugs and guns on the table between them. “You’ve got to give me more than you’ve got on the table,” said Watts. The drug dealer misunderstood him. He thought Watts meant he wanted more drugs and guns when he wanted more money than the value of what was on the table. If he had understood, according to Spalding, he would have gone along. She quoted him as saying, “If that motherfucker told me I needed to give him another $5,000, I would’ve given it to him.”

As a result of this communications glitch, Watts put someone else’s package on him and arrested him. He did two years and was particularly upset to have missed the birth of his son. When he came out of prison in the fall of 2009, he had a beef with Watts and was prepared to work with Spalding and Echeverria as a CI — a confidential informant. They developed a sting in which both he and Chewbacca played roles.

In February 2010, Chewbacca ran into Watts and described his role as a drug courier. “Nobody suspects me,” he told Watts. “I walk dope and money up and down State Street all the time. I’m invisible.”

The plan, according to Spalding, was for Chewbacca, outfitted with a pen and baseball cap rigged with audio and visual surveillance devices, to go from 22nd and Michigan to a parking lot at 26th and State, where he would deliver a bag to their CI from Ickes, who would be parked in a covert FBI vehicle.

“Watts isn’t going to take the bait,” Spalding told the FBI agents. She predicted he would observe Chewbacca’s courier routine first. “I know him,” she said. “He’s careful and calculating. That’s why he’s still on the street.”

The scenario played out as she predicted. Watts and his partner, Kallatt Mohammed, observed the operation but didn’t pounce. “Hey, buddy, that was smooth,” Watts told Chewbacca later. “That was so smooth.”

Having hooked Watts, they orchestrated a sting on March 31, 2010, to reel him in. An agent gave Chewbacca the bag containing the money. Another agent was to follow Chewbacca to witness the transaction, so he wouldn’t have to testify in court.

“Do you have eyes on the CI?” Spalding asked over the phone.

“I’m not going to be daisy-chained to his ass,” the agent replied. “I’m going to lunch.”

In the end, the agent didn’t see the transaction. Nor did Smith, who was observing from a nearby hotel room. He explained to Spalding that he had to go to the bathroom.

Watts, who was off duty, showed up in his police uniform driving an official vehicle. Mohammed was with him. Chewbacca also observed another member of the team — Al Jones — in the course of the sting. Watts intercepted Chewbacca and took the bag. When he looked inside, he became agitated. “It’s empty. … Oh, here it is.” Under clothes and other stuff, he found $5,000. “I’m going to tell you what we’re going to do,” Watts told Chewbacca. “We’re going to have to arrest you for your own good. I’ll send in my guys to bail you out.”

In all likelihood, Spalding speculated, he would have dispatched other off-duty members of the team to bail out Chewbacca with some of the money they had just ripped off.

Chewbacca was holding a 7-Eleven coffee mug that was wired. While being handcuffed, he managed to hold on to the mug. He protested fiercely that he didn’t want to go to jail. He ultimately prevailed. Watts gave Chewbacca $770 and released him. The two officers then drove to Mohammed’s house where they presumably divided up the spoils.

Spalding and Echeverria were unnerved. FBI agents had repeatedly expressed suspicions that the CPD was subverting the investigation. Now, in light of the botched sting in which one FBI agent broke contact with the CI and the other took a bathroom break at a critical moment, they wondered: Was the FBI really this inept or was something else going on?

Two years after the murder of Kamane Fears, purveyor of the Obama dope line, Spalding and Echeverria made a major advance in the investigation. The homicide remained unsolved, and under the pretext of investigating the case, they reached out to those who had been close to Fears. By pretending to be interested only in the murder, they hoped to make it easier for those they interviewed to talk freely about the operation of the drug trade and thereby gather intelligence about Watts’s criminal enterprise. The strategy worked. Over time, they developed a relationship with Fears’s former girlfriend.

Fears had been shot outside her home on the 3700 block of Calumet. She was a nursing student at Kennedy-King College. Spalding described her as “well-spoken, no attitude, she had made good choices.” Then she met Kamane Fears. “By the time she realized who he was, she was in love and pregnant.” The young woman, who could not be reached for comment, became a major source for Spalding and Echeverria. She gave them valuable information about the drug trade. She told them where the Obama dope line stash houses were and described the internal workings of the operation.

“She had been with Kamane dozens of times when he paid off Watts,” said Spalding. One day she was walking a few steps behind Fears and Watts, when Watts patted Fears’s pockets. “Easter’s coming up,” he said. “Where’s my money? My kids need Easter baskets.”

As the demolitions progressed at Ida B. Wells, Fears moved his operation to 37th and Indiana. Watts came around, seeking to tax him as he had at Wells and Ickes. Fears refused now that the high-rises were down and threatened to give Watts up to the feds. A few days later, he was killed.

Early that morning, Fears and his girlfriend were lying in bed together. He got a call on his phone. “I’ve got to go handle this,” he told her. He went outside. She heard gunfire. She looked out the window and saw a hooded figure leaving the scene. The man turned and looked up at the window. She was afraid he saw her.

Knowing how Fears operated, she said, no one could get close to him unless he knew them. The shooter or shooters took two cellphones off his body, so it couldn’t be determined who had made the call that set him up, and retrieved all the shell casings.

Having built their relationship with Fears’s girlfriend on the pretext they were working the homicide, Spalding and Echeverria had, in fact, with her help developed significant new information about the murder. So they took her to the cold case unit, in the hope detectives there would pursue the leads they had generated. The sergeant they dealt with was not welcoming.

Spalding and Echeverria were not in the room when the sergeant interviewed Fears’s girlfriend. After they emerged, the sergeant asked the woman, gesturing toward Spalding and Echeverria, “What did those two do that my guys couldn’t do in two years?”

“It’s very simple,” she replied. “They did something none of your officers did. They knocked on my door and asked me.”

During this period, Spalding and Echeverria also talked with Kamane’s mother and his brother Jerome, aka Monk, who had assumed leadership of the Obama drug operation. The relationships they developed were such that when the mother died, the family invited them to the wake.

One day, as they drove past 37th and Indiana, Monk flagged them down. He leaned in Echeverria’s window, and the three talked for about 45 minutes. Moments after they parted, Spalding received a call from a DEA agent she knew. They set up a meeting in a nearby alley.

“How do you know Monk?” the agent asked. “We’re trying to get a wire up on him. We just saw him flag you down and talk with you.” With a touch of undisguised pride (at least in the retelling), she asked, “Do you want his cellphone number?” She made a phone call.

“Hey, Monk,” she said, “I just wanted to make sure this is still your number. … Thanks.”

When Watts’s name came up in the course of the conversation, she recalled, the DEA agent was outraged to learn he was still on the force and had been promoted to sergeant. “Watts is still around, as corrupt as he is? We were looking into him 10 years ago. I can’t believe your fucking department. I can’t believe they didn’t do anything about it.”

By the summer of 2010, Spalding and Echeverria had, in effect, been orphaned by both agencies involved in the joint investigation. On the FBI side, the behavior of Special Agent Patrick Smith had become increasingly erratic. It turned out he had never done the paperwork necessary to properly establish them at the FBI, and they lost access to the office and car they had been using.

On the CPD side, Tina Skahill, the chief of internal affairs who had assigned them to Operation Brass Tax, had been moved to another command position. They lost their key protector. “Fast forward,” said Spalding. “I believe if Skahill had stayed in place, none of what happened would have happened. She would have protected us.”

Skahill was replaced by Chief Juan Rivera. Well-liked within the department — as one high-ranking official put it to me, the rank and file “know he cares about cops” — Rivera had a longstanding relationship to the Watts investigation. He had been a sergeant in internal affairs when it was initiated. Now, years later, he was back as chief, and the case, still open, was once again his responsibility.

Looking back, Spalding now believes the investigation was designed to fail. Watts was known to be at the center of a far-flung criminal enterprise with multiple co-conspirators. Yet the investigation was reduced to “two cops, one car, one radio … and good luck.” Nonetheless, the two undercover officers continued to work the case as best they could.

Then the bottom fell out. The first sign that something was wrong came in August 2010 when they submitted paperwork to Cmdr. James O’Grady of the narcotics division, seeking approval of their Ickes informant as a CI. Word came back from a sergeant they dealt with in narcotics that O’Grady had refused to approve the application and had instructed him, “You are not to work with those IAD rats.”

Realizing their cover had been blown, Spalding and Echeverria immediately sought out Rivera. He told them he had informed Deputy Superintendent Ernie Brown that they were working on the Watts investigation. “Brown,” said Rivera, “must have told everyone.”

Today Spalding recalls this as the instant when everything changed. She immediately grasped the implications. “I knew I was doomed.” She remembers every detail. The smell of coffee brewing in the IAD office. The perspiration soaking her shirt. The sensation of free fall.

“What the fuck did you do that for?” she challenged Rivera.

“I thought it would be helpful for you,” he said.

“What do you mean?” she shot back. “Telling someone who’s friends with Watts?”

“I think I might have fucked up,” said Rivera.

My life is in this man’s hands, she recalls thinking, and he is telling me he fucked up. They were, she knew, utterly exposed.

“You guys are in grave danger,” Rivera said, “and I can’t protect you. So for now you have to be extremely careful. Fly completely under the radar.”

Rivera described a meeting of bosses at which O’Grady referred to them as “rats” and Nick Roti, the chief of the organized crime bureau, said he wouldn’t allow them to work in any unit under him. Although O’Grady was their commander, they had never met him. “He wouldn’t know us if he saw us on the street,” Spalding said. Yet he was, according to Rivera, ordering officers under his command to retaliate against them. “God help them if they ever need help on the street,” Rivera quoted their commander as saying. “It ain’t coming.”

O’Grady and Roti deny making the utterances Spalding alleges. Their denials are sweeping and categorical. In statements in the whistleblower case, each made the same sworn declaration: “I never made any statements to or about Plaintiffs or took any action against or relating to Plaintiffs based on any reports they may have made to the FBI of alleged criminal misconduct or corruption by Watts, Mohammed, or any other Chicago police officer.” The Chicago Police Department and the FBI both declined to comment. All the law enforcement officers who are named in this article either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

Rivera in his deposition denied talking with Ernie Brown about the involvement of Spalding and Echeverria in Operation Brass Tax. He denied ever talking with O’Grady about the two officers. He denied playing any role in outing them. And he denied that the conversation Spalding describes with great emotion as a pivotal traumatic experience — the moment she realized how exposed they were — ever took place.

At the same time, Rivera acknowledged that he had “numerous” conversations with Spalding and Echeverria and they talked “almost every other day.” Despite his sensitive position, he was, according to Spalding, an expansive talker. It seemed to give him pleasure to instruct her and Echeverria about how things really worked within the department.

“Rivera,” Spalding said, “told us stories about everybody.”

Germany moves to run its own EU army – leaving both Brussels & NATO in new crisis

October 6, 2016


Despite Britain’s move to block an EU army, a growing number of experts believe a recent German defense paper shows Berlin has ambitions to run an EU army, and has a plan to cut through Brussels red tape and create one by itself. But at what cost to NATO?

While EU defense ministers openly discuss with NATO chiefs how to create an EU army, many might think the haste for the EU to go ahead with such a grandiose plan stems from its own credibility being at an all-time low in the wake of Brexit.

For EU federalists in Brussels, there is indeed some truth in this. But Brussels is also worried about being left behind or dwarfed by Germany’s own plans which would leave the EU in a weak position to negotiate who gets to call the shots in an official EU army, when it is finally created.

And the EU has good reason to worry. Germany is impatient and is looking to position itself as the military leader of a coalition of EU countries which would no longer take orders from NATO, but also would not necessarily even be part of an official EU army.

Few journalists want to report in Brussels that there is a race between the EU getting a formal army together and Germany getting its own renegade pan-European army, which could ultimately present itself to the European Commission as already up and running.

According to one respected military expert, Germany is positioning itself to be the country which would be the dominant force in a new EU army, regardless of its structure.

A German defense white paper recently released argues strongly for an EU army and was ordered by Angela Merkel to be kept under wraps until after the British referendum vote on June 23.

But now military experts are examining the detail of the ‘Weissbuch’ (‘white paper’).

It reveals a radical change in German plans to not only boost its present army’s mandate in troubled hotspots around the world, but also clearly states that it should be running any multinational military organizations, such as the proposed EU army.

“The 2016 [Defense White Paper] represents a paradigm shift in two important respects,” says John R. Deni, a research professor at the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute. “What is perhaps most significant,” he warns, “is the declaration that Germany will be willing to not simply participate in but also to initiate such coalitions. This is a major departure from the past, in which Germany consistently sought to exercise hard power solely through established multilateral institutions.”

The initiative is a bombshell for the head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg who recently attended the EU meeting of Defense Ministers in Bratislava. NATO was hoping for an EU army to work under it. “Clearly a key point for us is to avoid duplication and make sure efforts are complimentary” a spokesman told me, while another NATO official told me that such a subject is not one that the organization wants its German generals commenting on.

Furthermore, according to the US professor, the paper reveals that Germany is ready to take charge of a formal EU army – run by Brussels – or an informal one run by Berlin. That could mean that if an EU army cannot be formed in time, Berlin might simply ask a number of EU countries who are keen to join its own army on international missions, to be part of its ‘coalition’ – thereby creating an informal model which would be later adopted by EU chiefs, who would have little choice than to support it.

But there are stronger arguments for Germany to take control of a formal EU army run by Brussels.

Although some might argue Germany would go ahead with military plans in a given war zone – and then invite others to join such a pact – practically, it is more likely that it would run the EU army as a deal with Brussels guaranteeing that EU countries would not break away from the regular EU army and join Germany on missions.

Brussels would certainly have to give in to German demands, in order to save face and keep its own “EU army.”

Don’t stir the Russian Bear

Yet even a formal EU army run by Germany or EU officials would still harm NATO, whose credibility took a knock recently when Turkey went rogue in Syria. Some military experts say the thinking is flawed and a German-led (non-EU) coalition, as an alternative, would even be welcomed.

“The biggest concern is that EU ambitions would lead to a split in NATO,” argues Geoffrey van Orden MEP, a retired Brigadier and respected military analyst. “EU defense policy is all about creating a federal Europe. It has little to do with providing more military capability.”

The British conservative MEP suggests the idea of an EU military arm strengthening NATO is folly: “There are huge flaws in this approach. For a start, the two largest military powers in Europe, the UK and Turkey, are both NATO members but they won’t be in the EU,” but goes on to hint that an autonomous German-led military organization wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

“I don’t worry about the Germans as such – in fact I’d welcome greater defense commitment from them – it’s the idea of EU military ambition, creating distraction and schism in NATO, that is the real concern,” he adds.

For British MEPs, anything which casts a shadow on NATO operations is a worry.

“NATO has served us well,” argues Mike Hookem MEP. “It is not perfect but it is a much safer option than the EU federalists and war mongers who wish to antagonize the Russian bear,” he warns.

The British UKIP MEP, who sits on the defense committee in the European parliament, adds it will be a sad day for Britain when Germany’s army takes control of an EU army. “There are still people who remember WWII and the atrocities carried out by the Nazis,” he told me. “Now, because of Merkel’s actions over the migrant crisis the far right are on the rise in Germany which will not fill people with confidence that Germany may once again have control of such military might.”

Show me the money, Juncker

Yet despite Germany being the strongest EU member economically, how would a German government pay for such a hugely expensive venture, given that America’s invasion of Iraq cost taxpayers close to two trillion dollars?

According to the American academic Dr. John R. Denie, it wouldn’t need to. Denie claims Germany has further reason to take the leadership of an EU army, in that the country’s own resources do not correspond with Berlin’s military ambitions around the world, the American professor claims in a recent article for a US defense website.

Being the leading player in an EU army would be hugely beneficial to Germany’s plans to punch above its weight around the globe – and get others to pay for it. An army top heavy with German generals and packed with troops from other EU countries keen to be part of it would resolve Berlin’s present dilemma, according to the paper. Presently, Germany’s defense budget is only €35 billion compared to the UK’s which is over £35 billion.

The plan has also received a real push from Europe’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, who is reported to have told colleagues that an EU military scheme – billed by some countries as the foundation of a “European army” – represented a chance for the EU to relaunch itself after the “shocking” Brexit vote which has made the project shaky and led to some EU leaders even talking of a crisis.

“We have the political space today to do things that were not really doable in previous years,” Ms Mogherini told EU ambassadors, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

In fact, Mogherini’s vision, if studied closely corresponds with Germany leading a multinational coalition of European armies first. An EU army, she hopes, would evolve slowly from an initial plan where countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland create permanent military structures to act on behalf of the EU and for the deployment of the EU’s battle groups and 18 national battalions.

In essence, it would act independently from NATO which has always taken the role of defending Europe with some even arguing that such a move might even threaten the organization, which also has its headquarters in Brussels.

For skeptics of the broader plan, it’s a stark choice between a German chancellor running such an ambitious military operation or the rather ineffective EU diplomat Federica Mogherini, who has struggled to achieve even the most fledgling success since heading up the EU ‘foreign office’ which spends €600 million a year on diplomats and EU embassies around the world, but was not even invited to the Syrian peace talks recently.

“No one in the EU has a clue about defense or security – just look at their reaction to the Paris, Brussels and Nice attacks and their refusal to admit their policies have led to the Calais crisis,” says Hookem. “Even when they have small missions abroad in Africa they just end up wearing out the parade square. To hand over power to a woman with such an appalling track record is frightening,” he adds.

Ex-Yahoo Employee: Government Spy Program Could Have Given a Hacker Access to All Email

October 7 2016

by Sam Biddle

The Intercept

Contrary to a denial by Yahoo and report by the New York Times, the company’s scanning program, revealed earlier this week by Reuters, provided the government with a custom-built backdoor into the company’s mail service—and it was so sloppily installed that it posed a privacy hazard for hundreds of millions of users, according to a former Yahoo employee with knowledge of the company’s security practices.

Despite this week’s differing media accounts, this much isn’t disputed: In 2015, Yahoo provided the U.S. government with the means to scan every single email that landed in every single Yahoo Mail inbox. The scanning was kept an absolute secret—and as this ex-Yahoo source describes, that meant keeping it a secret from security personnel who came to believe it endangered Yahoo’s hundreds of millions of unwitting customers.

The employee, who worked at Yahoo before, during, and after the installation of the emailing-scanning program, requested anonymity because of a non-disclosure agreement formed when they quit several months after the program was discovered internally last summer. The source declined to share certain specific names for fear of violating that same NDA or the NDA of others, but The Intercept has confirmed details of the source’s employment at Yahoo, which would have put the then-employee in a position to know this information.

A New York Times article by reporters Charlie Savage and Nicole Perlroth published the day after the initial Reuters report, citing “two government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” characterized the Yahoo email scan as only a modification of an existing email-scanning technique used to detect malware and child pornography—common across many other email and messaging services—rather than a bespoke, new tool built specifically for the government surveillance order, as Reuters had reported. Essentially, according to the Times’ report, Yahoo made its porn and virus scanner merely to look for one more nasty thing (some sort of “signature” pertaining to a state-sponsored terrorist group) while it was looking anyway, as opposed to building an altogether new scanner (the difference between an addition to your grocery shopping list and separate trip). Both are indiscriminate mass-searches with troubling 4th Amendment implications, but there are important differences: According to the Yahoo alum, a mere “modification to [existing] mail filters wouldn’t have raised a red flag… [the security team] wouldn’t have been able to detect it in the first place.” Rather, Yahoo’s security team had detected “something novel, like something a hacker would have installed.” The team believed it “was or looked like a root kit,” a piece of software installed on a computer system to give a third party complete, invisible control. In this case, according to the ex-Yahoo source, it was “a program that runs on your servers that has access to incoming data.”

Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s former information security chief who Reuters reported left the company after finding out about its cooperation with the U.S. government’s scanning mandate, is said to have taken particular issue with how poorly the scanning tool was installed. “He was especially offended that he was not looped in on the decision,” said the ex-Yahoo source. “The program that was installed for interception was very carelessly implemented, in a way that if someone like an outside hacker got control of it, they could have basically read everyone’s Yahoo mail,” something the source attributed to “the fact that it was installed without any security review.”

To people whose entire job it is to prevent something like this from happening, the discovery was a shock, and they immediately did what was done for any other uncovered vulnerability and filed a complaint so that the problem could be tracked and corrected. “Standard protocol on the security team,” the ex-Yahoo source explained, “is to open a security issue and assign it to the team responsible for that component, in this case Mail, saying you have to fix this within 24 – 48 hours,” due to its severity. “At that point [Yahoo Mail] would have had to explain to [them] why they didn’t have to fix this, which was because they had installed it.” But the source says that after the security team had raised an alarm over the email scanning, still thinking it was the work of an outside hacker and not their coworkers, the complaint suddenly went missing from Yahoo’s internal tracker: “I looked for the issue and I couldn’t find it,” said the Yahoo alum. “I assume it was deleted.”

Eventually, several months after it was first installed, Yahoo’s security team was filled in about the truth of scanning project, though they were unable to alter it by that point—a decision that left many frustrated or worse. “It was detected early enough that we could have made things better,” the ex-Yahoo source said. “I was very upset.”

WikiLeaks: 10 Years of Pushing the Boundaries of Free Speech

October 7, 2016

by Nozomi Hayase


“To me, freedom of speech is something that represents the very dignity of what a human being is… that’s what marks us off from the stones and stars.”

These are words spoken by Mario Savio, the spokesperson for the Free Speech Movement in the 60’s. Decades later, the power of free speech has surged onto the global stage and began reclaiming the dignity of humanity.

We are now entering WikiLeaks 10 year anniversary. The organization registered their domain on October 4, 2006 and blazed into the public limelight in the spring of 2010 with the publication of Collateral Murder. This video footage depicted the cruel scenery of modern war seen from an Apache helicopter gun-sight. It became an international sensation, with the website temporarily crashing with the massive influx of visitors.

This stateless media organization, with no allegiance to any country and no corporate or government money behind it, has published over 10 million documents. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains detained in the Ecuadorian embassy. In an interview with Der Spiegel on 10 years of WikiLeaks, he gave his view that the US diplomatic cables they published were the single most important collection of documents, which are up to 3 million now.

Since its first publication on December 28, 2006, the effect of WikiLeaks has been felt across the world. From the 2007 release of the Kroll report on official corruption in Kenya that affected the outcome of the national election, to the exposing of the moral bankruptcy of Iceland’s largest bank in 2009, the information they revealed empowered people and helped revitalize democracy in many countries.

By the end of 2010, WikiLeaks’ social and political impact became quite apparent. An Amnesty International report in 2011 pointed to the role of leaked documents in triggering revolutionary global uprisings. The BBC documentary WikiLeaks: Secret Life of a Superpower also attributed their revelations as a spark for the Arab revolutions. On this 10 year celebration, we shall look back the birth of WikiLeaks and examine its effect on freedom of speech around the world.

Consent of the Governed

WikiLeaks started with a mission to open governments by releasing sensitive and classified documents that belong to the public, which had been unjustifiably kept secret. Early on, Assange saw the existence of a network working in collaborative secrecy as detrimental to all people. The concept of WikiLeaks can be seen as based on this analysis of a hidden force of governance and leaks were used as a means to bring accountability to those in power.

Assange recognized how “people’s will to truth, love and self-realization” are pushed away by institutional hierarchies. He gave a metaphorical picture of this force.

“When we look at an authoritarian conspiracy as a whole, we see a system of interacting organs, a beast with arteries and veins whose blood may be thickened and slowed until it falls, stupefied; unable to sufficiently comprehend and control the forces in its environment.”

This beast-like being doesn’t only exist in power structures, but works inside each person through impulses and desires that are often unknown to us. It is a thinking that arises from animalistic desires that conspires in secret and moves quickly into abstraction, seizing the past, present and future of civilization.

In the old colonial era, this was enacted in the brutal use of force and subjugation. Now in modern time, democracy’s notion of the ‘consent of the governed’ has become a battleground for conquest by this hidden beast. By controlling information and manipulating perception, this creature inside civilization enters thoughts and feelings, dragging our humanity down.

Objectivity of Knowledge

Instincts and personal desires seem to hide in a particular foundation of knowledge, namely what is understood as the creed of objectivity, a dominant logic based in empiricist epistemology laid out by scientists and later researchers of what has become a social science. Professors David Scott and Robin Usher (1996) shed light on the prevailing value of this notion of objectivity:

“One of the most important aspects of these epistemological ‘good grounds’ are that the researcher was ‘objective’, i.e. that he or she was unbiased, value neutral and took care to ensure that personal considerations did not intrude into the research process – in other words, that the researcher’s subjectivity has been eliminated as a factor in the knowledge claim.” (p. 12)

This notion of objectivity assumes separation of observer from the observed and tends to divide the whole world into subject and object. It is a way of knowledge based on solipsism; knowing alone. Through this ethos of separation, it has established a kind of knowledge that scholar and environmental activist Vandana Shiva once attributed to what Francis Bacon described as, “the marriage of knowledge with power, a particular kind of knowledge, a very mechanistic knowledge that defined nature as dead – and, on the other side, women as passive.”

The creed of objectivity has become a powerful shield that covers the motives and influence of special interests or private agendas. In Democracy INC: The Press and Law in the Corporate Rationalization of the Public Sphere, professor of journalism David Allen (2005) observed how science has become a methodology that backs up professional legitimacy and that professionalism was used as a disguise for “public service and impartiality” and to promote a particular ideology in society (p. 55).

Quoting Harvard law professor Morton J. Horwitz, Allen (2005) described that? “the attempt to place law under the banner of ‘science’ was designed to separate politics from law, subjectivity from objectivity and layman’s reasoning from professional reasoning” (p. 71). He continued, noting how the creed of objectivity is also used as a professional methodology for journalism, using this purported neutrality as a “strategic ritual”, which in the words of sociologist Gaye Tuchman; “journalists use to turn facts into truth” (p. 58).

People who are indoctrinated into this orthodoxy of objectivity have become a new class of humanity. This was once priests and royalty. Now they are scientists, lawyers and journalists that carry the role of authority, elevated from the status of ordinary citizens. Like a kind of intellectual survival of the fittest, perceived truth is crafted through a win or lose, right or wrong debate with shattering logical conclusiveness, certainty, cleverness and persuasion. The ultimate accomplishment of this practice is a merger in perception of the public interest with the narrow interests of the few, specifically citizen’s adoption of a knowledge that denies inherent connections to the other and defines each other in rank.

By locking people in a singular viewpoint, this invisible force of control makes those captured in its sight surrender their experience and become defined within this confined narrative. With the cloak of objectivity, this beast within humanity claims authority, rising through the will to rewrite history.

Source Driven Journalism

WikiLeaks challenges this authority of knowledge that manufactures consent of the governed without public participation. They do this through engaging in a new journalism backed by the conscience of whistleblowers. In an interview on Democracy Now!, Assange described the engine behind the organization:

“What keeps us going is our sources. These are the people, presumably, who are inside these organizations, who want change. They are both heroic figures taking much greater risks than I ever do, and they are pushing and showing that they want change in, in fact, an extremely effective way.”

One of WikiLeaks most prominent sources was U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning, who is now serving 35 years in prison. The publication of the Collateral Murder video in 2010 brought the first glimpse of this innovative source-driven journalism. With the powerful unfolding images of the 18 minute film, we were able to see what Manning saw. In this raw image of modern war in Iraq, Manning witnessed something that those indoctrinated by the ideology of terrorism often fail to see.

At her pretrial hearing for releasing the largest trove of secret documents in US history, Manning spoke about facts regarding the July 12, 2007 aerial weapons team in the video depicting the incident in New Baghdad. Manning pointed out “the seemingly delightful bloodlust” that soldiers engaged in and spoke about the specific moment where the father driving his kids to school in a van stopped and attempted to assist the wounded, noting how she was “saddened by the AWT crew’s lack of concern about human life.”

Manning had come to see this everyday reality in Iraq from the perspective of those who had been conjured into the designation of “enemy.” In that moment, she began to see these unfolding human events more from the point of view of those she was trained to see as ‘others’ and methodically demonized by the Bush era doctrine of War on Terror. She saw what amounted to murder; the acts of these soldiers, who she found as “similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.” She saw civilians, including journalists defending themselves against the aggressors invading their own neighborhood. Through her act of conscience, Manning restored knowledge gained through placing herself in relationship with others;

In elucidating the etymology of the word conscience, Jungian psychoanalyst Edward Edinger (1984) related this to the concept of consciousness:

“Conscious derives from con or cum, meaning ‘with’ or ‘together,’ and scire, ‘to know’ or ‘to see.’ It has the same derivation as conscience. Thus the root meaning of both consciousness and conscience is ‘knowing with’ or ‘seeing with’ an ‘other.’ In contrast, the word science, which also derives from scire, means simple knowing, i.e., knowing without ‘withness.’ So etymology indicates that the phenomena of consciousness and conscience are somehow related and that the experience of consciousness is made up of two factors – ‘knowing’ and ‘withness.’” (p. 36)

Edinger articulated how conscience and consciousness transforms the dichotomy of subject and object, as it is “the experience of knowing together with an other, that is, in a setting of twoness” (p. 36). Manning’s act of conscience gave birth to a new subjectivity, one that can witness and bring back the consciousness of withness. Through this knowing of putting oneself in the shoes of others, the mirror of subject-object dichotomy was shattered, liberating the perspective that had once been conquered.

Her courage to defy the US military’s official narrative and put forth a view that had been concealed by the euphemism of collateral damage broke the chains of illegitimate authority that enslaved most people into a false vision of isolated personhood and the biases of patriotism, imperialism, and militarism.

WikiLeaks’ source-driven journalism has ushered in a new form of science. It is a conscience that unites the knowledge that had been separated; that which was dividing the population into knower and the known, master and slaves. It brings a true objectivity rooted in inter-subjectivity, making journalists and American people who have been elevated to a professional class or privileged citizens of empire to see events together with others as citizens of the world.

Methods of Transparency

Unlike conventional journalism’s creed of objectivity, WikiLeaks employs a different methodology. At an interview with journalist John Pilger, when he was asked about his passion, Assange responded, “We are an activist organization. The method is transparency. The goal is justice” and emphasized the importance of not mixing up the two.

In the current climate of secrecy, transparency is largely talked about in the context of exposing concealed information to hold a powerful organization accountable. Yet transparency also means an act of self-disclosure, in which transparency is brought forth voluntarily. WikiLeaks’ method of transparency extends into both.

Senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center David Weinberger recognized the importance of transparency in the form of disclosure of bias or potential conflict of interest. He proposes transparency as the new objectivity:

“What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position. Transparency gives the reader information by which she can undo some of the unintended effects of the ever-present biases. Transparency brings us to reliability the way objectivity used to.”

This creed of transparency allows WikiLeaks to be true to their source. It replaces the source of legitimacy of the professional class, guarded by their false objectivity with the conscience of ordinary people. Like any researcher who strives to disclose their motives and hidden agendas, WikiLeaks is eminently transparent in disclosing the motives behind their work. Assange said at the Sydney Peace Prize award ceremony: “We’re objective but not neutral. We’re on the side of justice – objectivity is not the same as neutrality.”

This commitment to justice is manifested in their publishing criteria. In the website’s publishing policy, WikiLeaks spelled out the criteria for their publishing, saying that they accept material that is of “diplomatic, political, ethical, or historical significance, which has not been published before, which is being suppressed …”

Assange described how they are most interested in a particular quality of information and pointed out that concealed information has greater potential for just reform because those who hide it spend energy and resources in concealment for a reason.

With this transparency, WikiLeaks incorporates the scientific basis of objectivity within the very infrastructure of their website. The technological system does not play favorites or target specific groups or governments. Their job is to simply verify the authenticity of the submitted materials and if it fits the criteria for publication, then they find a way to best represent and manifest the wishes of the source. In the mainstream media spin concerning the recent DNC leaks, where they criticize WikiLeaks as aiding Donald Trump, Assange made it clear that the role of the organization is to publish whatever is given to them and they will not censor their publications for any political reasons. He noted that if they receive documents pertaining to Trump, they would publish them.

Upon this carefully established foundation, WikiLeaks engages in scientific journalism. They always release the full source material related to a story. Assange explained:

“Everything we do is like science. It is independently checkable because the information which has informed our conclusions is there, just like scientific papers which are based on experimental data and must make that experimental data available to other scientists and to the public if they want their papers to be published.”

When the information that led to a conclusion is made available to the public, people can follow the process themselves and examine the validity of the disclosures and analysis so they can make their own independent conclusions about the material.

WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison, who showed extraordinary commitment to source protection in her rescue of Edward Snowden from Hong Kong, stated that WikiLeaks believes the public should have access to full source documents in order to see pieces of information within their context as any omission can change its nature. Along with scientific journalism, Harrison also noted the ethics of preserving history and providing people with full archives in a searchable format, allowing “the public an ability to engage with their own history.”

Instead of pretending to be neutral and bias free, honest disclosure of motives allows journalists to connect with their convictions – in service to the wishes of the source and achieve their stated goal of justice.

Unleashing the Power of Free Speech

WikiLeaks liberates the right to free speech from authorities that restrict access. They amplify the voice of the common man by working to bring maximum political impact. Assange spoke of how “history belongs to human civilization that understands in order to better itself.” The whistleblowing site pushes boundaries of free speech in order to get information back to the historical record. Their act of publishing online instigated not only a free flow of information, but also an awakening of history.

In the released video of Collateral Murder, the buried stream of history arose and intersected with the present. In the unfolding scenery in that Iraqi suburb, the shadow of colonization lingers. A hidden past behind the legacy of the U.S. Empire, with its dark history of genocide and slavery haunts the present. It is now being carried over into the military-industrial age of the 21st century with the global war of terror and its outward thrusting machine-like brutality.

The cynical naming of the Apache helicopter evokes a memory of the mass murder of American natives. Native American activist and writer Winona LaDuke once spoke of how the military is full of native nomenclature and it is common military-speak that when you leave a base in a foreign country to say that you are heading out into ‘Indian Country.’ The brutal projection of US power into the oil-rich Middle East contains echoes of these same savagery of massacres waged against indigenous people.

Those images released from the cross-hairs of a gun sight on that fatal day in New Baghdad shattered the mirror that has kept us in amnesia of our true history, rendering us into mere reflections in the eyes of those who seek to bend the narrative to their selfish aims. In this awakened consciousness, a spark of awareness reversed the shadows and those who had been made into ‘enemy combatants’ on the other side of the barrel of the gun started to reveal who they are.

The voices that had been silenced between the lines of history books now began to speak. The words of Frederick Douglass in his speech The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro echoes from the past:

“Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”

Tiny cracks have now been opened within the cemented consciousness of Western civilization. Winds of silence have begun to unwind untold stories of our ancestors. Mathew King of the Lakota tribe once spoke:

“We Indians lived a good life, a happy life until you came here and made it miserable. Who gave you the right to do that? You killed our people. You killed our chiefs. You stole our land. But God gave us this land. You can’t take it away!”

The beast inside humanity grows in darkness, trying to swallow the consciousness of knowing together, so to render all into automatons and become defenseless before the terrain of an occupied future.

Free speech is the freeing of consciousness from forces that keep us asleep and make us remain victims of our unredeemed past. The roots of speech go deep into listening. It is the heart that seeks for what is silenced and actively senses what remains to be spoken. This act of speaking calls for a response, as human speech can’t exist alone. Images buried inside history beckons. They seek to be remembered. When original events are brought to public sight, the veil of night shifts and our perception of reality changes, making it possible for us to become aware of that which would have us fall prey to a single vision.

Manning’s conscience cast a light onto what has been forgotten in history, allowing the view that was lost to come forward. At the same time, we are now given an opportunity to see something that has been sealed from our memory, our barbarian within; that which binds our will to the tyranny of the past, which has continued into the present. This act of free speech is not just a political deed, but as Savio once said, is something that represents our very dignity; “the thing that marks us as just below the angels.”

Awakening the Sleeping Giant

With its perfect record of confirming the authenticity of their documents, WikiLeaks has begun to awaken our own giant from its long slumber – the author within each person whose inspiration can defeat what seeks to conspire inside us.

2011 was the year it all caught fire. Courage that was sparked online became contagious on the streets. What had only been in history books was unfolding in real time as a rolling wave of revolutions moved around the world. The fire of self-immolation and global awakening, confirmed by US-Tunisian diplomatic cables spread like wildfire through social media and lit the passions of Egyptians in Tahrir Square.

Around the globe, people began taking the reins of their destiny into their own hands. In the US, coalitions of resistance made across political parties morphed into the powerful 99% alliance. WikiLeaks cables fueled insurgents in Mexico, bolstering its peaceful youth movement against political corruption of the media. “The TV is yours,” read one banner, “but Mexico is ours.”

From TPP trade agreement chapters, the emails of AKP, Turkish ruling party to the recent DNC emails that revealed the rigged presidential primary, WikiLeaks is still going strong, inviting people to participate in the history that is happening.

With the coming of this momentous 10 year anniversary, let us celebrate this publisher of last resort – this fierce vanguard of democracy. Greek philosopher Diogenes once said, “the most beautiful thing in the world is free speech.” WikiLeaks, the innovation of stateless journalism on the Internet is perhaps the most beautiful thing that has happened in the world for decades and it continues to grow.

ISIS, Not Russia, Is the Enemy in Syria

October 07, 2016

by Patrick J. Buchanan


Denouncing Russian air strikes on Aleppo as “barbaric,” Mike Pence declared in Tuesday’s debate:

“The provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. … The United States of America should be prepared to use military force, to strike military targets of Bashar Assad regime.”

John McCain went further:

“The U.S. … must issue an ultimatum to Mr. Assad – stop flying or lose your aircraft … If Russia continues its indiscriminate bombing, we should make clear that we will take steps to hold its aircraft at greater risk.”

Yet one gets the impression this is bluster and bluff.

Pence has walked his warnings back. And there are few echoes of McCain’s hawkishness. Even Hillary Clinton’s call for a “no-fly zone” has been muted.

The American people have no stomach for a new war in Syria.

Nor does it make sense to expand our enemies list in that bleeding and broken country – from ISIS and the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front – to Syria’s armed forces, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

These last three have been battling to save Assad’s regime, because they see vital interests imperiled should it fall.

We have not plunged into Syria, because we have no vital interest at risk in Syria. We have lived with the Assads since Richard Nixon went to Damascus.

President Obama, who has four months left in office, is not going to intervene. And Congress, which has the sole power to declare war, has never authorized a war on Syria.

Obama would be committing an impeachable act if he started shooting down Russian or Syrian planes over Syrian territory. He might also be putting us on the escalator to World War III.

For Russia has moved its S-400 antiaircraft system into Syria to its air base near Latakia, and its S-300 system to its naval base at Tartus.

As the rebels have no air force, that message is for us.

Russia is also moving its aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, into the Med. Vladimir Putin is doubling down in Syria.

Last weekend, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that US attacks in Syria “will lead to terrible tectonic consequences not only on the territory of this country but also in the region on the whole.”

Translation: Attack Syria’s air force, and the war you Americans start could encompass the entire Middle East.

Last week, too, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, warned that creating a “no-fly zone” in Syria could mean war – with Russia. Dunford’s crisp retort to Sen. Roger Wicker:

“Right now, senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria it would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia. That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make.”

And neither, thankfully, will Barack Obama.

So, where are we, and how did we get here?

Five years ago, Obama declared that Assad must step down. Ignoring him, Assad went all out to crush the rebels, both those we backed and the Islamist terrorists.

Obama then drew a “red line,” declaring that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would lead to US strikes. But when Obama readied military action in 2013, Americans rose up and roared, “No!”

Reading the country right, Congress refused to authorize US military action. Egg all over his face, Obama again backed down.

When Assad began losing the war, Putin stepped in to save his lone Arab ally, and swiftly reversed Assad’s fortunes.

Now, with 10,000 troops – Syrian, Iraqi Shiite militia, Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Afghan mercenaries – poised to attack Aleppo, backed by Russian air power, Assad may be on the cusp of victory in the bloodiest and most decisive battle of the war.

Assad and his allies intend to end this war – by winning it.

For the US to reverse his gains now, and effect his removal, would require the introduction of massive US air power and US troops, and congressional authorization for war in Syria.

The time has come to recognize and accept reality.

While the US and its Turkish, Kurdish and Sunni allies, working with the Assad coalition of Russia, Hezbollah and the Iranians, can crush ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria, we cannot defeat the Assad coalition – not without risking a world war.

And Congress would never authorize such a war, nor would the American people sustain it.

As of today, there is no possibility that the rebels we back could defeat ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, let alone bring down Bashar Assad and run the Russians, Hezbollah, Iran and the Iraqi Shiite militias out of Syria.

Time to stop the killing, stop the carnage, stop the war and get the best terms for peace we can get. For continuing this war, when the prospects of victory are nil, raises its own question of morality.

DoJ to investigate Alabama prisons in ‘possibly unprecedented’ move

The federal investigation into physical and sexual assault and living conditions comes after the nationwide strike and a series of riots at Holman prison

October 6, 2016

by Matthew Teague

The Guardian

Fairhope, Alabama-The federal government is investigating prisons throughout Alabama in an inquiry that is “possibly unprecedented”. The investigation comes after a series of strikes and riots that have revealed the state’s prisons are in turmoil.

“It’s a giant investigation. This is rare,” said Lisa Graybill, a staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is conducting an investigation of its own. Previously Graybill worked for the federal unit that will investigate Alabama, and said the closest comparison in memory was an examination of Puerto Rico’s juvenile jails. “Taking on a whole state is unusual and possibly unprecedented,” she said.

According to the Department of Justice (DoJ) the investigation will focus on whether prisoners are protected from physical and sexual abuse by other prisoners and guards, and whether living conditions are sanitary and safe in general at men’s prisons.

Alabama’s prisons – particularly the notorious Holman prison – were at the forefront of a nationwide call for prisoners to strike from work, last month. On 9 September prisoners across the US began a strike that lasted several days, in some places. And at Holman, guards joined striking prisoners by staying home from work.

Those strikes also came on the heels of two riots at Holman. During the riot inmates had stabbed warden Carter Davenport and another guard. They set fire to the dorm and carried prison-made swords. The warden and guard survived the attack, and special security squads swept in to quash the riot. But a few days later another riot started after one inmate stabbed another. Davenport, who declined to speak with the Guardian about the unrest, recently resigned his position.

“Our obligation is to protect the civil rights of all citizens, including those who are incarcerated,” US attorney Joyce White Vance, of northern Alabama, wrote in a press briefing on Thursday.

Her counterpart in southern Alabama, US attorney Kenyen R Brown, said prisoners “should expect sanitary conditions of habitation that are free of physical harm and sexual abuse”.

Graybill said the uproar has pulled back a veil that previously obscured Alabama’s prison conditions. Litigation in California and Arizona have recently brought reform but Alabama’s prisons are the most overcrowded, operating at about 183% capacity. “There is a national recognition that Alabama is in crisis,” Graybill said.

The federal government is stepping in because although prisons are run by states, they are beholden to the US constitution.

“The constitution requires that prisons provide humane conditions of confinement,” Vanita Gupta, head of the DoJ’s civil rights division, said Thursday.

The welfare of prisoners comes under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which grants the DoJ authority to investigate violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights that result from a “pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights”. The department has investigated other correctional systems previously, but the scope of the current inquiry – an entire state – may be unique.

“We hope to work cooperatively with the state of Alabama in conducting our inquiry and ensuring that the state’s facilities keep prisoners safe from harm,” Gupta said.



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