The Intercept

Rachel Maddow’s Exclusive “Scoop” About A Fake NSA Document Raises Several Key Questions

7 July 2017 - 1:56pm

(updated below)

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow devoted the first 21 minutes of her Thursday night program to what she promoted as an “exclusive” scoop. The cable news host said that someone had sent her a “carefully forged” top secret NSA document that used a top secret document The Intercept reported on and published on June 5 as a template. That document – from the June 5 Intercept report – was from an unknown NSA official, and purported to describe Russian attempts to hack election officials and suppliers.

Maddow said her report should serve as a “heads up” to other news organizations that someone is attempting to destroy the credibility of those who report on Trump’s connections to Russia by purposely giving them false information. She suggested, without stating, that this may have been what caused CNN and other outlets recently to publish reports about Trump and/or Russia that ended up being retracted.

The grave tone of cloak-and-daggers mystery Maddow used to tell her story was predicated on her time-line of events. If it were the case that MSNBC had received the purportedly forged version of this document before the Intercept published its own version, that would indeed be a major story. That would mean that the person who sent the forgery to MSNBC was one of a relatively small group of people who would have had access to this top secret document.

But that’s not what happened. By Maddow’s own telling, MSNBC received the document two days after the Intercept published it for the entire world to see. That means that literally anyone with internet access could have taken the document from the Intercept’s site, altered it, and sent it to Maddow.

Despite the fact that she received the document two days after the Intercept published it, Maddow nonetheless suggested that the document may have been forged before the Intercept’s publication – meaning that the forger had access to the document prior to our publication of it. Her theory, which posits a remarkable scenario, rests exclusively on one claim: that the “creation date” in the metadata of the document precedes the Intercept’s publication by slightly more than three hours.

Even though Maddow acknowledged what is plainly true – that the time-stamp could have been easily altered to make it appear that the document was created before the Intercept’s publication – she showed a graphic of the purported time-line of events, which depicted the forged document’s creation as occurring just over three hours prior to the Intercept’s publication (12:17:15 pm on June 5):

This seems to be a remarkably thin reed on which to base such an improbable yet consequential theory. To begin with, as Maddow acknowledged, the “creation date” in the document’s metadata could be easily altered. It’s also possible that simple time zones explain the discrepancy: that whoever forged the document was in a time zone several hours behind East Coast time, and June 5, 12:17 pm, in that time zone is after the Intercept’s publication, not before.

The story is much sexier and more dramatic if the forger had access to the document before the Intercept’s publication – and Maddow does a lot of work to suggest this to viewers – but the far likelier version, based on what Maddow presented, is that someone among the millions of people in the public who read the story and saw the document on the Intercept’s site sent an altered version to Maddow.

But here’s the key point, one that guts MSNBC’s theory completely. If you look at the time-stamp on the metadata on the document which the Intercept published, it reads “June 5, 12:17:15 pm” — exactly the same time and date, to the second, as the one on the document received by Maddow:


That’s because time-stamp on the documents published by the Intercept designate the creation date included in the PDF we publish on DocumentCloud: in this case, that occurred just over three hours prior to publication of our article. Both versions – the one we published and the one Maddow received – reflect the same time to the second: literally the exact moment when we created and uploaded the document.

In other words, anyone who took the document directly from the Intercept’s site would have a document with exactly the same time-stamp as the one Maddow showed. Thus, rather than proving that this document was created before the Intercept’s publication, the time-stamp featured by Maddow strongly suggests exactly the opposite: that it was taken from the Intercept’s site.

Nobody from Maddow’s show or MSNBC reached out to the Intercept before running this story. This was odd for many reasons, including the fact that Maddow offered several speculative theories about the Intercept’s reporting on the document, including her belief that a crease that appeared on the document sent to her was the same as the crease which the Trump DOJ, in its affidavit, claimed appeared on the Intercept’s document.

Had MSNBC sought comment from the Intercept before broadcasting this story, they would have learned that the sole piece of evidence on which their entire theory was predicated – the time-stamp that preceded the Intercept’s publication by a few hours – strongly suggests that whoever sent them the document did not have special, early, pre-publication access to it, but rather took it from the Intercept’s site.

 

Prior to publication of this article, The Intercept sent a series of questions to Maddow about all of this. She said MSNBC did not contact the Intercept prior to broadcasting her report “because we were really only working on the document you published, not in your reporting on it.”

As for the issues of the time-line, Maddow stressed that “we explicitly *didn’t* say it was sent to us prior to your publication. I said — and we even showed a calendar graphic to illustrate — that it was sent to us *after* you published. No one falsely made it appear that it was sent to us prior to your publication. It came to us afterwards — which is what I said on the air.”

Regarding our inquiries about the possibility that the metadata may have been changed, Maddow said: “yes, like I said on the air, we did look into the possibility of altering the metadata to change the apparent creation date, and, as I said, it could definitely have been altered.”

As for our question which pointed out that the exact same time appears in the metadata on the document sent to her as the one we published, strongly suggesting that whoever sent her the document took it from the Intercept’s site, Maddow said: “We got a document *different* than yours, with no purported connection to yours, except we sussed out that someone appears to have used your doc as a template for ginning up a fake one to sent to us. And yes the timestamp absolutely goes to our whole point — someone used the document sent to you as a template for forging the fake document sent to us.”

One can listen to Maddow’s original report and draw your own conclusions. That she was strongly suggesting that the forger obtained the document prior to the Intercept’s publication – and thus must have had special access to it – was something heard by numerous people. Here, for instance, is Lawfare Benjamin Wittes citing Maddow’s report to strongly imply – falsely – that this all happened because of the the Intercept’s poor security and that our servers were “penetrated”:

I will be very interested to learn whether the true lesson of this @maddow story is that the Intercept has, as I predicted, been penetrated.

— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) July 7, 2017

That is an utter fabrication, but it’s what he – and many others – heard from Maddow’s report. All this accusatory innuendo when – as the evidence proves – the overwhelmingly likely reality is quite mundane: that someone simply took the document from our site after we published it and used it to create a potentially forged document that was sent to Maddow.

 

None of this is to suggest that there is no newsworthy story here. It appears, at least if one accepts Maddow’s descriptions of the document, that someone did send her an altered document. But there is a massive difference in terms of the importance of this story if it was sent by some random person from the public who obtained the document after the Intercept published it, as opposed to someone who had access to it before publication.

And virtually nothing proves the latter, far more explosive time-line that Maddow’s graphics suggested. To the contrary, all of the available evidence strongly suggests it was taken from the Intercept’s site after we published it.

Maddow is absolutely correct to underscore the critical importance for media outlets to authenticate documents of the type that one receives, particularly when the source is unknown. She also makes the important point that it is “logistically difficult” for news organizations to authenticate documents of this type; given the obvious reluctance of government officials to be of help, it is a serious journalistic challenge to obtain the necessary confirmation that such documents are genuine before reporting on them.

While it is of course possible that there is some widespread, coordinated, official effort to feed news outlets false information in order to discredit stories about Trump and Russia, there is no real evidence for that theory, and this story does not offer any. Maddow’s warnings about the need for caution and authentication are important ones, but if – as seems likely – the document MSNBC received was sent by someone who got it from the Intercept’s site, then the significance of this story seems very minimal, and the more ominous theories her report raises seem to be baseless.

 

UPDATE: Ben Wittes, to his credit, apologized for the false claims he made after watching Maddow’s report:

…wrong this morning in my suspicion that @maddow's story reflected a compromise of The Intercept's systems.

— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) July 7, 2017

You're overstating what I said, which was that it raised the question, but your point is well taken, and as I say, I apologize.

— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) July 7, 2017

Top photo: Rachel Maddow on set for her news show on MSNBC in New York on March 9, 2017.

The post Rachel Maddow’s Exclusive “Scoop” About A Fake NSA Document Raises Several Key Questions appeared first on The Intercept.

Por que políticos americanos não gostam de terroristas, mas gostam de grupo iraniano totalitarista

7 July 2017 - 12:19pm

O que um príncipe saudita, um ex-presidente republicano da Câmara dos Representantes dos Estados Unidos e um ex-candidato democrata à vice-presidência do país estavam fazendo num subúrbio de Paris no último fim de semana?
Você ficaria surpreso em saber que o príncipe Turki Bin Faisal, Newt Gingrich e Joe Lieberman se reuniram para prestar apoio a um grupo de exilados iranianos que, de 1997 a 2012, foi categorizado pelo governo norte-americano como “organização terrorista estrangeira” ?

Há muito tempo certos “falcões”, como são conhecidos os políticos mais bélicos e conservadores do cenário norte-americano, se encantaram com o Mojahedin-e Khalq, conhecido como MEK. Tanto é que, em 2012, fizeram um lobby pesado para conseguir tirá-lo da lista de grupos terroristas, estabelecida pelo Departamento de Estado. Fundado no Irã nos anos 1960, o MEK – que significa “combatentes sagrados do povo” – já foi abertamente antiamericano, semimarxista e semi-islamista : jurou derrubar a força o Xá que tinha o apoio dos Estados Unidos e estar disposto a atacar alvos norte-americanos. O MEK é ainda acusado de ter colaborado na tomada de reféns dentro da embaixada norte-americana em Teerã em 1979. O grupo chegou a condenar a libertação dos reféns, classificando-a de uma “rendição” aos Estados Unidos. Mas depois que os governantes clericais se voltaram contra o grupo no início dos anos 1980, os líderes do movimento fugiram do país e deram início a uma série de bombardeios por todo o Irã.

Hoje em dia, a organização é dirigida pelo casal Massoud e Maryam Rajavi, apesar do paradeiro de Massoud ser desconhecido, havendo inclusive boatos de que estaria morto. O grupo afirma ter renunciado à violência e se vende aos seus novos amigos norte-americanos como um movimento 100% secular e democrático de oposição ao governo iraniano. Mas o maior problema do MEK não é o passado de organização terrorista. Vários grupos violentos que já foram considerados “terroristas” conseguiram abandonar as armas e passaram a circular pelos corredores do poder – como o Exército Republicano Irlandês (IRA) e o Congresso Nacional Africano (ANC).

O maior problema de políticos norte-americanos apoiarem o MEK é que o movimento tem toda a cara e todas as armadilhas de um culto totalitário.

O problema também não é o MEK não ter nenhum apoio dentro da República Islâmica. E olha que o oposicionista Movimento Verde renegou o grupo, que já era abominado pela população iraniana por ter lutado ao lado de Saddam Hussein durante a guerra entre Irã e Iraque.

O maior problema de políticos norte-americanos apoiarem o MEK é que o movimento tem toda a cara e todas as armadilhas de um culto totalitário. E não sou só eu quem diz: um relatório do Departamento de Estado registrou, em 1994, que Massoud Rajavi “promovia um culto à sua personalidade” e que isso “afastava muitos expatriados iranianos, que diziam não querer substituir um governo contestável por outro”.

Você acha mesmo que só quem mora em países ditatoriais sofre lavagem cerebral? Em 2009, um relatório do think thank norte-americano RAND Corporation apontou que os integrantes do MEK tinham que “jurar devoção aos Rajavis com a mão sobre o Corão”. Destacou ainda que “as práticas autoritárias e cultuais” incluíam “divórcio e celibato obrigatórios” para os membros (com exceção do casal Rajavi, claro). “O amor aos Rajavis deveria substituir o amor ao cônjuge e à família”, detalha o relatório.

Forças de segurança iraquianas entram pelo portão principal de Camp Ashraf, sede do MEK ao norte de Bagdá (2012).

Photo: Hadi Mizban/AP

Você acha ruim a segregação de gênero dentro do Irã? No Camp Ashraf, no Iraque, espécie de quartel-general onde combatentes do MEK moraram até 2013, “pintavam-se linhas no chão dos corredores para separar os homens das mulheres”, ainda de acordo com o relatório do RAND. Até o posto de gasolina tinha “horários específicos para homens e para mulheres”.

Você pode até entender por que um príncipe saudita, o ex-prefeito de Nova York Rudy Giuliano e o ex-funcionário do governo Bush (e “super-falcão”) John Bolton, que estiveram todos no encontro em Paris, estão mais dispostos a apoiar um conjunto tão bizarro de fanáticos e ideólogos. Mas o que levaria um liberal democrata de Vermont como Howard Dean (que já sugeriu que Maryam Rajavi deveria ser reconhecida como presidente exilada do Irã) a se misturar com eles? O que teria levado gente como John Lewis, deputado da Geórgia e herói dos direitos civis, a defender publicamente o MEK em 2010?

Seria por conta daquele velho quiçá amoral provérbio: “o inimigo do meu inimigo é meu amigo”? Talvez.

Seria por conta daquele velho quiçá amoral provérbio: “o inimigo do meu inimigo é meu amigo”? Talvez. Seria o resultado da ignorância, da incapacidade de figuras experientes da política norte-americana de cumprir com seu dever de diligência? Quem sabe.

Ou seria só uma simples questão de grana? “Muitos desses antigos altos funcionários do governo, que representam todo o espectro político norte-americano, receberam dezenas de milhares de dólares para defender publicamente o MEK”, revela a ampla investigação feita pelo jornal Christian Science Monitor em 2011.

Em Washington, o dinheiro fala. Seja você um democrata como Dean ou um republicano como Bolton, um ex-chefe da CIA como Porter Gross ou um ex-chefe do FBI como Louis Freeh, o que importa é que o MEK costuma assinar uns cheques bem gordos.
Gingrinch, por exemplo, criticou duramente Barack Obama por “fazer reverência ao rei saudita” , mas foi filmado fazendo o mesmo em frente a Maryam Rajavi. Durante o fim de semana em Paris, o ex-presidente da Câmara dos Representantes chegou ao cúmulo de comparar Rajavi a George Washington em seu discurso.

E Giuliani, « o Prefeito da América » que se autointitula um falcão antiterrorista, mas que, desde 2010, não hesita na hora de receber alguns milhares de dólares para endossar um grupo que: assassinou seis americanos no Irã em meados dos anos 1970; se aliou a Saddam Hussein para esmagar os curdos do Iraque no início dos 1990; aparentemente cooperou com a Al Qaeda na fabricação de bombas pouco tempo depois; e, finalmente, combateu tropas norte-americanas no Iraque em 2003.

Esse pessoal não tem vergonha? Para citar Suzanne Maloney, especialista em Irã do think thank Brookings e ex-consultora do Departamento de Estado, “Gingrinch/Giuliani/Bolton/Lieberman dão pouquíssimo valor à própria integridade, a ponto de se venderem ao culto do MEK”.

Enquanto isso, derrubar o regime iraniano voltou com tudo para a lista de prioridades da Washington de Donald Trump. O candidato que detonava as guerras de agressão de George W. Bush no Oriente Médio deu lugar ao presidente que nomeou os falcões anti-Irã James Mattis e Mike Pompeo para comandar, respectivamente, o Pentágono e a CIA. É o mesmo presidente que tem em Giuliani e Gingrich, os garotos-propaganda do MEK, seus principais conselheiros externos e que escolheu Elaine Chao, que recebeu 50 mil dólares dos Rajavis para pronunciar um discurso de 5 minutos em 2015, para trabalhar no gabinete presidencial.

Sejamos claros: o governo Trump, os sauditas e os israelenses (que, de acordo com uma investigação da NBC News, “financiaram, treinaram e armaram” o MEK no passado) estão bem dispostos a derrubar o regime clerical iraniano. O que mais querem é uma Guerra do Iraque Parte II. Para essa sequência, o MEK de Maryam Rajavi está querendo interpretar o papel do partido Congresso Nacional Iraquiano (INC), de Ahmed Chalabi: os 3 mil combatentes do grupo estão prontos para atuar como “ponta de lança”, segundo afirmou o ex-senador-democrata-agora-advogado-do-MEK Robert Torricelli no sábado passado.

É assim que a loucura se espalha. As elites da política, da inteligência, do Exército não aprenderam nada com a desventura mesopotâmica e com a desastrosa contribuição de exilados iraquianos como Chalabi? Bem, vamos dizer que 0s fanáticos doutrinados do MEK fazem o INC de Chalabi parecer a ANC de Mandela.

É difícil, no entanto, discordar do veredito de Elizabeth Rubin, do New York Times, que visitou o MEK no Camp Ashraf em 2003 e, depois, “conversou com homens e mulheres que conseguiram escapar das garras do grupo” e “tiveram que ser ‘reprogramados’”. Como Rubin advertiu em 2011, o MEK “não é só irrelevante para a causa dos ativistas democráticos no Irã, é um culto totalitário que vai voltar para nos aterrorizar”.

Foto em destaque: Maryam Rajavi discursa durante a reunião anual do Mojahedin-e Khalq no centro de convenções de Villepinte, próximo de Paris (01/07/2017). Líderes políticos internacionais também discursaram em apoio a ela.

The post Por que políticos americanos não gostam de terroristas, mas gostam de grupo iraniano totalitarista appeared first on The Intercept.

NYPD Attempts to Block Surveillance Transparency Law With Misinformation

7 July 2017 - 10:59am

Earlier this year, New York City Council members Vanessa Gibson and Daniel Garodnick introduced the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act, which would require public disclosure and dialogue on the New York Police Department’s purchase and use of surveillance equipment. The bill is in the weaker vein of similar legislation passed or under consideration by lawmakers in 19 cities across the U.S., where elected officials hope to write use policies and approve or deny the purchase of surveillance gear.

Criminal justice reform and civil rights groups have praised the POST Act for the transparency it brings to NYPD spy equipment purchases, but the bill already faces a steep path to passage as law. Mayor Bill de Blasio opposes it, meaning the city council will need to approve the legislation with at least 34 votes to override the mayor’s veto.

The tough odds haven’t stopped the NYPD from throwing itself into a bare-knuckles publicity campaign to push back against the proposed legislation.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller laid into the POST Act during a public safety committee hearing on June 14, calling the proposed bill’s disclosure requirements “insane” and “an effective blueprint for those seeking to do us harm.”

“There is a habit now, a trend of calling documented, authorized investigations ‘police spying,’” Miller said at the hearing. “This is all balled up in some kind of paranoia — we operate under strict rules.”

In a June 16 appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Deputy NYPD Commissioner for Legal Affairs Lawrence Byrne said, “This is not about transparency, this is about keeping New York City safe — this is about not revealing confidential law enforcement investigative techniques.” MSNBC did not invite any proponents of the bill to speak on the program, and the show’s hosts lobbed softball questions at Byrne and Miller when they weren’t busy working themselves into a lather about the perfidy of the Brennan Center, one of the prominent supporters of the POST Act.

During their recent testimonies at city council, Miller and Byrne made a number of statements that mischaracterized or omitted crucial details regarding the department’s record of transparency, its use of specific technologies like cell-site simulators, the surveillance of communities of color, and how such technologies are acquired by police. Here’s a rundown of those statements.

Transparency

The NYPD is notorious for flouting the New York State Freedom of Information Law for even the most routine requests about police activity, contracts, and policies. Regarding surveillance technology, the department has been or is being sued for refusing to release information about facial recognition software, its use of predictive policing software, controversial X-ray vans, and the “mosque raking” program that placed the city’s Muslim communities under mass surveillance. Most recently, the local news channel NY1 sued the NYPD for footage from officers’ body-worn cameras, which are being introduced to precincts throughout the city this year. The police demanded $36,000 to release the footage.

The NYPD also recently invoked the Glomar response — the FBI’s famous “we cannot confirm or deny” construction — in response to requests for public records. It represents a bold new frontier in opacity for New York state’s open records laws, which are supposed to require affirmative or negative responses.

Addressing federal transparency requirements at the June hearing, Miller said that federal law doesn’t require the NYPD to release information on how technology is used for investigative or counterterrorism purposes. While Miller is correct about the exemptions to federal law for Privacy Impact Assessments, which were mandated by the E-Government Act of 2002, federal law enforcement nonetheless publishes highly descriptive documents for many sensitive databases on the open web. Federal authorities have released detailed documentation on the capabilities of ICEGangs, the now-discontinued gang database for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as LeadTrac and FALCON-SA, two of ICE’s data-analysis tools used to track and identify suspects in criminal and civil immigration investigations.

Mass surveillance and Handschu

Since a 1985 settlement over the NYPD’s surveillance of left-wing organizations, the department’s intelligence operations on political activities have been subject to a federal consent decree known as the Handschu agreement. The nature, extent, and unconstitutionality of the NYPD’s spying on political groups first became public during the 1971 trial of 21 Black Panther members accused of attempting to bomb police stations and department stores. The agreement between the department and the federal government established strict guidelines for how the NYPD could monitor First Amendment activity — those are the “strict rules” Miller was referring to during the city council hearing.

The cops, however, chafed at the Handschu restrictions for years. In 2003, they successfully convinced the presiding federal judge to loosen the limits, under the premise that they impeded the NYPD’s counterterrorism operations.

The relaxed regulations on political surveillance manifested in the department’s undercover operations directed at anti-war protesters, transportation activists, left-wing political activists nationwide, and, most notoriously, Muslim Americans. The Demographics Unit, created by former Commissioner Ray Kelly in the mid-2000s, went about mapping Muslim and Middle Eastern communities in the city’s five boroughs. Meanwhile, undercover officers were sent to infiltrate religious congregations and student groups as far afield as Connecticut and New Jersey.

The Demographics Unit has been disbanded and the department’s “mosque-raking” operations led to a legal settlement and further operational restrictions last year, but activists and legal workers say the department’s surveillance in Middle Eastern and South Asian communities is still prevalent.

At the hearing, Byrne claimed the police were not “engaged in a surveillance program of any community” — a statement belied by the NYPD inspector general report that focused on the department’s surveillance operations of political activity involving people of Muslim origin. More than 50 percent of those investigations continued beyond their date of authorization, the report found.

Miller’s and Byrne’s assertions about the NYPD’s human intelligence operations received significant pushback from Queens council member Rory Lancman, who recalled past abuses despite court oversight. “The department has repeatedly over the years pushed the limits of what it can do in terms of intel gathering and surveillance,” Lancman said.

“There’s a reason,” Lancman added, “the Handschu agreement over time, on numerous occasions, has had to be modified and expanded.”

Funding and disclosure of surveillance equipment

For years, the NYPD has kept details of its purchase of surveillance equipment from public view, going so far as to redact even the most anodyne information about grant spending and rejecting my Freedom of Information Law requests about surveillance technology contracts on over 10 occasions since 2006.

There is supposed to be external oversight of the NYPD’s contracts by the independent city comptroller’s office, which registers agency procurements, and the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. At the June hearing, Byrne explained the process.

“Every contract that the NYPD enters into, whether it’s for confidential technology or equipment or pens and pencils and legal pads, has to be approved by the mayor’s office of contracts and has to be registered by the comptroller,” Byrne said. “If the comptroller does not register the contract, we cannot go forward.”

Contracts for at least two of the NYPD’s major surveillance technologies — the department’s cell-site simulators, which collect information from nearby mobile phones, and the data-mining software from the security analytics firm Palantir — were not turned over by the comptroller’s office pursuant to a Freedom of Information Law request. According to a recent report by BuzzFeed, the NYPD paid Palantir $3.5 million annually for its services, which are reportedly being terminated. The Brennan Center has an ongoing FOIL lawsuit for documentation of Palantir’s work with the NYPD. The request unearthed contract records for the NYPD’s license-plate reader contractor ELSAG, Vigilant Solutions’ national database of billions of vehicle records, and ShotSpotter gunshot detectors that geolocate the sound of gunfire with permanently enabled microphones and issue automatic notifications for police.

There are multiple ways the police department can conceal contract information, aside from its intransigence on records laws. The city Law Department, which is a branch of the mayor’s office and handles most of the city’s legal affairs, can unilaterally declare a contract to be “registered” and not turn it over to the comptroller. The NYPD can also request that the comptroller review a contract in confidence and withhold that information from public disclosure. Or the department can channel the purchase of surveillance technology through the New York City Police Foundation, a private nonprofit organization that is not subject to public disclosure laws and receives major donations from firms like Axon, Palantir, and Microsoft, which sell technology to the NYPD.

The NYPD can also withhold contracts for sensitive technology pursuant to a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor, according to Byrne’s remarks at the council. “Many of these technologies, because they’re only effective if bad people don’t know how they work and how to defeat it, are given to us pursuant to very strict nondisclosure agreements,” he said.

How surveillance technology works

One of the few technologies the NYPD openly discussed at the city council hearings was cell-site simulators, which are devices that mimic cellphone towers to identify, locate, and in some cases, intercept communications from cellphones. Last year, the New York Civil Liberties Union released records documenting the NPYD’s use of cell-site simulators over 1,000 times from 2008 through May 2015.

Byrne characterized the department’s use of the devices as “pursuant to a court order supported by probable cause” and affirmed they were only used to track the location of target phones.

However, the NYPD did come under fire last year for using court orders that do not spell out that a cell-site stimulator will be used to track a cellphone. Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have abandoned these orders in favor of warrants, which carry with them more privacy protections, for cell-site simulator use.

What’s more, Byrne’s assertion that the department’s cell-site simulators only gather data on target cellphones misrepresents how the devices actually work. They function by hoovering up signals from all cellphones within range, allowing searches through that pool of data for the target device’s identifying number.

Byrne’s remarks disturbed Michael Price, an attorney at the Brennan Center who testified in favor of the POST Act at the city council hearing. “NYPD literally believes that cell-site simulators work like PEN registers,” Price told The Intercept, referring to an older technology that tracks calls made and received by a target phone. “It is either a misunderstanding on Byrne’s part or a misrepresentation that underscores the need for the kind of disclosure outlined in the POST Act.” Price pointed out that both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security acknowledge the collection of nontarget data by cell-site simulators and require deletion within 30 days of collection.

No vote has been held yet on the POST Act. The NYPD campaign to oppose the bill in the court of public opinion has already won favorable coverage in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages. The department’s legendary intransigence on public disclosure and oversight, then, is likely to continue. And the city council, which has faced NYPD overreaches on issues like stop and frisk, will likely be stymied. If the POST Act represents the council’s last chance to shed some sunlight on the surveillance practices of the country’s largest police department, it may yield only a failed effort.

Top photo: An NYPD security camera hangs atop a light pole across the street from Trump Tower in New York on March 7, 2017.

The post NYPD Attempts to Block Surveillance Transparency Law With Misinformation appeared first on The Intercept.

Here’s Why Washington Hawks Love This Cultish Iranian Exile Group

7 July 2017 - 8:00am

What were a Saudi prince, a former Republican House Speaker and a former Democratic vice-presidential candidate doing together in a suburb of Paris last weekend?

Would you be surprised to discover that Prince Turki Bin Faisal, Newt Gingrich and Joe Lieberman were speaking on behalf of a group of Iranian exiles that was officially designated a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the United States government between 1997 and 2012?

Iran hawks long ago fell head over heels for the Mojahedin-e Khalq, known as the MEK, and loudly and successfully lobbied for it to be removed from the State Department list of banned terror groups in 2012. Formed in Iran in the 1960s, the MEK, whose name translates to “Holy Warriors of the People,” was once an avowedly anti-American, semi-Marxist, semi-Islamist group, pledged to toppling the U.S.-backed Shah by force and willing to launch attacks on U.S. targets. The MEK even stands accused of helping with the seizure of hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran; the group condemned the hostages’ release as a “surrender” to the United States. But after the Iran’s clerical rulers turned on the group in the early 1980s, its leaders fled the country and unleashed a series of bombings across Iran.

These days, the organization — run by husband and wife Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, though the former’s whereabouts are unknown and he is rumored to be dead — claims to have renounced violence and sells itself to its new American friends as a 100 percent secular and democratic Iranian opposition group. The biggest problem with the MEK, however, is not that it is a former terrorist organization. Plenty of violent groups that were once seen as “terrorists” later abandoned their armed struggles and entered the corridors of power — think of the Irish Republican Army or Mandela’s African National Congress.

Nor is it that the MEK lacks support inside of the Islamic Republic, where it has been disowned by the opposition Green Movement and is loathed by ordinary Iranians for having fought on Saddam Hussein’s side during the Iran-Iraq war.

Rather, the biggest problem with U.S. politicians backing the MEK is that the group has all the trappings of a totalitarian cult. Don’t take my word for it: A 1994 State Department report documented how Massoud Rajavi “fostered a cult of personality around himself” which had “alienated most Iranian expatriates, who assert they do not want to replace one objectionable regime for another.”

You think only people inside of dictatorships are brainwashed? A 2009 report by the RAND Corporation noted how MEK rank-and-file had to swear “an oath of devotion to the Rajavis on the Koran” and highlighted the MEK’s “authoritarian, cultic practices” including ‘mandatory divorce and celibacy” for the group’s members (the Rajavis excepted, of course). “Love for the Rajavis was to replace love for spouses and family,” explained the RAND report.

Iraqi security forces enter through the main gate of Camp Ashraf in Khalis, north of Baghdad, Iraq in 2012.

Photo: Hadi Mizban/AP

You think gender segregation inside of Iran is bad? At Iraq’s Camp Ashraf, which housed MEK fighters up until 2013, lines were “painted down the middle of hallways separating them into men’s and women’s sides,” according to RAND, and even the gas station there had “separate hours for men and women.”

You might understand why a Saudi prince, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, or uber-hawk and former Bush administration official John Bolton — who all attended the Paris rally — might be willing to get behind such a weird collection of fanatics and ideologues. But what would make a liberal Democrat from Vermont such as Howard Dean — who has suggested Maryam Rajavi be recognized as the president of Iran in exile — want to get into bed with them? Or Georgia congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, who spoke out in favor of the MEK in 2010?

Could it be because of the old, if amoral, adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”? Perhaps. Could it be the result of ignorance, of senior U.S. figures failing to do due diligence? Maybe.

Or could it be a consequence of cold, hard cash? “Many of these former high-ranking U.S. officials — who represent the full political spectrum — have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK,” revealed a wide-ranging investigation by the Christian Science Monitor in 2011.

In Washington, D.C., money talks. Whether you’re a Democrat like Dean or a Republican like Bolton, a former head of the CIA like Porter Goss or an ex-head of the FBI like Louis Freeh, what seems to matter most is that the MEK can cut fat checks.

Take Gingrich, who once lambasted Barack Obama for “bowing to the Saudi king” but has himself been caught on camera bowing to Maryam Rajavi. The former House speaker bizarrely compared Rajavi to George Washington in his speech in Paris over the weekend.

Or Giuliani, “America’s Mayor” and self-styled anti-terror hawk, who nevertheless has had no qualms accepting thousands of dollars since 2010 to shill for a group that murdered six Americans in Iran in the mid-1970s; joined with Saddam Hussein to repress Iraq’s Kurds in the early 1990s; allegedly worked with Al Qaeda to make bombs in the mid-1990s; and fought against U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003.

Have these people no shame? To quote Suzanne Maloney, an Iran analyst at Brookings and a former adviser to the State Department: “How cheaply Gingrich/Guiliani/Bolton/Lieberman value their own integrity to sell out to MEK cult.”

Meanwhile, regime change in Tehran is very much back on the agenda in Donald Trump’s Washington. Candidate Trump, who blasted George W. Bush’s Middle East wars of aggression, has been replaced by President Trump, who appointed Iran hawks such as James Mattis and Mike Pompeo to run the Pentagon and the CIA, respectively; counts MEK shills such as Giuliani and Gingrich among his closest outside advisers; and appointed Elaine Chao, who took $50,000 from the Rajavis for a five-minute speech in 2015, to his cabinet.

Let’s be clear: The Trump administration, the Saudis and the Israelis — who have “financed, trained and armed” the MEK in the past, according an NBC News investigation — are all bent on toppling the Iran’s clerical rule; they long for a bad sequel to the Iraq war. And Maryam Rajavi’s MEK is auditioning for the role of Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress: The group’s 3,000-odd fighters, according to former Democratic senator-turned-MEK-lawyer Robert Torricelli last Saturday, are keen to be the “point of the spear.”

That way madness lies. Have U.S. political, intelligence, and military elites learned nothing from their Mesopotamian misadventure and the disastrous contribution of Iraqi exiles such as Chalabi? Well, the brainwashed fanatics of the MEK make the INC look like the ANC.

It is difficult, therefore, to disagree with the verdict of Elizabeth Rubin of the New York Times, who visited the MEK at Camp Ashraf back in 2003 and later “spoke to men and women who had escaped from the group’s clutches” and “had to be reprogrammed.” The MEK, warned Rubin in 2011, “is not only irrelevant to the cause of Iran’s democratic activists, but a totalitarian cult that will come back to haunt us.”

Top photo: Mariam Rajavi speaks at the annual meeting of the Mojahedin-e Khalq at the Villepinte exhibition center near Paris on July 1, 2017. International political leaders also made speeches to support her.

The post Here’s Why Washington Hawks Love This Cultish Iranian Exile Group appeared first on The Intercept.

Republican Lawmakers Buy Health Insurance Stocks as Repeal Effort Moves Forward

6 July 2017 - 5:33pm

Just as the House Republican bill to slash much of the Affordable Care Act moved forward, Rep. Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican and member of Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership team, added a health insurance company to his portfolio.

An account owned by Conaway’s wife made two purchases of UnitedHealth stock, worth as much as $30,000, on March 24th, the day the legislation advanced in the House Rules Committee, according to disclosures. The exact value of Conaway’s investment isn’t clear, given that congressional ethics forms only show a range of amounts, and Conaway’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

It was a savvy move. Health industry stocks, including insurance giants like UnitedHealth, have surged as Republicans move forward with their repeal effort, which rolls back broad taxes on health care firms while loosening consumer regulations which prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for medical treatment. UnitedHealth has gained nearly 7 percent in value since March 24.

He wasn’t the only one. As the health care system overhaul advanced last month on the other side of Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma purchased between $50,000 to $100,000 in UnitedHealth stock. Inhofe, a staunch supporter for GOP efforts to rollback the Affordable Care Act, did not respond to a request for comment.

The issue of insider political trading, with members and staff buying and selling stock using privileged information, has continued to plague Congress. It gained national prominence during the confirmation hearings for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, when it was revealed that the Georgia Republican had bought shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics, a relatively obscure Australian biotechnology firm, while legislating on policies that could have impacted the firm’s performance.

The stock advice had been passed to Price from Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a board member for Innate Immunotherapeutics, and was shared with a number of other GOP lawmakers, who also invested in the firm. Conaway, records show, bought shares in the company a week after Price.

Conaway, who serves as a GOP deputy whip in the House, has a long record of investing in firms that coincide with his official duties. Politico reported that Conaway’s wife purchased stock in a nuclear firm just after Conaway sponsored a bill to deal with nuclear waste storage in his district. The firm stood to directly benefit from the legislation.

Some of the biggest controversies stem from the revelation that during the 2008 financial crisis, multiple lawmakers from both parties rearranged their financial portfolios to avoid heavy losses. In one case, former Rep. Spencer Baucus, R-Ala., used confidential meetings about the unfolding bank crisis to make special trades designed to increase in value as the stock market plummeted.

Congress eventually acted with the STOCK Act, legislation designed to curb insider trading abuses. But the law was quickly watered down with amendments, and some provisions of it were later repealed. As we’ve reported, the House of Representatives has actively fought efforts to enforce the law after the Securities and Exchange Commission attempted to investigate one congressional staffer accused of passing health care information to a set of hedge funds.

Top photo: Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, now leading the House Intelligence investigation after Rep. Devin Nunes was forced to recuse himself, arrives for a hearing featuring former Director of the CIA John Brennan at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 23, 2017.

The post Republican Lawmakers Buy Health Insurance Stocks as Repeal Effort Moves Forward appeared first on The Intercept.

Clinton Strategist Mark Penn Pushes Democrats to Move to Center — And Quietly Profits From GOP Victories

6 July 2017 - 5:15pm

Democrats would do best if they abandon broad economic reforms and a more leftward political program, argued Mark Penn, a strategist known best for advising Bill and Hillary Clinton, in the pages of the New York Times Opinion section. Penn wrote that the Democratic Party must “move to the center and reject the siren calls of the left.”

Progressives have long viewed Penn with deep skepticism, noting that he has repeatedly used his close ties to Democratic officials as a vehicle for promoting his corporate clients. But there’s another wrinkle to Penn’s advice: He now invests in Republican advocacy firms — and profits from the electoral defeat of Democrats.

In March, Penn’s investment firm Stagwell Media LLC announced that it had acquired a minority stake in Targeted Victory, a major Republican digital consulting company. Targeted Victory, founded by personnel from Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, was provided consulting services for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. More recently, following Penn’s investment in the firm, Targeted Victory assisted Republican Karen Handel in her successful campaign against Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Georgia special election last month.

Stagwell Media did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Penn’s opinion column sparked a number of rebuttals on social media, with many pointing to his disastrous role advising Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries as a major reason people should distrust Penn’s advice. According to one report, Penn designed Clinton’s strategy based on the false assumption that California’s primary awarded delegates on a winner-take-all basis, instead of a proportional system. Such basic mistakes by the Clinton campaign were reportedly pivotal in Barack Obama’s primary victory.

While Penn gained a new fortune by advising Microsoft, in more recent years he has slowly grown an investment portfolio that includes several lobbying and public affairs firms. Penn also owns SKDKnickerbocker, a Democrat-run company that develops policy campaigns on behalf of corporate clients including for-profit colleges, AT&T, and Herbalife.

Top photo: Mark Penn, chief strategist and pollster for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, speaks to reporters in the “spin room” after the Democratic debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire on January 5, 2008.

The post Clinton Strategist Mark Penn Pushes Democrats to Move to Center — And Quietly Profits From GOP Victories appeared first on The Intercept.

Preso por fraudar licitação de creche, deputado comanda sessão da Comissão de Educação da Câmara

6 July 2017 - 2:30pm

Mais um capítulo da surreal cena política de Brasília marcou a quarta-feira (5) no Congresso. Preso no mês passado sob a acusação de fraudar uma licitação para a construção de uma creche quando era prefeito de Três Rios (RJ), em 2003, o deputado Celso Jacob (PMDB) se sentou na cadeira de presidente da Comissão de Educação da Casa, após o titular, Caio Narcio (PSDB-MG) ceder o lugar de honra. Jacob, que atualmente cumpre a sentença de sete anos e dois meses de detenção determinada pelo STF em regime semiaberto, ainda recebeu o carinho de colegas.  

“Você pode ter tido um erro administrativo, mas não justifica o que fizeram. A cada dia que passa essa Casa se acovarda. É uma alegria tê-lo conosco presidindo esta comissão”, afirmou o deputado Damião Feliciano (PDT/PB) durante a sessão.

Antes de Damião, o presidente da comissão, Caio Narcio, que convocou Jacob ao deixar o plenário, também fez questão de mostrar sua solidariedade: “Reafirmo o apoio à conduta do colega, que jamais atuou contra os interesses do povo de seu estado”.

Mesmo condenado, Jacob mantém os mesmos direitos do que os outros parlamentares não condenados. O congressista continua a receber os R$ 34 mil de salário e pode contratar até 25 servidores, mas sem estourar os R$ 101.971,94 da cota que é destinada a cada parlamentar. O pacote inclui carro oficial, TV por assinatura, internet, telefone fixo, transporte e alimentação, auxílio moradia e saúde. Todos pagos pela Câmara dos Deputados com dinheiro do contribuinte.

Da Câmara para a Papuda

Quando o relógio marca 18h30m de uma sexta-feira, enquanto o restante de seus pares costuma voltar para casa ou viajar a seus estados, Jacob precisa tomar o rumo da Complexo Penitenciário da Papuda, que fica a 13 quilômetros do Congresso, e tem capacidade para receber até 5 mil detentos.

Por lá já passaram outros políticos importantes do cenário brasileiro: o ex-ministro petista José Dirceu; o “homem da mala” de confiança de Michel Temer, Rocha Loures; e Geddel Vieira Lima, braço-direito do presidente, levado recentemente para uma cela do presídio. Todos são acusados de corrupção.

O belo gabinete do deputado Celso Jacob na Câmara

Foto: George Marques

Em dias de sessões que ultrapassem o horário das 18h30m, como costuma ocorrer às terças e quartas, Jacob é obrigado a apresentar uma certidão, a ser emitida pela Câmara, atestando que esteve no plenário no período noturno. O descumprimento da ordem pode levar à revogação do benefício do regime semiaberto.

Procurado pela reportagem e após mais de duas horas de espera, Jacob mostrou-se econômico nas palavras. “Só falo na presença do meu advogado”, adiantou, em tom intimidatório.

“Acho que estão usando vossa excelência como bode expiatório pra achincalhar esta casa”

The Intercept Brasil perguntou ao parlamentar sobre sua rotina de poder ir à Câmara só em dias úteis, das 9h às 12h, e de 13h30m às 18h30m. “Tudo normal, a vida tem que seguir, é algo desconfortável, mas irei mostrar minha inocência”. Talvez Jacob não tenha percebido que o último recurso já se esgotou e foi negado no STF.

Mas, se dependesse de seus colegas, Jacob seria absolvido. A sessão da Comissão de Educação teve uma carga intensa de solidariedade, recheada de frases de efeito. “Eu quando sou provocado fico mais valente”, proclamou o vigoroso Átila Lira (PSB/PI) em defesa de Jacob. Segundo Lira, a Câmara precisa aprimorar os mecanismos de “proteção” às investidas externas que visam unicamente constranger outros poderes. “Eu me sinto provocado e com muita mais coragem de enfrentar aquilo que é injusto quando vejo a justiça tentando nos constranger”, afirmou.

“Eu só confio na justiça divina.”

“Acho que estão usando vossa excelência como bode expiatório pra achincalhar esta casa”, esclareceu Sóstenes Cavalcanti (DEM/RJ), deputado com origem na Baixada Fluminense, em Duque de Caxias (RJ), ligado ao pastor Silas Malafaia. O congressista classificou a decisão da justiça contra Jacob de um “erro”. “Eu só confio na justiça divina. A sua insegurança, deputado, é a insegurança de todos os brasileiros deste país”, disse.

Há entre parlamentares no Congresso uma espécie de rede de amparo quando um colega é preso ou levado para depor pela polícia. Outros tipos de autoproteção são vistas também quando um senador, por exemplo, usa os milhões de votos de Aécio Neves (PSDB/MG) para livrá-lo do processo de cassação no Conselho de Ética. A autoproteção coletiva é justificada na premissa que hoje foi a vez do Jacob. Amanhã, pode ser a vez de qualquer um.

Foto em destaque: O deputado Celso Jacob em sessão na Câmara em outubro de 2016.

The post Preso por fraudar licitação de creche, deputado comanda sessão da Comissão de Educação da Câmara appeared first on The Intercept.

Donald Trump Keeps Missing His Own Deadlines

6 July 2017 - 12:56pm

Federal agencies continue to blow deadlines laid down by President Trump in his executive orders and memoranda.

The president has been issuing orders calling on agencies to complete reviews and administrative actions since his earliest days in office. Deadlines for these actions continue to crop up, and compliance has been scattershot at best.

By the latest numbers, 36 deadlines have passed. Only 18 of them have definitively been met, exactly 50 percent; the others either have not been met, or The Intercept could get no response from federal agencies confirming completion.

The loose compliance toward deadlines that President Trump imposed himself suggests a lack of attention to the details of governing, or a misunderstanding in the monumental nature of the task. It’s a data point about the competency of the administration, and not a good one.

Even some of the actions the Trump administration was able to accomplish came in late. For example, on June 23 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report detailing adjustments to immigration status for foreign nationals. This was to comply with a March 6 memorandum from President Trump requiring quarterly updates. But the deadline for the report was June 4, 19 days before DHS got around to it.

Reports from five federal agencies on international cybersecurity priorities, due June 25 as per Trump’s cybersecurity executive order, have yet to be confirmed as completed. The Department of Defense, in an email to The Intercept, said on June 28 that they are “finalizing staffing of the report and … consulting with the White House.” DOD added that the report would be classified when they manage to finish it.

The Office of National Drug Policy was supposed to deliver interim recommendations on combating the opioid crisis on June 27. They did not do so. The office told The Intercept that they needed “more time to develop the report.” Final findings and recommendations are due on October 1, though the ONDCP could ask for an extension.

The Commerce Department and President Trump also missed a deadline of June 30 for publishing a report on the national security implications of steel imports. The Wall Street Journal reported that it wasn’t released due to “unanticipated complexities” in carrying out the potential tariffs on imported steel that would accompany the findings. “There’s a just a lot of analysis. It’s a bigger deal than they originally thought,” said one unnamed source to WSJ.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said in a briefing that he was “not sure” when the Commerce Department would issue the report, though it’s in “draft form or near-final form.” The White House has subsequently talked about holding the report until after G20 meetings in Germany this week.

Other reports have not been confirmed as delivered to the president, including a Treasury Department report on identifying and reducing tax burdens, and a Commerce Department/U.S. Trade Representative omnibus report on “significant trade deficits.” There are indications that the latter report is under review at the White House, but no public release has been made available.

Indeed, the troubling trend of reports to the president mandated under executive order not being issued for public consumption has continued. Of the 16 reports to the president so far due, only two have been made public: a rather thin interim report from the Department of the Interior on national monuments, and a partial report on financial regulations from the Treasury Department.

Despite missing deadlines left and right, Trump has added more. An executive order reviving the National Space Council requires annual reports with recommendations for space policy, starting June 30 of next year. And Trump’s memorandum on Cuba policy from June 16 contains four separate deadlines, including two due July 16 meant to adjust regulations on transactions with, and tourism to, Cuba.

The Supreme Court allowed a limited version of the travel ban to take effect June 28, which restarts the timeline on a number of reviews and other actions that were previously under injunction. For instance, a 20-day “worldwide review” of foreign country’s travel policies is now due July 18.

Here’s how the administration record is shaping up:

Top photo: President Trump signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Feb. 3, 2017.

The post Donald Trump Keeps Missing His Own Deadlines appeared first on The Intercept.

Facebook’s Tough-on-Terror Talk Overlooks White Extremists

6 July 2017 - 11:38am

Publicly-traded companies don’t typically need to issue statements saying that they do not support terrorism. But Facebook is no ordinary company; its sheer scale means it is credited as a force capable of swaying elections, commerce, and, yes, violent radicalization. In June, the social network published an article outlining its counter-terrorism policy, stating unequivocally that “There’s no place on Facebook for terrorism.” Bad news for foreign plotters and jihadis, maybe, but what about Americans who want violence in America?

In its post, Facebook said it will use a combination of artificial-intelligence-enabled scanning and “human expertise” to “keep terrorist content off Facebook, something we have not talked about publicly before.” The detailed article takes what seems to be a zero-tolerance stance on terrorism-related content:

We remove terrorists and posts that support terrorism whenever we become aware of them. When we receive reports of potential terrorism posts, we review those reports urgently and with scrutiny. And in the rare cases when we uncover evidence of imminent harm, we promptly inform authorities. Although academic research finds that the radicalization of members of groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda primarily occurs offline, we know that the internet does play a role — and we don’t want Facebook to be used for any terrorist activity whatsoever.

Keeping the (to put it mildly) highly-motivated membership of ISIS and Al Qaeda off any site is no small feat; replacing a banned account or deleted post with a new one is a cinch. But if Facebook is serious about refusing violent radicals a seat at the table, it’s only doing half its job, as the site remains a cozy home for domestic — let’s be frank: white — extremists in the United States, whose views and hopes are often no less heinous and gory than those of the Islamic State.

In Facebook’s post, ISIS and Al Qaeda are mentioned by name 11 times, while the word “domestic” doesn’t appear once, nor are U.S.-based terror networks referenced in any other way. That gap in the company’s counter-extremism policy is curious.

In January 2016, a band of armed militants led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy entered and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. Members of the group, with ties to armed, extremist “patriot” groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, said they wanted to shift federal land to local control, and at one point Ryan Bundy told a reporter the group was willing to kill or die if necessary. It would take little work to draw a clear through line from the movement that spawned Timothy McVeigh to the loose confederation around the Bundy family. One of the radicals posted a “goodbye” video to YouTube, taking as a given that he would be slain by the government during the occupation. Between their assault rifles and their implicitly violent rhetoric, opinion pieces at Newsweek, the Washington Post, and CNN all argued that the occupiers were domestic terrorists.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy had earned extremist cachet prior to the Oregon takeover, when, in 2014, they joined with supporters (many of them armed) and their father Cliven Bundy to chase off agents of the Bureau of Land Management who were trying to confiscate Cliven Bundy’s cattle in connection with delinquent grazing fees. Senator Harry Reid at the time denounced the ideologues as “nothing more than domestic terrorists” who do “not recognize the United States.”

And indeed, many in the “Patriot Movement” also consider themselves “sovereign citizens,” a logically bankrupt (and sometimes violent) strain of anti-government anger in which you simply declares yourself exempt from American laws and, in particular, the payment of taxes. At MSNBC, a former ATF agent described his work with homegrown extremists like those at Malheur:

“We worked them under the classification of domestic terrorism. There is the umbrella federal crime of terrorism, and domestic terrorism is a classification we used against any homegrown group which intends to coerce or intimidate through threats or acts of violence.”

It’s worth noting that Ammon Bundy and five of his followers were, surprisingly, acquitted of federal charges stemming from their occupation of the reserve, while federal charges in connection with the Nevada case remain tied up in court following a mistrial. Still, had the group’s members been born in Pakistan or Syria, Harney County would probably resemble the surface of the moon right now. American radicals like the Bundy clan are cuter about their fantasies of destroying the federal government than, say, ISIS, who of course won’t hesitate to explicitly call for violent attacks using every medium at their disposal. Domestic extremists are sometimes more careful about their words, and rely on insinuations and dog whistles rather than overt threats, and American gun culture makes it easy to camouflage violent speech within political speech. But what is an online call for armed reinforcements and a willingness to shed blood (or die) if confronted by police if not a threat?

 

Throughout the entire ordeal, the occupiers (and their sympathizers nationwide) made extensive use of the social web (including Facebook) to coordinate and spread their message  (the Bundy Ranch Facebook group has nearly 200,000 followers today). Federal prosecutors and investigators with the FBI’s Domestic Terorrism Operations Unit zeroed in on the occupiers’ use of Facebook, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported at the time. Since the occupation, finding anti-government extremism on Facebook remains easy. This seems at odds with Facebook’s zero-tolerance policy.

Asked whether the company is as committed to combating white extremists as jihadists, a Facebook spokersperson reiterated that the company’s policy was to refuse a presence to any person or group who supports a violent agenda. When asked about specific entities like the Bundy family, the spokesperson replied “I can’t speak to the specific groups you cited, but, again, if a group has engaged in acts of violence, we don’t want to give them a voice on Facebook.” So what’s violence, then? “Does Facebook,” I asked, “consider the armed takeover of a federal building to be an act of violence?” The company’s reply: “I don’t have an answer on that.” Brian Fishman, a co-author of the Facebook company post on terrorism, did not answer a request for comment.

Daryl Johnson is a former Homeland Security analyst who spent years studying domestic threats to the United States. Johnson told The Intercept that although “not all extremists are violent,” treating domestic threats as something distinct from the likes of ISIS for policy purposes “on the surface makes sense, but if you start comparing and contrasting, it doesn’t.” Domestic extremists “are using social media sites as platforms to put forth their extreme ideas and a violent agenda, enabling people to recruit and spread” their ideology—an ideology that Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center said is as dangerous as any threat from the Middle East. “It’s as though terrorism can’t be white,” Beirich told The Intercept after reviewing the Facebook post. “They’re willing to go hardcore against ISIS and Al Qaeda, but where’s the response to white supremacism and its role in domestic terrorism or anti-government crazies?” To Beirich, “What this article is saying is how we counter Islamic terrorism,” not terrorism per se:

My position is this is outrageous. Terrorism from the Dylan Roofs of the world is as much of a problem here in the United States as it is from the Tsarnaev brothers. The bodies stacked on both sides is about the same since 9/11. I  don’t understand why they can’t see that. It’s worrying to me because it plays into the narrative as though all terrorism is coming from radical Islam, which is a false narrative. This adds to that, and it takes our eye off the ball in terms of where terrorism comes from..a large chunk of our domestic terrorism is committed by folks with beliefs like those at the Bundy Ranch or Malheur occupation.

Without further comment from Facebook, one can only speculate about why ISIS gets top billing and Bundy supporters do not—but little speculation is needed. A beheading video or pipe bomb instruction image are no-brainers for content moderators, while posts about armed anti-government sedition are perhaps murkier (especially if Facebook is going to let algorithms do the heavy lifting). Labeling right-wing extremism as terrorism would also likely cause a public relations migraine Facebook doesn’t care for, particularly after reports of how it filters out bogus right-wing news sources have already tarnished its image on the right.

All of this is to say that the work ahead of Facebook, if it really does want to be serious about combating terrorism, is extremely difficult, and given the company’s track record, may well be fumbled. Preventing Facebook from being a place where anti-government radicals can comfortably spread an ideology of implicit violence feels reasonable, while blocking discussions about these figures and ideologies — in everything from academic or journalistic contexts to your dad’s News Feed — would not. When does sympathy for an armed radical group become support? When (if ever) does Facebook-cheering a violent group become complicity in the violence? This is deeply complex and horribly fraught, whether you’re looking at Mosul or Montana. Facebook knows this, which is why its article on moderating extremist content is titled “Hard Questions.” Facebook also knows that an overly broad crackdown on foreign terrorism would provoke the tiniest fraction of backlash compared to clamping down on right-wing white America, where love of assault rifle ownership and hatred for government are shared in polite society. But hard questions deserve better than cop outs, which is exactly what ignoring white, domestic terrorism amounts to: a cop out. If the company wants to live up to its commitments here, it will require even harder work, harder thinking, harder scrutiny, and harder debates. Yes, it might require sometimes banning extremists in cowboy hats.

Top photo: Members of the Georgia Security Forces (GSF) are seen during military drill with other group members of III% Georgia Security Force in Flovilla, Georgia, USA on November 12, 2016.

The post Facebook’s Tough-on-Terror Talk Overlooks White Extremists appeared first on The Intercept.

Paid FBI Informant Leading Counterterror Case Ran Wire Fraud Scams on the Side

6 July 2017 - 10:57am

A confidential informant who helped ensnare three Florida men as ISIS supporters in an FBI sting was simultaneously running wire fraud scams on the side.

Gregory HubbardDayne Antani Christian, and Darren Arness Jackson all lived in or near West Palm Beach, Florida. It’s unclear how they first met the FBI’s informant, Mohammed Agbareia, but according to FBI documents, Hubbard and Agbareia were friendly enough by April 2015 that Hubbard felt comfortable emailing him a 100-page e-book published by ISIS.

Hubbard had told Agbareia that he wanted to travel to Syria to join the terrorist group. “You do not want to get busted on the way there,” Hubbard told him.

Hubbard introduced Agbareia to Christian and Jackson. For months, they talked about jihad, schemed about ways to join ISIS, and fired guns at targets. Christian, a convicted felon who had made false statements on paperwork to buy guns and was not permitted to possess firearms, sold an AK-47 to Agbareia.

In July 2016, Hubbard and Agbareia purchased plane tickets to Germany, ostensibly the first leg of their journey to Syria. Jackson drove Hubbard and Agbareia to Miami International Airport, at which point Jackson, Hubbard, and Christian were arrested and charged with providing material support to ISIS. Christian was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Jackson and Christian have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Hubbard has elected to go to trial.

The government has stonewalled efforts by defense lawyers to acquire the identity of and information about Agbareia under rules of evidence that require prosecutors to disclose information that would be helpful to a defendant’s case.

According to court records, Agbareia began working for the FBI only after being convicted in U.S. District Court in Alabama for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

In 2004, Agbareia, who was then in Canada, called the Islamic Society of Mobile claiming to be a man named Dr. Mohammed Salem Al-Saleh from the Islamic Bank of Development in Saudi Arabia. Agbareia told Husam Omar, the vice president of the Mobile religious organization, that the Islamic Bank of Development was offering financial support and that an associate named Zouhair Hissy would be in Alabama soon to finalize a payment. The next day, Agbareia called again, this time claiming to be Hissy. He told Omar that he and his wife were stranded in Canada and needed money to purchase tickets to continue the journey to Alabama. Omar sent Agbareia $1,500 by Western Union. Of course, no one came to Alabama. It was a scam.

After pleading guilty to the wire fraud case in March 2006, Agbareia was ordered to report to immigration authorities for possible deportation. But instead of being removed from the United States, Agbareia signed up with the FBI.

Even while working for federal law enforcement — and while leading a counterterrorism sting against Hubbard, Christian, and Jackson — Agbareia continued his scamming ways. According to a new wire fraud indictment handed down in Florida on June 27, Agbareia has continued to swindle people with his stranded traveler scheme. He received six Western Union wire transfers from 2012 to 2017 from victims in Texas, Colorado, New York, Ohio, and Germany. Two of the wire transfers — one for $1,414.26 from Berlin and another for $1,000 from Brooklyn — occurred around the time he was working undercover in the FBI’s ISIS sting.

Agbareia could not be reached. His lawyer, Donnie Murrell, did not respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors have acknowledged that there are intersections between Agbareia’s scams and his undercover work for the FBI. In a filing, federal prosecutor Jared M. Strauss has asked that evidence against Agbareia be placed under a protective order because “certain portions of the case relate to a matter of national security.”

That should be news to the defense lawyers who represent Hubbard, Christian, and Jackson. Despite two of the defendants already having pleaded guilty, federal prosecutors have yet to come clean about Agbareia.

In a March 14 hearing, Hubbard’s defense lawyer, Vanessa Chen, explained that she and her co-counsel had been requesting information about Agbareia since the fall of 2016. “Because this is a proactive prosecution on the part of the FBI, as opposed to a reactive one, that underscores the importance of the information regarding the confidential informant,” Chen told the judge. “In essence, this is the catalyst and crux of their case.”

Federal prosecutors’ position has been that they do not have an obligation to provide information about the FBI’s informant so far in advance of a trial, since Hubbard’s is not scheduled until October 30. “In a national security case at this point, I mean, we understand our obligations to turn it over, but the trial is in late October,” federal prosecutor Edward Nucci said in the March 14 hearing. The judge in the case has since set a July 31 deadline for prosecutors to turn over information about Agbareia.

Federal prosecutors did not respond to a request for comment. Anthony J. Natale, who is Chen’s co-counsel in defending Hubbard, also declined to comment. “Anything we have to say on this matter we will say in our pleadings or in our court hearings,” Natale added. Lawyers representing Christian and Jackson did not respond to a request for comment.

This is the latest in a long list of cases in which the FBI has struggled to curb the criminal activity of its more than 15,000 informants. An FBI report disclosed in 2011 found that agents permitted informants to break the law 5,658 times in a single year. In counterterrorism cases, informants violating the law without the FBI’s permission — as was the case here with Agbareia — is not an uncommon occurrence. Elie Assaad, who worked the Liberty City Seven case in Miami and at least one other counterterrorism sting, was arrested for choking his pregnant wife around the time he was undercover with the FBI. The charges were dropped after Assaad’s wife changed her mind about prosecuting. In another example, the informant who led a counterterrorism sting against a Massachusetts man named Rezwan Ferdaus purchased heroin while on FBI video.

In Agbareia’s case, federal prosecutors are asking the judge to invoke the Classified Information Procedures Act to protect some evidence, including testimony from the defendant’s wife and son, from public release. Agbareia’s lawyer, Murrell, noted in a June 30 filing that federal prosecutors haven’t specified the level of classification — top secret, secret or confidential — the evidence involves, raising questions that the information “is not ‘classified’ simply because it might embarrass law enforcement or in some way hinder prosecution of this or other cases.”

Federal prosecutors have requested Agbareia’s witnesses disclose upfront the testimony they intend to offer, giving the U.S. Attorney’s Office an opportunity to agree to the release of “a stipulated, declassified summary of that information.” In other words, federal prosecutors want to use claims of classified evidence to control the information Agbareia can use in his defense.

Top photo: A pedestrian walks past American Flags hanging on display outside the FBI headquarters in Washington on Thursday, May 11, 2017.

The post Paid FBI Informant Leading Counterterror Case Ran Wire Fraud Scams on the Side appeared first on The Intercept.

Canada Just Did Something the U.S. Never Has: Paid Millions to a Guantanamo Torture Victim

6 July 2017 - 9:17am

Last weekend, the government of Canada did something its U.S. counterpart never has. As part of a legal settlement, Canada agreed to pay $10 million in damages to a former Guantanamo detainee and U.S. torture victim.

Seven years after the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that a citizen’s rights had been violated by his own government because of his detention and alleged torture in U.S. custody, former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr settled a lawsuit with the government for an apology and millions of dollars.

“Canada should be commended for taking this step,” said Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel for Human Rights Watch. “Unfortunately, the U.S. government, most responsible for Khadr’s mistreatment, has failed to fulfill its obligation to provide compensation and redress, not just in Khadr’s case but in the case of scores of other men wrongfully detained and tortured in U.S. custody.”

In 2015, after spending a decade in Guantanamo and 3 years in a maximum-security prison in Ontario, the Canadian government released 28-year-old Khadr on bail. Khadr was only 15 in 2002 when he was captured, accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier during a firefight at a suspected Al Qaeda compound.

He became the youngest prisoner ever held at Guantanamo Bay. Instead of treating Khadr like a child soldier and demanding his rehabilitation, the Canadian government sent intelligence agents to interrogate him. According court affidavits, Khadr told visiting Canadian officials that he had confessed under torture. He claims to have shown them his injuries, but the officials refused to help.

The details of Khadr’s decade-long legal battle are complicated, but the result is simple: Khadr, now 30 and released on bail, settled a lawsuit against the government for $10 million and an apology.

This photo reviewed by military before release shows an unstaffed tower in an abandoned portion of Guantanamo’s Detention Center Zone on Feb. 12, 2017.

Photo: Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS/Getty Images

This is not the first time Canada has made payments to victims of U.S. torture. In 2007, the Conservative Canadian government agreed to pay $10 million to Maher Arar, another Canadian national, over its role in his rendition by the U.S. to Syria and subsequent torture. Three months ago, Canada agreed to pay three more torture victims whom they had helped render to foreign prisons.

And Canada is not alone. In 2008, Sweden paid $500,000 to a former terror suspect for handing him over to U.S. officials in 2002, who sent him to Egypt to be tortured. In 2010, Britain agreed to pay millions of pounds to 16 former Guantanamo detainees because of its role in their U.S. detention. The same year, Australia reached an settlement with Mamdouh Habib – an Australian national held at Guantanamo — for an undisclosed amount of money.

The U.S., however, has yet to pay out a cent in legal settlements to the 700-some-odd men it has released from Guantanamo Bay who were all held without charge. And the U.S. has never compensated, let alone apologized, to any of its post-9/11 torture victims.

“I can’t remember any settlement awarding damages to Guantanamo detainees, nor I think to a victim of U.S. torture,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney with the ACLU who specializes in detention-related abuses, referring to the absence of U.S. compensation to its victims.

Part of the reason, according to Ladin, is that Congress passed a law in 2006 trying to prevent exactly that. The law bars courts from hearing detention-related damage claims from any non-citizen the US has designated as an “enemy combatant.”

Ladin said the measure had been used by federal courts to dismiss at least three lawsuits from Guantanamo detainees. “There’re real constitutional questions that are raised by leaving people without any remedy for constitutional violations,” Ladin said.

Another major obstacle to restitution for torture victims is that the U.S. broadly interprets certain immunity doctrines for national security officials. In 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit against John Yoo — the author of the so-called torture memos, the rationale the Bush administration used to justify harsh interrogations after 9/11 — arguing he had immunity because the definition of torture wasn’t firmly established.

Other cases have been thrown out because of secrecy, or on purely procedural grounds. The Obama administration invoked the state secrets privilege in 2010 to block a lawsuit against a Boeing subsidiary for helping the CIA transport detainees to its global network of secret prisons.

In one particularly outrageous case, two U.S. contractors (and citizens) were tortured in a U.S. maximum-security prison in Baghdad after they were wrongly accused of smuggling weapons. But, in 2014, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals denied damages, reasoning on purely procedural grounds that Congress had never legislated a federal cause of action, so they could not be awarded damages.

Ladin said U.S. courts are shy about allowing cases against national security officials to go forward. “Once you talk about cases that are overseas, or cases that involve the military they’re extremely, extremely reluctant to allow those cases to go forward,” Ladin told The Intercept.

The extreme difficulty of holding U.S. officials accountable has enabled abuses beyond torture and indefinite detention. Despite sending some victims money under the table, the Obama administration has repeatedly argued in court that drone strike victims should not be allowed to sue the government for damages.

Top photo: Omar Khadr looks out the window of his home on May 9, 2015, two days after being freed from custody.

The post Canada Just Did Something the U.S. Never Has: Paid Millions to a Guantanamo Torture Victim appeared first on The Intercept.

Sobrinho de Barata teve casamento à poderoso chefão em plena “crise” dos ônibus no Rio

6 July 2017 - 5:00am

Em 22 de dezembro de 2016, o site da Federação das Empresas de Transportes de Passageiros do Rio (Fetranspor) divulgou um comunicado em tom de preocupação. Em meio a incertezas sobre o reajuste das tarifas de ônibus na capital fluminense, a entidade afirmou ser de “domínio público” que o setor estava em crise. Mas um evento realizado dias antes, revela que, mesmo em época de alegadas “vacas magras”, a família de Jacob Barata Filho, herdeiro do empresário homônimo conhecido como “Rei do Ônibus” e preso esta semana na Operação Ponto Final, não perdeu a pose. Muito pelo contrário.

Como em julho de 2013, em plena época de manifestações que pediam melhorias no sistema de transportes, o casamento da filha de Jacob, Beatriz Barata, foi ofuscado por protestos, seu sobrinho – também chamado Jacob – tomou todos os cuidados para que a festa não atraísse a atenção alheia. The Intercept Brasil, porém, teve acesso a um vídeo e aos detalhes da celebração que, assim como a de Beatriz, foi realizada no Copacabana Palace.

É difícil estimar o preço de tanta ostentação, mas pessoas próximas aos noivos dizem que os gastos com a festa podem ter ficado entre  R$ 2 milhões e R$ 3 milhões. Enquanto isso, no mundo real do transporte público: apesar de todas as reclamações dos donos de empresas, os dados financeiros mais recentes divulgados pelas companhias que atuam na cidade do Rio, por exemplo, mostram que, de quatro consórcios que administram o sistema, o que teve pior desempenho lucrou R$ 2,973 milhões, de janeiro a abril deste ano. Os dados são de receita menos custo operacional. Ou seja, já dava para, ao menos, pagar um casamento.

Jacob Barata, o “rei do ônibus”, todo feliz no casamento do sobrinho.

reprodução/V Rebel

Apesar da tentativa de discrição, um relato bastante detalhado do evento do Copa, realizado no dia 17 de dezembro passado, foi publicada no site “Inesquecível casamento”. Jacob, de 23 anos, casou-se com a estudante Fernanda Vanzan, de 22. As principais atrações musicais da noite foram o cantor Thiaguinho e o Dream Team do Passinho. Também foi chamado o grupo “Violinos Mágicos de Murillo Loures”, formado por profissionais de quatro orquestras do Rio, como as Sinfônicas Petrobras e do Teatro Municipal.

Tanto as fotos da cerimônia na igreja quanto as da festa no Copacabana Palace mostram uma profusão de flores. Segundo o site, teriam sido usadas somente no salão do hotel cerca de 5 mil rosas inglesas individualmente espetadas por floristas, com o auxílio de andaimes. No varejo, uma flor como esta custa cerca de R$ 30 a unidade. Ou seja, só com os arranjos podem ter sido gastos até R$ 150 mil. Em média, vagas para motoristas de ônibus no Rio têm sido oferecidas com salários de até R$ 2,5 mil. Cinco anos de vencimentos de um profissional como este pagariam apenas as flores do matrimônio.

Convidados se divertem, regados a

reprodução/V Rebel

A organização ficou a cargo do cerimonialista Roberto Cohen, uma das figuras mais solicitadas para a realização de eventos na high society carioca. As madrinhas teriam recebido colares de R$ 2 mil para usar no grande dia. Os padrinhos teriam ganhado uma garrafa de uísque Black Label.

O vídeo, feito pela produtora V Rebel, tem pouco mais de cinco minutos e resume os momentos de felicidade do casal. Até o grande patriarca da família, Jacob Barata, aparece em ao menos duas cenas. As imagens mostram ainda outros detalhes como gaiolas com dançarinas, torre de champanhe e chuva de papel picado dourado. Difícil avaliar onde está o limite do bom gosto.

Um dos objetivos da decoração da festa era reproduzir um pedaço da região da Toscana, na Itália. O vestido da noiva tinha detalhes em flores. No cabelo, ela usou orquídeas. Mas um detalhe chama a atenção no noivo: segundo o “Inesquecível Casamento”, a inspiração de sua roupa, toda preta, foi no filme “O poderoso chefão”. Na vida real, com a cúpula das empresas de ônibus na cadeia, o momento parece ser de revés para a famiglia.

 

The post Sobrinho de Barata teve casamento à poderoso chefão em plena “crise” dos ônibus no Rio appeared first on The Intercept.

Defesa admite que foi Loures quem organizou encontro entre Joesley e Temer

5 July 2017 - 5:32pm

A conversa de Michel Temer com Joesley Batista não envolveu ilícitos, a gravação não passou por perícia e o laudo da Polícia Federal sobre a mesma foi inconclusivo. Pelo menos é o que afirma o texto de defesa apresentado pelos advogados de Michel Temer à Comissão de Constituição e Justiça da Câmara dos Deputados. Na tentativa de negar todos os fatos recentemente noticiados sobre o caso — afinal, Temer e Joesley falaram em obstrução de Justiça, a Polícia Federal fez, sim, uma perícia a pedido do Ministério Público, e o laudo final concluiu que não houve edições na gravação —, pelo menos uma coisa os advogados do presidente admitem: foi seu assessor Rodrigo Loures quem organizou o encontro do presidente com Joesley.

A pedido de Rodrigo Loures, o Presidente, sem possibilidade de agenda, concordou em recebê-lo à noite, no Jaburu, e acompanhado do próprio Loures. Atendeu no Jaburu como fez com inúmeros outros que o procuraram.  Rodrigo não foi por alguma razão. No entanto, foi ele quem marcou a entrevista e deu o número da placa do automóvel que os transportaria, no qual Joesley acabou indo.” [ênfase adicionado]

Um relatório da Polícia Federal, entregue ao Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) em junho, conclui que houve “pagamento de vantagem indevida” a Temer de maneira “remota” através de Loures. O dinheiro seria pago pelos empresários do Grupo J&F.

Negação

Na conversa gravada entre Joesley e Temer, em que a perícia da Polícia Federal confirmou não haver edições, o empresário admite estar “dando conta” de dois juízes. A perícia da Polícia Federal constatou que, ao ouvir a confissão e incentivar o ato, o presidente também incorre no crime de obstrução.

Joesley: Aqui, eu dei conta de um lado o juiz, dá uma segurada. Do outro lado o juiz substituto, que é o cara que ficou…

Temer: Tá segurando os dois?

Joesley: Tô segurando os dois.

Temer: Ótimo, ótimo…

Para os advogados de Temer, no entanto, “nada de ilegal fora tratado naquela oportunidade”. A defesa também afirma que “Quanto ao intento de sua visita, bem, possuísse ele poderes adivinhatórios, determinaria a sua imediata prisão”. Temer não precisava de bola de cristal para determinar a prisão de Joesley, bastava ele ter alertado as devidas autoridades logo após ouvir o empresário confessar o crime. No entanto, o presidente optou por incentivá-lo: “Ótimo, ótimo”.

The post Defesa admite que foi Loures quem organizou encontro entre Joesley e Temer appeared first on The Intercept.

Defesa de Temer fala em “arapongagem” para atacar gravação de Joesley

5 July 2017 - 4:45pm

O advogado de Michel Temer, Antonio Cláudio Mariz de Oliveira, do escritório Mariz de Oliveira, entregou na tarde desta quarta-feira (5) na Comissão de Constituição e Justiça (CCJ) do Congresso o documento com 98 páginas de defesa do presidente da denúncia da Procuradoria-Geral da República por corrupção passiva. Para o STF analisar a denúncia, a Câmara precisa autorizar o prosseguimento da acusação.

Mariz de Oliveira dedicou um capítulo do documento para defender o direito às “garantias da intimidade e da vida privada”, atacando a gravação de conversa feita pelo dono da JBS, o empresário Joesley Batista. Num dos trechos, o advogado usa até a expressão “direito de arapongagem”, numa referência aos policiais que gravavam conversas clandestinamente durante a ditadura.

“É necessário questionar: qual seria o interesse a ser preservado de Joesley Batista? Direito de arapongagem? Direito de obter benefícios absurdos que lhe foram concedidos pelo Procurador-Geral da República em troca da tal gravação? Direito de fazer implodir a economia brasileira, faturar centenas de milhões de dólares com informações privilegiadas, e ainda se refugiar na 5ª Avenida em Nova Iorque, num dos endereços mais caros do mundo?”.

O advogado também afirma que, caso a gravação seja válida, “estaremos fadados a um interminável reality show”:

“E se tal conduta for autorizada em face do líder maior da Nação, todas as autoridades deste país estarão sujeitas a procedimento similar. Todas, sem exceção. Tudo poderá ser gravado, registrado, controlado e divulgado quando bem se entender. Estaremos fadados a um interminável reality show onde não só a governabilidade restará comprometida, mas também os próprios fundamentos nos quais se baseiam o nosso Estado Democrático de Direito”.

O relator escolhido na CCJ, deputado Sérgio Zveiter, deve dar seu parecer sobre a acusação até a próxima segunda-feira.

Leia a denúncia denúncia na íntegra.

The post Defesa de Temer fala em “arapongagem” para atacar gravação de Joesley appeared first on The Intercept.

Republican Congressman Clay Higgins Rebuked for Filming Political Diatribe at Auschwitz

5 July 2017 - 1:36pm

Clay Higgins, a former police officer who now represents a Louisiana district in Congress, was criticized on Tuesday by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland for recording a political message in support of increased military spending by the United States during a recent visit to the death camp.

Everyone has the right to personal reflections. However, inside a former gas chamber, there should be mournful silence. It's not a stage. https://t.co/AN5aA1bYEU

— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 4, 2017

The public rebuke came in response to a Fourth of July video message uploaded to a conservative Christian website over the weekend in which Higgins offers viewers a guided tour of the gas chambers, set to the theme music from “Schindler’s List.” He then turns to the camera and says: “This is why homeland security must be squared away, why our military must be invincible.”

Higgins — who made his name in a series of melodramatic YouTube videos threatening criminals wanted by the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office in Opelousas, La. — is a virulently anti-Muslim fundamentalist Christian. In response to a terrorist attack carried out by Islamists in London last month, the viral star argued on Facebook that “all of Christendom … is at war with Islamic horror.” The only solution to the threat posed by “these heathen animals,” he added, is to “hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all.”

In his meditation on what the death camp teaches us, Higgins refers to “man’s inhumanity to man,” but somehow fails to mention that the vast majority of those exterminated at Auschwitz, 1 million Jews, were members of a persecuted religious minority.

Instead, Higgins tries to draw a parallel between the threat posed by the Nazis to European Jews and what he has previously claimed is the goal of Islamist militants to convert or kill every American.

“The world’s a smaller place now than it was in World War II,” Higgins observes. “The United States is more accessible to terror like this, horror like this.”

“It’s hard to walk away from the gas chambers and ovens without a very sober feeling of commitment — unwavering commitment — to make damn sure that the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world,” the congressman concludes.

On one of his official Facebook pages, the message from Auschwitz was described as, “a stark reminder about the Independence we celebrate on July 4.”

Top photo: Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., in Washington in May.

The post Republican Congressman Clay Higgins Rebuked for Filming Political Diatribe at Auschwitz appeared first on The Intercept.

New House Bill Would Kill Gerrymandering and Could Move America Away From Two-Party Dominance

5 July 2017 - 12:58pm

If you want good job security, get elected to Congress. In 2016, the U.S. House had a 97 percent re-election rate, despite the latest Gallup poll placing the House’s approval rating at 21 percent.

A big part of the reason why is the way we elect our representatives. The U.S. uses a winner-take-all, single-member district system. Those districts are often drawn in a way to privilege one party over another — which is called gerrymandering. So if you’re a Democrat living in a district drawn to include a huge number of Republican voters, your vote is purposely drowned out (and vice versa).

And the winner-take-all, first-past-the-post system means that if you want to vote for a third party, your vote will often be “wasted,” as two parties compete to get the most votes and other votes are considered inconsequential to the outcome. If a candidate wins 40 percent of the vote, while her two opponents get 30 percent each, the first one wins, even though 60 percent of the district voted against her. That dynamic effectively forces political actors to sort themselves into two parties, or risk being boxed out of power entirely.

Gerrymandering, combined with the way voters have sorted themselves into cities and rural areas, means that even while Democrats consistently win a majority of votes cast for House candidates, Republicans wind up controlling the House of Representatives regardless.

A group of representatives in the House want to change this system, and are introducing legislation to change this system and make America’s federal elections more representative and competitive.

Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer authored and introduced the Fair Representation Act, which would enact a series of reforms designed to make our elections more competitive and open them up to more parties. Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland have co-sponsored the legislation.

The bill would do three things: require all congressional districts to be drawn by independent redistricting commissions, establish multi-member districts, and have all districts use what’s known as ranked-choice voting (RCV).

The independent redistricting would take power away from partisan legislatures to draw congressional district lines, meaning that one party or another could no longer engage in gerrymandering.

Multi-member districts would mean that voters in each district would have the opportunity to elect multiple legislators to represent them instead of just one — which would mean that more people in the district would have the opportunity to elect someone closer to their own ideology rather than being stuck with one lawmaker who may or may not represent their viewpoint.

Finally, perhaps the most significant reform in the bill is RCV. Under this system, voters would be able to rank their preferences among various candidates and parties, rather than simply casting one vote for each office. If no candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes, then second-preferences are accounted for, and so on, until one candidate has a majority. Under RCV, you can vote your conscience without helping a candidate you loathe win instead.

RCV would make it so that there is no longer anything as a “wasted” vote — if your candidate ends up not being one of the top two candidates in the election, you can deliver your other votes to one of those instead. It would also force major party candidates to respect third-party voters and their ideas — after all, they would want their second-preference votes, and their third, and so on and so forth.

Lastly, it would eliminate the need for expensive runoff elections, as under this system the runoffs would be instantaneous.

Watch this video from the Minnesota Public Radio explaining how RCV works. Minneapolis has used this system for local elections since 2009:

(Maine’s voters approved RCV in a referendum in the 2016 election; however the state’s supreme court is blocking the move.)

In an interview with The Intercept, Rep. Khanna stressed the benefits the bill would have in changing Congress to make it more representative of Americans.

“The reform of Congress is one of the biggest priorities to empower citizens,” he said. “This would help with minority representation and more women because many times communities in a small population are shut out and multi-candidate districts would allow them to have proportional voice.”

He also said it would help finally open up America’s so-called “two-party system” to more political choice and competition thanks to RCV.

The major obstacle is getting a Congress full of incumbents from the two parties to support legislation that would cut against their own self-interest. Khanna suggested that only grassroots pressure move legislators to act.

“The challenge is how do we get that kind of thinking that we need to challenge incumbency and we need to challenge the two-party system in a Congress where everyone has bought into that system?” he asked. “That’s where I think Don Beyer showed I think extraordinary courage in introducing this bill. The only way that change is going to come is if we have the grassroots citizens start to demand that change.”

DENVER, CO – A polling place in Denver, Colorado on November 8, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

The post New House Bill Would Kill Gerrymandering and Could Move America Away From Two-Party Dominance appeared first on The Intercept.

CNN Warns It May Expose an Anonymous Critic if He Ever Again Publishes Bad Content

5 July 2017 - 12:11pm

(updated below)

A controversy erupted late Tuesday night after CNN published an article announcing that it had uncovered the identity of the anonymous Reddit user who created the video of President Donald Trump punching a CNN logo. CNN and other outlets had previously reported that this user, who uses a pseudonym, had also posted anti-Semitic and racist content on Reddit, including an image identifying all of the Jewish employees of CNN, designated with a Jewish star next to their photos.

Though CNN decided — for now — not to reveal his name, the network made clear that this discretion was predicated on the user’s lengthy public apology, his promise not to repeat the behavior, and his status as a private citizen. But in its article, the network explicitly threatened that it could change its mind about withholding the user’s real name if his behavior changes in the future:

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same. CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

Several of the objections made to CNN’s conduct here appear to be false. That includes the claim by the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., that the user threatened by CNN is 15 years old (the CNN reporter, Andrew Kaczynski, said the Reddit user is an adult). The claim that CNN “blackmailed” the user into apologizing — expressed by a Twitter hashtag, #CNNBlackmail, that still sits at the top of trending topics on the site — seems dubious at best, since there is no evidence the user spoke to CNN before posting his apology (though CNN itself says it contacted the user the day before he posted his apology, which presumably means he knew CNN had found out his name when he posted it).

But the invalidity of those particular accusations does not exonerate CNN. There is something self-evidently creepy, bullying, and heavy-handed about a large news organization publicly announcing that it will expose someone’s identity if he ever again publishes content on the internet that the network deems inappropriate or objectionable. Whether it was CNN’s intent or not, its article makes it appear as if CNN will be monitoring this citizen’s online writing, and will punish him with exposure if he writes something they dislike.

There is also something untoward about the fact that CNN — the subject of the original video — was the news outlet that uncovered his identity. That fact creates the appearance of vengeance: If you, even as a random and anonymous internet user, post content critical of CNN, then it will use its vast corporate resources to investigate you, uncover your identity, and threaten to expose you if you ever do so again.

The reality here is likely more complicated. The most offensive passage here — “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change” — sounds like classic lawyer language that executives or corporate lawyers would demand be included. It does not sound like something a typical journalist would write on their own. (CNN did not respond to The Intercept’s inquiries about who inserted this language or what future behavior on the part of the user might trigger CNN’s threat to expose him; we will update this article if any response is received.)

And CNN’s role in discovering this user’s identity is likely more a by-product of Kaczynski’s well-established internet-sleuthing skills than a corporate decision to target a critic. Indeed, the decision to withhold the person’s name — had it been made without the threat to expose it in the future — could arguably be heralded as a commendable case of journalistic restraint.

In response to the controversy last night, Kaczynski argued that “this line is being misinterpreted. It was intended only to mean we made no agreement [with] the man about his identity.” That may have been CNN’s intent, but that is not what the sentence says.

Whatever the intent, this is a case where one of the nation’s most powerful media corporations is explicitly threatening a critic with exposure should he publish material that the network deems — based on its own secret standards — to be worthy of punishment. And the threat comes in the wake of his groveling public apology, posted less than a day after he learned CNN had discovered his identity.

There is also a real question about whether a news organization — when deciding what information is newsworthy — should take into account factors such as whether someone is remorseful for what they said and whether they promise not to express similar views in the future. Those considerations seem to be the province of those vested with the power to punish bad behavior — a parent, a police officer, or a judge — rather than a news outlet. All of this has a strong whiff of CNN deciding who is a good boy and who is a bad boy based on the content of their views, and doling out journalistic punishments and rewards accordingly.

Moreover, if this person’s name is newsworthy — on the ground that racists or others who post inflammatory content should be publicly exposed and vilified — does it matter if he expressed what CNN executives regard as sufficient remorse? And if his name is not newsworthy, then why should CNN be threatening to reveal it in the event that he makes future utterances that the network dislikes?

If you’re someone who believes that media corporations should expose the identity even of random, anonymous internet users who express anti-Semitic or racist views, then you should be prepared to identify the full list of views that merit similar treatment. Should anyone who supports Trump have their identity exposed? Those who oppose marriage equality? Those with views deemed sexist? Those who advocate Communism? Are you comfortable with having corporate media executives decide which views merit public exposure?

Whatever else is true, CNN is a massive media corporation that is owned by an even larger corporation. It has virtually unlimited resources. We should cheer when those resources are brought to bear to investigate those who exercise great political and economic power. But when it is used to threaten and punish a random, obscure citizen who has criticized the network — no matter how objectionable his views might be — it resembles corporate bullying and creepy censorship more than actual journalism.

UPDATE: CNN just issued a statement in response to the controversy its article provoked:

All of these claims are already included in this article, but note two key points: 1) while the Reddit user’s apology was posted before he spoke to any CNN reporter, he posted it after he was contacted by CNN, which means he knew when he publicly apologized that the network had unearthed his identity; and, more importantly, 2) CNN’s claim that it merely meant to convey “that there was no deal” is squarely at odds with what its article actually warned: “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” That sentence – which can only be read as a threat to reveal his name should he post more offending material in the future – is what has triggered the anger at CNN, and the network’s statement does not address that at all. Finally, CNN apparently refuses to say whether this threatening language was included by its reporter (who has borne the brunt of the public anger) or by its lawyers and executives demanding that it be included.

The post CNN Warns It May Expose an Anonymous Critic if He Ever Again Publishes Bad Content appeared first on The Intercept.

Religiosos lutam para libertar orixás da polícia

4 July 2017 - 5:05pm

Fé é crime? A resposta óbvia para essa pergunta seria não. Mas, no Brasil, já foi. No início do século XX, a prática das religiões de matriz africana era considerada crime pelo código penal e diversos objetos ritualísticos foram apreendidos em batidas policiais. O texto do artigo que tornava “o espiritismo, a magia e seus sortilégios” crimes foi alterado em 1940, mas teve efeito prático até 1960. No entanto, no Rio de Janeiro, a Polícia Civil continua mantendo até hoje em seu acervo cerca de 200 peças sagradas para umbandistas e candomblecistas. Mais de 100 anos depois, líderes religiosos e ativistas do movimento negro buscam a transferência desta parte da história para um local apropriado e de exaltação à cultura negra através da campanha “Liberte o Nosso Sagrado”.

“Queremos colocar as peças em lugar mais adequado e não na polícia. Não em um prédio que foi sede do Dops durante a Ditadura Militar com toda essa carga negativa, onde torturas aconteceram. Para que as pessoas tomem conhecimento do que ocorreu esse tempo todo e saibam que essas peças são peças sagradas de uma religião dos nossos ancestrais”, explicou a Yalorixá Luizinha da Nanã durante a marcha do movimento Ocupa Dops . O grupo luta pela transformação do Museu da Polícia Civil em um espaço de memória da Ditadura.

A peças chegaram a ficar expostas por anos ao lado de símbolos nazista no Museu da Polícia Civil com a denominação “Coleção Magia Negra”, mas, hoje, estão longe do acesso do público e de pesquisadores e encontram-se no acervo do museu. Entre os objetos estão imagens, instrumentos musicais e vestimentas tombados pelo Serviço do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, atual Iphan, ainda em 1938.

Racismo Religioso

A ideia da campanha é usar a história para debater o racismo religioso que atualmente se manifesta de outras formas. No passado, era amparado pela lei, já que a religião era criminalizada pelo Estado. Hoje, o preconceito se faz presente em buscas por brechas nela, principalmente, por meio da perturbação do sossego.

Em março de 2017, pai Edson de Omulu foi condenado a 15 dias de prisão por perturbação do sossego no Recife (PE). O Babalorixá afirmou se tratar de um caso de racismo religioso, pois o autor da ação já havia tentando impedir o culto de diversas formas em um período de dois anos e o toque dos tambores em seu terreiro seguia até as 20h. No Sergipe, em janeiro de 2016, atabaques foram apreendidos pela polícia, assim como na primeira república,após uma denúncia do mesmo teor. O texto na página da Polícia Militar do Sergipe criminaliza a religião ao que dizer que após denúncia, um grupo de pessoas foi “flagrado” em um culto religioso com instrumentos de percussão por volta das 20h30.

“Resgatar essas peças é uma questão de justiça a nossas ancestralidades”.

Além disso, ainda existe a tentativa de interferência direta do Estado nos ritos sagrados. Como a ação que corre no Supremo Tribunal Federal que questiona o abate religioso. Os ministros que vão decidir se o uso de animais em ritos de matriz africana viola a Constituição, que em seu artigo 225 coíbe a crueldade contra animais.

Seguimos sem notícias de batidas policiais em igrejas, prisões de pastores, padres ou rabinos e, ainda, tentativas de interferência direta do Estado em outros ritos religiosos. Por sorte, para as demais religiões, o artigo 5º da constituição que garante a liberdade de culto parece funcionar.

Como, no caso das religiões de matriz africana, os casos se repetem, trazer à tona o que acontecia – teoricamente no passado – enriquece o debate contra o preconceito. “Esse acervo, além de mostrar a riqueza das religiões afro-brasileiras também pode dialogar com o racismo religioso e a intolerância religiosa que continuam acontecendo”, comenta Jorge Santana, coordenador da campanha.

Assim como os coordenadores da campanha Liberte o Nosso Sagrado, The Intercept Brasil também não obteve um posicionamento da Polícia Civil sobre o caso. No blog da Associação dos Amigos do Museu da Polícia Civil, uma nota menciona a campanha e diz que as peças pertencem por justo direito à polícia. Além disso, o texto defende que, “em países civilizados peças e coleções não são removidas de museus”. No entanto, na Bahia, peças apreendidas pela polícia em batidas em terreiros, que estavam no Museu Estácio de Lima, do Departamento de Polícia Técnica (DPT), foram transferidas para o Museu Afro-Brasileiro (Mafro/Ufba) em 2010 após um movimento semelhante em Salvador.

No Rio, a campanha seguirá para o caminho judicial. “Resgatar essas peças é uma questão de justiça a nossas ancestralidades. É uma questão de justiça a todos os 5 milhões de negros que chegaram aqui no Brasil e que foram massacrados”, afirma a Yalorixá Luizinha de Nanã.

The post Religiosos lutam para libertar orixás da polícia appeared first on The Intercept.

Cibersegurança para todos: como proteger a privacidade de suas conversas com o Signal

4 July 2017 - 2:08pm

Video de Lauren Feeney

O conteúdo das suas conversas – sejam elas pessoais, profissionais ou políticas – pode ser alvo da espionagem de um governo local ou estrangeiro. Além disso, o envio de uma senha ou número de cartão de crédito pelo celular também pode ser interceptado por um criminoso.  Ou então você pode querer se candidatar a um emprego sem o conhecimento do seu chefe atual; discutir um assunto delicado com um advogado; conversar com amigos sobre a ida a uma manifestação, um aborto ou a compra de uma arma; enviar fotos íntimas ao seu parceiro(a) sem que ninguém as veja; ou querer manter segredo sobre um novo relacionamento no trabalho. Esses são apenas alguns exemplos de como a privacidade pode ser importante.

Felizmente, a privacidade é um direito fundamental do ser humano.

Infelizmente, a maioria das ferramentas utilizadas para se comunicar via celular – ligações, mensagens de texto, e-mails, Facebook, Skype, Hangouts etc. – não são tão privadas como poderíamos pensar. Sua operadora de telefonia,  seu provedor de internet e as empresas que criam os aplicativos que você usa para se comunicar podem interceptar o que você diz ou escreve. Seus bate-papos podem ser acessados pela polícia e por agências de espionagem como a NSA. Eles também podem ser vistos por qualquer um que pegar e vasculhar o seu telefone. Algumas mensagens podem ser lidas mesmo com o celular bloqueado, na tela de notificações.

Mas é possível garantir a privacidade das suas conversas. O primeiro passo é instalar um aplicativo chamado Signal – e seus contatos devem fazer o mesmo. Então é só configurar o programa para bloquear as ameaças.

O Signal é fácil de usar, funciona tanto no iOS – o sistema operacional dos celulares da Apple – quanto no Android – do Google – e criptografa suas mensagens de forma que apenas você e seu interlocutor possam decifrá-las. Além disso, ele é um software de código aberto, então qualquer especialista pode verificar se o programa é realmente seguro. O Signal pode ser baixado na Play Store do Android e App Store do iPhone.

Embora o Signal seja um software muito bem feito, você precisa fazer alguns ajustes para maximizar a segurança de suas conversas. Já escrevi sobre algumas dessas configurações no ano passado, mas o programa mudou muito desde então, e talvez você não conheça algumas de suas funcionalidades mais úteis.

Vou falar sobre elas em detalhes mais abaixo – e no vídeo acima, criado por Lauren Feeney.

Para ir diretamente a um item específico, clique no link correspondente abaixo:

Recomende o Signal a seus amigos

Você só pode enviar mensagens criptografadas e fazer ligações protegidas para outros usuários do Signal. Não adianta instalar o programa e continuar usando torpedos não criptografados para se comunicar. Faça com que seus amigos também instalem o aplicativo.

Se você é um ativista, recomende o Signal aos participantes da próxima reunião ou manifestação; se é jornalista, fale com suas fontes e editores; se está se candidatando a algum cargo político, use o Signal para se comunicar com sua equipe de campanha.

Bloqueie seu telefone

O Signal usa uma rigorosa criptografia de ponta-a-ponta, que, quando verificada, impede que o conteúdo das mensagens seja decifrado por um intermediário, como os criadores do Signal, operadoras de telefonia, provedores de internet – ou pela NSA e outras agências de espionagem que coletam dados em massa na internet.

Mas a criptografia do Signal não pode impedir que alguém pegue o seu telefone e abra o aplicativo para ler suas mensagens. Para isso, é preciso bloquear o acesso ao telefone com uma senha ou outra forma de autenticação. Você também deve habilitar a criptografia de dados do aparelho e atualizar o sistema operacional e aplicativos com frequência, pois isso dificulta consideravelmente a ação dos hackers.

No Android:

  • Configure o bloqueio de tela, que requer o desenho de um padrão ou uma senha para desbloquear o telefone. Você pode fazer isso nas configurações do telefone, selecionando a opção “Segurança” > “Bloqueio de Tela”. Use um padrão ou uma senha aleatória – evite usar senhas óbvias, como datas de aniversário. Não diga a ninguém como desbloquear o seu telefone, a não ser a pessoas de confiança.
  • Habilite a criptografia de dados do telefone. O bloqueio de tela será inútil se um ladrão puder copiar os dados do seu telefone para outro dispositivo. A criptografia da memória do telefone impede esse tipo de ataque ao codificar os dados do aparelho, que só poderão ser decifrados por meio da mesma senha ou padrão do seu telefone. Para fazer isso, acesse o aplicativo de configuração, toque na opção “Segurança” > “Criptografar telefone”. Lembre-se de que a bateria deve estar totalmente carregada antes de ativar esse processo, que pode durar até uma hora.
  • Mantenha o celular atualizado. As atualizações servem para consertar brechas de segurança; um telefone desatualizado é um telefone vulnerável. Você pode verificar se há uma atualização de sistema disponível acessando as configurações do aparelho e tocando em “Sobre o telefone” > “Atualizações do sistema”. Também é recomendável manter todos os aplicativos da Play Store
  • Bloqueie o Signal com uma senha. A versão para Android do Signal permite que você bloqueie o aplicativo com uma “frase secreta”. Se você seguiu os passos acima (habilitar a tela de bloqueio e a criptografia de dados), isso não é necessário. No entanto, se você deixa outras pessoas usarem o seu telefone, pode ser uma boa ideia bloquear o Signal assim mesmo. Abra o aplicativo, acesse o menu, no canto superior direito, e selecione “Configurações”. Na opção “Privacidade”, toque em “Ativar frase-chave” para criar uma frase secreta. Atenção: se você perder a sua frase-chave, terá que apagar todos os dados do Signal e recomeçar do zero para continuar usando o aplicativo.

No iPhone:

  • Crie uma senha forte. Os iPhones já vêm com a criptografia de dados ativada, mas seus dados só estarão a salvo se o celular estiver protegido por senha. Use uma senha de pelo menos seis dígitos – para uma máxima segurança, recomendamos uma senha de 11 dígitos. Evite usar combinações óbvias, como aniversários. Escrevi sobre o assunto em detalhes no ano passado – pule para o final do artigo, onde explico como mudar sua senha e o uso da função Touch ID.
  • Mantenha o telefone atualizado. As atualizações consertam brechas de segurança; um telefone desatualizado é um telefone vulnerável. Você pode verificar se há uma atualização de sistema disponível acessando as configurações do aparelho e tocando em “Geral” > “Atualizações do sistema”. Também atualize seus aplicativos na App Store, clicando na guia “Atualizações”.
Oculte as mensagens do Signal na tela de bloqueio

A criptografia do Signal será de pouca serventia se outras pessoas puderem ver as mensagens que você recebe na tela bloqueada do seu celular. Se o seu telefone costuma estar ao alcance de pessoas que não deveriam ler suas mensagens – colegas de quarto, colegas de trabalho e seguranças de aeroporto, por exemplo – desative a pré-visualização de mensagens do Signal na tela de bloqueio do telefone.

À esquerda, notificação do Signal em um iPhone bloqueado. À direita, notificação do Signal em um Android bloqueado.

Siga estes passos para desativar as notificações do Signal:

No Android:

  • Abra as configurações do aparelho, e, na seção “Dispositivo”, selecione a aba “Som e notificação” e toque em “Com o dispositivo bloqueado”.
  • As opções são “Mostrar todo o conteúdo de notificações”, “Ocultar o conteúdo confidencial de notificações” e “Não mostrar notificações”. Recomendo selecionar “Ocultar o conteúdo confidencial de notificações”; dessa forma você continuará sendo notificado quando receber mensagens do Signal (e outras informações confidenciais), mas será necessário desbloquear o telefone para acessar seu conteúdo e o nome do remetente.

No iPhone:

  • Abra o Signal e toque no ícone de engrenagem, no canto superior esquerdo, para acessar as configurações do aplicativo. Selecione “Notificações” e, na opção “Notificações em segundo plano”, toque em “Exibir”.
  • As opções são “Nome do remetente & mensagem”, “Enviar somente nome” e “Sem nome ou mensagem”. Recomendo selecionar a última alternativa – assim você continuará recebendo notificações do Signal, mas mas será necessário desbloquear o telefone para acessar seu conteúdo e o nome do remetente.
  • Para remover completamente as notificações do Signal da tela bloqueada do iPhone, acesse as configurações do aparelho, selecione “Notificações” e procure pelo Signal na lista de aplicativos. Desative a opção “Mostrar na tela bloqueada”.
  • Aproveite para ajustar as configurações de outros aplicativos que mostram informações confidenciais desabilitando as notificações na tela de bloqueio.

À esquerda: notificações do Signal oculta em um iPhone bloqueado. À direita: notificação do Signal oculta em um Android bloqueado.

Não guarde suas mensagens para sempre

Quando uma mensagem criptografada é enviada pelo Signal, apenas dois dispositivos guardam cópias do texto trocado: o seu celular e o do destinatário. Diferentemente de outros aplicativos de troca de mensagens, o servidor do Signal nunca tem acesso às mensagens, e os conteúdos criptografados permanecem online por muito pouco tempo. Isso significa que, quando você apaga uma mensagem do seu telefone – e o destinatário faz o mesmo – esse conteúdo deixa de existir. É uma boa ideia apagar seu histórico de mensagens frequentemente, principalmente quando se trata de conversas confidenciais. Dessa forma, se o seu telefone for vasculhado, as conversas de um ano atrás de que você nem se lembrava – e aquela conversa confidencial da semana passada – não serão encontradas.

O Signal permite programar a exclusão de mensagens depois de um certo tempo (entre cinco segundos e uma semana), tanto do telefone do remetente quanto do destinatário. Essa função se chama “Mensagens efêmeras”. Porém, nada impede que o seu interlocutor grave as mensagens antes que elas sejam excluídas – por meio de captura de tela, por exemplo.

Se você costuma mandar mensagens confidenciais para amigos ou grupos do Signal (vou falar sobre grupos mais adiante), recomendo ajustar a exclusão programada das mensagens para uma semana depois de lidas. Você também pode ativar as “mensagens efêmeras” para um contato e logo depois desativá-las, o que pode ser útil para o envio de uma senha, por exemplo.

No Android:

  • Abra o Signal e toque numa conversa para abri-la.
  • Toque no ícone de menu no canto superior direito e selecione “Mensagens efêmeras”. Defina por quanto tempo as mensagens serão guardadas depois de lidas.

No iPhone:

  • Abra o Signal e toque numa conversa apara abri-la.
  • Toque no nome do seu interlocutor no alto da tela para acessar as configurações da conversa.
  • Habilite a opção “Mensagens efêmeras” e defina por quanto tempo as mensagens serão guardadas depois de lidas.

Neste exemplo, as mensagens desaparecerão depois de cinco minutos.

Você também pode apagar manualmente mensagens individuais – ou mesmo conversas inteiras – do seu telefone. Mas você não pode, é claro, apagá-las do telefone do destinatário; isso só é possível com a opção “Mensagens efêmeras”.

No Android:

  • Para apagar uma única mensagem: enquanto visualiza uma conversa, toque e mantenha pressionada a mensagem que você gostaria de apagar para selecioná-la. Em seguida, toque no ícone de lixeira para apagá-la. Você também pode deletar o histórico de chamadas do Signal da mesma forma.
  • Para apagar uma conversa inteira: na lista de conversas do Signal, toque e mantenha pressionado um contato para selecioná-lo. Em seguida, toque no ícone de lixeira no alto da tela. Isso excluirá todas as mensagens trocadas com esse contato.
  • Ative a opção “aparar mensagens”: a versão para Android do Signal pode deletar automaticamente todas as mensagens depois de um certo número. Por exemplo, você pode escolher guardar as 200 mensagens mais recentes de cada contato, apagando automaticamente o resto. Na lista de conversas, toque no ícone de menu no canto superior direito e acesse as “Configurações”. Selecione “Chats e mídia”, e, na seção “Aparar mensagem”, habilite “Excluir mensagens antigas”. Você pode ajustar o limite de mensagens, cujo padrão é de 500 mensagens por conversa.

No iPhone:

  • Para apagar uma única mensagem: enquanto visualiza uma conversa, toque e mantenha pressionada a mensagem que você gostaria de apagar para selecioná-la. Em seguida, toque em “Apagar” para excluí-la. Você também pode deletar o histórico de chamadas do Signal da mesma forma.
  • Para apagar uma conversa inteira: na lista de conversas do Signal, deslize o dedo para a esquerda sobre um contato e selecione a opção “Apagar”. Isso excluirá todas as mensagens trocadas com esse contato.
  • Para excluir todas as mensagens do Signal: a versão para iPhone do aplicativo dispõe de uma função centralizada para excluir todas as mensagens enviadas e recebidas pelo Signal. Na lista de conversas, toque no ícone de engrenagem no canto superior esquerdo para acessar as configurações. Selecione a aba “Privacidade” e toque em “Limpar logs de históricos”.
Como enviar e receber fotos e vídeos privados

O Signal facilita o envio de fotos e vídeos criptografados – inclusive gifs animados. Quando estiver conversando com alguém, basta dar um toque no clipe de papel para abrir sua coleção de fotos ou acessar diretamente a câmera do celular.

O Signal também tem outro dispositivo de segurança: as fotos e vídeos gravados a partir do próprio aplicativo não são salvos automaticamente na memória do telefone. Da mesma forma, as fotos e vídeos que você receber também não serão gravados automaticamente. Se você quiser adicionar uma foto à coleção do celular, basta dar um toque longo na foto e salvá-la.

Por que isso é importante? Muitas pessoas sincronizam automaticamente fotos e vídeos com serviços de armazenamento em nuvem como iCloud, Google e outros. Elas também costumam permitir que aplicativos como Facebook e Instagram tenham acesso à galeria de imagens do telefone. Por mais cômodo que seja, isso significa que o provedor do serviço de armazenamento em nuvem também terá acesso às suas imagens, podendo entregar os dados a terceiros, como uma agência governamental. Da mesma forma, suas imagens podem ser acessadas por hackers, como em 2014, quando fotos de celebridades nuas foram publicadas na internet depois de um ataque a suas contas no iCloud.

Portanto, se você fotografar um documento confidencial para um jornalista – ou tirar uma selfie sensual para o(a) namorado(a) –, envie as fotos diretamente pelo Signal, que é capaz de criptografar uma imagem da mesma forma que uma mensagem de texto.

Como criar grupos de discussão seguros

Para mim, uma das funcionalidades mais úteis do Signal é a possibilidade de criptografar uma conversa em grupo. Qualquer pessoa pode criar um grupo no Signal e adicionar quantas pessoas quiser; as mensagens de todos os membros serão criptografadas. Assim como nas conversas individuais, você pode habilitar a exclusão programada de mensagens, fotos e vídeos. Veja alguns exemplos de situações em que os grupos do Signal podem ser úteis:

  • Comunicar-se com a equipe de projetos sigilosos demais para ferramentas como Slack e HipChat;
  • Manter contato com amigos e colegas em uma conferência;
  • Manter contato com seu grupo em uma manifestação;
  • Organizar um encontro semanal para assistir a filmes e seriados;
  • Gerenciar uma conta anônima do Twitter em equipe.

Veja como usar os grupos do Signal:

No Android:

  • Na lista de conversas, toque no ícone de menu no canto superior direito e selecione “Novo grupo”.
  • Dê um nome ao grupo e selecione os participantes. Caso desejar, toque no círculo à esquerda do nome para adicionar uma imagem ao grupo. Por fim, toque no ícone de visto no canto superior direito para criar o grupo.
  • Dentro do grupo, toque no ícone de pessoa no canto superior direito para acessar a lista de membros.
  • Dentro do grupo, toque no ícone de menu no canto superior direito para acessar diversas configurações: “Editar grupo” para mudar o nome do grupo e acrescentar contatos; “Sair do grupo” para abandonar o grupo; “Silenciar notificações” para parar de receber notificações.

No iPhone:

  • Na lista de conversas, toque no ícone de caneta no canto superior direito para criar uma nova mensagem. Depois selecione o ícone de pessoa para criar um novo grupo.
  • Dê um nome ao grupo e selecione os participantes. Caso desejar, toque no círculo à esquerda do nome para adicionar uma imagem ao grupo. Por fim, toque no símbolo de adição no canto superior direito para criar o grupo.
  • Dentro do grupo, selecione o menu no canto superior direito para acessar diversas configurações: “Editar grupo” para mudar o nome do grupo e acrescentar contatos; “Sair do grupo” para abandonar o grupo; “Listar membros do grupo” para ver quais contatos participam do grupo.

Os grupos do Signal são úteis, mas não são perfeitos. Os problemas podem ser resolvidos em versões futuras, mas, por enquanto, são os seguintes:

  • Qualquer membro do grupo pode adicionar novos participantes, e é impossível excluir alguém do grupo; cada um deve sair por conta própria. Se um membro se negar a sair do grupo, é preciso criar um novo grupo e convidar todo mundo novamente.
  • Se um membro do grupo mudar de telefone – e de número de segurança –, isso pode causar problemas (saiba mais sobre os números de segurança mais abaixo, na seção “Use os números de segurança para se proteger de ataques”).
  • Quando você muda de telefone, um bug pode fazer com que você receba mas não possa enviar mensagens de grupo. Para contornar o problema, peça para alguém editar algum parâmetro do grupo – o nome, por exemplo. Assim, as configurações do grupo serão redefinidas, e você poderá enviar mensagens novamente.
Como fazer chamadas de voz e vídeo seguras

Além de permitir o envio de mensagens de forma segura, o Signal também pode ser usado para fazer ligações criptografadas de voz e vídeo. Basta selecionar o ícone de telefone para ligar para um contato. Trata-se de uma ligação telefônica normal, mas com a segurança da criptografia de ponta-a-ponta. Para iniciar uma chamada de vídeo, toque no ícone de câmera durante a ligação para ativar a câmera – simples assim.

Durante uma chamada de voz ou vídeo, seu interlocutor pode ver o seu endereço IP, o que pode ser utilizado para determinar a sua localização. Na maioria das vezes isso não importa, mas às vezes pode ser um problema – se você não quiser revelar de que país está ligando, por exemplo. Nesses casos, é possível redirecionar a ligação através dos servidores do Signal, fazendo com que o único IP visível no outro lado da linha seja o do próprio Signal. Essa função diminui ligeiramente a velocidade da conexão, o que pode reduzir a qualidade da ligação. Veja como habilitá-la:

No Android:

  • Abra o aplicativo, toque no ícone de menu no canto superior direito e selecione “Configurações”.
  • Na aba “Avançado”, ative a opção “Sempre redirecionar chamadas”.

No iPhone:

  • Abra o aplicativo e selecione o ícone de engrenagem no canto superior esquerdo para acessar as configurações.
  • Na aba “Privacidade”, ative a opção “Sempre redirecionar chamadas”.
Como enviar mensagens sem adicionar o destinatário aos contatos

A maioria das pessoas sincroniza seus contatos com o iCloud, Google, a empresa em que trabalham ou outros serviços de nuvem. Isso é muito conveniente; se você perder o telefone e comprar um novo, poderá recuperar seus contatos. Porém, isso quer dizer que sua lista de contatos pode ser acessada pelos provedores do serviço de sincronização, que, por sua vez, podem fornecer os dados para a polícia ou agências governamentais.

Você pode querer conversar com certos contatos de maneira segura, mas sem adicioná-los à sua lista de contatos. Por exemplo, se você quiser vazar uma informação para um jornalista sem ser investigado por isso, é melhor não salvar o número do repórter na nuvem.

O Signal permite que você converse com pessoas que não estão na sua lista de contatos. Para fazer isso, abra o aplicativo, selecione o ícone de caneta para iniciar a conversa e digite o número de telefone no campo de busca.  Se a pessoa em questão for usuária do Signal, você poderá trocar mensagens criptografadas com ela sem ter que adicioná-la aos seus contatos.

 

Use números de segurança para se proteger de ataques

Esta seção pode parecer um pouco confusa – o funcionamento da criptografia é uma coisa meio complicada mesmo. Mas o mais importante aqui é aprender como verificar os números de segurança.

Mais acima, eu disse que o Signal garante a privacidade das suas conversas quando devidamente verificado. Para usar o Signal corretamente, é preciso verificar se suas comunicações não estão sendo interceptadas em um ataque man-in-the-middle.

Um ataque man-in-the-middle (“homem no meio”, em tradução literal) acontece quando duas pessoas – Alice e Bob, por exemplo – pensam que estão conversando diretamente uma com a outra, mas, em vez disso, tanto Alice quanto Bob estão conversando com um intermediário, que intercepta tudo o que está sendo dito. Para proteger totalmente as suas conversas, é preciso verificar se a troca de informação criptografada está sendo feita diretamente com seus contatos, e não com algum impostor.

Você tem um “número de segurança” em comum com cada contato do Signal. Por exemplo, Alice tem um número de segurança em comum com Bob e outro com Charlie. Quando Alice liga para Bob, se o número de segurança que aparecer no celular de ambos for igual, isso significa que a conexão é segura. Porém, se os números forem diferentes, tem alguma coisa errada; talvez Alice ou Bob estejam vendo o número de segurança que têm em comum com o interceptador, o que explicaria a discrepância.

É improvável que alguém tente atacar a sua conexão na primeira vez que você entrar em contato com um amigo. Por isso, o Signal considera como seguro o primeiro número de segurança atribuído para cada contato. Mas, se o conteúdo da conversa for confidencial, é melhor confirmar assim mesmo.

Para verificar a integridade da criptografia, acesse a tela de verificação da seguinte forma:

  • Abra o aplicativo e toque numa conversa para abri-la;
  • Toque no nome do contato no alto da tela;
  • Selecione “Verificar número de segurança”.

À esquerda: tela de verificação do número de segurança no iPhone. À direita: tela de verificação do número de segurança no Android.

Existem algumas maneiras de verificar com um amigo se seus números de segurança são iguais. A mais fácil é presencialmente, juntos no mesmo lugar, mas também é possível fazê-lo  à distância.

Como verificar um contato presencialmente

Se você puder se encontrar com seu contato, basta escanear o código QR (um código de barras quadrado) dele. No Android, toque no círculo com o código para escanear; no iPhone, selecione o ícone “Escanear código”. Aponte a câmera para o código QR de seu amigo: se o processo for completado normalmente, isso significa que a criptografia é segura.

Como verificar um contato à distância

Se vocês não puderem se encontrar pessoalmente, é possível verificar os números de segurança à distância, embora o processo seja um pouco trabalhoso.

Você e seu contato devem enviar o número de segurança por meio de um canal externo – ou seja, por fora do Signal. Envie uma mensagem no Facebook, Twitter, um e-mail ou faça uma ligação telefônica – ou então use outro aplicativo de mensagens criptografadas, como WhatsApp ou iMessage. Se estiver realmente preocupado com uma possível interceptação, recomendo fazer uma ligação; se você conhece a voz do seu contato, é muito difícil alguém se fazer passar por ele.

Quando seu contato receber seu número de segurança, ele deverá acessar a tela de verificação e comparar – algarismo por algarismo – o que você enviou com o que ele está vendo. Se os números forem idênticos, a conexão é segura.

Tanto no Android quanto no iPhone, você pode tocar no botão de compartilhamento na tela de verificação para enviar o número de segurança via outros aplicativos ou copiá-lo para a área de transferência do telefone.

Verifique novamente contatos que trocarem de telefone

De vez em quando, você pode ver a seguinte mensagem no Signal: “Número de segurança modificado. Toque para verificar.” Isso pode signifcar uma das duas seguintes possibilidades:

  1. Seu contato instalou novamente o Signal, provavelmente por ter comprado um novo telefone.
  2. Alguém está tentando interceptar suas conversas.

A segunda alternativa é menos provável, mas a única maneira de ter certeza é verificar novamente o número de segurança com o seu contato.

Como usar o Signal no seu computador

Embora seja necessário instalar o Signal no celular para começar, também é possível instalar o aplicativo no seu computador. O programa não tem todas as funcionalidades da versão para celular – ainda não é possível fazer chamadas ou modificar grupos –, mas pode facilitar muito a vida de quem usa o Signal. Principalmente se, assim como eu, você passa o dia inteiro na frente do computador e precisa do Signal para trabalhar.

Trata-se de uma extensão para o navegador Chrome. Ou seja, primeiro é preciso instalar o Chrome no seu computador. Só então você pode baixar o Signal na Chrome Web Store. Ao executar o programa pela primeira vez, siga as instruções na tela para conectá-lo ao Signal do seu smartphone.

No entanto, instalar o Signal no seu computador proporciona mais uma possibilidade de ataque e interceptação de dados. Quando você usa o Signal apenas no telefone, se alguém quiser ler suas conversas, ele terá que hackear o seu celular. Mas se você também usa o aplicativo no computador, um hacker pode atacar tanto o seu telefone quanto o seu computador – o que for mais fácil. Por causa das diferenças na arquitetura dos sistemas operacionais de celulares e computadores, o mais provável é que o seu computador seja o alvo mais fácil.

Além disso, seus dados do Signal são armazenados de forma mais segura no telefone. No Android e no iOS, suas mensagens – e chave criptográfica – são armazenadas pelo próprio Signal, e outros aplicativos não têm acesso a elas. Já no Windows, MacOS e Linux, esses dados são guardados em uma pasta do seu disco rígido, e praticamente todos os seus aplicativos têm acesso a ela. Portanto, em certas situações, talvez o mais prudente seja não instalar o Signal no computador.

Tradução: Bernardo Tonasse

The post Cibersegurança para todos: como proteger a privacidade de suas conversas com o Signal appeared first on The Intercept.

How to Love This Freaky Country

4 July 2017 - 8:29am

American progressives can’t ever match conservatives in displays of febrile patriotism, and for good reason. What Jesus told his followers about prayer is also good advice about loving a country: “Thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.”

Moreover, anyone who’s spent five minutes thinking about human history knows how dangerously volatile nationalism is. This is especially important to keep in mind in a country that has used nuclear weapons and pondered whether to drop tungsten rods on our enemies from orbit.

Nonetheless, I believe it behooves all of us to consider and celebrate what is resplendent about the United States of America.

First, if you don’t do so, you wear blinders that prevent you from seeing a giant chunk of reality. In Catholic theology most souls are of middling virtue — but the ones which are not are generally not good or evil alone but both at once. As St. Augustine put it, “my two wills, one old and the other new, one carnal, the other spiritual, contend within me.” The same goes for countries: If they’re not in the middle of the bell curve they often occupy both ends simultaneously. That is definitely the United States.

Second, one of America’s most beautiful attributes is that we have freedom and resources that our fellow malcontents in many other countries could only dream of. Pretending that we don’t have this wiggle room is — particularly for white activists — to show ourselves to be distastefully spoiled.

Third, being conscious of this country’s upside is the only way we’ll ever be able to communicate with anyone outside the minute lefty archipelago. The lived experience of millions of Americans has been that it’s superior to where their families once came from. Trying to convince them that it’s uniformly appalling is like trying to convince them that they have three arms. That’s not going to work.

Finally, it’s critical for our own psychological wellbeing. Much about America’s past has been hideous and much about the present is grim. But keeping that going as an endless interior monologue is a recipe for stasis and failure. Conversely, an appreciation of the glorious parts of the U.S. is motivation to protect and expand them. The right loves to accusingly demand, “Do you love this country?” We need the confidence to give the correct answer, which is “I love the parts you’re trying to destroy.”

So for July 4, I’ve made a list of what’s most deeply meaningful to me about America.

Jennifer Burbank of the Georgetown volunteer fire department, decorates a firetruck with a 48-star U.S. flag donated by longtime Georgetown resident Bernice Plass before the start of the Fourth of July Parade in downtown Georgetown on Friday July, 4, 2003.

Photo: Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post/Getty Images

People Have Rights, Not the Government

For most of the time in most places, societies believed that the natural order was to have a king who had the final word about everything. The Declaration of Independence was one of the first attempts to flip that on its head, and declare that individual people come first and governments derive their power “from the consent of the governed.”

It’s easy to forget the momentousness of this statement in an era when Fortune 500 companies complain that governmental tyranny prevents them from putting arsenic in their line of baby food. But it was a giant step forward, and one of the best parts about being an American is an instinctive understanding of the zaniness of monarchies. For instance, Great Britain pays an old lady from some German family to live in a gigantic house, and if you have dinner there you have to immediately stop eating when she does.

The Declaration of Independence resonated so deeply with universal human aspirations that it was copied by many other rebellions. Ho Chi Minh used parts of it verbatim in 1945 in a declaration of independence for Vietnam. We were so moved by this that the Eisenhower administration offered France two nuclear bombs to drop on Dien Bien Phu.

Separation of Church and State

Not only did most places have kings in 1776, it was usually accepted that these kings had been appointed by god. This meant that you couldn’t question the king’s decisions even when large holes had been eaten in his brain by syphilis.

So establishing a wall between religion and government in the Bill of Rights was deeply radical and positive. The corporate right has long understood how this levels society, which is why they’ve quietly supported efforts to tear it down and retcon U.S. history to make the founding fathers fervent Christians.

Anyone From Anywhere

In most places at most times, nationality has depended on blood and soil. For instance, Korean-Japanese whose families have been there for 100 years are still referred to as zainichi — which literally means “staying in Japan,” presumably temporarily. But in theory and to a large degree in fact, anyone can come to the U.S. from anywhere, and when they take the oath of citizenship they become as American as everyone else.

The Nazis used to call the U.S. a mongrel nation. They were absolutely right; it’s fantastic and the source of our hybrid vigor.

We’re So Rich

The U.S. right likes to tout our enormous wealth as a sign of our success. In reality, it signifies a humiliating failure of our economic system, even leaving aside our stunning levels of inequality.

We have advantages possessed by no other country in history. We’re gigantic, in the temperate zone, overflowing with natural resources, and with neighbors so weak we generally forget that they’re there. Yet Europe and Japan are about as rich as we are, despite having few of these assets and regularly destroying themselves in catastrophic wars. We should have twice as much money as they do.

Nevertheless, by any reasonable standard the U.S. is an incredibly wealthy place, as wealthy as any country needs to be to maximize human happiness. If we get our act together to fight, we could use our riches to do amazing things.

For instance, much of our gains in economic productivity over the past 40 years have gone into the pockets of millionaires and billionaires. The median household income in the U.S. now is about $56,500. If flight attendants and firemen had gotten their share of economic growth, they would be making over $70,000. Alternatively — and even more enticingly — if we’d had the power to take our increased productivity in time off regular people could be making their current salaries while only working about 30 hours per week.

Who knows what we’d do with that kind of extra time for ourselves, but it’s thrilling to contemplate. If current trends continued there would certainly be a lot of podcasts; once we’re only working 15 hours a week and the ratio of podcasts to podcast listeners passes 1:1, we’ll have to invent robots to rate and review them on iTunes.

African American and Secular Jewish Culture

I’m not black and, despite the enthusiastic (((feedback))) I receive from the alt-right, I’m also not Jewish. I’m a baptized Episcopalian, a Mischling second degree, and a practicing nothing. But to me, looking at black culture and Jewish culture in America from the periphery, they seem to be humanity’s two premiere achievements.

I used to think that William Faulkner’s claim that “man will not merely endure: he will prevail” was hokey and overoptimistic. But the history of African Americans is evidence he knew what he was talking about.

Two hundred fifty years of kidnapping, murder, rape and chattel slavery; “freedom” followed by 100 years of treatment that was slavery-adjacent; a 10-year window when change seemed possible; and then 40 years of mass incarceration that is intermittent reenslavement. It’s incredible African Americans haven’t collapsed in exhaustion, or simply perished.

Instead, faced with a 1,000-foot high wall of hate, they’ve dug tunnels under it, floated over it waving from hot air balloons, and built transporters to dematerialize and then rematerialize on the other side, all to the bafflement and fury of much of white America. We understand violence and in fact rejoice when faced with it, because we know how to respond in kind a hundred times over. What we can’t understand is black America’s unending eruption of invention — in politics, music, literature, sports, Twitter, general stylishness, and a thousand other areas — that reverberates around the world. It’s set a standard of wisdom and humanity for everyone else on earth to aim for.

The accomplishments of secular Jewish culture in America have been similar, although modulated differently.

All religions have the same essential precepts, and most religions ignore them in practice. Judaism stands out for sometimes taking them seriously. Both the Torah and Old Testament instruct us that “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Only Judaism builds a holiday around this admonition, and sends participants out into the world believing that maybe those words mean what they say.

Likewise, I can’t help but love an ethical tradition that requires kids to ask questions. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has put it, “To be a Jewish child is to learn how to question.” I.I. Rabi, an American Nobel Prize-winning physicist, said he became a scientist because when he came home from school each day his mother would ask him not what he’d learned, but whether he’d asked a good question. Polls have shown that American Jews value “thinking for oneself” as the most critical quality to encourage in children.

The collision of this perspective with the openness of American culture has exploded in every direction. It’s impossible to imagine how different, and how much worse, the U.S. would be without the influence of secular Judaism.

Then there’s what is, for me, the dazzling summit of African American and Jewish culture: the collaborative creation of American comedy.

Comedy of the powerful tends to take this structure: “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” You can see this clearly in Monty Python, whose main five performers went to Oxford and Cambridge. Wouldn’t it be funny if a pet store owner refused to acknowledge a parrot he’d just sold to a customer had died? Wouldn’t it be funny if the head of a mountaineering expedition had double vision?

But the comedy of the powerless usually says something else: “Isn’t it funny that…” The powerless don’t need to invent surrealistically absurd situations, they live them. So a Chris Rock joke is: Isn’t it funny that that train’s never late?

And the comedy of reality will always be superior to the comedy of imagination, no matter how well executed. That’s why American comedy, created by African Americans and Jews (with an assist from Irish Catholics) is the current reigning world champion.

Of course, I understand that the individual humans involved in all this did not do so as a hobby or to make America better, but to survive in the face of monstrous cruelty. Billie Holiday would have traded “Strange Fruit” for an end to lynchings. Our goal should be to make this country so good that we end up with a bland, Swiss-like pudding of a culture.

Baseball

I can’t honestly claim I like baseball that much. But all lists like this by liberals seem to include it, so I feel peer pressure to do so too. You’re also supposed to be super into jazz.

So that’s why I love America. I encourage you to think about it yourself today in between the cookout, beach, and fireworks. Writing it down made me feel much better about being alive right here right now, and it could do the same for you.

Top photo: A Liberty Bell float looms high over spectators in the 2015 Fourth of July Parade in Pittsfield, Mass. on Saturday, July 4, 2015.

The post How to Love This Freaky Country appeared first on The Intercept.

Pages