The Intercept

Obama’s Deportation Policy Was Even Worse Than We Thought

15 May 2017 - 11:23am

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement imprisons more than 10,000 parents of American citizens in California each year, according to a report released today by Human Rights Watch.

The report, entitled “I Still Need You,” analyzes the impact of immigration enforcement policy on immigrant families in California and finds that parents with U.S. citizen children were more likely to be deported from detention rather than released. The report also finds that from January 2011 to June 2015 nearly half of the immigrants detained in California had no criminal history, findings that directly contradict claims President Obama made about his immigration enforcement policy at that time. Under President Trump, the report’s authors believe, the trends suggested by the data have likely become even more pronounced.

In 2014, Obama announced a new immigration enforcement policy known informally as “felons, not families,” which purported to prioritize the deportation of undocumented immigrants with serious criminal histories and avoid separating families. But as the Marshall Project has shown, less than a fifth of the immigrants deported nationwide under the policy had been convicted of violent or potentially violent crimes. More than 40 percent had no criminal convictions whatsoever.

An even higher proportion — 47 percent — of immigrants detained by ICE in California from October 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 had no criminal history, according to Human Rights Watch’s review. (The data showed criminal history only for this shorter period of the overall time span.) The report estimates that only 9 percent were convicted of a violent felony.

“Instead of focusing on violent criminals, U.S. immigration policy has ripped apart American families and communities through the deportation of large numbers of lawful residents and undocumented immigrants with less serious criminal histories,” the report argues.

Human Rights Watch also estimates that 42 percent of the immigrants ICE detained in California over that time period were parents of U.S. citizen children. After being detained, parents of American citizens were more likely than others to be deported. Close to 47 percent of those who were deported had a child with U.S. citizenship, versus 35 percent of those who were released.

Together, the figures indicate that contrary to Obama’s avowed policy, a huge part of ICE’s enforcement efforts resulted in the separation of families, and a much smaller portion went toward deporting people who posed legitimate public safety threats.

The long-term consequences of the vast number of families shattered by this indiscriminate deportation regime are difficult to measure but disturbing to contemplate. “One of the things that’s important to understand is the ripple effects when someone is deported from the U.S., on our schools, in dependency on the foster care system, the juvenile delinquency system,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles. “For so many kids that pain and trauma stunts their growth and development. Also, the deported parent is often the primary breadwinner. It throws a curveball into their lives.”

Under the Trump administration, it’s likely that the figures cited by Human Rights Watch have become even more lopsided, though data is not yet available to reach a definitive conclusion.

Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to mass deport undocumented immigrants with criminal histories, a population he claimed to number 2-3 million. That figure has been widely debunked. In order to meet this ambitious goal, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued two memoranda that jettisoned Obama’s “felons, not families” approach and made nearly every undocumented immigrant in the country subject to priority deportation.

Since the Kelly memoranda were issued, ICE has engaged in high profile arrests of immigrants with negligible criminal histories and with strong family and community ties.

“It’s too soon to know for sure but if the policies stated in the memo were fully enforced, the numbers of detained parents would certainly increase,” Clara Long, a Human Rights Watch lawyer and a co-author of the report, wrote in an email. “Trump’s policy essentially makes everyone a priority whereas Obama’s specifically weighed the impact of deportation on U.S. citizen children.”

Pro-immigrant elected officials in California have responded to the Trump administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement regime by passing laws to prohibit state and local government agencies from collaborating with ICE, and establishing legal defense funds for undocumented immigrants in removal proceedings.

In Los Angeles County, whose metropolitan region is home to nearly 10 percent of the country’s undocumented immigrant population, a $10 million “L.A. Justice Fund” is in the process of being established to provide attorneys to deportation defendants who cannot afford them (unlike in criminal courts, under federal law legal counsel is not guaranteed in immigration proceedings). Some city and county officials, led by former Obama administration labor secretary and current Los Angeles County supervisor Hilda Solis, have been pushing to exclude people with certain felony convictions from eligibility for the fund. They have faced strong resistance from immigrant rights activists who favor “universal representation,” arguing that every deportation defendant regardless of background deserves due process under the law, which is only possible with legal representation.

“You’re five times more likely to not be deported with a lawyer fighting for you while you’re in detention,” said Toczylowski. “The L.A. Justice Fund means fewer families will be broken up in L.A. County; fewer children will suffer the trauma of having their parents deported.”

Top photo: Jeanette Vizguerra, 45, sits with her U.S.-born children, Roberto, 10, Zury, 6, and Luna, 12 while taking sanctuary at the First Baptist Church on May 5, 2017 in Denver, Colo. Her children stay with her at the church on weekends. Vizguerra, who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, took refuge almost three months ago, avoiding a check-in meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement (ICE), where her stay of deportation was declined. Vizguerra has become a leader in the new sanctuary movement, where churches nationwide are housing undocumented immigrants to shield them from deportation.

The post Obama’s Deportation Policy Was Even Worse Than We Thought appeared first on The Intercept.

Charlottesville Vigil Against Hate Outdraws White Supremacist Rally

15 May 2017 - 11:03am

Hundreds of protesters gathered for a candlelit “vigil against hate” on Sunday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, one day after a smaller number of white supremacists carrying torches had rallied at the same spot — around a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, which the city council recently voted to remove.

Tonight #Charlottesville #Virginia rallied 2 denounce hate & white supremacy. Not in our town. Not in our country. #BlackLivesMatter #resist

— Ken Horne (@HorneKen) May 15, 2017

The anti-alt right candlelight vigil in #charlottesville tonight.

— Aileen Bartels (@AileenBartels) May 15, 2017

Charlottesville’s mayor, Mike Signer, was among the city residents praising the counter-demonstration to “take back Lee Park.”

Candlelight vigil against hate in Cville. These are the kind of "torches" I like to see.

— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) May 15, 2017

Proud of my city tonight, thank you to all of the organizers tonight. @indivisibleVA05 @SURJ_Cville #charlottesville #candlelight #resist

— Guillermo Ubilla (@gxubilla) May 15, 2017

Allison Wrabel of Charlottesville’s Daily Progress reported that the protest on Sunday was larger than the gathering the night before.

There's definitely more people in Lee Park tonight than there was last night…

— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) May 15, 2017

Images and sound recorded by Wrabel on Saturday night showed the white supremacists holding torches and chanting, “Russia is our friend” and “You will not replace us,” which is a white supremacist rallying cry.

Lee Park right now….

— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) May 14, 2017

"Russia is our friend," in Lee Park.

— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) May 14, 2017

In front of the Robert E. Lee statue

— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) May 14, 2017

Another chant, “Blood and soil,” was an ethnic-nationalist slogan used by the Nazis.

Before the torches were lit, the rally on Saturday was addressed by Richard Spencer, the white supremacist Trump supporter who coined the term “alt-right” in an effort to rebrand nativist American racism. After Spencer shared video of his speech — to a handful of like-minded defenders of the Confederacy — the city’s mayor responded online.

@RichardBSpencer This garbage white supremacy won't even be a footnote in our history. #leave #resistance #welcomingcity.

— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) May 13, 2017

Later that night, Mayor Signer said in a statement that the torchlit rally around Lee’s statue “was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK.”

Within hours, the mayor reported that he had become the target of anti-Semitic abuse from Trump-supporting Twitter accounts.

Here is what this great country faces in this age of @realDonaldTrump-a sitting mayor subjected to anti-Semitism. I will not be intimidated.

— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) May 14, 2017

Signer had in fact voted against removing the statue of Lee, arguing instead for an alternative proposal — to “transform in place,” and better explain “the racism and white supremacy of our past,” by creating “a magnificent new memorial to civil rights victories in Lee Park,” which would put the old monument to the Confederacy into a new context.

As images of the rally on Saturday night circulated online, others chose to confront the wannabe Nazis with simple mockery.

The only thing funnier than nazis sobbing over confederate monuments is that they came bearing citronella tiki torches. badass

— Chris Mohney (@chrismohney) May 14, 2017

Top photo: Wes Bellamy, the vice mayor of Charlottesville, who voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a downtown park, addressed protesters on Sunday night.

The post Charlottesville Vigil Against Hate Outdraws White Supremacist Rally appeared first on The Intercept.

Will Freshman Congressman Ro Khanna Chart a New Course for Democrats?

15 May 2017 - 10:39am

Freshman California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna rode to an upset victory this past November over long-serving California Democrat Mike Honda on a wave of Silicon Valley support.

Among his prominent backers stood titans of the tech industry such as Yahoo executive Marissa Mayer and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg — as well as Peter Thiel, the billionaire Palantir co-founder who spoke in favor of Donald Trump’s candidacy at the Republican National Convention.

In an interview in published earlier this year, Khanna downplayed Thiel’s support, saying that he backed his campaign because “he wants robust, spirited debate” (an odd statement after Thiel’s successful crusade to shutter Gawker).

But almost immediately after being elected, Khanna attached himself to the more traditionally progressive wing of the Democratic Party. He most recently became the first member of Congress to join the Justice Democrats, a new organization that seeks to reduce corporate influence on the Democratic Party.

Khanna agreed to an interview with The Intercept to lay out his political vision.

Khanna notably stuck by a number of popular progressive positions, such as his support for a financial transactions tax and expanding the Medicare program to cover all Americans. He also embraced reforms to the party, such as banning corporate lobbyists from serving as DNC members and ending lobbyist contributions to the Democratic National Committee.

However, he declined to join Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in criticizing former president Barack Obama for his time on the Wall Street speech circuit. He also stuck to the familiar script on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, failing to embrace the rising demand among the Democratic Party’s base for a U.S. posture that enacts real accountability for Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

This is a departure from Justice Democrats’s own platform, which notes that “Israel received $38 billion in aid and promptly announced new settlements. The first step to peace is not enabling nations who regularly violate international law.”

Read the interview below:

ZAID JILANI: Why don’t you tell me about the Justice Democrats and why you decided to join on?

CONGRESSMAN RO KHANNA: It’s a bold, progressive vision that represents the future of the party. I like their call for Medicare for All, for free public college, for people in the middle class, their call for a financial transactions tax, of not taking PAC or lobbyist money and their desire to mobilize people across this country. They encourage young and new voices to enter politics, women to enter politics, minorities to enter politics, people of color to enter politics. It’s, I think, harnessing and mobilizing the energy of 2016 in a very positive way.

ZJ: So there’s often two sort of visions you hear from liberals, progressives, and left on the economy. One says that the main problem is that the poor have too little money and resources so the government needs to do more to help them with expanded welfare spending and things like that. The other vision you hear a lot about is that the big problem is inequality. The rich have very high incomes in America and a great deal of wealth, and you can’t really deliver justice for everyone else without reducing their economic power, through things like unionization, higher taxes, and breaking up big businesses with antitrust policy. So where do you stand and where do you think the Democrats should stand on that?

RK: I certainly think we need some antitrust policy. There’s no doubt that there’s a concentration of economic wealth. Whether it’s Wall Street, or whether its telecommunications, whether it’s airlines. … I also think there’s a loss of collective bargaining and a decline of unions and lots of stagnation and decline of wages. And we need to make sure that we’re supporting the labor movement and supporting treating people as employees and not independent contractors. We need to make sure that the rules of the economy are defined in a way that the benefits aren’t just going to shareholders, that they’re going to workers so people are earning what they deserve. It’s one of the reasons I proposed a trillion dollar expansion of the earned income tax credit, sort of a progressive alternative [to] Donald Trump’s tax cuts to the investor class. He’s saying, “okay, let’s give all these tax breaks to basically corporate shareholders.” My plan would say let’s give a 20 percent increase of wages to workers. Because they’re the ones who are working and aren’t getting the benefits of their work, given globalization, given the decline of unions, given the flow of the modern economy.

ZJ: So in your view why is it that the Democrats lost in 2016? What is it that they did that failed to connect with voters and how do they correct that?

RK: Well I think there’s complex reasons. And I certainly think anyone who professes to have an answer for why 60 million people voted the way they did is not being sufficiently humble. I don’t have a magic bullet. But what I can say is that the Democrats need to have a clear economic message at a time where we have automation, where we have globalization — how are we going to create new industries and jobs in areas that have felt left out, and how are we going to improve wages in these areas? And that has to be a very very clear focused message. We also have to be true to our convictions to inspire people to believe that we are fighting for justice. And that means addressing the fact that one of every three African Americans at some point will face incarceration and how are we going to have criminal justice reform? How are we going to deal with issues of police brutality? How are we going to make sure that we’re upholding a woman’s right to choose, because a woman’s right to choose is fundamental to gender equality. It means having a clear convictions-based equality and not shying away from that.

ZJ: Some people have been critical, I’m sure you’ve heard the news that President Obama has started to join the paid speech circuit. He’s speaking to a Wall Street group later this year. Do you have any thoughts on that? Do you think that says anything about his world view and sort of how Americans reflect on the relationship between the Democratic Party and Big Money?

RK: I’m much more focused on policies. I don’t think that, he’s now  a private citizen and what matters to me is are you for a financial transactions tax, are you for stronger antitrust protections, are you for ending corporate tax deferrals so that companies can bring in and are paying taxes on overseas money and aren’t hiding money offshore? Are you for limiting stock buybacks and reinstating the rule that was repealed in 1982 that made it easier for companies to just engage in stock buybacks? Are you for helping break up banks based on antitrust regulations? Those are the issues that I think speak to people. And my view is people want to have a fair policy that’s going to improve their lives and make the country better and aren’t so caught up on the particulars of individuals.

ZJ: So let’s move to foreign policy. You were one of the few Democrats on the Hill who sort of opposed the strikes on Syria, against the Syrian government by President Trump. You opposed them on the substance, not just on the process arguments. But of course we know these conflicts, they didn’t start under President Trump, they are largely continuations of what happened under President Obama. Do you feel for instance that Obama’s drone program in Pakistan or the support for instance the Saudi war in Yemen have also helped terrorists recruit and have also harmed U.S. interests?

RK: I’m opposed to the policy in Yemen where we’re providing arms to Saudi Arabia which is actually aligned with Al Qaeda in a proxy war against Iran with the Houthis … 17 million Yemenis are facing famines and many of the Yemenis equate the Saudi bombs with U.S. bombs. It’s not helping create more peace. It’s creating more generations of hate. And the Saudis are aligned with Al Qaeda which has taken responsibility for the underwear bomber and for attacks on synagogues in Chicago. So our policy there is muddled and isn’t actually helping contain terrorism. I think that I’ve articulated a foreign policy that says the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, Libya was a mistake, the escalation in Afghanistan was a mistake, that we really need to have more restrain in our foreign policy, not do more harm and recognize John Quincy Adams. We shouldn’t go out to slay monsters. We should give people who are seeking freedom our prayers, our voice, but we don’t want to be engaged in interventions around the world which has actually led to the spread of terrorism and isn’t making us safer.

ZJ: Which respect to what the Justice Democrats are talking about with building a new economy, I’m curious you’ve talked a lot about antitrust policy and competition policy. Some people would say that would rub up against powerful industries. One of those in your own backyard is Silicon Valley. Should we be applying this antitrust policy to an industry some people are now calling the new Wall Street?

RK: We should be applying the antitrust policy. I don’t think Silicon Valley is Wall Street. But I do think that there needs to be antitrust enforcement, especially on the Internet Service Providers. Four Internet Service Providers, AT&T, Charter, Time Warner, Comcast that are basically dividing up the map is one of the reasons that consumers are paying more for Internet access. And I think there ought to be … an antitrust division with the FCC and they ought to enforce the law regardless of industry. Whether that’s airlines, or technology, or banking I don’t think anyone is exempt from antitrust enforcement.

ZJ: How would you rate the past few presidents on antitrust policy and which president do you think should be the model when it comes to antitrust enforcement?

RK: I think Harry Truman was very strong on antitrust, the Truman Commission looked after some of the monopolistic behavior, before Truman became president, of monopolistic practices applying to the Defense Department. Of course Theodore Roosevelt … I think antitrust enforcement needs to be significantly strengthened. Matt Stoller has done excellent work on it, and it’s an area of a concentration of economic wealth that has not been addressed sufficiently in the past few administrations.

ZJ: Speaking about how the Justice Democrats seeks to transform the Democratic Party, we saw sort of a debate when there was the DNC chair race about the role of big donors in the Democrats. Do you believe, for instance, that the DNC should accept contributions from lobbyists? That was something that was a rule under Barack Obama — that it would not accept them but that rule was lifted under Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

RK: I disagreed with the lifting of the rule. I believe that the DNC should not be accepting corporate PAC money or lobbyist money. And I spoke out very strongly when the rule was lifted saying that was a mistake.

ZJ: Another resolution that was debated at the DNC — and actually a similar resolution was debated at the RNC, and both of them failed — was basically to say that if you’re a corporate lobbyist you should not be allowed to be a voting member of the DNC. Do you think that’s’ an appropriate rule?

RK: I think that’s a fair rule that we shouldn’t be having corporate lobbyists as part of DNC voting members.

ZJ: Also during the DNC race where we had a lot of progressives engaging to elect Keith Ellison as head of the DNC, we saw another issue pop up which is often creating tension between grassroots progressive Democrats and the establishment of the party and that was Israel-Palestine. A recent poll from the University of Maryland found that 56 percent of Democratic voters, for instance, believe that the U.S. should either use sanctions or tougher action to respond to Israel’s continued expansion of settlements. Yet it’s difficult to find a single Member of Congress who will vote against, for instance, military aid to Israel under any circumstance. Why does that gap exist between what Democratic voters believe and what the Democratic Party actually stands for?

RK: My view on that, is I’m for a two-state solution. I’m opposed to new settlements. And I’m for negotiation that will help lead to peace. I think to get there is nuanced and you want to make sure that you’re not doing things that are going to undermine bringing all the stakeholders to the table to help have peace. I don’t think that Democrats don’t want an end to new settlements or a two-state solution or peace, I think there are different judgments about how you get all the stakeholders to the table to have that resolution.

ZJ: What’s the future of Justice Democrats, how do you plan to engage in the party to move it in the direction that you’re talking about?

RK: I’m hopeful that the party will adopt a lot of the platform positions of progressive Democrats, many of which came out of people’s engagement in the 2016 campaign. There will be a boldness when it comes to dealings with making the cost of college free, the cost of college for the middle class, making sure we’re providing Medicare for all, when it comes to having a financial transactions tax, when it comes to a massive expansion of the earned income tax credit so we have a wage increase for people who are working, when it comes to having a child allowance what Justin Trudeau had in Canada so we’re dealing with child poverty. And think about the sense of investment it’s going to require to create new jobs. Democrats can be the party of more jobs and better wages. I also hope that, the Justice Democrats, people will realize having new voices run it is helpful to the party, it makes people better candidates. It expands the number of people contributing, it expands people who are voting, it creates a marketplace of ideas. And in the long run, that’s good for the Democratic Party. It will help us actually win back the House, the Senate. … I think it’s a very narrow view to say that you should discourage people from entering the political arena or suppress competition to protect incumbency. That’s not ultimately what allows a party to evolve, grow.

Top photo: Ro Khanna during a break in the California Democrats State Convention in San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 27, 2016.

The post Will Freshman Congressman Ro Khanna Chart a New Course for Democrats? appeared first on The Intercept.

Mother’s Day in an ICE Detention Center

14 May 2017 - 8:43am

The woman arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border with her daughter in late April. “From what I had heard about the U.S., it was supposed to be a country that practices showing love to their fellow man. But what I have experienced with my daughter was horrible,” she wrote a few days later, after she was transferred from Border Patrol custody to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

An official took me who humiliated me, throwing all of my things into the trash, even the medicines of my daughter and the food that, with much work, I had brought. When I walked into give my declaration the officials laughed at me because I arrived wet and with mud up to my abdomen. I asked them to please allow me to change my daughter’s clothes, but they wouldn’t let me. … We were still wet with mud. My sadness was that my daughter was shaking from the cold, wet and thirsty. But they would not give us water or food.

The letter was one of 22 I received from women who had crossed into the United States in recent weeks and were awaiting asylum hearings at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Although the worst treatment, such as that described above, occurred before the women arrived at Dilley, conditions at the camp were described in stark terms.

The center, a complex of trailers surrounded by barbed wire in this small town south of San Antonio, is one of three Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities that house women and children in the U.S.

U.S. policy on detaining families and children has fluctuated over the years. For decades, people seeking asylum in the U.S. were released while awaiting their hearings. Even with minimal supervision, the overwhelming majority of those not detained showed up for their asylum hearings. But a 1996 law made it more common to detain people hoping to get asylum while their cases were being processed. After largely doing away with family detention, in 2014 the Obama administration responded to a sudden influx of refugee children and families from Central America by detaining large numbers of families and speeding up deportations.

Obama’s family detention camps were strongly condemned for their inhumane conditions, but Trump has arguably made the situation even worse. “There’s been a much stronger emphasis on making the asylum process stricter, detaining more people and keeping them in detention for longer periods of time,” said Katharina Obser, a senior program officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission.

As the president’s rhetoric about “bad hombres” and border walls has escalated, the number of women entering the country without documentation has fallen — and the number of residents in the Dilley center, the largest immigrant detention facility in the country, has fluctuated. Though it has the capacity to accommodate up to 2,400 residents, the actual census is at times much lower. The number of people spending this Mother’s Day at the center is between 300 and 400, according to RAICES, an immigrants rights group that gathers this information from several sources, and the Dilley center has held as few as 120 people in recent months.

Because CoreCivic, the private company (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) that operates the family residential center for ICE, is paid a flat fee for running the detention center, the per-person cost of staying at the centers has soared even after monthly payments for running Dilley were cut from more than $20 million to $12.6 million when its contract was revised in October. When the facility is at its emptiest, taxpayers are shelling out more than $3,500 per person per night to keep women and children at Dilley, more than the bill for a night in the fanciest penthouse suite in one of Donald Trump’s Hawaiian resorts.

By all accounts, the experience at Dilley is nowhere near as grand. The restrooms lack privacy. Lights are sometimes left on at night, making it difficult to sleep. The women at Dilley report that the water smells and tastes bad and sometimes makes them sick. Many people in town have voiced similar concerns, and according to Dilley resident Jose Asuncion, “anyone who can afford to buys bottled water.” Medical care at Dilley as well as the two other ICE family detention centers has been inadequate, according to immigration advocates.

“We consistently hear reports of poor medical treatment,” said Amy Fischer, policy director at RAICES, which is part of a group effort to provide services to women and children at the center. RAICES also runs a shelter in San Antonio that houses families released from family detention, where, Fischer said, “we never got a kid who was leaving detention in good health. The hospital in San Antonio has diagnosed kids released from Dilley as being ‘Dilley-ish’ because they’re all sick with stomach and upper respiratory issues.”

ICE denied my request to tour the Dilley facility and did not respond to a request for comment. CoreCivic did not respond to a request for comment.

The letters from women detained at Dilley told of frustrations and humiliations not just at the detention center but at “hieleras,” the temporary facilities run by Customs and Border Protection, where many of them stayed right after crossing the border and before being transferred to Dilley. “Hielera” is Spanish for icebox. And they described treatment that was cold in every sense.

According to government guidelines, no one is supposed to be detained for more than 72 hours at the holding cells, which aren’t designed for overnight stays and typically don’t have beds. Border Patrol workers are instructed to keep family members together and to keep temperatures at the facilities comfortable. “Under no circumstances will officers/agents use temperature controls in a punitive manner.”

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Yet, according to the letters, these standards are often violated. Several described being subjected to frigid temperatures. “My daughter was purple from how cold she felt,” one mother recounted. “They wouldn’t give us any blankets. Her lips and her hands and feet were all purple.”

Another wrote of her son becoming feverish during the five days they spent in the hielera. And several letter writers complained of having their children taken away from them. One woman wrote that she asked a female guard to see her twin daughters who had been taken from her. “She said no and slammed the door in my face,” she wrote. “They wouldn’t let me see them even for a minute. I didn’t know if they were getting food.”

Even though they were coming to the United States to escape suffering in their own countries, the women repeatedly described being floored by the cruelty with which they were treated. “One officer hit me on my fingers and told me that I better prepare myself, that they were going to deport me,” one mother described. Another wrote that guards threatened to put her children up for adoption.

Women reported that they and their children often did not receive enough to eat or drink. Perhaps most humiliating, many said they were denied access to the bathroom. “They closed the doors with chains and we were unable to go to the bathroom,” one woman wrote, noting that a guard told her that “this is your punishment for coming here.” Even after this practice sometimes caused accidents, border guards sometimes refused the women’s requests to bathe.

Although access to toilets was meted out like a prize, the bathrooms themselves were sometimes filthy. “It smelled like dead animals and excrement,” wrote one mother, who said she developed an infection at the hielera.

She, like several of the mothers, focused on how their treatment since crossing the border might affect her child. But her letter made clear that the experience had changed her, too. “I thought that entering this country, which had always been my dream, was always going to be an unforgettable day,” she wrote in her letter. “It was. But it was the saddest and ugliest day I could have imagined.”

Top photo: These video stills were submitted as exhibits in litigation filed against Border Patrol by The American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Arizona, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Morrison & Foerster LLP. It depicts individuals wrapped in Mylar sheets sleeping on a concrete floor and benches in a cell so crowded there is no room to move around. This is a sample of conditions in Border Patrol’s “short-term” detention facilities in the Tucson Sector.

The post Mother’s Day in an ICE Detention Center appeared first on The Intercept.

“Misunderstanding Terrorism”: How the Us vs. Them Mentality Will Never Stop Attacks

13 May 2017 - 10:35am

Finding and stopping terrorists before they strike is often compared to looking for a needle in a haystack, a cliché that speaks to the difficulty of preventing a crime that, while deadly, is uncommon. Counterterrorism officials still suggest that the task would become easier if they could use profiling to target Muslim communities. In other words, if they could shrink the size of the haystack.

But a new book by Dr. Marc Sageman, a veteran counterterrorism researcher and former CIA operations officer, argues that this approach, even if carried to its fullest extension in a nightmare scenario for civil liberties, would still be ineffective, because jihadist terrorism is such a statistically rare phenomenon.

In his book “Misunderstanding Terrorism,” Sageman counts 66 Islamic jihadist terrorist plots in Western countries between 2002 and 2012, involving a total of 220 perpetrators. This figure works out to an average of 22 terrorists per year, across a population of roughly 700 million people. Even narrowed to just the Muslim population in Western countries, estimated at roughly 25 million people, that’s less than one in 1 million Muslims a year who could be considered terrorists.

Describing a hypothetical dragnet conducted by Western countries that correctly identified terrorists 99 percent of the time, but accused innocent people 1 percent of the time, Sageman asks us to imagine the following:

If all the various police departments operating in the West collaborate and carry out a gigantic sweep by applying this profile to their respective Muslim populations in order to catch terrorists hiding in their respective societies, they would arrest all 22 terrorists that emerge in a given year. However, they would make a mistake 1 percent of the time for 25 million people, which comes to 250,000 people. Therefore, in order to catch all 22 global neo-jihadi terrorists, they would put 250,000 Muslims in jail by mistake.

Because terrorism is so uncommon, he writes, any strategy for combating it that involves policing entire communities is likely to end up harming huge numbers of innocent people — thus feeding the same climate of alienation and hostility that fosters political violence in the first place.

In the 1980s, Sageman helped organize Afghan resistance fighters against the Soviet Union. Over the decades since, he has interviewed hundreds of individuals accused of involvement in jihadist terrorism, documenting the circumstances of their cases and their personal motivations.

“Misunderstanding Terrorism” by Marc Sageman

“Misunderstanding Terrorism” analyzes every jihadist terrorist plot that occurred in the United States and Europe over a 10-year period ending in 2012. The study excludes nonviolent terror-related cases, such as those involving financial donations or other material support charges, as well as sting operations in which plots were developed by agent provocateurs — a tactic favored by U.S. law enforcement agencies but viewed with skepticism in many European countries. His research comes to two broad conclusions. The first is that violent terrorist plots in Western countries are a statistically tiny phenomenon, which makes blanket counterterrorism approaches an ill-suited response. The second takeaway is that “social identity theory” — that is, how people self-identify in a crisis — is the primary motivating factor behind terrorist attacks.

Despite efforts to protect civil liberties, Sageman writes that profiling-based approaches have led the United States to “grossly overestimate the violent terrorist threat and commit a very large number of assessment errors.” The politically driven manipulation of the threat of terrorism has led Americans to “fibrillate in fear and bankrupt [themselves] with security” in response to a threat that is much smaller than they have been led to believe.

But why does the threat of terrorism resonate so much more in the popular imagination than other dangers? Sageman argues that identity politics influence our response to violence, both for victims and for perpetrators. Most Americans perceive terrorism as something that comes from an “out-group” rather than from people with whom they identify. As a result, an attack creates a sense of solidarity, leading people to react emotively, in contrast to the oft-muted response to more common forms of violence. This identity-driven reaction to terrorist violence also causes people to overestimate how prevalent terrorism really is, making them willing to commit wildly disproportionate resources to fighting it.

Sixteen years after 9/11, the war on terror still appears to have no end in sight, driven on by a circular logic of violence and retribution. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. government tried to frame its counterterrorism programs as not specifically targeting Muslims, while still carrying out airstrikes overseas and launching controversial “countering violent extremism” programs in Muslim communities. Although in recent years some national security experts like Sageman have begun to point out the self-defeating nature of American counterterrorism policies, Donald Trump’s approach – focusing explicitly on Muslim communities, implementing discriminatory immigration policies, expanding military action abroad, and declaring an open-ended war against the amorphous concept of “radical Islam” – isn’t a course correction.

Sageman argues that identity politics are also what fundamentally drives the terrorists themselves. U.S. government policies can consciously or inadvertently fuel a sense of conflict between different groups, in this case Muslims and Westerners. (Several government studies have also pointed to politics as a driver of terrorism, finding U.S. foreign policy as the most frequently cited motivation.)

“All of us see the world through the prism of identity, so when we see an escalation of a conflict happening between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ it inevitably leads some people toward political violence,” Sageman told The Intercept in an interview. “Looking at it in terms of foreign policy, when the government attacks other countries, oftentimes people who have a link to that country or identify with the people there will start categorizing themselves alongside the victims of those attacks.”

By categorizing huge swaths of the global population as enemies or potential enemies, Trump is engaging in hostile posturing toward very large numbers of people who pose no threat to the United States. Meanwhile, the rising death toll from his military actions has the potential to be a force-multiplier for terrorist recruitment. Thanks to advances in information technology, the destructive effects of U.S. military actions are more easily recorded and disseminated than they were a few decades ago. As they escalate, these actions are likely to trigger an emotive “in-group” reaction among those people who perceive themselves as targeted, Sageman says. Likewise, terrorist attacks in Western countries will trigger an emotive “in-group” reaction among Americans, continuing the cycle.

In Sageman’s view, factors like ideological extremism and economic deprivation, sometimes cited as root causes of terrorist violence, are secondary to political identity.

He notes that the phenomenon of identity-based violence has been repeated in different cultural and religious contexts in American history – including by people most Americans would now consider part of the “in-group.” During the Mexican-American War of 1846, an entire battalion of Irish Catholics fighting in the U.S. Army defected to the Mexican side out of a sense of solidarity with the suffering of their Mexican co-religionists, and in protest of the discrimination then faced by Catholics in the United States. Although this episode is largely forgotten today in the U.S., its memory continues to linger for some in Mexico and Ireland.

Sageman believes that the only path to winding down our present conflict is to expand our own “in-group.” In the United States, Sageman said that would mean “bringing everybody into the fold and saying that we’re all Americans, equally, and not just focusing exclusively on one group and defining them as suspicious and not completely part of the fold.”

“Crafting a sense of national identity that includes people instead of driving them further apart is what a leader is supposed to do,” he added. “If we are unable to respond to real threats in a proportional and focused manner, and if we see continue to see this cumulative radicalization of discourse, we will end up with more political violence at home, not less.”

Top photo: Law enforcement officers secure the area where they allegedly arrested terror suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami following a shootout in Linden, New Jersey, on Sept. 19, 2016.

The post “Misunderstanding Terrorism”: How the Us vs. Them Mentality Will Never Stop Attacks appeared first on The Intercept.

Em pleno século XXI, quilombolas ainda têm que lutar por direitos básicos

12 May 2017 - 5:27pm

Passados 129 anos desde a abolição da escravatura, os quilombos continuam sendo locais necessários à resistência da população negra. A ancestralidade negra vira combustível para a luta atual contra o racismo e pelo direito à terra – ameaçado ainda mais pelo governo Michel Temer, que paralisou as demarcações das terras quilombolas. O reconhecimento das comunidades remanescentes de quilombos é uma forma de reparar os danos do período escravagista sentidos ainda hoje. O Brasil tem cerca de 3 mil comunidades quilombolas.


As consequências da escravidão ficam evidentes nos números que comprovam que a qualidade de vida da população negra tem uma década de atraso em relação à população branca do país, de acordo com o estudo “Desenvolvimento Humano para Além das Médias” divulgado nesta semana pelo Programa das Nações Unidas para o Desenvolvimento (PNUD) – órgão da ONU – em parceria com a Fundação João Pinheiro e o Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (IPEA). A pesquisa também aponta que a renda per capita dos brancos chega a ser maior que o dobro dos negros: R$1.097,00 ante R$ 508,90.  

Os dados são retrato de um país onde a escravidão é tratada como atração turística – como denunciado por The Intercept Brasil –, um restaurante tem o nome de senzala e um motel oferece grilhões, jaula e correntes, como os usados em torturas de escravos, como atrativo.

“As pessoas começaram a se incomodar de ver que um negro, um quilombola, tem o mesmo direito que um branco”

Nesse cenário de naturalização de abusos históricos, um político racista não causa tanto espanto. No último mês de abril, duas representações foram encaminhadas à Procuradoria Geral da União contra o deputado federal Jair Bolsonaro por prática de injúria racial em palestra no clube Hebraica, quando o deputado comparou quilombolas com animais e disse que, se eleito presidente em 2018 acabaria com as demarcações. Para a Coordenação Nacional das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas (Conaq), o deputado corrobora o discurso racista de ódio que defende que  quilombolas não teriam lugar ou função na sociedade brasileira.

“Quando nós saímos e começamos a reivindicar nossos direitos, aí começou a sair o racismo de baixo do tapete. Porque aí as pessoas começaram a se incomodar de ver que um negro, um quilombola, tem o mesmo direito que um branco, que um rico”, afirma Ivone de Mattos Bernardo, moradora do Quilombo Maria Conga em Magé, na Baixada Fluminense.

Pelo balanço de 2016 do Disque 100 ( direitos humanos), mais pessoas estão dispostas a procurar por seus direitos. As denúncias envolvendo crimes de intolerância racial foram as que mais aumentaram entre 2015 e 2016.

Direito à terra

Hoje, 199 comunidades estão aguardando análise do Instituto Palmares para a receber a certificação de Comunidade Remanescente de Quilombos. Já as demarcações das terras ficam a cargo do INCRA.  No entanto, o  governo Michel Temer suspendeu as demarcações de terras quilombolas até que a Ação Direta Inconstituicional – ADI 3239 seja julgada no Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) – o que não tem data para acontecer.

Essa revisão acontece em um período de forte pressão da bancada ruralista que comanda a CPI Funai-INCRA e questiona as titulações. A disputa por terras causa mortes no campo e perseguições como a da Marinha aos moradores do Quilombo Rio dos Macacos, mostrada pelo The Intercept Brasil em fevereiro deste ano.

De acordo com defensores da política de demarcação das terras, o governo estaria se antecipando à decisão do Judiciário. A paralisação é algo inédito desde o início das demarcações em 1995. Além de lidar com racismo estrutural da sociedade, a comunidade quilombola enfrenta  mais um retrocesso do governo Michel Temer.  

The post Em pleno século XXI, quilombolas ainda têm que lutar por direitos básicos appeared first on The Intercept.

Leaked NSA Malware Is Helping Hijack Computers Around the World

12 May 2017 - 3:13pm

In mid-April, an arsenal of powerful software tools apparently designed by the NSA to infect and control Windows computers was leaked by an entity known only as the “Shadow Brokers.” Not even a whole month later, the hypothetical threat that criminals would use the tools against the general public has become real, and tens of thousands of computers worldwide are now crippled by an unknown party demanding ransom.

An infected NHS computer in Britain

Gillian Hann

The malware worm taking over the computers goes by the names “WannaCry” or “Wanna Decryptor.” It spreads from machine to machine silently and remains invisible to users until it unveils itself as so-called ransomware, telling users all their files have been encrypted with a key known only to the attacker and that they will be locked out of the files until they pay $300 to an anonymous party using the  cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The ransom rises to $600 after a few days; at some point thereafter, if no ransom is paid, the user’s files are deleted. The hackers have provided a handy countdown clock to let victims know exactly how much time they have left.

Ransomware is not new; for victims, such an attack is normally a colossal headache. But today’s outbreak has spread ransomware on a massive scale, hitting not just home computers but reportedly healthcare, communications infrastructure, logistics, and government entities.

Reuters says “hospitals across England reported the cyber attack was causing huge problems to their services and the public in areas affected were being advised to only seek medical care for emergencies,” and that “the attack had affected X-ray imaging systems, pathology test results, phone systems and patient administration systems.”

The worm has also reportedly reached universities, a major Spanish telecom, FedEx, and the Russian Interior Ministry. In total, researchers have detected WannaCry infections in over 57,000 computers across over 70 countries (and counting–these things move extremely quickly).

A ransomware spreading in the lab at the university

— ??? (@dodicin) May 12, 2017

According to experts tracking and analyzing the worm and its spread, this could be one of the worst-ever recorded attacks of its kind. The security researcher who tweets and blogs as MalwareTech told The Intercept “I’ve never seen anything like this with ransomware,” and “the last worm of this degree I can remember is Conficker.” Conficker was a notorious Windows worm first spotted in 2008; it went on to infect over nine million computers in nearly 200 countries.

Today’s WannaCry attack appears to use an NSA exploit codenamed ETERNALBLUE, a software weapon that would have allowed the spy agency’s hackers to break into any of millions of Windows computers by exploiting a flaw in how certain version of Windows implemented a network protocol commonly used to share files and to print. Even though Microsoft fixed the ETERNALBLUE vulnerability in a March software update, the safety provided there relied on computer users keeping their systems current with the most recent updates. Clearly, as has always been the case, many people (including in governments) are not installing updates. Before, there would have been some solace in knowing that only enemies of the NSA would have to fear having ETERNALBLUE used against them–but from the moment the agency lost control of its own exploit last summer, there’s been no such assurance. Today shows exactly what’s at stake when government hackers can’t keep their virtual weapons locked up. As security researcher Matthew Hickey, who tracked the leaked NSA tools last month, put it, “I am actually surprised that a weaponized malware of this nature didn’t spread sooner.”

Screenshot of an infected computer via Avast

The infection will surely reignite arguments over what’s known as the Vulnerabilities Equity Process, the decision-making procedure used to decide whether the NSA should use a security weakness it discovers (or creates) for itself and keep it secret, or share it with the affected companies so that they can protect their customers. Christopher Parsons, a researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, told The Intercept plainly: “Today’s ransomware attack is being made possible because of past work undertaken by the NSA,” and that “ideally it would lead to more disclosures that would improve the security of devices globally.”

But even if the NSA were more willing to divulge its exploits rather than hoarding them, we’d still be facing the problem that too many people really don’t seem to care about updating their software. “Malicious actors exploit years old vulnerabilities on a routine basis when undertaking their operations,” Parsons pointed out. “There’s no reason that more aggressive disclose of vulnerabilities through the VEP would change such activities.”

A Microsoft spokesperson provided the following comment:

“Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt. In March, we provided a security update which provides additional protections against this potential attack. Those who are running our free antivirus software and have Windows updates enabled, are protected. We are working with customers to provide additional assistance.”

Update: May 12th, 2017 3:45 p.m.

This post was updated with a comment from Microsoft.

Update: May 12th, 2017, 4:10 p.m.

This post was updated with a more current count of the number of affected countries.

The post Leaked NSA Malware Is Helping Hijack Computers Around the World appeared first on The Intercept.

Um ano de Temer em 10 ataques à Constituição

12 May 2017 - 12:51pm

Desde que Michel Temer assumiu a Presidência da República, há exatamente um ano, a realidade dos brasileiros é outra, principalmente se considerarmos a lista de direitos que foram abolidos nos últimos 365 dias. Foi em 12 de maio de 2016 que o então vice-presidente recebeu a notificação que Dilma Rousseff estava oficialmente afastada do cargo e que ele assumiria o posto de forma interina.

De lá para cá, prevendo as mudanças radicais que viriam com o novo governo, a plataforma Alerta Social começou a fazer um levantamento dos direitos perdidos a cada dia da gestão Temer. The Intercept Brasil aproveitou para questionar seus leitores esta semana: “quais direitos você perdeu?”

.@MichelTemer completa um ano no poder no próximo dia 12. Queremos saber quais direitos você perdeu desde que ele chegou ao Planalto.

— The Intercept Brasil (@TheInterceptBr) May 9, 2017

Caso queira conhecer todos os direitos abolidos, confira a lista dos 365 aqui.


“O primeiro e mais importante foi o voto”, afirmou o leitor Matheus Ramos Vieira em mensagem enviada ao The Intercept Brasil. “Perdi a legitimidade do meu e de 54 milhões de votos”, lembrou a leitora Claudia Fidelis.

Trecho da Constituição que defende a representatividade popular por meio do voto.

Quando Dilma foi retirada do posto, não foi apenas ela quem deixou o governo, mas o programa por ela defendido — e escolhido pela maioria (51,6%) do povo brasileiro nas eleições de 2014. Apesar de ter sido eleito na mesma chapa, uma vez que foi alçado ao papel de protagonista, Temer rasgou o programa de governo que o elegera e seguiu as diretrizes apontadas justamente pela chapa que se colocava como oposição nas na disputa. Não apenas os eleitores de Dilma perderam com essa mudança, mas a democracia brasileira também.

O relatório da Alerta Social resume o clima da cerimônia de posse do então presidente interino:

“Não houve fardas, mas paletós, gravatas e ternos. Não houve tanques. Porém, lá estavam os ricos homens brancos para tirar do poder Dilma, presidenta democraticamente eleita.”

No dia 12 de maio de 2016 Michel Temer assinava notificação de posse como presidente interino.

Foto: Marcos Corrêa/ VPR


Segundo a Organização das Nações Unidas:

“Os direitos humanos incluem o direito à vida e à liberdade, à liberdade de opinião e de expressão, o direito ao trabalho e à educação, entre e muitos outros.”

O leitor Raul Morales respondeu ao questionamento de The Intercept Brasil lembrando da criminalização das manifestações: “Ir e vir sem medo. Hoje me sinto culpado ante um policial sedento de sangue, perdi o direito de exigir meu direito. Perdi o direito à justiça.”

Nas manifestações organizadas durante as votações do impeachment no Congresso, há um ano, assim como no dia do depoimento do ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula, esta semana, cidades foram demarcadas, muros foram levantados. Manifestantes ficaram encurralados, porque a polícia não respeitou seu direito de ir e vir, nem a liberdade de expressão.

Em fevereiro de 2017, a ONG Artigo 19 fez um relatório chamado “Nas ruas, nas leis, nos tribunais — violações ao direito de protesto no Brasil 2015 – 2016”. No texto, explica-se que coisas já tidas como naturais nos protestos são, na verdade, ilegais; como a exigência feita pela polícia de um aviso prévio sobre a manifestação e seu percurso, ou a falta de identificação nos uniformes policiais. Também foi denunciado o uso de armas letais.

Não foi apenas em manifestações que a liberdade de expressão sofreu ataques. Também há registros de repressão a jornalistas e a veículos jornalísticos, textos pessoais publicados em redes sociais e produções de arte [como filmes, arte de rua e músicas].

Trecho da Constituição que garante os direitos sociais.


Ao escalar para o Ministério da Educação a mesma liderança técnica do governo Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Temer já mostrava quais eram suas metas para a área. Foi em agosto de 2016 que as reformas se tornaram mais intensas, começando pela reforma do Ensino Médio.

O leitor Diego Bottino Rivera vai direto a este ponto: “O direito de debater reformas realmente significativas e democráticas do sistema educacional dentro da arena pública”. Enquanto secundaristas manifestavam-se pedindo diálogo sobre a reforma, o governo dava sua resposta: repressão policial.

Desde então, o ministério já:

_Mudou as leis que estruturam o Ensino Médio, retirando disciplinas como filosofia e sociologia [e depois voltou atrás].

_Alterou a base curricular do Ensino Básico para retirar o respeito à identidade de gênero e à orientação sexual.

_Removeu dos resultados do Enem o desempenho das melhores escolas públicas do país.

_Encerrou o programa Ciência sem Fronteiras.

_Cortou 40% das vagas do FIES.


Escalado por Temer como ministro da Saúde, Ricardo Barros foi autor de inúmeros impropérios, considerados pela mídia tradicional como meras “gafes”. Entre as afirmações de Barros estão a negação da universalidade da saúde pública, a defesa de planos de saúde com qualidade abaixo da mínima exigida e a consideração de que muitos exames são um “desperdício”. Muito mais do que simples “deslizes”, suas falas revelam o que o ministro deseja construir — ou desconstruir — na saúde brasileira.

O relatório da Alerta Social denuncia os cortes no programa Farmácia Popular, que disponibiliza remédios a preços populares:

O ministro da Saúde, Ricardo Barros.


“Após cortar 20% dos estabelecimentos credenciados no Programa Farmácia Popular, o ministro da Saúde, Ricardo Barros anunciou o fechamento de 393 farmácias populares, afetando a população mais vulnerável ao diminuir o acesso a medicamentos baratos.”

O programa Mais Médicos também sofreu cortes. Em março, os R$ 3,3 bilhões de investimento do programa deixaram de ser de destinação obrigatória, parte da população que dependia exclusivamente deste serviço ficou sem atendimento. Para suprir a demanda, Barros está desenvolvendo a abertura de planos de saúde “populares”. Ou seja, esta mesma população pobre passará a pagar pelos serviços que até então teve de graça.


A Lei da Terceirização, aprovada em abril pelo Congresso, é apenas o início de um ataque intenso aos direitos trabalhistas. Abriu-se a possibilidade de se demitir um funcionário e contratá-lo, via terceirizada, ganhando menos. Mas ainda vem mais por aí: a Reforma Trabalhista, em curso no Senado, promete mudar drasticamente a CLT, permitindo inclusive jornadas de 12 horas e cerceando o poder da Justiça Trabalhista.

Antes disso, porém, uma medida provisória já dobrou para dois anos o período em que o empregador pode reduzir o tempo de serviço [e, portanto, o salário] dos empregados durante uma crise.

As mudanças estão sendo tão fortes que sites humoristas chegaram a dizer que até a Lei Áurea estaria em debate. Brincadeiras à parte, a “lista suja” das empresas denunciadas por trabalho escravo ficou sem publicação durante 10 meses, e uma proposta do líder da bancada ruralista na Câmara prevê que o salário do trabalhador rural possa ser substituído por remuneração de “qualquer espécie”.


Uma das primeiras medidas do governo Temer, ainda em maio de 2016, foi anunciar que toda a terceira etapa do programa “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” estava suspensa. O estudo da Alerta Social mostrou que 6,1 milhões de famílias foram impactadas com o corte e 1,3 milhão de vagas de trabalho que deixaram de ser criadas. Com os cortes, estima-se que o programa deixará de render R$ 70 bilhões ao PIB do país.

Em setembro, as regras de acesso à moradia implementadas no programa foram modificadas, e o cidadão que quiser participar não poderá utilizar seu FGTS. Em outubro, Temer ordenou ao Congresso que tirasse de tramitação o Projeto de Lei 4960/2016, enviado em abril pela então presidente Dilma Rousseff, que buscava aprimorar o Minha Casa Minha Vida e realizar a regularização fundiária de assentamentos em áreas urbanas.


Em diferentes estados, o passe livre de estudantes está sendo bloqueado. No Rio de Janeiro, 27 mil alunos de escolas públicas perderam o direito à gratuidade no transporte público no início de maio. Os idosos do estado também tiveram seus vales cortados. O objetivo é criar uma economia de R$7,5 milhões por ano.

Estudantes secundaristas protestam contra retirada do cartão que dá passe livre (RioCard), no centro do Rio.

Foto: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Em São Paulo, as regras para a gratuidade foram modificadas sem aviso prévio aos estudantes, em abril. O prefeito da capital, João Doria (PSDB-SP), também já afirmou estudar medidas restritivas à gratuidade de idosos.

A gratuidade a idosos é protegida por lei federal. A reserva de vagas para jovens de baixa renda também é protegida por decreto federal. O artigo 208 da Constituição pontua sete deveres do Estado com a educação, sendo o sétimo:

“atendimento ao educando, em todas as etapas da educação básica, por meio de programas suplementares de material didáticoescolar, transporte, alimentação e assistência à saúde”

[texto destacado pela edição]

Um projeto de lei tramita na Câmara para que seja criado um fundo destinado a transporte de estudantes.


O leitor Diego Fernandes respondeu ao questionamento do The Intercept Brasil afirmando que sente mais falta do “direito à arte e cultura, de discutir gênero e sexualidade”. Segundo o levantamento da Alerta Social, em apenas três dias de julho, “Temer exonerou 81 pessoas do Ministério da Cultura, boa parte há bem mais de 10 anos na pasta”.

A TV Brasil foi um dos alvos do ataque à cultura brasileira. Após se identificar como um bastião de resistência às interferências feitas na rede televisiva e até mesmo como força política contra o fim do canal, o Conselho Curador da EBC foi desmantelado.


Logo que subiu ao poder, Temer modificou a estrutura ministerial do governo, colocando a Previdência sob o chapéu do ministério da Fazenda e o INSS, órgão que opera a previdência, sob a alçada da Assistência Social. Já era um sinal de como pensões e benefícios poderiam ser impactados.

A leitora Patricia Alexandre enviou a mensagem sobre o direito que sente mais falta: “Aposentadoria. Se a reforma passar do jeito que está eu teria acesso à aposentadoria com salário pleno lá pelos meus 80 anos”.

Baseado em cálculos que apresentam erros grosseiros de matemática e em números sem fonte revelada, ambos já contestados por especialistas, o governo está passando o rolo compressor da Reforma da Previdência no Congresso. A idade mínima de 65 anos ignora o fato de que esta é exatamente a expectativa de vida de algumas cidades brasileiras, ou seja, as pessoas deverão literalmente trabalhar até morrer.

Enquanto isso, a dívida de empresas com a previdência é três vezes o valor do “rombo” apontado pelo governo como motivo da reforma. No entanto, nenhum esforço é feito para que essas dívidas sejam quitadas, apesar de a Procuradoria da Fazenda já ter apresentado um estudo que comprova a possibilidade efetiva do retorno de R$100 bilhões.


Trecho da Constituição que fala especificamente sobre erradicação da pobreza.

Em novembro, segundo o levantamento da Alerta Social, ao bloquear 1,1 milhão de benefícios, Temer tirou de 5 milhões de pessoas não apenas o acesso ao programa de transferência de renda, mas também “o acompanhamento em saúde e educação e o acesso a oportunidades como cursos e atividades de geração de renda” que o programa desencadeia.

O levantamento também mostra que a PEC do teto de gastos, aprovada em dezembro, “ainda pode fazer com que a assistência social perca R$ 868 bilhões”.

Em dezembro, o ministro do Desenvolvimento Social e Agrário, Osmar Terra, cortou do programa famílias com filhos aprendizes ou estagiários. Apesar da alta no desemprego, que fez a demanda pelo programa crescer em meio milhão de pessoas, o número de famílias apoiadas caiu na mesma proporção.

Lembrou de mais algum?

Se você sentiu falta de algum direito perdido no último ano que não esteja listado aqui, nem na plataforma Alerta Social, conte para The Intercept Brasil. Comente nesta matéria ou mande mensagem em nossas redes sociais.

The post Um ano de Temer em 10 ataques à Constituição appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Threatens Comey With Secretly Recorded “‘Tapes'” of Their Conversations

12 May 2017 - 11:10am

Here’s your morning Impeachment Watch: the President of the United States, @realDonaldTrump, just publicly threatened to release secretly recorded tapes of his conversations with James Comey, the former FBI director he fired this week.

James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

Trump’s tweeted threat appeared to be in response to reports from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News that Comey had let it be known, through associates, that the president had lied in the termination letter he had his bodyguard deliver to FBI headquarters on Tuesday. The letter included a bizarre aside in which Trump claimed that he was grateful to the director for assuring him, in three conversations, that the president himself was not under investigation. Trump’s claim, one associate of Comey’s told the Journal, “is literally farcical.”

Nonetheless, Trump repeated that claim in an interview with NBC News on Thursday, saying that he had first asked the director over dinner at the White House on January 27th if he was a subject of the federal investigation into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and the Russian government to undermine his rival, Hillary Clinton.

WATCH: I was going to fire Comey anyway, Pres. Trump tells @LesterHoltNBC in exclusive interview at White House

— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) May 12, 2017

“I actually asked him, yes,” Trump said of his conversation with Comey, at a dinner requested by the president the day after the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, had informed the White House that the FBI had proof that the National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

“I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know — am I under investigation?'” Trump recalled asking Comey. “He said, ‘You are not under investigation.'”

Moments later, Trump admitted that ending the federal investigation into his own campaign was central to his thinking when he made the final decision to fire the FBI director leading the probe.

Pres. Trump on firing Comey: "I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story."

— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) May 11, 2017

“I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it,” Trump said, describing his thought process. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia, is a made-up story — it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election.'”

“It should be over with,” Trump added, of the investigation — which, in fact, began months before he won the election. “In my opinion it should’ve been over a long time ago.”

Trump’s reference to recordings of his conversations with Comey — two of which, he says, took place on the phone — raised the immediate specter of a secret White House recording system, like that used by Trump’s political idol, Richard Nixon.

Alexander Butterfield disclosed Nixon WH taping system before Senate Watergate Committee.

Did @realDonaldTrump disclose same on Twitter?!

— John Walke (@jwalkenrdc) May 12, 2017

According to his biographer Tim O’Brien, however, during his long career as a fixture of New York gossip columns, Trump often made similar threats to reporters, hinting at hidden recording devices in his Trump Tower office, which simply did not exist.

Translation: "I often said same thing to reporters in years past, claiming I had a recording system in my Trump Org office. But I didn't."

— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) May 12, 2017

In a subsequent tweet, Trump inaccurately claimed that James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, had exonerated him, and described the ongoing FBI investigation as a “witch hunt.”

When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

The presidential Twitter meltdown was not going over well at the FBI, according to a former senior official there who told NBC News: “This threatens the independence of the FBI and goes against core American values.”

NEW » Former FBI official to @EamonJavers: Trump "is out of control…this threatens the independence of the FBI"

— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) May 12, 2017

“This is not going to end well for this administration,” the former official predicted.

The post Trump Threatens Comey With Secretly Recorded “‘Tapes'” of Their Conversations appeared first on The Intercept.

O papel da imprensa no julgamento de Lula

12 May 2017 - 8:26am

Depois de vazar ilegalmente para a Globo conversas particulares de Lula, de pedir o apoio da opinião pública através da imprensa, de ter discursado em eventos patrocinados por políticos do PSDB, de ter sua esposa dando entrevistas e aparecendo em capas de revistas, de assistir docilmente diversos vazamentos ilegais — e condenar apenas um, justamente o que em tese favoreceria a Lula — , o juiz Sérgio Moro teve a coragem de afirmar não ter nada  a ver com o que é publicado pela imprensa.

“o senhor tem essas reclamações com a imprensa, e eu compreendo, mas o juiz não tem nenhuma relação com o que a imprensa publica ou não publica, e esses processos são públicos”.

Moro afronta a realidade dos fatos na tentativa de conferir legitimidade a um processo que já está caracterizado como uma briga entre um juiz e um réu. Quem acompanha minimamente o noticiário nos últimos anos, sabe que Moro encarnou com gosto o papel de mocinho no espetáculo midiático em que Lula já foi condenado como vilão. A narrativa da luta do mocinho implacável contra a corrupção versus o bandidão-chefe de quadrilha brilhou nas manchetes de jornais e capas de revista. É compreensível a tentativa de Moro em querer minimizar o papel da imprensa no caso, mesmo tendo em diversos momentos do interrogatório sustentado suas afirmações com base em publicações da grande mídia.

O clima de embate político instalado durante os dias que se antecederam ao depoimento se confirmou na quarta-feira. Apesar de a tropa de choque de jornalistas da Globo News passar a noite inteira amenizando o caráter político da atuação de Moro e ressaltando o de Lula, o que se viu em boa parte do interrogatório foi, sim, um debate político entre um juiz e um réu, por mais inacreditável que isso possa parecer.

Dos integrantes da tropa de choque destacada para cobrir o caso, Dony De Nuccio, Natuza Nery, Merval Pereira, Eliane Cantanhêde e Cristiana Lobo demonstraram claramente de que lado estavam. Havia uma premissa clara em todas as análises: Lula é culpado.

Cristiana Lobo, talvez empolgada pela grande sacada, repetiu por várias vezes ao vivo na Globo News algo como “Voltou o Lula do mensalão, que não sabia de nada”.

O que Lula mais repete no interrogatório é que não sabia. Tal como no mensalão.

— Cristiana Lôbo (@cristilobo) 11 de maio de 2017

A surrada carta do “Lula não sabia de nada” voltou para o espetáculo. Claro, o vilão da Rede Globo só poderia estar mentindo. Merval também insistiu na tese de que “Lula jogou a culpa na Marisa”.

A jornalista Natuza Nery disse no dia seguinte que “o curioso nesse interrogatório é que Lula tentou ficar em sua arena de conforto, a arena política, enquanto Sérgio Moro tentava puxá-lo para arena de conforto do juiz, que é a arena jurídica”. Não foi bem assim. De fato, em muitos momentos, Moro tentou puxar o político para o campo jurídico, mas, em outros, não se furtou ao debate. Não foi pouco o tempo que Moro dedicou a assuntos de natureza política sem nenhuma relação com o caso do triplex, como veremos mais a seguir.

Natuza também relatou uma conversa que teve com procuradores da Lava Jato. Eles teriam dito que “tudo saiu da normalidade. Não dá pra dizer que um lado nocauteou o outro, embora aliados do petista achem que ele teria ganhado esse embate”. Ou seja, até mesmo os procuradores admitem com naturalidade para a imprensa que estamos diante de uma disputa entre um juiz e um réu. Fica cada vez mais difícil acreditar que estamos diante de um julgamento justo.


É compreensível que o réu, um político que acredita estar sendo vítima de perseguição política e jurídica, traga o depoimento para sua zona de conforto. Mas é inadmissível que um juiz tope essa disputa no campo político, fato que se repetiu em diversos momentos. Moro trouxe declarações não relacionadas ao caso e ressuscitou o caso do Mensalão no depoimento. Vejamos:

São perguntas que jornalistas da Globo News fariam com intuito de render boas manchetes, mas não me parecem adequadas dentro do âmbito de uma ação que julga uma acusação referente a três contratos firmados entre OAS e Petrobras e o triplex do Guarujá.

Foram várias as perguntas feitas sobre o Mensalão — caso ocorrido há 12 anos — , a maioria delas baseada em declarações que Lula deu à imprensa. Esta parte do interrogatório indignou os advogados de defesa, que chamaram a atenção para a natureza política das perguntas e orientaram o réu a não responder.

Moro, com o curioso apoio da promotoria, respondeu à reclamação dizendo que as informações eram relevantes para entender a relação de Lula com subordinados e contribuir para a  “formação da convicção judicial”.

E sabe quem concorda com os advogados de Lula? Novamente ele, senhores e senhores,  Reinaldo Azevedo — o maior antilulista dos últimos 15 anos fez uma avaliação que destoou da narrativa abraçada pela igrejinha da grande mídia.

“a maioria das perguntas do juiz nada tinha a ver com processo no qual depunha o petista.”

“Sem poder apresentar provas de que o tríplex pertence a Lula, Moro optou por uma condução da audiência que fez picadinho do devido processo legal.”

“No estado de direito, condena-se com provas. E Moro não as tinha. Ao contrário, as evidências materiais apontam que o imóvel pertence à OAS.”

“Moro optou por um comportamento lamentável, que agride o devido processo legal. Resolveu fazer perguntas a Lula que diziam respeito aos quatro outros inquéritos a que o petista responde.”

“o juiz demonstrou incômodo com a liderança política de Lula, o que é um despropósito. Quis saber por que o ex-mandatário emitiu juízos contraditórios sobre o… mensalão!!! O que a dita Ação Penal 470 tinha a ver com o apartamento de Guarujá? Nada!”

A flagrante condução política do julgamento conseguiu a façanha de colocar Reinaldo Azevedo ao lado de Lula para poder defender o Estado de Direito. É simbólico demais.

Nas considerações finais, Lula discursou sobre a perseguição que sofre pela grande imprensa e apresentou números do Manchetômetro. O juiz não gostou e, como se fosse um oponente político em debate eleitoral, disse que também é perseguido por parte da imprensa: “infelizmente, eu já sou atacado por bastante gente, inclusive por blogs supostamente que supostamente patrocinam o senhor. Então padeço dos mesmos males em certa medida”.

Ora, ora. Ao final do interrogatório, o juiz faz uma ilação estranha sobre “blogs que patrocinam” Lula. Mas não vamos nos apegar ao estranho uso do verbo “patrocinar”, mas ao fato de o julgador se colocar como uma das partes do processo e afirmar que está sendo atacado por aliados do réu. Parece que há, sim, influência da imprensa no julgamento, não é mesmo? Usando esta mesma linha de raciocínio, talvez seja possível dizer que a Globo patrocina o nobre magistrado.

The post O papel da imprensa no julgamento de Lula appeared first on The Intercept.

Comey Firing Will Not Stop FBI’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Acting Director Says

11 May 2017 - 3:33pm

The Senate Intelligence Committee had planned to hear from James Comey at their worldwide threats hearing on Thursday. Sen. Mark Warner said he had prepared “a series of difficult questions having to do with Trump associates” and relating to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russian influence over the 2016 presidential election.

Instead, the committee got Andrew G. McCabe, the Comey deputy who took over leadership of the bureau after Trump abruptly fired Comey as the FBI director on Tuesday afternoon. Sitting beside the heads of the CIA, NSA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, McCabe got a rough political baptism as senators grilled him over the circumstances surrounding Comey’s firing, and the status of the investigation into Trump’s Russia ties.

McCabe’s testimony contradicted the White House on two key points.

While the White House has repeatedly said the FBI no longer had confidence in Comey, McCabe said the bureau had his back. “Director Comey enjoys broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” he said.

"Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day," acting FBI Director McCabe says

— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 11, 2017

And while White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders has called the Russia investigation “one of the smallest things” on the FBI’s plate, McCabe said it was “a highly significant investigation.”

FBI's McCabe says Russia probe is "highly significant," refuting WH claims of it being a "small" investigation

— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 11, 2017

McCabe was circumspect about the bureau’s interactions with Trump. He refused to comment on the accuracy of a claim made by Trump, in his letter firing Comey, that Comey had informed Trump “on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.” Trump reiterated that claim in a Thursday interview with NBC that coincided with the committee hearing. “I said, if it’s possible would you let me know, ‘Am I under investigation?’ He said, ‘You are not under investigation,’” Trump told Holt.

Nor would McCabe say, when asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, whether such conversations between Trump and Comey would be improper if they did take place. When pressed by Sen. Martin Heinrich, McCabe said that he had met with Trump earlier this week, but that the Russia investigation had not come up.

Contrary to reporting in the New York Times and Washington Post that Comey’s firing had followed a request from him for more resources to work on the Russia investigation, McCabe said that the FBI had what it needed, and that its work would continue unimpeded. He did not say specifically whether or not the FBI had asked for more prosecutors.

William D. Gore, who led two FBI field offices and is now the sheriff of San Diego County, told The Intercept that McCabe did a good job of representing the bureau in Thursday’s hearing.

“He came across as an apolitical professional who will follow the facts wherever they take him,” Gore said. Gore had harsher words for the manner in which Trump fired Comey, which he called “atrocious.”

“Comey is a class guy,” Gore said. “To handle his dismissal in that way was reprehensible, in my opinion. How about a phone call? Or a person-to-person meeting? It’s called leadership 101. Anyone who runs an organization knows that.”

Two hours into the hearing, senators Warner and Burr, the committee’s vice chairman and chairman, abruptly stepped out to meet with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general whose memorandum on Comey’s job performance provided the rationale for Trump’s decision to dismiss of Comey. At least that was the White House’s version of events before this afternoon, when Trump offered a revised rationale in his NBC interview, saying the dismissal was his decision alone. Rosenstein was reportedly close to resigning over Comey’s dismissal after the White House initially cast his memorandum as the cause of Trump’s decision.

Rosenstein, Warner and Burr huddled in the committee’s secure office for nearly an hour. Afterwards, Burr said the committee had requested to meet with Rosenstein before Comey’s departure, and that the circumstances of Comey’s firing did not come up in their meeting. Warner said he told Rosenstein that he ought to appoint a special counsel to look into Trump’s Russia ties, something that he and many other Democratic lawmakers have advocated. “I think he took it under advisement,” Warner said, when asked how Rosenstein took to the suggestion. “I think he listened.”

Rosenstein left without answering questions.

Top photo: A protest is held outside the White House in Washington May 10, 2017, to demand and independent investigation into Trump ties with Russia following the firing by President Donald Trump of FBI director James Comey.

The post Comey Firing Will Not Stop FBI’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Acting Director Says appeared first on The Intercept.

With James Comey Gone, These Three FBI and DOJ Officials Are Running the Russia-Trump Probe

11 May 2017 - 11:03am

TO SERVE UNDER Donald Trump is to be a disposable commodity whose value fluctuates with the master’s moods. This was true on “The Apprentice” and it’s true in the administration, where personnel matters have taken on a gameshow quality. Turnover has been especially rapid among those responsible for heading up the investigation into ties between Trump’s circle and the Russian government. This week, FBI Director James Comey joined Mary McCord, Sally Yates, and Preet Bharara as senior law enforcement officials who either resigned under Trump or were fired outright. As new officials are appointed to take their places, it’s getting hard to keep track of who is responsible for the Trump-Russia investigation. Two of these key officials (Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein) are Trump appointees; the third (Andrew McCabe) will likely be replaced by a Trump pick soon.


Dana Boente leaves federal court in Alexandria, Va. on Jan. 26, 2012.

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Current job: U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Virginia. Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Division, Department of Justice.

Former jobs: Acting Attorney General (after firing of Sally Yates in February 2017 and before the confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General in April 2017); U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Louisiana.

Why He Matters: Both of Boente’s current roles involve supervising the ongoing investigation into the Russian government’s ties to Donald Trump’s campaign. As discussed by former FBI Director James Comey in congressional testimony last week, and reported by CNN, a grand jury is now gathering evidence in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of its investigation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, for his ties to the Russian government. Comey also described the broader Russia probe as a “counterintelligence investigation,” a category of inquiry overseen by the National Security Division, which Boente headed after the resignation of Mary McCord last month.

Age: 63

Bio: Boente is a career prosecutor who has been with the Department of Justice since 1984, serving under administrations from both parties. Boente oversaw the prosecution of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell for corruption before the Supreme Court threw out the conviction in 2016, a decision that effectively narrowed the definition of political corruption. In 2015, Boente was nominated by President Obama to serve as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia — a post that handles a lot of national security cases, due to its proximity to the Beltway. After acting attorney general Sally Yates was fired for refusing to defend Trump’s Muslim ban, Boente was appointed acting attorney general and promptly reversed course, unsuccessfully defending it in court. (The Department of Justice has appealed.) Former colleagues told the New York Times that Boente wasn’t playing politics — he probably believes that a ban is legal. In April, Boente was tapped by Jeff Sessions to lead the Department’s National Security Division, which, along with the FBI, is responsible for the Russia investigation. In that role, Boente is also at the center of the Justice’s efforts to arrest and prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a move that could set a precedent that severely restricts press freedom.



United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein gives testimony before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary in Washington, on March 7, 2017.

Photo: Rex Features/AP

New job: Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice

Old job: U.S. Attorney for Maryland

Why He Matters: Sessions promised not to weigh in on the Trump-Russia investigation; nevertheless he appears to have been instrumental in President Trump’s decision to fire Comey, who was leading the FBI’s work on the investigation. If one can still take Sessions at his word, it is Rosenstein who is supposed to be supervising all Trump-Russia matters at the Department of Justice. Rosenstein also wrote the lengthy memo that comes the closest to providing a justification for Comey’s firing.

Age: 52

Bio: In his twelve years working as a prosecutor in Maryland, Rosenstein took on matters ranging from municipal corruption to white-collar crime to firearms and gangs. He investigated leaks relating to U.S. cyber-efforts against Iran under President Obama and investigated Bill and Hillary Clinton’s real estate investments as a Justice Department lawyer working for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose investigations led to the most recent impeachment of an American president. This profile by CNN suggests that Rosenstein is a careful and thorough professional. It records the surprise of colleagues that he would be the one to wind up providing Trump and Sessions with the basis for getting rid of Comey. In an earlier profile by the Washington Post, Philip Heymann, who served as deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton, praises Rosenstein’s trustworthiness and ethics. It notes that Rosenstein is rarely home in time for dinner and often picks up where he left off at home, working late into the night. During his confirmation hearings earlier this year, Rosenstein refused to say whether he would appoint a special counsel to investigate Trump’s Russia ties and promised to be independent. The Washington Post has reported that Rosenstein threatened to resign upon realizing that the White House was using his memo to justify Comey’s dismissal. “If the president has committed a crime and I believe the president is culpable, then I wouldn’t follow the president’s advice,” he said. On Thursday morning, the New York Times editorial board published an open letter to Rosenstein, charging Trump with “exploiting the integrity you have earned over nearly three decades in public service” and calling on Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to “get to the bottom of whether and how Russia helped steal the presidency for Mr. Trump.”



Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe prepares to testify during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “World Wide Threats” on May 11, 2017.

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

New job: Acting Director, FBI

Old job: Deputy Director, FBI

Why He Matters: Until Trump nominates a replacement for Comey and maneuvers him or her through Senate confirmation (there’s likely to be a fight no matter who the candidate is), McCabe will be in charge of the bureau’s end of the Trump-Russia investigation. He’s politically vulnerable. Unlike Rosenstein and Boente, he wasn’t picked by Trump for his current job and he could be next in line for firing. According to a source who spoke with ABC News, McCabe has talked by phone with FBI field offices around the country and asked them to carry on “business as usual.”

Bio: McCabe spent 20 years in the FBI’s New York field office before Comey promoted him to deputy director last year. He had significant responsibilities in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice’s inspector general for not recusing himself from that matter: Republican senators and others have complained that McCabe should have taken himself out of investigation because his wife, Jill McCabe, made a run for the Virginia state senate in 2015 and accepted nearly half a million dollars in contributions from a political action committee connected to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe chaired Clinton presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2008. McCabe also figures into a second controversy surrounding contacts between Comey and the Trump White House. The Atlantic and others have reported that the White House asked Comey and McCabe to dispute reports of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. If those reports are true, Comey and McCabe appear to have refused, but the contacts themselves could violate guidelines designed to shield the bureau from political pressure.

Top photo: From Left to Right: Rod J. Rosenstein, Andrew G. McCabe, and Dana Boente.

The post With James Comey Gone, These Three FBI and DOJ Officials Are Running the Russia-Trump Probe appeared first on The Intercept.

NYU Accidentally Exposed Military Code-breaking Computer Project to Entire Internet

11 May 2017 - 10:57am

In early December 2016, Adam was doing what he’s always doing, somewhere between hobby and profession: looking for things that are on the internet that shouldn’t be. That week, he came across a server inside New York University’s famed Institute for Mathematics and Advanced Supercomputing, headed by the brilliant Chudnovsky brothers, David and Gregory. The server appeared to be an internet-connected backup drive. But instead of being filled with family photos and spreadsheets, this drive held confidential information on an advanced code-breaking machine that had never before been described in public. Dozens of documents spanning hundreds of pages detailed the project, a joint supercomputing initiative administered by NYU, the Department of Defense, and IBM. And they were available for the entire world to download.

The supercomputer described in the trove, “WindsorGreen,” was a system designed to excel at the sort of complex mathematics that underlies encryption, the technology that keeps data private, and almost certainly intened for use by the Defense Department’s signals intelligence wing, the National Security Agency. WindsorGreen was the successor to another password-cracking machine used by the NSA, “WindsorBlue,” which was also  documented in the material leaked from NYU and which had been previously described in the Norwegian press thanks to a document provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Both systems were intended for use by the Pentagon and a select few other Western governments, including Canada and Norway.

Adam, an American digital security researcher, requested that his real name not be published out of fear of losing his day job. Although he deals constantly with digital carelessness, Adam was nonetheless stunned by what NYU had made available to the world. “The fact that this software, these spec sheets, and all the manuals to go with it were sitting out in the open for anyone to copy is just simply mind blowing,” he said.

He described to The Intercept how easy it would have been for someone to obtain the material, which was marked with warnings like “DISTRIBUTION LIMITED TO U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES ONLY,” “REQUESTS FOR THIS DOCUMENT MUST BE REFERRED TO AND APPROVED BY THE DOD,” and “IBM Confidential.” At the time of his discovery, Adam wrote to me in an email:

All of this leaky data is courtesy of what I can only assume are misconfigurations in the IMAS (Institute for Mathematics and Advanced Supercomputing) department at NYU. Not even a single username or password separates these files from the public internet right now. It’s absolute insanity.

The files were taken down after Adam notified NYU.

Intelligence agencies like the NSA hide code-breaking advances like WindsorGreen because their disclosure might accelerate what has become a cryptographic arms race. Encrypting information on a computer used to be a dark art shared between militaries and mathematicians. But advances in cryptography, and rapidly swelling interest in privacy in the wake of Snowden, have helped make encryption tech an effortless, everyday commodity for consumers. Web connections are increasingly shielded using the HTTPS protocol, end-to-end encryption has come to popular chat platforms like WhatsApp, and secure phone calls can now be enabled simply by downloading some software to your device. The average person viewing their checking account online or chatting on iMessage might not realize the mathematical complexity that’s gone into making eavesdropping impractical.

The spread of encryption is a good thing — unless you’re the one trying to eavesdrop. Spy shops like the NSA can sometimes thwart encryption by going around it, finding flaws in the way programmers build their apps or taking advantage of improperly configured devices. When that fails, they may try and deduce encryption keys through extraordinarily complex math or repeated guessing. This is where specialized systems like WindsorGreen can give the NSA an edge, particularly when the agency’s targets aren’t aware of just how much code-breaking computing power they’re up against.

Adam declined to comment on the specifics of any conversations he might have had with the Department of Defense or IBM. He added that NYU, at the very least, expressed its gratitude to him for notifying it of the leak by mailing him a poster.

While he was trying to figure out who exactly the Windsor files belonged to and just how they’d wound up on a completely naked folder on the internet, Adam called David Chudnovsky, the world-renowned mathematician and IMAS co-director at NYU. Reaching Chudnovsky was a cinch, because his entire email outbox, including correspondence with active members of the U.S. military, was for some reason stored on the NYU drive and made publicly available alongside the Windsor documents. According to Adam, Chudnovsky confirmed his knowledge of and the university’s involvement in the supercomputing project; The Intercept was unable to reach Chudnovsky directly to confirm this. The school’s association is also strongly indicated by the fact that David’s brother Gregory, himself an eminent mathematician and professor at NYU, is listed as an author of a 164-page document from the cache describing the capabilities of WindsorGreen in great detail. Although the brothers clearly have ties to WindsorGreen, there is no indication they were responsible for the leak. Indeed, the identity of the person or persons responsible for putting a box filled with military secrets on the public internet remains utterly unclear.

An NYU spokesperson would not comment on the university’s relationship with the Department of Defense, IBM, or the Windsor programs in general. When The Intercept initially asked about WindsorGreen the spokesperson seemed unfamiliar with the project, saying they were “unable to find anything that meets your description.” This same spokesperson later added that “no NYU or NYU Tandon system was breached,” referring to the Tandon School of Engineering, which houses the IMAS. This statement is something of a non sequitur, since, according to Adam, the files leaked simply by being exposed to the open internet — none of the material was protected by a username, password, or firewall of any kind, so no “breach” would have been necessary. You can’t kick down a wide open door.

The documents, replete with intricate processor diagrams, lengthy mathematical proofs, and other exhaustive technical schematics, are dated from 2005 to 2012, when WindsorGreen appears to have been in development. Some documents are clearly marked as drafts, with notes that they were to be reviewed again in 2013. Project progress estimates suggest the computer wouldn’t have been ready for use until 2014 at the earliest. All of the documents appear to be proprietary to IBM and not classified by any government agency, although some are stamped with the aforementioned warnings restricting distribution to within the U.S. government. According to one WindsorGreen document, work on the project was restricted to American citizens, with some positions requiring a top-secret security clearance — which as Adam explains, makes the NYU hard drive an even greater blunder:

Let’s, just for hypotheticals, say that China found the same exposed NYU lab server that I did and downloaded all the stuff I downloaded. That simple act alone, to a large degree, negates a humongous competitive advantage we thought the U.S. had over other countries when it comes to supercomputing.

The only tool Adam used to find the NYU trove was, a website that’s roughly equivalent to Google for internet-connected, and typically unsecured, computers and appliances around the world, famous for turning up everything from baby monitors to farming equipment. Shodan has plenty of constructive technical uses but also serves as a constant reminder that we really ought to stop plugging things into the internet that have no business being there.

The WindsorGreen documents are mostly inscrutable to anyone without a Ph.D. in a related field, but they make clear that the computer is the successor to WindsorBlue, a next generation of specialized IBM hardware that would excel at cracking encryption, whose known customers are the U.S. government and its partners.

Experts who reviewed the IBM documents said WindsorGreen possesses substantially greater computing power than WindsorBlue, making it particularly adept at compromising encryption and passwords. In an overview of WindsorGreen, the computer is described as a “redesign” centered around an improved version of its processor, known as an “application specific integrated circuit,” or ASIC, a type of chip built to do one task, like mining bitcoin, extremely well, as opposed to being relatively good at accomplishing the wide range of tasks that, say, a typical MacBook would handle. One of the upgrades was to switch the processor to smaller transistors, allowing more circuitry to be crammed into the same area, a change quantified by measuring the reduction in nanometers (nm) between certain chip features. The overview states:

The WindsorGreen ASIC is a second-generation redesign of the WindsorBlue ASIC that moves from 90 nm to 32 nm ASIC technology and incorporates performance enhancements based on our experience with WindsorBlue. We expect to achieve at least twice the performance of the WindsorBlue ASIC with half the area, reduced cost, and an objective of half the power. We also expect our system development cost to be only a small fraction of the WindsorBlue development cost because we carry forward intact much of the WindsorBlue infrastructure.

Çetin Kaya Koç is the director of the Koç Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which conducts cryptographic research. Koç reviewed the Windsor documents and told The Intercept that he has “not seen anything like [WindsorGreen],” and that “it is beyond what is commercially or academically available.” He added that outside of computational biology applications like complex gene sequencing (which it’s probably safe to say the NSA is not involved in), the only other purpose for such a machine would be code-breaking: “Probably no other problem deserves this much attention to design an expensive computer like this.”

Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, a hacker and computer hardware researcher who reviewed the documents at The Intercept’s request, said that WindsorGreen would surpass many of the most powerful code-breaking systems in the world: “My guess is this thing, compared to the TOP500 supercomputers at the time (and probably even today) pretty much wipes the floor with them for anything crypto-related.” Conducting a “cursory inspection of power and performance metrics,” according to Huang, puts WindsorGreen “heads and shoulders above any publicly disclosed capability” on the TOP500, a global ranking of supercomputers. Like all computers that use specialized processors, or ASICs, WindsorGreen appears to be a niche computer that excels at one kind of task but performs miserably at anything else. Still, when it comes to crypto-breaking, Huang believes WindsorGreen would be “many orders of magnitude … ahead of the fastest machines I previously knew of.”

But even with expert analysis, no one beyond those who built the thing can be entirely certain of how exactly an agency like the NSA might use WindsorGreen. To get a better sense of why a spy agency would do business with IBM, and how WindsorGreen might evolve into WindsorOrange (or whatever the next generation may be called), it helps to look at documents provided by Snowden that show how WindsorBlue was viewed in the intelligence community. Internal memos from Government Communications Headquarters, the NSA’s British counterpart, show that the agency was interested in purchasing WindsorBlue as part of its High Performance Computing initiative, which sought to help with a major problem: People around the world were getting too good at keeping unwanted eyes out of their data.

Under the header “what is it, and why,” one 2012 HPC document explains, “Over the past 18 months, the Password Recovery Service has seen rapidly increasing volumes of encrypted traffic … the use of much greater range of encryption techniques by our targets, and improved sophistication of both the techniques themselves and the passwords targets are using (due to improved OPSec awareness).” Accordingly, GCHQ had begun to “investigate the acquisition of WINDSORBLUE … and, subject to project board approval, the procurement of the infrastructure required to host the a [sic] WINDSORBLUE system at Benhall,” where the organization is headquartered.

Among the Windsor documents on the NYU hard drive was an illustration of an IBM computer codenamed “Cyclops,” (above) which appears to be a WindsorBlue/WindsorGreen predecessor. A GCHQ document provided by Snowden (below) describes Cyclops as an “NSA/IBM joint development.”

In April 2014, Norway’s Dagbladet newspaper reported that the Norwegian Intelligence Service had purchased a cryptographic computer system code-named STEELWINTER, based on WindsorBlue, as part of a $100 million overhaul of the agency’s intelligence-processing capabilities. The report was based on a document provided by Snowden:

The document does not say when the computer will be delivered, but in addition to the actual purchase, NIS has entered into a partnership with NSA to develop software for decryption. Some of the most interesting data NIS collects are encrypted, and the extensive processes for decryption require huge amounts of computing power.

Widespread modern encryption methods like RSA, named for the initials of the cryptographers who developed it, rely on the use of hugely complex numbers derived from prime numbers. Speaking very roughly, so long as those original prime numbers remain secret, the integrity of the encoded data will remain safe. But were someone able to factor the hugely complex number — a process identical to the sort of math exercise children are taught to do on a chalkboard, but on a massive scale — they would be able to decode the data on their own. Luckily for those using encryption, the numbers in question are so long that they can only be factored down to their prime numbers with an extremely large amount of computing power. Unluckily for those using encryption, government agencies in the U.S., Norway, and around the globe are keenly interested in computers designed to excel at exactly this purpose.

Given the billions of signals intelligence records collected by Western intelligence agencies every day, enormous computing power is required to sift through this data and crack what can be broken so that it can be further analyzed, whether through the factoring method mentioned above or via what’s known as a “brute force” attack, wherein a computer essentially guesses possible keys at a tremendous rate until one works. The NIS commented only to Dagbladet that the agency “handles large amounts of data and needs a relatively high computing power.” Details about how exactly such “high computing power” is achieved are typically held very close — finding hundreds of pages of documentation on a U.S. military code-breaking box, completely unguarded, is virtually unheard of.

A very important question remains: What exactly could WindsorBlue, and then WindsorGreen, crack? Are modern privacy mainstays like PGP, used to encrypt email, or the ciphers behind encrypted chat apps like Signal under threat? The experts who spoke to The Intercept don’t think there’s any reason to assume the worst.

“As long as you use long keys and recent-generation hashes, you should be OK,” said Huang. “Even if [WindsorGreen] gave a 100x advantage in cracking strength, it’s a pittance compared to the additional strength conferred by going from say, 1024-bit RSA to 4096-bit RSA or going from SHA-1 to SHA-256.”

Translation: Older encryption methods based on shorter strings of numbers, which are easier to factor, would be more vulnerable, but anyone using the strongest contemporary encryption software (which uses much longer numbers) should still be safe and confident in their privacy.

Still, “there are certainly classes of algorithms that got, wildly guessing, about 100x weaker from a brute force standpoint,” according to Huang, so “this computer’s greatest operation benefit would have come from a combination of algorithmic weakness and brute force. For example, SHA-1, which today is well-known to be too weak, but around the time of 2013 when this computer might have come online, it would have been pretty valuable to be able to ‘routinely’ collide SHA-1 as SHA-1 was still very popular and widely used.”

A third expert in computer architecture and security, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the documents and a concern for their future livelihood, told The Intercept that “most likely, the system is intended for brute-forcing password-protected data,” and that it “might also have applications for things like … breaking older/weaker (1024 bit) RSA keys.” Although there’s no explicit reference to a particular agency in the documents, this expert added, “I’m assuming NSA judging by the obvious use of the system.”

Huang and Koç both speculated that aside from breaking encryption, WindsorGreen could be used to fake the cryptographic signature used to mark software updates as authentic, so that a targeted computer could be tricked into believing a malicious software update was the real thing. For the NSA, getting a target to install software they shouldn’t be installing is about as great as intelligence-gathering gifts come.

The true silver bullet against encryption, a technology that doesn’t just threaten weaker forms of data protection but all available forms, will not be a computer like WindsorGreen, but something that doesn’t exist yet: a quantum computer. In 2014, the Washington Post reported on a Snowden document that revealed the NSA’s ongoing efforts to build a “quantum” computer processor that’s not confined to just ones and zeroes but can exist in multiple states at once, allowing for computing power incomparable to anything that exists today. Luckily for the privacy concerned, the world is still far from seeing a functional quantum computer. Luckily for the NSA and its partners, IBM is working hard on one right now.

Repeated requests for comment sent to over a dozen members of the IBM media relations team were not returned, nor was a request for comment sent to a Department of Defense spokesperson. The NSA and declined to comment. GCHQ declined to comment beyond its standard response that all its work “is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight.”


Documents published with this story:

The post NYU Accidentally Exposed Military Code-breaking Computer Project to Entire Internet appeared first on The Intercept.

Após a demissão de James Comey, quem irá frear a ditadura meia tigela de Trump?

10 May 2017 - 5:31pm

“Você está demitido!” Isso é o que Trump bradaria de sua cadeira na sala de reuniões ao final de cada episódio de “O Aprendiz”. Por anos, milhões de norte-americanos sorriam, riam e até comemoravam na frente da TV enquanto o proprietário magnata falava seu bordão.

Mas essa semana não há muito do que rir. A demissão do diretor do FBI, James Comey, pelo presidente Trump será lembrada como um dia sombrio e deprimente na descida ladeira abaixo da democracia norte-americana. É difícil discordar da avaliação mordaz do analista legal da CNN Jeffrey Toobin, que descreveu o acontecimento como um abuso grotesco de poder.  “Esse é o tipo de coisa que acontece em democracias”, ele disse ao apresentador Wolf Blitzer em um vídeo que, merecidamente, tornou-se viral. “Eles demitem quem está responsável pelas investigações.” Toobin continuou: “Isso é algo que não faz parte da tradição política norte-americana. (…) Isso não é normal, não é política normal”.

Não é, realmente, nada “normal” remover o líder do FBI de seu cargo em menos de quatro meses de presidência — e um chefe da FBI que foi creditado por dar a vitória a esse presidente, surpreendendo as probabilidades. Temos de voltar até 1993 para encontrar a última — e única — vez em que um presidente (William J. Clinton) decidiu demitir seu chefe do FBI (William S. Sessions). E esse último, diferentemente de Comey, foi acusado de uma longa lista de violações de ética bizarras, incluindo, como noticiou o Washington Post na época, “cobrar do governo por viagens pessoais”, desviar aviões do FBI para buscar sua esposa, Alice Sessions, em outras cidades, e utilizar carros do FBI para ‘levá-la para fazer as unhas’”.

Tampouco é normal um presidente norte-americano enviar seu chefe de segurança privada de longa data e antigo guarda-costas para entregar em mãos uma carta de demissão a seu chefe do FBI. Há ditadores meia tigela na África que teriam evitado tais feitos simplesmente para não causar uma impressão errada. O Trump Meia Tigela, contudo, não se importou (seu brutal chefe de segurança, Keith Schiller, não nos esqueçamos, passou a campanha presidencial agredindo manifestantes latinos e manipulando os repórteres latinos em nome de seu chefe).

A procuradora-geral Sally Yates também foi despedida por Trump via carta entregue em mãos. O procurador dos EUA do distrito sul de Nova York, Preet Bharara, foi mandado embora por Trump após ter negado se demitir. O que Comey, Yates e Bharara têm em comum? “Todos estavam investigando Trump quando foram demitidos, e há um dedo da Rússia em todos esses casos”, observa Shannon Vavra da Axios.

“Você está demitido!” É assim que Trump Meia Tigela lida com quem o faz prestar contas. Não podemos dizer que não fomos avisados. Afinal de contas, ele nunca escondeu suas inclinações autoritárias, seu desrespeito descarado pelas normas políticas, legais e sociais.

Esta imagem, liberada em 9 de maio de 2017 pela Casa Branca, mostra uma cópia da carta de demissão do presidente Trump para o diretor do FBI, James Comey.

Foto: The White House/AFP/Getty Images

Trump, o proprietário magnata, criticou Mikhail Gorbachev por não responder aos manifestantes antissoviéticos com mão firme o suficiente, enquanto contemplava com admiração o show chinês de “força” contra os manifestantes da praça Tiananmen em 1989.

Trump, o candidato à presidência, elogiou Vladimir Putin como um presidente que “tem sido muito mais líder do que nosso presidente [Obama] tem sido” e que tem “grande controle sobre seu país”.

Trump, o presidente, em seu primeiro discurso à nação, fez sua melhor performance do supervilão Bane de “Batman: o Cavaleiro das Trevas”, com uma fala distópica sobre a “carnificina norte-americana”, enquanto prometia “tornar os EUA fortes novamente”. No Twitter, referiu-se à mídia como um “inimigo dos norte-americanos” e denunciou um “suposto juiz” que ousou agir contra sua “proibição muçulmana”.

É de se admirar que especialistas em autoritarismo e fascismo nos estejam alertando há vários meses? Ouçamos Ruth Ben Ghiat, professora de história da Universidade de Nova York, autora de um livro sobre a ascensão de Mussolini na Itália pré-guerra. Trump “é um autoritarista que tem a habilidade de esticar os limites da democracia até algo irreconhecível”, disse em meu programa Al Jazeera English em fevereiro,.

Será que nos surpreende comentadores estarem invocando o infame “Massacre de sábado à noite” do presidente Richard Nixon, no qual ele demitiu o promotor especial de Watergate, Archibald Cox? Vamos ouvir John Dean, ex-conselheiro de Nixon na Casa Branca, que acredita que Trump é muito pior do que Nixon e disse a The Atlantic em janeiro: “A presidência dos EUA nunca esteve aos caprichos de uma personalidade autoritária como a de Donald Trump”.

Com Nixon, os pesos e contrapesos funcionaram. Ele foi detido. Eventualmente. Quem vai parar Trump Meia Tigela? Os republicanos do Congresso? Você está brincando, certo? Eles têm marcharam em parceria partidária com seu Querido Líder desde que ele ganhou a indicação presidencial de seu partido no último verão.

Considere o tratamento deles esta semana com Yates, que testemunhou na frente do Senado nessa segunda-feira. O senador Ted Cruz, cuja esposa foi chamada de feia por Trump e cujo pai ele acusou de conluio no assassinato de JFK, decidiu atacar Yates em nome do presidente por causa de sua recusa em defender a “proibição muçulmana” de Trump no tribunal.

A senadora Lindsay Graham, a qual Trump chamou de “incompetente” e de uma “vergonha”, decidiu dar eco a um ponto-chave do discurso de Trump ao perguntar a Yates quem divulgou informações confidenciais sobre laços do ex-conselheiro de Segurança Nacional Michael Flynn com a Rússia, em vez de perguntar sobre o teor desses laços.

Esses são os representantes eleitos em cujas mãos está o destino da República dos Estados Unidos? Sério? Quem irá parar Trump Meia Tigela? Os democratas? Eles farão fila para aparecer na MSNBC e exigir um promotor especial; eles podem até se tornar ousados o suficiente para falar em impeachment. Mas eles são a minoria partidária em ambas as câmaras. Não têm votos o suficiente para exigir nada. Nem mesmo têm muita credibilidade aos olhos do público — uma pesquisa recente revelou que os democratas são menos populares do que os republicanos, o vice-presidente Mike Pence e o próprio Trump.

Quem vai parar o Trump Meia Tigela? Os tribunais? Aqui e ali, talvez, mas depois de um ou até dois mandatos? E à medida que os poderes de patronagem do presidente começam? Duvido. Lembrem-se: O efeito Trump no Judiciário dos EUA vai muito além da nomeação do ultraconservador Neil Gorsuch para a Suprema Corte. Trump herdou mais de 100 vagas judiciais de Obama, mais que o dobro do número de vagas que Obama herdou de Bush em 2009.

Quem vai parar o Trump Meia Tigela? A mídia dos EUA? Dá um tempo! Grande parte do chamado quarto poder se envergonhou com a cobertura aduladora e deferente do presidente; a mídia de TV fechada vê Trump menos como uma ameaça à democracia e mais como uma vaca leiteira e uma bênção das cifras. Nas últimas semanas, o âncora do CBS Sunday Morning, John Dickerson, foi escoltado para fora do Salão Oval após perguntar a Trump algo de que ele depois não gostou, enquanto Van Jones e Fareed Zakaria, da CNN, se atropelaram para declarar que Trump era “presidenciável” porque tinha um bom discurso e lançou alguns mísseis na Síria.

Os pesos e contrapesos americanos estão descontrolados. A demissão do diretor do FBI é apenas o início. Haverá mais demissões; mais corrupção política; mais abusos de poder. E, mais uma vez, não podemos dizer que não fomos avisados. Trump Meia Tigela, John Dean alertou em janeiro, “vai testar nossa democracia de forma nunca antes vista”. Se a democracia norte-americana está apta a esse teste, aí é uma outra questão.

Foto do título: Diretor do FBI James Comey deixa o Capitólio após uma reunião em 17 de fevereiro de 2017, em Washington, D.C.

Tradução: Fernando Fico

The post Após a demissão de James Comey, quem irá frear a ditadura meia tigela de Trump? appeared first on The Intercept.

Russia’s Top Diplomat Mines Comey Drama for Laughs

10 May 2017 - 1:39pm

Russian officials, at least, seem to be enjoying the turmoil that’s engulfed Washington since last night, when President Donald Trump abruptly fired F.B.I. Director James Comey, to derail his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The first hint of that came when the country’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, arrived at the State Department on Wednesday and immediately joked about Comey’s firing. Lavrov turned comic after his host, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, uttered a few words of welcome. As the two men then turned to leave, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News shouted out: “Does the Comey firing cast a shadow over your talks, gentlemen?”

Reporter: Does the Comey firing cast a shadow over your talks?

Lavrov: "Was he fired? You're kidding."

— CNN (@CNN) May 10, 2017

While Tillerson ignored the question and started to walk away, Lavrov widened his eyes in mock surprise and asked, “Was he fired?” Informed that Comey was indeed fired, the foreign minister pretended to be shocked, saying, “You’re kidding! You’re kidding!” He then dismissively shook his head and walked off.

Just in case anyone missed Lavrov trolling the American reporter — the same one he scolded last month in Moscow — the Russian foreign ministry then posted the video on Twitter, along with a transcription of the boss’s gag.

#Lavrov: Was FBI Director James Comey fired? You’re kidding!

— MFA Russia ?? (@mfa_russia) May 10, 2017

The trolling only seemed to increase later in the day, when the foreign ministry released images of Lavrov, and Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, bantering with Trump in the Oval Office.

Photos of Trump's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak just hit the Getty wire and they're all credited to Russian news agency TASS

— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) May 10, 2017

1, 2, 3
All my friends are here with me.

— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) May 10, 2017

Since the White House had barred American journalists from reporting on Trump’s meeting with the diplomats, Tass, the only available images were those released by the Russian government, taken by its state-owned news agency, Tass.

TASS photo on the Trump-Lavrov meeting. Russian foreign ministry spox posted on her FB calling the photo “epic.”

— Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) May 10, 2017

The Russian embassy in Washington also made sure to draw attention to a photograph of Trump grinning as he shook hands with Kislyak — the same Russian ambassador he fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for talking to about U.S. sanctions related to Russian efforts to get him elected president.

Ambassador Kislyak and President Trump / ????? ?.?????? ? ????????? ?.?????

— Russia in USA ?? (@RusEmbUSA) May 10, 2017

The Russian troll game is SO GOOD you are all powerless before it.

— Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) May 10, 2017

The post Russia’s Top Diplomat Mines Comey Drama for Laughs appeared first on The Intercept.

No dia do “embate” entre Lula e Moro, mais difícil que escolher seu lado é admitir que ambos erram

10 May 2017 - 1:31pm

Não perca, hoje, na sua televisão: o embate da década, o “encontro cara a cara”, o “ajuste de contas”. De um lado, um juiz que usa da espetacularização para obter o apoio da opinião pública. Do outro, um ex-presidente que usa da espetacularização para obter o apoio da opinião pública. A retumbante maioria da mídia, tradicional ou não, já escolheu um lado. Curitiba está dividida e sitiada. Manifestações contra e a favor de Lula se organizam em outras cidades pelo país e até mesmo fora dele. Cada torcida ignora os argumentos do opositor e os erros estratégicos da personalidade que defende. Solta no meio do ringue e sem defesa, encontra-se a Justiça.

Quando tentam transformar um depoimento em arena de combate, é importante lembrar que o espetáculo de uma luta gera lucro para várias partes: lutadores, canais de TV, patrocinadores… A única parte que sai sem lucrar é a torcida.

Estratégias abusivas dos dois lados, que muitas vezes parecem ignorar o que mandam os procedimentos judiciais, levaram a grandes repercussões na ação a que o ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula responde; sejam elas a favor ou contra a estratégia da defesa.

Levantamento das hashtags a favor e contra Lula no Twitter na manhã do dia 10: em laranja os que defendem, em azul os que atacam.

Foto: Pedro Barciela

“Esquecimentos” convenientes

A defesa de Lula pediu, no dia 10 de outubro de 2016, para ter acesso a documentos da Petrobras relativos ao três contratos com a OAS que são o ponto central do processo, no qual o ex-presidente responde pela acusação de receber da empreiteira um triplex no Guarujá. O juiz Sérgio Moro, responsável pela ação, fez uma requisição para que os documentos fossem entregues à defesa, mas esqueceu de colocar um prazo para que papelada fosse incluída nos autos. Resultado: cerca de 100 mil páginas foram entregues a menos de duas semanas do depoimento, tempo insuficiente para análise aprofundada, atrapalhando o trabalho dos advogados. A defesa pediu extensão do prazo para análise do material, mas a Justiça negou.

Parte do material liberado pela Justiça a poucos dias do depoimento.

Foto: Divulgação/ Teixeira,Martins advogados

Os advogados de Lula, por sua vez, também parecem sofrer lapsos de memória parecidos com os de Moro. Pediram que o depoimento, que é filmado pela Justiça, fosse gravado em planos mais amplos, mencionando especialmente que fossem incluídos nas imagens os advogados, procuradores e o próprio juiz Sérgio Moro. Para fazer essas gravações em planos abertos, requisitaram o ingresso uma equipe própria de filmagem, mais especificamente, que o fotógrafo Ricardo Stuckert, do Instituto Lula, pudesse utilizar uma câmera própria para gravar a sessão.

Moro embarreirou o pedido de entrada do profissional alegando, entre outras coisas, que “geraria o risco de exposição desnecessária da imagem das pessoas presentes e que já informaram que não desejam que suas imagens sejam gravadas e expostas na ocasião”. No entanto, permitiu que uma segunda câmera da própria Justiça grave o depoimento “que retratará a sala de audiência com um ângulo mais amplo”.

Inconformados, os advogados do ex-presidente levaram o caso ao Tribunal Regional Federal e, depois, ao Superior Tribunal de Justiça. O pedido foi negado nas duas esferas. Para defender a filmagem alternativa, afirmam que “a gravação da audiência é uma prerrogativa do advogado e está prevista no CPC [Código de Processo Civil]”. Parecem esquecer, no entanto, que o processo no qual Lula é réu está no âmbito penal e, portanto, segue o Código de Processo Penal e não o Civil. Moro fez questão de frisar isso em seu despacho final:

“Se é certo que o novo Código de Processo Civil tem norma prevendo a possibilidade de gravação da audiência por qualquer das partes independente de autorização judicial (art. 367, §6o), também é correto que o Código de Processo Penal não tem equivalente previsão legal.”

O juiz que fala para a massa

Em ação amplamente criticada, Moro deixou a imparcialidade de lado e divulgou um vídeo em que se dirige diretamente aos seus apoiadores. Não que ele nunca tenha feito isso, vídeos do juiz agradecendo aos “apoiadores da Lava Jato” já circulavam pelo YouTube antes. A diferença é que, desta vez, ele orientou as manifestações a seu favor, previstas para esta quarta-feira (10). “Este apoio sempre foi importante, mas nessa data ele não é necessário” afirma o juiz que completa: “não venham, não precisa”.

Moro voltou a se dirigir aos manifestantes que se posicionam contra Lula, em um evento organizado pela Federação das Indústrias do Estado do Paraná, pedindo novamente que não se manifestem: “É melhor que seja um jogo de uma torcida única, se as pessoas querem sair à rua e manifestar apoio ao investigado”. Logo depois, o juiz recobrou a postura de magistrado para afirmar que não fazia parte do jogo.

Como lembrou João Filho, em sua coluna publicada ontem em The Intercept Brasil, o lugar do juiz não deveria ser de nenhum dos lados da partida, mas sim no centro. É de se esperar que um advogado vá aos limites para defender seu cliente, já de um juiz se exige a imparcialidade que o cargo impõe. Nas palavras de João: “há alguma coisa de muito errado em um país democrático que encara com naturalidade a existência de um confronto entre um juiz e um réu”.

Também aproveitando o púlpito — esse, no Senado — a senadora Gleisi Hoffmann (PT-PR) também demonstrou interesse pela estratégia de usar vídeos para conquistar o apoio da opinião pública. “Que agora o juiz Sérgio Moro tenha pelo menos a dignidade de deixar o presidente Lula falar ao vivo no seu depoimento”, afirmou a parlamentar em plenário na segunda, dia 8. Dias antes, o jornal O Estado de S. Paulo noticiou que, segundo interlocutores, seria da vontade do ex-presidente a transmissão ao vivo.

Não é bem assim que funciona…

Para ambos os lados, argumentos exagerados atrapalham a Justiça. Moro chegou a ordenar que Lula estivesse presente em todos os 86 depoimentos de testemunhas convocadas por sua defesa. O juiz federal Nivaldo Brunoni derrubou o requerimento afirmando que as regras do processo não obrigam o réu a estar presente: “O acompanhamento pessoal do réu à audiência das testemunhas é mera faculdade legal”.

Por sua vez, a defesa de Lula pede a suspensão do processo. Um dos argumentos apresentados é que José Aldemário Pinheiro Filho, conhecido como Léo Pinheiro, ex-presidente da OAS, estaria mentindo em seus depoimentos para ganhar o benefício da delação premiada. “Léo Pinheiro mente para ter sua delação aceita”, afirmam os advogados.

Sempre existe a possibilidade de um delator mentir, mas isso seria um tiro no pé, porque não é assim que funciona uma delação. O benefício só é concedido uma vez que o conteúdo do depoimento fique comprovado. O delator que mente não apenas perde o benefício como tudo que ele falou torna-se confissão. Foi o que aconteceu com o empresário e lobista Fernando Moura em maio de 2016.

Instituto Lula no aquecimento do clima

Na noite de terça feira (9), dia anterior ao depoimento, o aquecimento já havia começado: o juiz federal Ricardo Leite, da 10ª Vara Federal de Brasília, mandou suspender as atividades do Instituto Lula sob o argumento de que “há indícios abundantes de que se tratava de local com grande influência no cenário político do país, e que possíveis tratativas ali entabuladas fizeram eclodir várias linhas investigativas”.

Até a manhã de quarta, os advogados da instituição informavam que “o Instituto não foi notificado oficialmente da decisão do juiz e seus advogados averiguarão as medidas cabíveis assim que tiverem o teor da decisão”. Mas, como no caso do vídeo divulgado por Moro, até mesmo veículos de imprensa que se posicionam contra Lula criticaram a ação.

“Medida tomada por juiz de Brasília apenas alimenta a lenda que a Lava Jato persegue o ex-presidente”, escreveu o editor-chefe da revista Época, Diego Escosteguy. A “lenda” a qual o jornalista se refere é alimentada por episódios como a liberação grampo telefônico ilegal entre Lula e Dilma, criticada pelos ministros do STF Marco Aurélio Mello e Teori Zavascki, e a desnecessária condução coercitiva do ex-presidente, que foi classificada por entidade de juízes como “show midiático”.

Como dizia Nelson Rodrigues, “Em Brasília, não há inocentes”. E, pelo que se viu até agora, em Curitiba também não.

The post No dia do “embate” entre Lula e Moro, mais difícil que escolher seu lado é admitir que ambos erram appeared first on The Intercept.

John McCain May Have Killed an Anti-Environment Bill Out of Spite Over the Comey Firing

10 May 2017 - 1:05pm

Something very unusual happened in the U.S. Senate today: a vote scheduled by the Majority Leader failed. The legislation would have repealed an Obama-era rule designed to prevent methane emissions from leaking out of drilling operations on public lands. Brought up under the Congressional Review Act, the resolution only needed 50 votes to pass the Senate, after already passing the House along party lines. But it failed 49-51.

Senate leaders like Mitch McConnell don’t typically advance votes on legislation unless they know it will pass. The Senate floor is almost never the scene for unexpected activity. So what happened?

It may have been Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey.

Three Republicans voted against repealing the methane rule, which was backed by the president. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, had already announced their intention to vote no before the vote. But John McCain, R-Ariz., “unexpectedly” joined them.

Methane leaks on public lands are a significant problem in the Western “four-corner” states of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, an area which is a known “hot spot” for methane emissions. McCain has shown mild support for environmental action in the past. And his friend Lindsey Graham voted no, and perhaps swayed him.

But here’s what McCain was doing right before the vote: On CNN, he condemned the Comey firing, showing an outsized regard for the former FBI director. “When you fire probably, arguably, the most respected person in America, you’d better have a very good explanation, and so far I haven’t seen that,” McCain said. He added that the firing would cause legislative problems. “We have a lot of issues and challenges and this just diverts a lot of that attention.”

McCain’s conduct during the Senate vote also raises red flags. In the C-SPAN video of the vote, McCain can be seen in heated discussion with John Cornyn, R-Texas, the number two man in the Senate leadership, along with John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and an unidentified Senator with his back to the camera. After yelling at them for close to a minute, McCain goes over to the Senate clerks and gives a thumbs down to record his vote. He then storms out of the chamber, as Cornyn raises his arms in mild protest.

McCain has a reputation for being a little, shall we say, vindictive. It’s not out of the question at all that he would torpedo this vote, regardless of his ideological preferences, because of a fit of pique about the FBI director he admires getting unceremoniously dumped.

There’s a second possibility here: McConnell may have been counting on the votes of two moderate Democrats from energy production states: Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. They had reportedly considered repealing the methane rule. But in the end, they voted no.

Before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held an unusual all-caucus meeting in the morning to discuss their options in the wake of the Comey firing. Afterward, they did announce a slowdown of Senate business, denying unanimous consent for the holding of committee hearings this afternoon. Could Manchin and Heitkamp been encouraged to vote no in a show of unity against Trump and his agenda?

Whatever the reason, the vote against the methane repeal is quite a blow, because Congress faces a Thursday deadline to complete any resolutions under the Congressional Review Act. That means that the methane rule is likely safe from repeal through the Congressional process, potentially preventing 180,000 tons of methane per year from rising into the atmosphere.

The episode shows how a bombshell event like the Comey firing can deeply disrupt the legislative agenda. If a methane rule cannot be repealed by the Republican majority, coming up with a version of repealing and replacing Obamacare could prove even tougher.

It’s unclear how long Democrats will keep up the grinding of Senate business to a halt. Virtually the entire caucus has called for a special prosecutor to examine the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and the Russian role in meddling with the 2016 presidential election. McCain, for his part, has called for a select committee of Congress to investigate Russian interference.

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A dívida de 123 bilhões de dólares de Porto Rico é o custo do colonialismo americano

10 May 2017 - 11:13am

Na semana passada, Porto Rico decretou oficialmente a maior falência pública da história dos Estados Unidos. Em 3 de maio, a Junta de Supervisão Fiscal, imposta pelo governo de Washington há menos de um ano, anunciou que a crise econômica “havia chegado a um ponto crítico” e solicitou que um juiz federal interviesse para decidir o que deveria ser feito da exorbitante dívida de 123 bilhões de dólares que o Estado Livre Associado de Porto Rico e suas empresas públicas têm com os detentores de títulos e os fundos de aposentadoria do funcionalismo público.

O anúncio voltou a jogar holofotes sobre o território do Caribe que muitos têm chamado de “a Grécia das Américas”. De acordo com a Junta, a dívida total da ilha é a maior já contraída por uma entidade pública nos Estados Unidos – e deve aumentar exponencialmente se nada for feito. Para comparar, Detroit teve de declarar falência por conta de 18 bilhões de dólares – um nono da dívida de Porto Rico.

Em questão de dias, o presidente da Suprema Corte dos Estados Unidos, John Roberts, decidiu, com base na Lei Promesa, que foi aprovada em junho de 2016 para enfrentar a crise financeira, designar a juíza federal Laura Taylor Swain, de Nova York, para o caso. Swain, que tem experiência em casos de falência, foi nomeada como juíza federal pelo presidente Bill Clinton. Em 2009, presidiu o longo julgamento de ex-funcionários de Bernard Madoff envolvidos no esquema de pirâmide financeira.

Contudo, poucas reportagens sobre as dificuldades financeiras de Porto Rico se dedicaram a examinar as questões mais complexas por trás da crise.

La Fortaleza, residência do governador de Porto Rico.

Foto: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

Em primeiro lugar, a relação colonial que se estabeleceu entre os Estados Unidos e Porto Rico a partir de 1898 não é mais viável. Porto Rico é o maior território ultramarino ainda sob soberania norte-americana e foi a posse colonial mais importante da história do país. Por mais de um século, essa relação foi lucrativa para as filiais de empresas americanas que se instalaram na ilha – mesmo quando o governo federal passou a defender que o Estado Livre Associado de Porto Rico, criado em 1952, deveria ser um território autônomo. Mas a máscara da autonomia caiu: uma comissão escolhida por Washington é quem dá as cartas na economia da ilha, e a Suprema Corte reafirmou, no ano passado, que o Congresso americano continua a exercer poder soberano sobre Porto Rico.

Na prática, a antiga “livre associação” está morta. A menos que uma enorme injeção de dólares venha salvar a economia do colapso – o que é quase impossível com Trump na Casa Branca e o Partido Republicano à frente do Congresso –, essa relação não poderá ser restabelecida. Líderes políticos em Washington e San Juan terão de pensar um novo status político e econômico para o território: deverão decidir de uma vez por todas se Porto Rico deve ser anexado como o 51º estado americano ou reconhecido como nação soberana e independente.

Em segundo lugar, a falência de Porto Rico vai impactar o mercado de ações dos Estados Unidos, muito mais do que a maioria dos analistas de Wall Street vem admitindo. A Junta criada pela Lei Promesa tem alertado que, mesmo com cortes drásticos nos serviços públicos e a expectativa de aumento na arrecadação via taxas e impostos, Porto Rico não deve conseguir mais de 8 bilhões de dólares de superávit orçamentário ao longo dos próximos 10 anos, enquanto há cerca de 35 bilhões de dólares em dívidas a serem honradas. Em outras palavras, 75% da dívida não têm como serem pagos. Mais do que apertar os cintos, os detentores de títulos vão ter que jogar o cinto fora, e isso vai repercutir em todo o mercado de títulos públicos. Afinal, esse tipo de investimento sempre foi considerado um dos mais seguros.

Estão por vir anos de batalhas jurídicas entre Porto Rico e seus credores. “A economia vai ficar anos em suspenso”, afirmou à Associated Press Andrew Rosenberg, conselheiro do grupo ad hoc de detentores de títulos da dívida pública de Porto Rico. “Tenha certeza: a junta decidiu fazer de Porto Rico a nova Argentina”.

Bandeira de Porto Rico pintada na entrada de um prédio abandonado na capital San Juan (01/05/2016).

Foto: Erika P. Rodriguez/Bloomberg News/Getty Images

Dívida impagável

Para organizações da sociedade civil, a falência vai expor negociações escusas e até ilegais de títulos entre políticos da ilha e grandes firmas de Wall Street, que saquearam a população porto-riquenha.

Surpreendentemente, a petição de 23 páginas que a Junta apresentou ao tribunal de primeira instância de San Juan chegou à mesma conclusão que o ex-governador de Porto Rico Alejando García Padilla, em junho de 2015: a dívida da ilha é “impagável”.

Passados quase dois anos do alerta de García Padilla, além de aprovar a Lei Promesa e constituir a Junta de Supervisão Fiscal, Washington pouco fez para atenuar a catástrofe econômica que se abate sobre 3,4 milhões de cidadãos norte-americanos de Porto Rico.

Nos últimos 10 anos, a ilha perdeu 10% de sua população. Atualmente, 46% vivem abaixo da linha da pobreza, a taxa de desemprego está em 11% e a parcela economicamente ativa compreende cerca de 40% da população. Enquanto isso, o Poder Legislativo insiste em mais medidas de austeridade para Porto Rico. A verdade é que uma situação de calamidade como essa jamais seria tolerada por cidadãos norte-americanos de outra jurisdição.

Ao longo dos últimos dois anos, o governo da ilha aumentou drasticamente as contas de luz e água. O imposto sobre as vendas, que agora é sobre valor acrescentado, também aumentou para 11,5%. O governo propôs ainda suspender a aposentadoria dos novos trabalhadores e cortar em 10% os benefícios que já são pagos. Na semana passada, foi anunciado que 179 escolas públicas ficarão fechadas no próximo ano letivo. Além disso, a Junta fiscal pediu que a universidade pública da ilha, que tem 70 mil estudantes, corte 450 milhões de dólares de seu orçamento nos próximos quatro anos.

Pressionado pela comissão, o governador Ricardo Rosselló, que tomou posse em janeiro, considera privatizar as companhias de água, luz e esgoto, e talvez até o sistema público de transportes. Mas cortes drásticos e privatizações não vão resolver o problema da falta de empregos na ilha, a debandada de jovens para os Estados Unidos ou a incapacidade do governo porto-riquenho de desenvolver suas próprias políticas econômicas e comerciais, independentemente dos Estados Unidos.

Ricardo Rosselló, governador de Porto Rico, durante uma reunião na PRIDCO, a companhia de desenvolvimento industrial de Porto Rico, em San Juan (28/03/2017).

Foto: Alejandro Granadillo/Bloomberg News/Getty Images

Por décadas, Porto Rico foi importante para a economia norte-americana: foi uma das capitais do cultivo da cana-de-açúcar, depois se tornou um paraíso fiscal para empresas das áreas têxtil e farmacêutica e também um posto avançado das forças militares contra a propagação do comunismo na América Latina. Mas agora, os Estados Unidos não precisam mais de Porto Rico para nenhuma dessas coisas. A maioria das bases militares norte-americanas foi desativada e o Congresso começou, em 1996, a retirar o status da ilha de paraíso fiscal. Assim que foram suspensos os últimos incentivos fiscais previstos na Seção 936 da Receita Federal americana, as empresas começaram a deixar a ilha, que mergulhou numa recessão da qual ainda está longe de se recuperar. Nos últimos 20 anos, sucessivos governos tentaram resolver o déficit à base de empréstimos tomados junto a bancos de Wall Street, ávidos por vender títulos isentos de impostos a famílias ricas e de classe média nos Estados Unidos e em Porto Rico.

O que atraía os investidores era principalmente uma cláusula da Constituição de Porto Rico que previa que o governo deveria honrar o pagamento de títulos da dívida pública antes de qualquer outro compromisso financeiro. O fato de Porto Rico e suas empresas públicas não poderem apelar para o Capítulo 9 da Lei de Falências americana também seduzia os investidores.

Até 1978, todos os territórios dos Estados Unidos constavam no Capítulo 9. Ou seja, Porto Rico podia reestruturar suas dívidas. Mas, entre 1978 e o início dos anos 1980, foram feitas algumas alterações na Lei de Falências. Em 1984, o senador da Carolina do Sul Strom Thurmon propôs uma emenda para excluir especificamente Porto Rico, sem nenhum motivo aparente, nenhuma diretriz federal, nenhum interesse específico explícito na alteração da lei. Com algumas poucas frases simples numa emenda que pouquíssimas pessoas sequer perceberam, o Congresso lançou as bases para a situação com a qual Porto Rico se deparou no ano passado: além de ter quebrado, não podia recorrer a um tribunal para reestruturar sua dívida.

A Lei Promesa conseguiu pelo menos criar um novo tipo de Capítulo 9 para a ilha. A nova lei prevê que, se o governo porto-riquenho e a Junta de Supervisão Fiscal não conseguirem entrar em acordo com os detentores de títulos, um juiz pode intervir para fazer com que os credores aceitem uma reestruturação forçada da dívida.

Mas a constitucionalidade da lei ainda não foi avaliada nos tribunais, e, com tanto dinheiro em jogo os vários grupos de detentores de títulos estão determinados a travar uma batalha legal titânica contra ela.

No dia 5 de maio, por exemplo, a Ambac Assurance Corp, uma das principais seguradoras de títulos da dívida de Porto Rico entrou com um processo contra o governo e a Junta. E o fez num tom particularmente estridente:

A soberania garante amplos poderes, mas não autoriza a viver sem leis. A presente ação busca pôr fim à série de atos inconstitucionais e ilegais que tem sido o infeliz modus operandi do governo do Estado Livre Associado de Porto Rico na tentativa de resolver suas dificuldades financeiras e econômicas. Em vez de retificá-los, a Junta criada pelo Congresso para restabelecer a responsabilidade fiscal tem deliberadamente exacerbado tais abusos, dando seu imprimatur ao atual esquema de violações constitucionais e estatutárias, que só pode ser qualificado de roubo.

A Ambac é a seguradora de bilhões de dólares em títulos COFINA, oriundos do imposto sobre as vendas e que vêm sendo emitidos pelo governo de Porto Rico desde 2006. Assim como qualquer outra seguradora de títulos, a companhia enfrenta enormes perdas por conta da reestruturação da dívida.

Enquanto isso, o grupo de credores da última grande emissão de títulos, que somou 1,4 bilhão de dólares, entrou com um processo na Suprema Corte do Estado de Nova York em 2014. Liderados pelos hedge funds Aurelius Capital Management e Monarch Alternativa Capital, esses credores alegam que a Constituição de Porto Rico garante o pagamento prioritário a eles. Junto com muitas outras organizações da sociedade civil, eles argumentam que os títulos COFINA, que representam quase 18 dos 78 bilhões de dólares da dívida referente aos títulos, foram emitidos ilegalmente e, por isso, não devem ser pagos.

A Constituição porto-riquenha proíbe que despesas com o pagamento de dívidas ultrapassem 15% da receita pública anual. O poder legislativo de Porto Rico criou a COFINA justamente para contornar esse teto e usar a receita dos impostos sobre as vendas para garantir o pagamento de parte das dívidas. Mas a legalidade dessa manobra ainda não passou pelo crivo da Justiça.

Enquanto os diversos grupos de credores lutam nos tribunais, a Junta fiscal se alia ao governo de Porto Rico para defender que credores aceitem abatimentos importantes no pagamento.

“Dadas as atuais receitas, a Commonwealth e demais organismos governamentais não poderão quitar ao mesmo tempo a dívida de 74 bilhões de dólares, o déficit de 49 bilhões nos planos de aposentadoria e as atuais despesas operacionais”, concluiu a Junta na semana passada, após meses de análise dos arquivos financeiros de Porto Rico.

A crise financeira da ilha “está prestes a piorar exponencialmente, devido ao corte de aproximadamente 850 milhões de dólares nos Affordable Care Act Funds, os fundos do sistema de saúde, para o ano fiscal de 2018”, alertou a comissão. No total, essa perda deve chegar a 16 bilhões de dólares ao longo dos próximos 10 anos, ainda de acordo com a Junta. Além disso, os fundos de pensão estão quase sem dinheiro e precisarão de 1,5 bilhão de dólares por ano só para conseguir manter os atuais aposentados. Contrariamente aos servidores municipais nos Estados Unidos, a maioria dos funcionários públicos de Porto Rico não faz parte do sistema de seguridade social – ou seja, esses fundos são para eles a única fonte de renda na aposentadoria.

Enquanto isso, Donald Trump e líderes republicanos no Congresso repetem que não haverá resgate financeiro de Porto Rico, nenhuma assistência extra por parte do governo federal à população da ilha.

Eles preferem esquecer que, lá nos anos 1990, quando Clinton presidia o país e Newt Gringrich estava à frente do Congresso, líderes de Washington se deram conta de que teriam de tomar medidas drásticas para salvar o Distrito de Columbia do colapso econômico. O Congresso teve de formar uma junta de controle fiscal igual à que foi criada em Porto Rico.

Mas a comissão logo concluiu que o distrito que abriga a capital federal tinha problemas estruturais que precisavam da ajuda federal para ser resolvidos. Em 1997, um pacote de reformas estabeleceu que o governo federal assumiria as dívidas da cidade e a administração dos tribunais locais e prisões. Também aumentaria os repasses do Medicaid e passaria a controlar os fundos de pensão dos servidores.

Consequentemente, o distrito se recuperou da situação de calamidade econômica. Hoje é uma cidade vibrante e próspera.

O Poder Legislativo terá que prestar ampla assistência a Porto Rico ou agir rapidamente para mudar o status político e econômico da ilha. Depois de um século sob as leis coloniais de Washington e décadas de dívidas predatórias de Wall Street, a conta chegou

Foto em destaque:Pedestres passam por um antigo hotel no bairro de Condado em San Juan, Porto Rico (2015).

Tradução: Carla Camargo Fanha

The post A dívida de 123 bilhões de dólares de Porto Rico é o custo do colonialismo americano appeared first on The Intercept.

Why Was James Comey Fired? Donald Trump Can’t Find the Words.

10 May 2017 - 10:57am

We know that Donald Trump fired James Comey, his F.B.I. director and perhaps the greatest threat to his presidency, yesterday afternoon. What we don’t know, at least not in any official way, is why. Almost as striking as Trump’s sudden decision to dismiss Comey are the wildly disparate reasons that he and his administration have put forth for taking such drastic action, and the presumption that Trump does not owe the country a substantive explanation. “He’ll do it when he wants to,” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on CNN this morning. Having this president hand-pick his own F.B.I. director, as many have noted, poses a serious threat to our democracy. So does the notion that he can fire the old one and never have to say why.

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump released three documents relating to Comey’s firing — one from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one from Rod J. Rosenstein, Sessions’s deputy, and one from Trump himself. Trump’s letter is short — just 121 words. There is one sentence of reasoning, a sarcastic one, that leans on “the judgment of the Department of Justice.”

FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 3, 2017.

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

So what was the judgment of the Department of Justice? Sessions’s letter is only slightly longer — 157 words. It vaguely says that the head of the F.B.I. should be someone “who faithfully follows the rules and principles of the Department of Justice.” Instead of explaining how Comey broke those rules, Sessions, like Trump, leans on his subordinate to churn out the fine print. He says that his conclusions are also “based on my own evaluation.” He gives no indication as to what his own evaluation was based on.

The third document, a “Memorandum for the Attorney General” from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, is much longer. Some reports have Rosenstein working on the memo for a week or more; nevertheless it bears the same date as Trump’s letter:

The subject makes no mention of Comey or the F.B.I.’s leadership. Instead, it is “Restoring Public Confidence in the F.B.I.” Most of the memo is devoted to Comey’s handling the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Rosenstein criticizes Comey for publicly stating that the email investigation was closed in July 2016 and then sending his controversial letter to Congress, just before the November election, that it was open once again. He quotes many former attorney generals and deputy attorney generals who agree that Comey made some big mistakes. He refers to the department’s “longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information.” Those words could refer to Clinton. They could also refer to Comey’s hints last week in Congressional testimony about a federal grand jury, which is now collecting evidence of Russian influence over the Trump campaign in the Eastern District of Virginia. They seem to stand in direct contradiction to Trump’s own words about the Clinton emails:

FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2017

But what’s most notable about the Rosenstein memo is what it does not say. The memo does not explicitly recommend that Comey should be fired, let alone give a reason. The closest Rosenstein comes to doing so is at the letter’s conclusion:

One could interpret Rosenstein’s words as saying he would be satisfied if Comey owned up to his mistakes. Rosenstein does not go into what he considers “the necessary corrective actions” to be, or whether Comey was ever given a chance to implement them. And so “the judgment of the Department of Justice,” which Trump claims is the underlying cause of Comey’s firing, remains opaque.

The aftermath of Comey’s firing will play out over weeks, if not months. It may well be remembered as the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s abbreviated presidency. Getting rid of Comey was obviously Trump’s decision; the first thing Congress should do is demand that Trump stop hiding behind his deputy attorney general and explain, in his own words, why he did it. The only other dismissal of an F.B.I. director — the firing of William Sessions by President Bill Clinton in 1993 — was backed by a 193-page report from the F.B.I.’s own Office of Professional Responsibility, which detailed Sessions’s misconduct.

Over the last few hours, Trump’s mysterious and capricious reasoning has created a sense of chaos around the White House. His aides are struggling to explain an event which they themselves do not understand. This morning, Trump repeated the platitudinal desire to rebuild the F.B.I.:

James Comey will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017

According to the Washington Post, White House press secretary Sean Spicer hid in the bushes to avoid being questioned on the reasoning behind Trump’s actions. When pressed, he put the decision on Rosenstein, saying “It was all him … that was a D.O.J. decision.”

“There is a lot of cleaning house that needs to be done,” one anonymous official told CNN. “This is a shitshow,” said another, to CNN, via text.

Last night, I called Roger Stone, a member of Trump’s eccentric kitchen cabinet, who reportedly urged the president to fire Comey, reports that Trump himself denied. “He was basically becoming J. Edgar Hoover,” Stone said. “He wasn’t subject to the rule of either the executive or the Congress. He acted as if he was above civilian rule.” Stone was referring to Comey, of course, but his words fit Trump like a glove.

Top photo: A copy of the termination letter to FBI Director James Comey from US President Donald Trump is seen at the White House on May 9, 2017 in Washington.

The post Why Was James Comey Fired? Donald Trump Can’t Find the Words. appeared first on The Intercept.

After James Comey’s Firing, Who Will Stop Trump’s Tinpot Dictatorship?

10 May 2017 - 10:52am

“YOU’RE FIRED!” That’s what Donald Trump would bark from his boardroom chair at the end of each episode of ‘The Apprentice.” For years, millions of Americans would smile, laugh and even cheer in front of their television sets as the property tycoon performed his signature move.

There is little to laugh about this week. The firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump will be remembered as a dark and depressing day in the downward spiral of American democracy. It’s difficult to disagree with the scathing assessment of CNN’s senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who described the sacking as a “grotesque” abuse of power. “This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies,” he told host Wolf Blitzer in a clip that has since, deservedly, gone viral. “They fire the people who are in charge of the investigation.” Toobin continued: “This is something that is not within the American political tradition … this is not normal, this is not politics as usual.”

There is indeed nothing “normal” about removing the head of the FBI from his post less than four months into a new presidency — and an FBI boss who has been credited with delivering that president his election victory, against the odds. You have to go all the way back to 1993 to find the last — and only other — time a president (William J. Clinton) decided to dismiss his FBI chief (William S. Sessions). And the latter, unlike Comey, was accused of a long list of bizarre ethics violations including, as the Washington Post reported at the time, “charging the government for personal travel,” diverting FBI aircraft to pick up his wife, Alice Sessions, in other cities, and deploying FBI cars “to take her to get her nails done.”

Nor is there anything “normal” about an American president sending his long-standing head of private security, and former bodyguard, to hand-deliver a letter of termination to his FBI chief. There are tinpot dictators in Africa who would have avoided doing that simply in order to avoid giving the wrong impression. Tinpot Trump, however, didn’t care. (His brutish security chief, Keith Schiller, lest we forget, spent the presidential campaign smacking Latino protesters and manhandling Latino reporters on behalf of his boss.)

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was also sacked by Trump via hand-delivered letter. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, was sacked by Trump after he refused to resign. What do Comey, Yates and Bharara have in common? “They all were investigating Trump when they got fired, and there’s a Russia thread in each of their cases,” observes Shannon Vavra of Axios.

“You’re fired!” This is how Tinpot Trump deals with those who seek to hold him to account. We can’t say we weren’t warned. He has, after all, never hidden his authoritarian inclinations, his brazen disregard for political, legal and social norms.

This handout image released on May 9, 2017 by the White House shows a copy of the termination letter from US President Donald Trump to FBI Director James Comey, May 9, 2017 in Washington.

Photo: The White House/AFP/Getty Images

Trump, the property tycoon, slammed Mikhail Gorbachev for not responding to anti-Soviet protesters with a “firm enough hand,” while gazing in awe at the Chinese show of “strength” against the Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989.

Trump, the presidential candidate, lavished praise on Vladimir Putin as a president who “has been a leader far more than our president [Obama] has been” and who had “great control over his country.”

Trump, the president, in his very first speech to the nation, did his best impression of super-villain Bane from “The Dark Knight,” delivering a dystopian address on “American carnage” while vowing to “make America strong again.” On Twitter, he has referred to the media as an “enemy of the American people” and denounced a “so-called judge” who dared to rule against his “Muslim ban”.

Is it any wonder that experts on authoritarianism and fascism have been sounding the alarm bell for many months now? Listen to Ruth Ben Ghiat, the New York University history professor who has written a book on the rise of Mussolini in pre-war Italy. Trump “is an authoritarian,” she told me on my Al Jazeera English show in February, “who has the ability to stretch the boundaries of democracy to something unrecognizable.”

Is it any surprise that commentators have been invoking President Richard Nixon’s infamous “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which he fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox? Listen to John Dean, former White House Counsel to Nixon, who believes Trump is much worse than Nixon and told the Atlantic in January: “The American presidency has never been at the whims of an authoritarian personality like Donald Trump,”

With Nixon, the checks and balances worked. He was stopped. Eventually. Who will stop Tinpot Trump? The Congressional Republicans? You’re kidding, right? They have marched in partisan lockstep with their Dear Leader since he won their party’s presidential nomination last summer.

Consider their treatment this week of Yates, who testified in front of the Senate on Monday. Senator Ted Cruz, whose wife Trump mocked as ugly and whose father he accused of colluding in the assassination of JFK, decided to attack Yates on behalf of the president over her refusal to defend Trump’s “Muslim ban” in court.

Senator Lindsay Graham, who Trump has called “incompetent” and an “embarrassment,” decided to echo a key Trump talking point by asking Yates about who leaked classified information about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia, rather than about the substance of those ties.

These are the elected representatives in whose hands rests the fate of the U.S. Republic? Seriously?

Who will stop Tinpot Trump? The Democrats? They will line up to appear on MSNBC and loudly demand a special prosecutor; they may even become bold enough to talk impeachment. But they are the minority party in both chambers. They don’t have the votes to demand anything. Nor do they have much credibility in the eyes of the public — a recent poll revealed the Democrats to be less popular than the Republicans, Vice President Mike Pence, and Trump himself.

Who will stop Tinpot Trump? The courts? Here and there, maybe, but over one and possibly even two terms? And as the president’s patronage powers kick in? I doubt it. Remember: The Trump effect on the U.S. judiciary will go far beyond the appointment of ultra-conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Trump has inherited more than 100 court vacancies from Obama, which is more than double the number of vacancies Obama inherited from Bush in 2009.

Who will stop Tinpot Trump? The U.S. media? Give me a break! So much of the so-called fourth estate has embarrassed itself with fawning and deferential coverage of the president; cable news sees Trump less as a threat to democracy and more as a cash cow and ratings boon. In recent weeks, CBS Sunday morning anchor John Dickerson was escorted out of the Oval Office after he asked Trump a question the latter didn’t like, while CNN’s Van Jones and Fareed Zakaria fell over one another to declare Trump “presidential” because he gave a good speech and launched a few missiles at Syria.

American checks and balances are out of whack. The firing of the FBI director is only the beginning. There will be more sackings; more political corruption; more abuses of power. And, again, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Tinpot Trump, cautioned John Dean back in January, “is going to test our democracy as it has never been tested.” Whether American democracy is up to that test is another matter.

Top photo: FBI Director James Comey leaves the Capitol after a meeting Feb. 17, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Comey met with Senate members for a closed door meeting at the Capitol.

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