The Intercept

Intercepted Podcast: James Comey, Chelsea Manning and the secrets America keeps

10 May 2017 - 6:01am

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Donald Trump’s complicated relationship with FBI Director James Comey came to a shocking conclusion in Tuesday night’s episode of American shitshow. This week on Intercepted: Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill analyze Trump’s firing of Comey. If — as many Democrats are alleging — the FBI director was sacked because of his role in the Russia investigation, Comey could prove to be a lethal threat to Trump’s presidency. Is Trump really that stupid, or does he know something we don’t? Next week, U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning will be released from Fort Leavenworth prison. In an Intercepted exclusive, we will hear Manning in her own voice, describing her imprisonment and why she blew the whistle. Journalist Alexa O’Brien takes us inside the trials and triumphs of the junior soldier who shook the world. The defeat of Marine Le Pen in France’s election was celebrated globally as a rejection of fascism. But who is Emmanuel Macron? French human rights and civil liberties activist Yasser Louati says many of Le Pen’s ideas have long been seeping into the mainstream of French politics. And, the exclusive premiere of a brand new track from the hip-hop artists MC Sole and DJ Pain 1.

Transcript coming soon.

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“Our Democracy Is in Danger”: Key Reactions to Donald Trump’s Firing of FBI Director James Comey

9 May 2017 - 8:24pm

President Trump fired James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, on Tuesday afternoon.

According to a letter from Trump that was reportedly hand-delivered to Comey’s office by Trump’s longtime top security aide, the president acted because Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein recommended that Comey be dismissed. Comey was in Los Angeles and reportedly learned of the news from the television.

In a letter to Trump, Sessions stated that “a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI” and that he concurred with the reasoning of an attached memo by Rosenstein regarding Comey.

The Rosenstein memo stated that he “cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s emails.”

“The Director was wrong,” Rosenstein wrote, “to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. … Compounding the error, the Director ignored a longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”

That is, Trump is claiming that he fired Comey because the FBI director acted unfairly toward Clinton.

The reaction from Democrats toward Trump’s decision has been uniformly negative, with many now demanding that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the ongoing counterintelligence investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign.

If we don't get a special prosecutor, every American will rightfully suspect that the decision to fire #Comey was part of a cover-up.

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 9, 2017

Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey raises serious questions about what his administration is hiding.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 9, 2017

Comey should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired.

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) May 9, 2017

Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., said that Comey’s firing was “nothing less than Nixonian.”

LEAHY: "This is nothing less than Nixonian." pic.twitter.com/n4R4fWSgib

— Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) May 9, 2017

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., also recalled the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in 1973 when top officials at the Justice Department resigned rather than carry out President Nixon’s demand that they fire a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. Cohen stated that “our democracy is in danger” and asked Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to appoint a bipartisan commission to investigate “the Trump-Russia relationship.”

Ryan must appoint bipartisan, non-classified, public & transparent commission to investigate #TrumpRussia. Our democracy's in danger. #Comey pic.twitter.com/GDGv0EfJnk

— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) May 9, 2017

Several Republicans also appeared concerned by Trump’s actions. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting an investigation into any ties between Trump and Russia, said that “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Jim Comey’s resignation.”

Just in from Burr: “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Jim Comey’s termination." pic.twitter.com/sNl98EVRWJ

— Ali Watkins (@AliWatkins) May 9, 2017

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona stated that Comey’s firing “only confirms the need and the urgency” for a “special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”

Removal of Director Comey only confirms need for select cmte to investigate #Russia's interference in 2016 election https://t.co/LfKlwSw6iQ

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 9, 2017

By contrast, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., appeared sanguine about Comey’s removal:

Given the recent controversies surrounding the Director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) May 9, 2017

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN to defend the firing. When Anderson Cooper asked Conway why Trump fired Comey, despite having praised his treatment of the email investigation on the campaign trail, Conway responded that Cooper was “looking at the wrong set of facts.”

Anderson Cooper calls out Kellyanne Conway: your explanation for why Trump fired Comey doesn't make any sense. pic.twitter.com/NBflbxNPyP

— CAP Action (@CAPAction) May 10, 2017

For its part, the Nixon Library tweeted, “FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI,” with the hashtag #notNixonian.

FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian pic.twitter.com/PatArKOZlk

— RichardNixonLibrary (@NixonLibrary) May 9, 2017

The post “Our Democracy Is in Danger”: Key Reactions to Donald Trump’s Firing of FBI Director James Comey appeared first on The Intercept.

Fazenda “sem racismo” faz acordo com Ministério Público para evitar processo

9 May 2017 - 3:57pm

Os quitutes servidos pelas mãos de pessoas negras vestidas de escravas darão lugar a placas com nomes de 162 pessoas, 46 delas nascidas no continente africano e aos escritos: “A Fazenda Santa Eufrásia foi palco, no século XIX, do que hoje é considerado crime contra a humanidade: a escravização de africanos, muitos sequestrados ainda crianças”. As medidas são parte de um acordo assinado entre o Ministério Público Federal e a dona da Fazenda, Elizabeth Dolson no dia 02 de maio. O Termo de Ajustamento de Conduta (TAC) prevê que ela adote medidas reparatórias pela violação de direitos fundamentais que ocorria na programação turística de sua propriedade, bem como a possível violação ao patrimônio histórico. Dolson tem 60 dias para adequar o local segundo as providências acordadas.

A fazenda, que fica em Vassouras, a pouco mais de 120 quilômetros do centro do Rio, é a única fazenda particular tombada pelo Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional no Rio de Janeiro (Iphan-RJ) no Vale do Café. No entanto, em dezembro de 2016, reportagem de The Intercept Brasil mostrou que a Santa Eufrásia não cumpria sua finalidade de educação e reparação simbólica de violações de direitos perpetradas no local em tempos passados. Pelo contrário, a fazenda oferecia em seu pacote turístico uma encenação literal dos tempos de escravidão, que permitia que turistas fossem servidos por pessoas negras vestidas como escravas sem qualquer abordagem crítica.

No mesmo dia da veiculação da reportagem, a fazenda foi retirada da lista de estabelecimentos que integram o Mapa da Cultura do Rio de Janeiro.

Turistas se divertem em meio a mulheres vestidas de “mucamas”

Foto: Igor Alecsander

O TAC foi construído a partir de sugestões das comunidades quilombolas da região, do movimento negro e de professoras da Universidade Federal Fluminense. Foram realizadas reuniões no Rio de Janeiro e em Volta Redonda, com o envolvimento também da Comissão de Igualdade Racial da OAB. A assinatura do termo ocorreria no dia 6 de maio, nas dependências da fazenda. Mas, quando as pessoas chegaram lá, as portas estavam fechadas, e o documento foi assinado em frente à sede da propriedade, sem a presença da dona, que foi representada por seu advogado, Murilo Cesar Pereira Batista.

A assinatura do termo, no entanto, não significa que Dolson concordou que as práticas da fazenda violavam direitos fundamentais e o patrimônio histórico – como a menção pejorativa aos negros escravizados ou a banalização  da história da escravização de pessoas, como a referência feita por Dolson  às mucamas. O acordo foi firmado para evitar mais prejuízos, uma vez que o Ministério Público abriu, logo após a reportagem, um inquérito civil público para apurar as irregularidades cometidas na fazenda. Segundo o advogado, “a reportagem cuidou de uma denúncia de situação que evidentemente não existia, que seria a apologia de discriminação racial”.

“Nós temos uma convivência muito pacífica com nossos irmãos negros. Felizmente a nossa sociedade é muito aberta, e o negro tem trânsito livre entre nós. Sempre teve”

“Foi uma surpresa [para Elizabeth Dolson] se ver diante de ação civil pública em decorrência de que estaria fazendo apologia de discriminação racial, o que não corresponde à realidade. A concordância da assinatura do TAC foi o caminho mais rápido para se dar a solução do problema”, explicou Murilo Cesar Pereira Batista, advogado da Santa Eufrásia. Segundo ele, se o acordo não fosse assinado, “ela teria que ficar respondendo por um procedimento e que, por conta das questões judiciais, isso se eternizaria, e, enquanto isso, ela ficaria sem realizar o trabalho que ela sempre gostou”.

Elizabeth Dolson, herdeira da Fazenda Santa Eufrásia, vestida de Sinhá para receber turistas.

Foto: Igor Alecsander

Apesar de o advogado afirmar que não houve violação direitos e ao patrimônio histórico, a investigação do Ministério Público Federal comprovou as denúncias feitas na matéria do The Intercept Brasil sobre práticas culturais que desrespeitam o Estatuto da Igualdade Racial, os direitos fundamentais e o patrimônio histórico.

Questionado sobre o impacto do acordo entre a fazenda e o MP no combate ao racismo no país, o advogado minimizou o problema: “Nós temos uma convivência muito pacífica com nossos irmãos negros. Felizmente a nossa sociedade é muito aberta, e o negro tem trânsito livre entre nós. Sempre teve”. Para ele, a falta de contato com a cultura negra também não foi o problema de construção da atividade oferecida por Dolson no local. “Os antepassados dela foram os proprietários dessa fazenda, e ela vem convivendo com isso há muitos anos. Talvez o que haja aí uma é questão relacionada à cultura. Aí sim, essa questão que pode ser um divisor de águas quanto à questão dela não estar adaptada ao problema da cultura negra”, reiterou.

“Será que ela sabe onde estão e como estão aquelas pessoas que transformaram a família dela em pessoas ricas e bem sucedidas na nossa comunidade?”

Em resumo, ele foi categórico: “Essa questão de escravização, aqui… ela [Dolson] não tem conhecimento dessa situação (…). A cultura dela está muito voltada para a Europa e Estados Unidos. Lá essa questão é vista como divulgação da história e não com restrições porque isso poderia ocasionar entendimento diferente do propósito da história”.

De volta à realidade local, Toninho Canecão, representante do maior quilombo do Rio, o Quilombo São José da Serra, em Valença, vizinha a Vassouras, diz acreditar que, se as pessoas que um dia visitaram a Santa Eufrásia e foram servidas por pessoas negras vestidas de escravas conhecessem a história da região a fundo elas não encarariam a experiência do mesmo jeito. “Hoje, ela [Dolson] é dona de fazenda. Será que ela sabe onde estão e como estão aquelas pessoas que transformaram a família dela em pessoas ricas e bem sucedidas na nossa comunidade? Como estão as pessoas que construíram, que trabalharam na lavoura do café e quem deu toda aquela riqueza pra ela? Se ela sabe… Se ela bota a cabeça no travesseiro, se pensa nesse pessoal que não foram os barões.”, questionou.

Fazendas sem racismo

Ao cumprir o acordo, a fazenda Santa Eufrásia receberá o selo “Fazenda sem Racismo”, o que pode ser o início de um novo ciclo no turismo local. “A fazenda será a primeira no Brasil a ser certificada nesse aspecto. E ela [Dolson] viu então com bons olhos essa questão”, reiterou o advogado da fazenda.

As adequações propostas pelo Ministério Público vão se estender a outras fazendas que porventura operem da mesma forma que a Santa Eufrásia. No próximo dia 23 de maio, haverá uma audiência pública para discutir com todas as fazendas da região de Vassouras e o poder público soluções sobre como tratar não só o turismo local, mas também a educação quando se fala de afrodescendentes e sua importância na construção e formação do Brasil.

“O conflito faz parte. A gente quer mudanças de comportamento. Não necessariamente de mentalidade dos donos das fazendas. Mas a gente quer plantar sementes, com essas mudanças. Vamos fazer esse embate com diálogo e muita conversa”, explicou o procurador da República Júlio José Araújo, responsável pelo acordo. Para ele, haverá resistência na discussão e na reestruturação do modelo de turismo na área porque o tema é tabu na região e a estrutura da sociedade ali é outra, com resquícios fortes e entranhados do período escravagista.

Adequações para o turismo

Além de reparar as violações aos direitos da população negra causada pela encenação para fins turísticos, o acordo com o MPF e com a Defensoria Pública visa assegurar o reconhecimento da história e da cultura negra e o combate ao silenciamento dos efeitos da escravização de pessoas no Brasil, em especial na região do Vale do Café, no Estado do Rio de Janeiro.

Quilombolas e representantes do movimento negro celebram adequação do turismo local.

Foto: Paulo Mumia

Além das placas, o TAC estabelece a confecção de 500 folhetos educativos sobre a história das pessoas escravizadas da Fazenda Santa Eufrásia – com divulgação do conteúdo também no site da fazenda – e que a utilização da palavra escravo, de forma escrita e oral, seja substituída pela expressão “pessoa escravizada”.

“Com isso, vamos contribuir para a superação da associação da imagem do negro ao ‘escravo’ em nossa sociedade e esclarecer que africanos e seus descendentes foram escravizados, não ‘nasceram escravos’, e ninguém ‘descende de escravos’, tratando-se de pessoas, de homens e mulheres, de seres humanos que foram criminosa e injustamente escravizados”, explica o procurador.

Elizabeth Dolson terá ainda, que gravar um vídeo se desculpando pelos equívocos seu projeto cultural, algo que, de acordo com o seu advogado, ainda não aconteceu.O acordo veda ainda a encenação ou a utilização de vestimentas por pessoas negras ou brancas que as caracterizem como “mucamas”, inclusive os  visitantes.

Para assegurar que não haverá reincidência do episódio, a gestora da fazenda e todas as pessoas responsáveis por receber visitantes deverão, no prazo de 60 dias, passar por um processo de capacitação, com carga horária de 12 horas, organizado e ministrado por representantes e lideranças negras da região, com o objetivo de conhecer sua história de resistência e de lutas, assim como as histórias de seus antepassados.

Colaboração: Sofia Perpétua e Thiago Dezan

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Pressure on Democrats Pays Off as Chuck Schumer Picks Consumer Advocate for FTC Nominee

9 May 2017 - 3:47pm

After pressure from consumer advocates, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has recommended Rohit Chopra, a former official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), for an open Democratic seat on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

As reported by The Intercept in March, Schumer had previously been considering his ex-Chief of Staff David Hantman — a former lobbyist for Yahoo and Airbnb who opposed regulation on Silicon Valley firms — for the position. After details of Hantman’s past work became public, Schumer last month told the International Business Times that he would not be submitting Hantman’s name.

Chopra, by contrast, has a strong record of action on consumer issues. A senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), Chopra was one of the first hires at CFPB, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren was standing up the bureau. As part of the senior leadership, Chopra eventually served as student loan ombudsman, working on financial aid, student debt defaults, and misconduct by loan servicers. Since 2011, CFPB has secured refunds of hundreds of millions of dollars for students, and created a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet to better inform would-be debtors of their options.

Later on, Chopra became a special adviser to the Department of Education on higher education policy. He was named to the Clinton transition team, as an olive branch to progressives. At CFA, he has focused on financial issues affecting military families, who are often preyed upon by unscrupulous lenders. When he was being considered to run New York’s Department of Financial Services, Sen. Warren called Chopra “smart as a whip, independent, hard-working, and loaded with integrity.”

At the FTC, Chopra would deal with a wide range of issues, from preventing unfair and deceptive business practices, to ensuring competition in markets and accuracy in advertising and marketing information.

“The Federal Trade Commission should be led by people who put the interests of consumers above all else, and that’s what Rohit Chopra has done his entire life,” said Sen. Schumer in a statement. “I strongly urge the president to nominate him and will push for his swift confirmation in the Senate.”

Though President Trump makes the final decision on nominees for federal agencies, agency rules give Democrats an opportunity to name members. On several five-member commissions — like the Federal Communications Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the FTC — no more than three members can be from the president’s party. The Federal Election Commission’s six members are supposed to be evenly split among the parties. This is designed to give some weight to diverse viewpoints.

Right now, there are open vacancies that cannot go to Republicans on every one of those six boards, except for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Traditionally, the minority leader in the Senate — Schumer — has wide discretion to recommend minority-party commission members, who the president then nominates. These nominations matter, because while minority party panel members routinely get outvoted, they can create a record of opposition and carry the banner for the party’s ideas and principles. Plus, when the presidency changes parties, those remaining commission members are first in line to take the chairmanships.

Ajit Pai, a longtime Republican FCC commissioner, became chair under Trump, and he has been among the most active ideologues in the federal government, moving aggressively to relax media ownership, limit assistance to low-income broadband users, and overturn net neutrality.

Democrats have not always installed mainstream progressives aligned with the party’s putative values onto these commissions, occasionally opting for business-friendly nominees who collaborate with Republicans and industry to deregulate. Schumer’s initial consideration of Hantman suggested a continuation of this trend.

But the Chopra pick shows that Schumer will respond to progressive pressure. Chopra’s background suggests alignment with the Warren wing of the Democratic caucus on the need to safeguard consumers, resist monopolies, and prevent predatory corporate behavior.

The final hurdle will be getting Trump to actually nominate Chopra. While tradition dictates that the minority party gets a say in choosing minority members of these commissions, Trump is anything but a traditional president. Theoretically he could nominate registered independents with conservative leanings to get around the statutory limitation on party members.

But this would trigger an equal reaction in future presidencies. Conservatives may fear being silenced on these regulatory agencies in the future as much as liberals, leading to a détente of sorts.

Regardless of that outcome, Schumer’s reversal exemplifies the shifts in the Democratic coalition and the importance of consumer protection as a central value.

Top photo: Rohit Chopra listens during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on student loans in Washington in 2014.

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Ryan Grim to Head The Intercept’s Washington Bureau

9 May 2017 - 3:23pm

Ryan Grim will be joining The Intercept as D.C. bureau chief later this month.

Grim was most recently the D.C. bureau chief for the Huffington Post, where he led a team renowned for breaking political news while his own reporting probed influence peddling, corruption, and the human consequences of public policy. Under his leadership, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau was twice a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, winning once.

He edited and contributed reporting to a groundbreaking 2015 investigative project on heroin treatment that not only changed federal and state laws but shifted the culture of the recovery industry. The story, by Jason Cherkis, was a Pulitzer finalist and won a Polk Award.

Grim, who grew up in rural Maryland, wrote a highly entertaining and deeply informative book, “This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America.” A former contributor to MSNBC, he is currently a Young Turks contributor.

“Since The Intercept launched, Washington in general and Congress in particular have been mired in stalemate. But with Donald Trump in the White House, Washington is coming alive again, in both the best and the worst ways. In that revival is an opportunity to expand what The Intercept has been doing,” Grim said. “Pound for pound, The Intercept is already one of the best fighters in the ring. Bringing that strength to bear on Washington will allow us to not just cover the debates that Trump has unleashed, but to shape them — and to force new debates that this town would rather not have.”

I would like to thank our outgoing Washington editor, Dan Froomkin, for his extraordinary contributions to The Intercept as a writer, editor, and leader. Dan was integral to The Intercept from the start, building up a scrappy and smart bureau from scratch and infusing our independent voice on politics with his skepticism, wisdom, and wit. Dan never wavered in his fierce commitment to The Intercept’s core mission of producing original accountability journalism in a field saturated with obsequious and access-driven coverage, and we are grateful for everything he has done to make The Intercept what it has become.

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Donald Trump May Escalate the Afghanistan War He Spent Years Calling a “Terrible Mistake”

9 May 2017 - 2:47pm

The Trump administration is reportedly weighing a proposal to send thousands of more troops to Afghanistan, an escalation of the longest war in U.S. history.

This would be a significant about-face from Trump’s public position in the years prior to his presidency. In 2015 he declared that invading Afghanistan in the first place was a “terrible mistake” and the current situation was “a mess,” although he added that “I would leave the troops there begrudgingly” because “that thing will collapse in about two seconds after they leave.”

Before running for president, Trump repeatedly tweeted about the need to end the war, referring to it as a waste of blood and treasure.

Ron Paul is right that we are wasting trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2011

When will we stop wasting our money on rebuilding Afghanistan? We must rebuild our country first.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2011

The tweet below links to a Fox and Friends interview where Trump denounces the war: “What are we doing there? These people hate us. As soon as we leave, it’s all going to blow up anyway. And you say, ‘What are we doing there?’ We’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions of dollars on this nonsense.”

My @foxandfriends interview discussing violence in Afghanistan, rising oil prices and @MittRomney's leads in AZ (cont) http://t.co/neuX5zG1

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2012

It is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interests.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2012

China is getting minerals from Afghanistan http://t.co/uNxQYQWi We are getting our troops killed by the Afghani govt't. Time to get out.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 29, 2012

Afghanistan is a total disaster. We don't know what we are doing. They are, in addition to everything else, robbing us blind.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2012

Why are we continuing to train these Afghanis who then shoot our soldiers in the back? Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2012

84% of US troops wounded & 70% of our brave men & women killed in Afghanistan have all come under Obama. Time to get out of there.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2012

I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money — rebuild the U.S.!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2013

Our gov't is so pathetic that some of the billions being wasted in Afghanistan are ending up with terrorists http://t.co/bso3k1pR7l

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2013

Do not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024-with all costs by U.S.A. MAKE AMERICA GREAT!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2013

Five U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan by so-called friendly fire. What are we doing?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2014

Trump’s change of opinion may be spurred by counsel from his National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reports that McMaster has been the voice inside the administration in favor of escalation.

Top photo: U.S. Marines salute during a handover ceremony at Leatherneck Camp in Lashkar Gah in the Afghan province of Helmand on April 29, 2017.

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Women Should Not Be Ashamed to Talk About Abortion: A Conversation with Author Carol Sanger

9 May 2017 - 1:01pm

The last couple of weeks have not been good for millions of American women. On May 4, House lawmakers passed their version of a new healthcare law that if adopted would eliminate many of the gender-leveling provisions mandated by the Affordable Care Act. It also includes a measure to defund Planned Parenthood, threatening basic services for more than 1 million women on Medicaid.

While the bill is still far from passage, President Donald Trump took immediate action to weaken the ACA’s birth control mandate that for the first time facilitated no-cost birth control for some 55 million women.

To top it all off, Trump has named two prominent anti-abortion and anti-birth control crusaders to top positions in the Department of Health and Human Services — including one, Teresa Manning, who will be tasked with overseeing a federal program that provides birth control to low-income women.

The administration’s moves to restrict reproductive rights have been championed by vocal opponents of abortion, such as Marjorie Dannenfelser’s Susan B. Anthony List, as integral to their mission to outlaw abortion.

With the elevation of outspoken foes of reproductive freedom, one might think that support for legal abortion has waned. Yet polls show that public support for abortion rights remains strong, with 57 percent of Americans saying abortion should be legal in “all or most cases.”

Certainly, the false impression is strengthened by the outsized role that group’s like Dannenfelser’s have played in recent years in shaping public policy around reproductive rights.

But there is another element at work too, one suggested in a thoughtful new book by Columbia law professor Carol Sanger: Women’s reluctance to talk openly about their reproductive lives — and particularly about having had an abortion.

In “About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First-Century America,” Sanger makes a compelling case for how a private matter — choosing to have an abortion — has been so politicized and stigmatized that it has been transformed into something that women feel they must keep secret, lest they set themselves up for public shaming. That opens the space for groups like Dannenfelser’s to shape the narrative around abortion and, ultimately, public policy.

When you consider that there are nearly 1 million abortions provided each year, for a rate of nearly 15 out of 1,000 women of reproductive age, it’s clear there are millions of women who could effectively advocate for rational reproductive healthcare policy if they felt safe to do so.

In the current political environment — in which Trump has articulated some very disturbing positions regarding women’s rights — it is perhaps even more important that the story of abortion be rescued from secrecy and placed firmly back in control of the women who seek them.

Last month I interviewed Sanger about her book, politics and the rise of abortion restrictions, and the nature of privacy vs. secrecy in the context of reproductive freedom.

Columbia law professor Carol Sanger.

Photo: Alan S. Orling

Jordan Smith: One of the things that is really fascinating about your book is an argument I’ve never heard put so plainly, which is this idea of privacy versus secrecy. Having an abortion should be a private health matter, just like any other private thing, but the fact that women keep it private has allowed abortion opponents to hijack the narrative around abortion, transforming it into this secret thing. And it occurs to me that this process is what has also allowed onerous abortion restrictions to pass again and again and again.

Carol Sanger: I think it’s so important to realize that there are a lot of reasons why we think talking about an abortion is a private matter. It’s your body; it’s sex; it’s reproduction; it’s a medical treatment. Those are all things that people like to keep private. Whose business is it if I have sex or a medical procedure, or even a cosmetic procedure?

But as I say in the book, I think there is a very big difference between choosing to do that because it’s good for you, because you’re in charge of your own life and you’re exercising your own agency, versus not disclosing something because you fear that if you do you’ll be harmed. The difference in motivation seems to me very important. If we say something’s private, that’s OK. But when it gets pushed into secrecy to be a shaming mechanism by all these laws that tell you that what you are doing is wrong, and would then try to persuade you out of it, that’s what changes the decision.

There are two forms of non-disclosure, and I say privacy is a good one. But when somebody keeps something private, not because it’s within their domain of personal power, but because if they don’t they’ll lose their job, they’ll lose a relationship, their parents won’t love them anymore and they’ll be stigmatized, then that’s something different. And we shouldn’t confuse the two.

JS: How has this privacy versus secrecy paradigm influenced the dialogue about abortion?

CS: What it does is it shuts down dialogue. So a part of secrecy is silence. A lot of people think they don’t know anyone who ever had an abortion, and we know that about one-third of all women will have had an abortion by the time their reproductive years are over, because that’s a really long period.

From 1973–2016 there have to be millions of women, including grandmothers now, who have had abortions. And that’s before we even go back to illegal abortions. What I find so distressing is that Vice President Mike Pence has said that we’re going to consign Roe v. Wade to the “ash heap of history where it belongs.” I can’t believe we’re going to go back because that ash heap had a lot of women in it who died from illegal abortions or were maimed, became sterile.

JS: You write in the book about “normalizing” abortion. And it occurs to me that the privacy/secrecy dynamic becomes weaponized in this debate when women won’t talk about their experiences.

“About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First-Century America” by Carol Sanger

In Texas, for example, I can’t tell you how many legislative hearings I’ve been in where I have seen the same group of women testify over and over about how damaged they are by having had an abortion. I am not saying that I don’t have sympathy for them, but it’s very stark when it’s always the same women making this argument. The whole scheme gets really one-sided and then it becomes much easier to justify passage of abortion restrictions. So my question is, What does normalizing abortion look like?

CS: That’s a good question because normalizing takes many shapes. There’s a journalist named Lindy West who started a movement called Shout Your Abortion. She said, I know everything about my friends and their boyfriends and their parents and everything. I know nothing about anybody having an abortion. So she started telling women not to hesitate to bring it up.

Now, I’m not a shouter — I usually talk more quietly. So my suggestion is just that people could start talking about abortion when it’s appropriate, within their families. For a long time women never talked about their miscarriages because it was shameful, it meant that you weren’t a woman, you couldn’t deliver the pregnancy. It had that social stigma attached to it. Women felt extremely isolated and over time began to talk about it and found great comfort knowing that actually they’re not the only ones on their floor at work who had this experience. So I think that is a good analogy — to have something that slowly creeps out, and it requires bravery.

I also think that sometimes you have to risk the conversation with someone you love or someone who loves you. My hope, and I don’t think it’s imaginary or fanciful, is that if people were to learn that their mother had an abortion — would they stop loving their mother? Would they break off their relationship with their mother? I think not.

I taught in England for quite a while and I was giving a class on abortion there and the students there just didn’t get the controversy over abortion in the U.S. One of the students raised her hand and said, well, two weeks ago I went to the National Health Service and had a termination, and I brought my friends with me for a support group. And I thought, Whoa! She just said that in class! But nobody blinked. So, that was a very important moment for me.

Just to your point about the women in Texas, that you begin to see the same women testifying at the capitol, the South Dakota legislature sponsored an abortion task force where they had the report of a study involving about 2,000 South Dakota women and 99 percent of them said that abortion was the worst thing that had ever happened to them and that they felt it should not be legal. I say, I don’t doubt those 2,000 women, but I have to believe that somewhere in the state of South Dakota there are other women who were relieved that they didn’t have to marry a no-goodnik, relieved that they didn’t have to have five children instead of four, relieved because this was just the wrong time and they were able to control this part of their life. So it’s not that you doubt the women that you see in Texas or that I doubt the 2,000 in South Dakota, but that it’s an incomplete story.

This is a topic that can be discussed — it’s not compulsory to discuss it, but it can be discussed as you would another subject that you might want to share with someone.

I’m not in favor of outing anybody, but I do think if we could reframe how we talk about it — this is why I wrote the chapter on fathers and fetuses, because I wanted to say, can we shake gender out of this for 15 pages? Can we just regard this as a parenting decision and not murder? Not selfish women doing what’s best for them? Could we learn something?

JS: I want you to explain that a little bit, because I think it’s fascinating this idea of taking gender out of it. When you work in this area you always hear people say, well, if men had to have babies this wouldn’t even be a question — or some variation on that.

CS: I wanted to think, is it possible to know anything about what men do when they actually are in charge of a fetus or an embryo? And the closest I could come were frozen embryo cases. These are cases where couples who are using artificial reproductive technologies to get pregnant create embryos … and then, sadly, within a few years they divorce. But part of what they own, in a sense, are these frozen embryos that were not used. The question is, what becomes of them? There have been quite a few cases where judges have had to decide.

Roe v. Wade played a role in some of the cases because the court said we have a decision from 1973 that says that women should not have to become mothers against their will, so by the same token, men should not have to become fathers against their will, and they should have a right to not have the embryo implanted in anybody.

That’s the situation in which these cases came up and what I found is that men were not reluctant at all about why they wanted to have the embryos destroyed, which is interesting. As I read all the background information about these cases, men said things like, “I certainly don’t want to have an ongoing relationship with that woman.” That was one. Another was, you know, I’m a young man and I want to have some fun before I have a family and have to be financially responsible. Now, I just want to say, you would never hear a woman say that — you would never hear a woman say, “I want to have an abortion because I want to kick up my heels.” We just find that completely unacceptable.

I found that the reasons that men want to destroy frozen embryos really parallel the reasons that women give for having an abortion — with the exception that men will talk about it, and the other exception is that nobody calls men selfish for their decision. You’re going to destroy your embryos instead of implanting them in a stranger or your wife? Outrage, picketing the clinics — no, there’s none of that.

I wanted to see whether it could be comprehensible to other people why a woman might choose to terminate a pregnancy. That if we heard a man say the same thing — I’m defrosting these embryos because I already have four children and I know I can care for them, but I’m not sure about five — whether that sounds so very terrible. And I think it doesn’t. I think it actually sounds responsible.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Top photo: A clinician at Planned Parenthood, confirms a pregnancy with a patient on Feb. 6, 2017 in Austin, Texas.

The post Women Should Not Be Ashamed to Talk About Abortion: A Conversation with Author Carol Sanger appeared first on The Intercept.

A degradação do Estado de Direito por trás do embate Moro x Lula

9 May 2017 - 11:30am

Opositores de Lula e FHC tentaram iniciar processos de impeachments durante seus governos. Apresentando motivos estúpidos, não obtiveram sucesso em suas empreitadas. A sensação que muitos tinham, eu incluso, era que a democracia brasileira havia alcançado um estágio considerável de maturidade. Era praticamente um senso comum. O processo que desembocou no impeachment de Dilma provou que estávamos redondamente enganados. Uma maioria oposicionista formada no Congresso conseguiu, com suporte da grande imprensa, implementar uma política de desestabilização e isolamento do governo, ajudando a criar as condições materiais necessárias para transformar manobras fiscais em motivo razoável para derrubar uma presidenta eleita. Depois de sacramentado o golpe parlamentar, o novo presidente vem a público e admite por duas vezes! – que os motivos que levaram ao impeachment foram outros, e não um crime de responsabilidade.

Enganou-se também quem achou que aquela ruptura institucional se encerraria ali. O que temos visto é uma sequência de graves violações das garantias do Estado democrático de direito que só faz aumentar.

O embate entre Lula e Sérgio Moro tem sido um caso emblemático. A coisa degringolou e atingiu um ponto em que a grande mídia brasileira trata com naturalidade o fato de este ser o duelo do século.

Perceba que nas duas capas Sérgio Moro veste as cores azul e amarelo. Não sei se são as cores do PSDB ou da seleção brasileira, mas o que interessa é a confirmação de que são dois oponentes brigando sendo que o juiz é um deles. Quem deveria estar no centro arbitrando a luta com isenção está defendendo um dos lados.

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. Mas, sejamos realistas, as revistas relatam com fidelidade o que está acontecendo. Sérgio Moro subiu no ringue instalado pelos grandes grupos de mídia e se mostra bastante à vontade para atuar não como um julgador imparcial, mas como promotor do Ministério Público. Em suas atuações na Lava Jato, tanto dentro quanto fora dos tribunais, fica clara a necessidade do juiz em confirmar as hipóteses da acusação, e não em julgar com parcialidade os acontecimentos.

Chegou-se num ponto tão surreal, que o juiz-herói-celebridade não viu problema em gravar um vídeo pedindo para os fãs da Operação Lava Jato não comparecerem ao julgamento de Lula no próximo dia 10. Com o carisma de um lateral-direito reserva do Londrina Esporte Clube, Moro mandou este recado para os torcedores:

Parece que estamos na final de um campeonato e o ídolo do time está querendo acalmar sua torcida para não comprometer o bom andamento da partida. Quando até Reinaldo Azevedo – um crítico histórico de Lula – acusa Moro de orientar sua torcida, é melhor não duvidar:

“É evidente que não cabe a um juiz passar orientações a manifestantes, ainda que esteja falando aos seus. Se o faz, admite a existência de uma liderança que nada tem a ver com o poder que lhe confere a toga. (…) Juiz não orienta torcida. No máximo, a sua atuação pública, que tem de se pautar pela isenção e pela retidão, tem de inspirar a todos.”

Embriagado pela aura de herói, Moro tem se notabilizado por mandar às favas os ritos jurídicos na Lava Jato, chegando a cometer graves irregularidades em alguns casos. O de maior relevância foi o da autorização da divulgação de conversas telefônicas entre a ex-presidenta da República e Lula, além de outras conversas particulares que não eram de interesse público. Em meio ao processo de impeachment, um juiz de primeira instância cometeu uma ilegalidade e influiu decisivamente no jogo político-partidário. É grave, mas, com raríssimas exceções, a imprensa tratou o caso com a maior naturalidade do mundo. Mas, tudo bem, ele pediu “respeitosas escusas” para o STF e ficou por isso mesmo. Um herói é um herói, não é mesmo?

Recentemente, Moro determinou a condução coercitiva do blogueiro Eduardo Guimarães, que, ao chegar na delegacia, foi incitado pelos policiais a revelar a identidade de uma fonte sua – um claro constrangimento ilegal. Pior que isso: queriam apenas a confirmação, pois já haviam descoberto após quebrarem o seu sigilo telefônico, conforme revelou The Intercept Brasil. O motivo de tudo seria o fato de o blogueiro ter avisado a Lula, após receber um vazamento, sobre a condução coercitiva do ex-presidente. Tudo fica ainda mais ridículo quando lembramos da naturalidade com que representantes do Ministério Público convocaram uma coletiva de imprensa em off para vazar ilegalmente nomes de políticos delatados que seriam investigados pelo STF, mesmo havendo uma lei que determina o sigilo das delações enquanto não houver denúncia.

Advogados de Lula reinvidicaram junto ao STJ o afastamento de Moro do processo da Lava Jato por “total falta de imparcialidade”. É impossível discordar. Mas com o Estado de Direito sendo espancado em praça pública diariamente, quem ousará confrontar o grande herói criado pela imprensa e endeusado por boa parte da população? Para boa parte da opinião pública contaminada pelo ódio, toda e qualquer crítica a Sérgio Moro será sinônimo de defesa da corrupção. Qualquer defesa da democracia, do Estado de Direito, também será confundida com a defesa de Lula. É esse o clima instaurado no país. O juiz sabe disso e trabalha muito bem com esse dado.

Nesse ambiente de vale-tudo, outros juízes já também não fazem nenhuma questão de parecer imparcial. A juíza Diele Dernadin Zydek, da 5ª Vara da Fazenda Pública do Paraná, aceitou pedido do prefeito de Curitiba, Rafael Greca (PMN), e proibiu que caravanas de militantes acampem em qualquer lugar da cidade. Não vamos entrar no mérito da decisão, mas vamos ao Facebook da juíza:

Assim que os prints caíram nas redes, a juíza tirou seu Facebook do ar. Mas Diele não é uma caso isolado. Ela é apenas uma das camadas mais recentes da bola de neve. Lembremos de Catta Preta e diversos outros  juízes que ignoraram um princípio sagrado da Justiça: o de não ser apenas imparcial, mas parecer imparcial.

Para a questão levantada nesta coluna, não interessa se Lula é culpado ou não. O que está em jogo é que tipo de democracia que estamos construindo. Desejamos que nossos adversários políticos sejam julgados com a mesma imparcialidade dos nossos aliados? Vamos aceitar que juízes travem confrontos com os réus mediados pela imprensa? Continuaremos andando para trás no processo civilizatório? Não são os direitos de um político que estão em risco, mas os de todos nós.

The post A degradação do Estado de Direito por trás do embate Moro x Lula appeared first on The Intercept.

Jimmy Carter and Bernie Sanders Explain How Inequality Breeds Authoritarianism

9 May 2017 - 10:04am

On Monday night, one day after the far-right Marine Le Pen lost France’s presidential election but garnered a record number of votes for her political party, Bernie Sanders and Jimmy Carter sat down together to discuss rising authoritarianism across the globe.

The two spoke at the Carter Center, in a discussion that was streamed online.

Asked by the moderator about the rise of authoritarian politics in the United States and elsewhere, both the Vermont senator and former president agreed on a single root cause: political and economic inequality.

“I think the root of it is something that I haven’t heard discussed much,” Carter replied. “I believe the root of the downturn in human rights preceded 2016, it began earlier than that, and I think the reason was disparity in income which has been translated into the average person, you know good, decent, hard-working middle class people feeling that they are getting cheated by the government and by society and they don’t get the same element of health care, they don’t get the same quality education, they don’t get the same political rights.”

“I agree with everything that President Carter said,” Sanders replied.

“Look, here is the situation. You got all over this country tens of millions of people who are extremely angry and they are disappointed. Now we all know as a result of technology workers are producing more today than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Yet despite that you’re seeing people work not 40 hours a week, they’re working 50 or 60 hours a week. Their wages are actually going down!”

Carter and Sanders’s belief that inequality breeds authoritarianism is backed by evidence from France’s recent election.

A post-election examination of France’s presidential contest by the New York Times found that Le Pen’s support “was strongest in areas with high unemployment and low wages.” A regression analysis by the Economist came to similar conclusions.

Sanders and Carter disagreed on little during the night’s discussion, leading the former president to admit who he supported in the Democratic presidential primary.

“Do y’all see why I voted for him?” Carter joked, as the audience laughed.

Top photo: Former President Jimmy Carter, right, and Sen. Bernie Sanders discuss human rights during the Human Rights Defenders Forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Monday, May 8, 2017.

The post Jimmy Carter and Bernie Sanders Explain How Inequality Breeds Authoritarianism appeared first on The Intercept.

Puerto Rico’s $123 Billion Bankruptcy Is the Cost of U.S. Colonialism

9 May 2017 - 9:23am

Last week Puerto Rico officially became the largest bankruptcy case in the history of the American public bond market. On May 3, a fiscal control board imposed on the island’s government by Washington less than year ago suddenly announced that the Puerto Rico’s economic crisis “has reached a breaking point.” The board asked for the immediate appointment of a federal judge to decide how to deal with a staggering $123 billion debt the commonwealth government and its public corporations owe to both bondholders and public employee pension systems.

The announcement sparked renewed press attention to a Caribbean territory that many have dubbed America’s Greece. The island’s total debt, according to the control board, is unprecedented for any government insolvency in the U.S., and it is certain to mushroom quickly if no action is taken. Detroit’s bankruptcy, by comparison, involved just $18 billion — one-ninth the size of Puerto Rico’s.

Within days, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, acting under a provision of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (known as PROMESA), which was enacted last June, appointed federal judge Laura Taylor Swain from the southern district of New York to take over the Puerto Rico case. A former bankruptcy court judge who was appointed to the federal court by President Clinton, Swain famously presided over the long criminal trial of employees of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.

Few press reports on Puerto Rico’s troubles, however, have bothered to examine the deeper issues behind this crisis.

Governor’s Place Party In Puerto Rico, ca. 1900s.

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

First, the colonial relationship that has prevailed between the U.S. and Puerto Rico since 1898 is no longer viable. Puerto Rico is the largest overseas territory still under the sovereign control of the United States, and it is the most important colonial possession in this nation’s history. That relationship produced uncommon profits for American subsidiaries on the island for more than a century, even as the federal government kept claiming that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, created in 1952, was a self-governing territory.  But now, with a Washington-appointed board directly overseeing the island’s economy, and with a pivotal Supreme Court decision last year affirming that Congress continues to exercise sovereign power over Puerto Rico, the mask of self-governance has been removed.

The old commonwealth is effectively dead. Absent a huge infusion of U.S. public dollars to prop up its collapsing economy, a scenario that is nearly impossible with a Trump White House and a Republican-controlled Congress, that relationship cannot be revived. Political leaders in both Washington and San Juan, whether they like it or not, are being propelled to fashion a new political and economic status for the territory. They will have to finally decide whether to completely annex Puerto Rico as the 51st state or acknowledge that it still remains a distinct nation, with the right its own sovereignty and independence.

Second, the impact of Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy will continue to reverberate throughout the U.S. bond market, far more than most Wall Street analysts have so far acknowledged. The PROMESA control board has warned that even with massive cuts to government services and new projected revenues from higher taxes and fees, Puerto Rico will still generate slightly less than $8 billion in budget surpluses over the next ten years, when some $35 billion in debt service comes due. In other words, three-quarters of the debt cannot be repaid. That is not just a haircut for bondholders; it is a head-shaving, one that will send shock waves throughout the municipal bond market. After all, bonds backed by the full faith-and-credit of local government entities have long been considered among the safest of investments.

Years of court battles between Puerto Rico and contending groups of creditors are now certain. “The economy of Puerto Rico will be put on hold for years,” Andrew Rosenberg, adviser to the Ad Hoc Group of Puerto Rico General Obligation Bondholders, told the Associated Press. “Make no mistake: The board has chosen to turn Puerto Rico into the next Argentina.”

A Puerto Rican flag painted on the doorway of an abandoned building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on May 1, 2016.

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

The Debt Is Not Payable

Civil society groups contend that the plunder of the Puerto Rican people through predatory and even illegal bond deals that island politicians concocted together with top Wall Street firms will now be exposed.

Amazingly, the 23-page petition that the federal government’s own financial control board filed in U.S. District Court in San Juan reached the exact same conclusion that Puerto Rico’s former governor Alejandro García Padilla reached back in June 2015 — that the island’s debt is “not payable.”

In the nearly two years since García Padilla sounded the alarm, however, Washington has done almost nothing to alleviate the economic catastrophe afflicting 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, except to establish the control board by enacting PROMESA.

On an island that has lost 10 percent of its population in the last ten years, where 46 percent of the population lives below the U.S. poverty level, where the unemployment rate is more than 11 percent, and where the labor force participation hovers around 40 percent, lawmakers in Congress have kept insisting on greater austerity from Puerto Rico’s population. The reality is such dire conditions would never be tolerated among U.S. citizens in any other jurisdiction, yet they are allowed to persist in Puerto Rico.

During the past two years, the commonwealth government has sharply raised electricity and water rates. It has increased the sales tax (now a value added tax) to 11.5 percent. It has proposed ending all pensions for new workers and cutting existing benefits by an average of 10 percent. And last week, it announced the closing of 179 public schools for the coming school year. In addition, the control board has called for a $450 million cut over the next four years to the island’s 70,000-student public university.

Under the control board’s pressure, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who took office in January, is eyeing the privatization of the government-owned electric company, of the water and sewer authority, even of the public transit system. But even massive cuts and selling off public assets can’t solve the problem that there aren’t enough jobs on the island, that young people keep fleeing to the United States, and that Puerto Rico’s government is powerless to fashion its own economic and trade policy independently from the U.S.

Ricardo Rosselló, governor of Puerto Rico, listens during a meeting at Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S., on March 28, 2017.

Photo: Alejandro Granadillo/Bloomberg News/Getty Images

For decades, Puerto Rico was important to the American economy as a center of sugar cane growing, then as a tax haven for manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies, and as a military stronghold and bulwark against the spread of communism in Latin America. But now it is no longer needed for any of these things. Most of the U.S. military bases have closed, and Congress began in 1996 to phase out the island’s tax haven status. As soon as the last of the federal tax breaks — known as Section 936 — ended in 2006, corporations started leaving and the island plunged into a recession from which it has yet to recover. For the past 20 years, a succession of island governments has been closing structural operating deficits with borrowed funds supplied by Wall Street firms eager to market its triple tax-exempt bonds to wealthy and middle-class Americans and Puerto Ricans.

Investors were especially drawn to a provision of the Puerto Rico constitution that required the government to pay general obligation debt service ahead of any other expenses, and by the fact that Puerto Rico and its public corporations were legally prevented from resorting to Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the portion of the bankruptcy code that applies to most local governments and municipalities.

Until 1978, Congress had included all the territories and possessions of the United States under Chapter 9, so Puerto Rico had bankruptcy protection until then. But between ’78 and the early ’80s, there were several changes to U.S. bankruptcy law. In 1984, an amendment was inserted into the law by South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond that specifically excluded Puerto Rico from Chapter 9. No reason was given. No federal policy or interest in the change was spelled out in the amendment process. By a few simple phrases in an amendment that few people noticed, Congress laid the basis for the unique situation Puerto Rico confronted last year. It was not only broke, there was no established legal recourse for it to get a court to decide how its many creditors would get paid or how much.

The PROMESA bill Congress enacted at least created a new type of Chapter 9-like process for the island. The bill stipulates that if the Puerto Rican government and the control board cannot reach voluntary settlements with bondholders, a judge can be appointed and creditors forced to accept a settlement, known as a “cram-down.”

But the law’s constitutionality has yet to be tested, and with so much money at stake the various groups of bondholders are determined to wage a titanic legal battle against it.

On May 5, for instance, Ambac Assurance Corp, one of the major insurers of Puerto Rico bonds, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico against the Commonwealth and the Oversight Board, and did so with uncommonly strident language:

Sovereignty confers great power, but it does not authorize lawlessness. This action seeks to halt the latest in a series of unconstitutional and unlawful acts that have been the unfortunate modus operandi of the Commonwealth government in seeking to manage its financial and economic distress. Instead of rectifying these abuses, the Oversight Board created by Congress to restore fiscal responsibility to the Commonwealth has affirmatively exacerbated them, giving its imprimatur to an ongoing scheme of constitutional and statutory violations that can only be called theft.

Ambac has insured billions of dollars in sales tax revenue bonds, known as COFINA bonds, that Puerto Rico has issued since 2006, and the company, along with other bond insures, faces enormous losses from any cram-down.

Meanwhile another group of bondholders who were involved in $1.4 billion of Puerto Rico’s last major general obligation bonds, issued in 2014, filed suit in New York State Supreme Court. Those bondholders, led by hedge funds Aurelius Capital Management and Monarch Alternative Capital, insist that Puerto Rico’s Constitution requires them to be paid first from all available revenues. The general obligation bondholder group, along with many civil society groups, insist that all the COFINA bonds — and they represent nearly $18 billion of the total $74 billion bond debt — were illegally issued and should not be repaid.

That’s because the Puerto Rico constitution specifically forbids debt service and principal that surpasses more than 15 percent of annual government revenues. The Puerto Rico legislature specifically created COFINA to maneuver around that 15 percent limit, and it then guaranteed the payment of that debt from sales tax revenues. But the legality of that maneuver has never been tested in court.

While the contending bondholder groups battle in the courts, the PROMESA board has now sided with the Puerto Rico government that bondholders will have to accept major reductions in payments.

“From current revenues, the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities cannot satisfy their collective $74 billion debt burden and $49 billion pension burden and pay their operating expenses,” the fiscal control board concluded last week after months of poring over Puerto Rico financial records.

And the island’s budgetary crisis “is about to worsen exponentially,” the control board warned, “due to the elimination of approximately $850 million in Affordable Care Act Funds in fiscal year 2018.” The total loss of federal health care funds, according to the board, is expected to reach $16 billion over the next ten years. On top of that, the government pension systems are almost out of cash and will need $1.5 billion a year just to keep up payments to current retirees. Unlike municipal workers in the U.S., most public employees in Puerto Rico are not part of the social security system, so those pensions are their only retirement income.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress insist there will be no bailout of Puerto Rico, no extra federal assistance to the island’s population.

They want to ignore the fact that back in the 1990s under Bill Clinton and the New Gingrich Congress, Washington’s leaders realized they had to take drastic measures to save the District of Columbia from economic collapse. Congress established a fiscal control board just as it has with Puerto Rico.

But that board soon concluded that DC had structural problems that required federal help. In 1997, a reform package accomplished the following: the federal government assumed the city’s debts, it took responsibility for the local courts and prisons, it increased the rate for Medicaid reimbursements to the district, and it took over the city’s underfunded employee pensions.

As a result, the district emerged from economic calamity. Today it is a vibrant and prosperous city.

Federal lawmakers will either have to provide massive assistance to Puerto Rico, or they will have to move rapidly to change the island’s political and economic status. After a century of colonial rule by Washington and decades of predatory debt from Wall Street, the bill has come due.

Top photo: Pedestrians walk past an old hotel in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2015.

The post Puerto Rico’s $123 Billion Bankruptcy Is the Cost of U.S. Colonialism appeared first on The Intercept.

Sally Yates Testimony Shows White House Lied About Michael Flynn

8 May 2017 - 9:15pm

THE TRUE STORY of Michael Flynn’s departure from the Trump White House is shaping up to be very different from the story the White House pushed forward at the time of his resignation as national security adviser.

On Monday afternoon, after weeks of delay, Congress heard public testimony from Sally Yates, a former career prosecutor at the Department of Justice who served as acting attorney general during the first days of Trump’s presidency. Yates testified that she warned Donald F. McGahn II, Trump’s White House counsel, that Flynn’s contacts with the Russian government differed from claims that Vice President Mike Pence and others had made publicly.

In January, Pence went on a Sunday talk show and said that Flynn’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, had “nothing whatsoever” to do with sanctions imposed by the outgoing Obama administration on the Russian government. Now it appears that Flynn and Kislyak did talk about sanctions.

“The Vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the public,” is how Yates put it.

In one of two meetings with McGahn, she told the White House that Flynn’s apparent deception made him vulnerable to blackmail. “We were giving them [the White House] this information so that they could take action,” Yates said in her testimony. The question of whether to fire Flynn was not her call to make, she added.

For the next 18 days after Yates talked with McGahn, Trump appears to have taken no action on Flynn, who continued to serve in his post as national security adviser. Only when word of Yates’s warning reached the Washington Post, and the paper was getting set to publish, did Flynn finally resign. By comparing Yates’s testimony about Flynn’s departure to past statements made by the Trump administration, it appears that the resignation set off a fresh round of deception in the White House.

On February 14, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, characterized Yates’s warning as “a heads-up.”

“The White House counsel informed the president immediately,” Spicer said. “The president asked him to conduct a review of whether there was a legal situation there. That was immediately determined that there wasn’t.”

Spicer’s words appear to contradict what Trump himself told reporters four days earlier when asked about reports that Flynn had misled the administration about contacts with Kislyak. “I don’t know about that,” Trump said. “I haven’t seen it.”

Spicer attempted to frame Yates’s warning as casual advice, but in fact, as Yates explained on Monday, her warning was clear and grave — Flynn had deceived the vice president, and, as a result, could be blackmailed by the Russians, who were likely aware of his deception. Yates’s concerns could not, she told McGahn, be discussed by phone. She met McGahn that same day in his secure White House office, accompanied, she said, by another senior career official from the Department of Justice.

Flynn had recently been interviewed by the F.B.I. about his Russian contacts. “Mr. McGahn asked me how he did and I declined to give him an answer to that,” Yates testified. She made clear that it wasn’t just Flynn’s apparent deceptiveness that had drawn her attention. “The underlying conduct that General Flynn engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” she told the hearing on Monday. When senators asked what that conduct was, Yates declined to answer, saying that it was classified.

Nor was Yates the only one to warn the Trump White House about Flynn. CNN has reported that Obama personally raised his concerns about Flynn in person with Trump, two days after the election. A few days later, on November 18, Rep. Elijah Cummings sent Vice President Pence a letter questioning Flynn’s ethics relating to his lobbying for a Turkish company and his attendance at a gala dinner for Russia Today in Moscow, where Flynn was seated next to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Flynn received more than $45,000 for the trip.

Flynn’s letter of resignation, dated February 13 and published on White House letterhead, states that he stepped down because he “inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.” Flynn suggested that his phone calls with Kislyak were routine, “standard practice in any transition of this magnitude.”

But Yates made clear in her testimony that her concerns ran deeper than incomplete information. At one point, McGahn had asked Yates why it mattered to the Department of Justice if one White House official lied to another White House official. Yates told him that it wasn’t just Flynn’s fudging about the Russia calls that troubled her and the two senior national security officials who she consulted before taking up the issue with the White House. Something about the content of Flynn’s calls with Russian officials had prompted the department’s national security division to take a closer look.

In a second meeting the following day, McGahn asked Yates whether it would be possible to look at the evidence — presumably transcripts of wiretapped conversations — that was driving the DOJ’s concerns about Flynn. Yates said she made the necessary arrangements for McGahn to look at the evidence and called him on the morning of the following Monday, January 30, to let him know. She did not hear back from McGahn, she said, until that afternoon. Trump fired Yates that same day, reportedly for refusing to defend an executive order that closed U.S. borders to refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. (A federal court later found that order to be unconstitutional; the administration has appealed.)

Retired General James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, also gave testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. Clapper and Yates, seated beside each other, reiterated what the intelligence community has asserted many times—that the Russian government sought to interfere in the presidential election. Whether Kislyak’s extensive contacts with senior members of Trump’s team over the course of the campaign had anything to do with Russia’s efforts to swing the election in Trump’s favor is still unknown.

Last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she had not seen evidence of collusion between Trump’s associates and the Russians during the campaign. On Monday, Clapper stood by a report from the intelligence community that detailed evidence of Russian influence, but not collusion, and that he wasn’t aware of evidence of collusion between the Trump administration and the Russians.

“I can’t answer that,” Yates said, when asked about Trump-Russia collusion. “Just because I say I can’t answer it,” she clarified moments later, “You should not draw from that an assumption that means the answer is yes.”

Despite the discrepancies between Yates’s account and prior statements by the White House, Trump appears to have scored the hearing as a win. On Monday evening, Trump pumped out four quick tweets and then changed the background of his Twitter profile to highlight Clapper’s words. Many noticed; not all were convinced:

Nothing says "completely innocent" like changing your Twitter banner photo to say "'no evidence' of collusion" pic.twitter.com/NKYbylOGrK

— Tom McKay (@thetomzone) May 9, 2017

The post Sally Yates Testimony Shows White House Lied About Michael Flynn appeared first on The Intercept.

Police in Georgia Are Turning Traffic Stops Into the First Step Toward Deportation

8 May 2017 - 1:42pm

In the northern suburbs of Atlanta in February, days after President Donald Trump went on a 3 a.m. Twitter rant to defend his crackdown on “illegal criminals” (“Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!”), the first batch of immigrant arrests for the day started rolling in just after peak rush-hour traffic. City police in the town of Norcross that morning pulled over a Latino man for driving too closely behind the car ahead of him. He didn’t have a valid driver’s license, and officers could not confirm whether or not he was in the United States legally. He was taken into custody on the spot and hauled to the county jail down the road to wait until federal immigration officials arrived.

By 10:09 a.m., a second immigrant man was booked into the county jail. This time, a deputy from the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office picked up a Mexican man for texting while driving. Bond for his offenses topped $850. But getting released from jail was not an option — Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security, had a 48-hour window to come and transfer him to an immigrant detention center in south Georgia, located 200 miles away from his home.

Four minutes later, in came a third inmate, another immigrant caught driving without a license. Then came a fourth. And later a fifth. And a sixth.

For undocumented immigrants living in the Trump era, their current zip code may be a stronger indicator of the deportation threat level they face than the length of their criminal record or when they first arrived in the United States. Routine traffic stops are beginning to prove how exceptionally broad Trump’s definition of an “illegal criminal” is, and how that definition is being applied to the undocumented immigrants local police encounter in their day-to-day work. And for regions with a history of racial tensions and hostility toward immigrants, local leaders now effectively have carte blanche to turn any interaction with police into the first step toward deportation.

The size of each graphic represents the total number of immigration holds for each period. There were nearly five times as many holds between February and April 2017 as there were during the same period last year.

Graphic: The Intercept

Gwinnett County, one of the most diverse regions in Georgia, has seen an uptick in the number of immigrants caught in removal proceedings by what started as a minor infraction. Local police there flagged nearly 500 people to ICE for potential immigration violations between February and April. Only a fraction of those were linked to charges of serious crime. Of all pending charges that accompanied the referrals, 70 percent were the result of traffic-related violations — most for driving without a license, according to county data on jail admissions compiled by The Intercept.

The arrests mark a nearly five-fold increase in the number of immigrants held for ICE at the Gwinnett County Jail over the same period last year. Between February and April 2016, local law enforcement referred just over 100 people to federal immigration authorities. Only 36 percent of accompanying charges were traffic related.

“People would be pulled over six months ago, but it wouldn’t lead to an interaction with ICE,” said Tracie L. Klinke, an immigration attorney in Marietta, Georgia. “What we’ve seen over the last few months is a quiet resurgence where traffic stops are leading to contact with ICE.”

A couple who immigrated from Mexico, right, walk with their two children to the supermarket in Norcross, Ga., on Sept. 30, 2011.

Photo: AP/Erik S. Lesser

Law enforcement officials in Gwinnett County have a special partnership with the agency. The jail there is one of 40 facilities across the country participating in the 287(g) program. Local officials are authorized to double as federal agents and issue a hold on immigrants who might be deportable, also called a detainer, on behalf of ICE. More than 14,000 people detained at the jail have been referred to federal immigration agents since 2009, close to double the next highest facility in Georgia, according to data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, run by Syracuse University.

After peaking in 2012, however, detainer rates in Gwinnett County had steadily dwindled in the face of national outcry and opposition to 287(g) and efforts by the Obama administration to narrow the pool of immigrants targeted for deportation, with focus primarily applied to recent border crossers or those with felony convictions. Now, under Trump, plans are underway to expand and revive the program, which local advocates have long cautioned encourages police to use traffic violations as a pretext to racially profile drivers whom they assume to be undocumented. Infractions at times were so minor, from a tiny crack in a windshield to failure to turn on headlights within 30 minutes of sunset, to prompt questions of whether race factored into the arrest. “Some tickets would make you scratch your head and wonder: Why was this person stopped?” said Luis Alemany, an immigration attorney based in the northwest suburbs of Atlanta.

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway first entered the 287(g) partnership with ICE in 2009, saying that the program benefited the community by reducing crime and cutting costs of jailing repeat offenders living in the U.S. illegally. Positive reception of the program early on proved that public safety was not the only worry. Residents were equally if not more concerned with how immigrant cultures “don’t quite blend” with suburban life, the sheriff told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution the day 287(g) was implemented. “People … complain about the quality of life in their subdivision. They are concerned about how their property values have been lowered by what they believe to be illegal aliens not keeping up their properties, having too many vehicles parked in yards and too many people living in a house.”

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway in Lawrencville, Ga., on Nov. 1, 2010. Conway enrolled his jail in ICE’s 287(g) program in 2009.

Photo: Erik S. Lesser/The New York Times/Redux

The Georgia legislature also began stiffening penalties for drivers caught without a license, a move that disproportionately impacted people of color. Legislation was introduced after a sheriff’s deputy was killed in a car accident while an undocumented immigrant was behind the wheel. It created a new strike system hiking fines every time a driver was convicted of driving without a license. Four strikes, and the driver faced felony charges and extended jail time.

The state driver’s license law set up a pipeline that funneled undocumented immigrants into the local jail on traffic violations, and into deportation proceedings with 287(g). “If we don’t know who you are and we can’t prove who you are, then we have to incarcerate you,” Suwanee Police Chief Mike Jones said. “Our officers aren’t out there asking ‘are you an illegal immigrant?’”

But it’s not as if they have to. Jones’s district is an affluent, mostly white enclave in Gwinnett County struggling to adjust to the rapid pace of demographic shifts in the region. The county’s Latino population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010. Together with growing African-American and Asian populations, minorities now make up the majority of residents. Still, people of color are vastly underrepresented in elected office, a source of contention outlined in a voting rights lawsuit filed in federal court last year.

An all-white panel of commissioners voted unanimously in June to continue Gwinnett County’s 287(g) partnership with ICE. Community members were incensed by what they saw as a major disconnect between the commission’s actions and the diversity of its residents, said Brenda Lopez, a former immigration attorney in Gwinnett County whose recent election into the Georgia legislature was an exception to the achievement gap for women and minorities — in November, she became the first Latina voted into the state General Assembly, even as Georgia has the 10th largest Latino population in the country.

For now, the best advice Lopez has for undocumented immigrants is to stay off the road. “You cannot live in Gwinnett County and not have a vehicle,” Lopez said. “All we can ask people is to not drive. Whether that’s Uber, whether that’s a taxi. Pay a driver and have carpools. The best people can do these days is limit driving.”

Top photo: An operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta on Feb. 9, 2017.

The post Police in Georgia Are Turning Traffic Stops Into the First Step Toward Deportation appeared first on The Intercept.

Why Donald Trump Is Scared of Sally Yates

8 May 2017 - 12:24pm

SALLY YATES, who led the Department of Justice during President Trump’s first days in office, is scheduled to testify on Monday afternoon before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yates’s testimony is expected to contradict what the Trump White House has said about Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, and the extent of his contacts with the Russian government.

If President Trump respected the separation of powers, he’d leave Congress alone and let the lawmakers ask Yates whatever questions they want to ask. Instead, just before 8 o’clock this morning, he tweeted this:

General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017

Less than half an hour later, came this:

It should be “counsel,” not “council,” as Trump apparently realized, making that correction two hours later. But the president’s inability to spell correctly is a quibble compared to his ignorance of Civics 101.

One of the main reasons we have congressional committees is to act as a check on the powers of the executive branch. It isn’t the president’s place to interfere with congressional proceedings by using his electronic bully pulpit to propose his own questions and impugn the credibility of witnesses. After all, he has plenty of his own investigative toys to play with. If he thinks that classified information has been leaked, he can call Jeff Sessions, the current attorney general. If he wants the public to know the full story of Michael Flynn, he can order the declassification of Flynn’s personnel records as well as records of Flynn’s reportedly extensive contacts with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

Instead, Trump has decided to disrespect the independence of a separate branch of government. This isn’t the first time he’s taken such an approach. In March, he tweeted this in the midst of FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee:

The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. pic.twitter.com/d9HqkxYBt5

— President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017

Trump’s claim was a lie — neither the NSA nor the FBI has reached any such conclusion. Comey was on Capitol Hill to give Congress and the public urgently-sought answers about Russia’s role in the 2016 election. Instead, the FBI director was forced to waste valuable bandwidth fact-checking the president in real time.

Yates had been scheduled to testify in an open hearing before the House Intelligence Committee in March. That hearing was abruptly called off by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, who did not consult his fellow committee members and later recused himself from the committee’s Russia probe. In a letter, Yates’s lawyers said that the administration had tried to forbid her from testifying, claiming that her warnings about Flynn were “client confidences.” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, denied Trump had stood in Yates’s way. “I hope she testifies,” he said on March 28. “I look forward to it.”

The title of today’s Senate hearing is “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election.” It may wind up being another case of presidential interference in congressional business. If Trump insists on interposing himself between Congress and their search for the facts, Congress should consider appointing a special prosecutor to make sure the job gets done.

Top photo: Then-Deputy Attorney General nominee Sally Yates testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 24, 2015, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on her nomination.

The post Why Donald Trump Is Scared of Sally Yates appeared first on The Intercept.

ACLU Sues Trump Administration for Files on Botched SEAL Raid in Yemen

8 May 2017 - 10:06am

Donald Trump’s administration is trying to close the book on its first major military operation – a botched Navy SEAL raid in Yemen that turned into a village-wide massacre, killing as many as 25 people, including 10 children. But the ACLU, which made a Freedom of Information Act request in March, has just filed a lawsuit to force the government to open its files.

When the residents of al Ghayil village in central Yemen heard gunfire the night of January 29th, they returned fire, thinking that they were under attack by a local party in Yemen’s civil war. U.S. forces then strafed the village with helicopter gunfire, killing villagers, damaging a dozen buildings, and wiping out the village’s livestock.

The raid, which Trump reportedly authorized over dinner, also resulted in the death of a Navy Seal, William “Ryan” Owens, and the destruction of a $70 million Osprey helicopter. The raid did not kill its intended target — a senior al Qaeda leader — and villagers denied that Al Qaeda had a presence in the village.

President Trump has insisted the raid was “highly successful,” but his administration has provided very few details about how the raid was authorized and who was killed. On Monday, the ACLU filed suit against the Trump administration to try and uncover basic information about the raid – who was killed, how the raid was approved, and its legal basis.

When the ACLU filed its FOIA request in March, the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, and Justice Department all issued administrative responses acknowledging that they received the request, but none of the agencies have provided any documents. Hina Shamsi, the director of the ACLU’s national security project, said that internal documents are essential to understanding the real story behind how the military decided to attack the village, without White House spin.

“We have seen that this White House cannot be trusted to give the public accurate information, which is especially critical when the president authorizes military action that kills civilians,” said Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project. “The administration’s explanations have little credibility, and the documents we seek are essential for public accountability when civilians are killed in the name of our national security.”

The Trump administration has been reluctant to share details about the raid. The Pentagon conducted three internal reviews, looking into the death of Owens, the loss of the Osprey, and civilian causalities. But Gen. Joseph Votel, the Pentagon’s top commander in the Middle East, told Congress that there were no signs of “poor decision-making or bad judgment,” and dismissed the need for any other investigations.

The White House took it a step further and tried to shame the raid’s critics into silence. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that “anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and [does] a disservice to the life of Chief Owens.” The next day, Trump tweeted that criticism from Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., “emboldens the enemy.”

The ACLU is looking for information about how the White House is loosening civilian casualty rules put in place by President Obama in 2013, when he adopted guidelines requiring “near certainty non-combatants will not be injured or killed” before conducting drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. After the Obama administration mistakenly bombed a wedding procession later that year in Yemen, human rights groups expressed concern the guidelines weren’t being followed.

The Trump administration has reportedly exempted parts of Yemen from those rules entirely, in an effort to bomb Al Qaeda more aggressively. According to the New York Times, the Trump administration “temporarily” designated parts of Yemen “areas of active hostilities” — a war zone like Iraq or Afghanistan, where the Pentagon can conduct operations with fewer layers of approval.

The move has allowed Trump to dramatically increase the pace of bombing. So far, the Trump administration has conducted drone strikes in Yemen at a rate five times higher than Obama.

A month after the botched SEAL raid, U.S. Apache helicopters descended on al Ghayil again and carried out “indiscriminate shelling,” according to a local resident. The Pentagon later announced that it had carried out airstrikes across three Yemeni provinces, including al Bayda province, where the village is located.

The Intercept published it own expose of the first raid based on local eyewitnesses. One five-year-old boy described how his mother was gunned down while trying to flee indiscriminate gunfire from a helicopter.

Top Photo: A Yemeni man, at right, looks at the picture of 8-year-old Yemeni girl Anwar al-Awlaki,  who was killed victim of the U.S. raid.

The post ACLU Sues Trump Administration for Files on Botched SEAL Raid in Yemen appeared first on The Intercept.

Six Ways the New York Times Could Genuinely Make Its Op-Ed Page More Representative of America

8 May 2017 - 9:41am

The New York Times defended hiring former Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens — a writer who has promoted climate denial and bigotry against Arabs — by insisting that it is seeking diversity of thought.

Public Editor Liz Spayd responded to readers’ complaints about Stephens by writing that the Times is looking “to include a wider range of views, not just on the Opinion pages but in its news columns.”

But hiring another prominent writer whose ideology hems close to that of the nation’s elites — in this case, fossil fuel corporations who are polluting the world and advocates of Western military might — is hardly adding intellectual diversity to the pages of the Times.

Here are six categories of writers who would truly broaden and diversify the op-ed pages of the NYT:

1. Bernie Sanders backers: Bernie Sanders is the nation’s most popular sitting politician, but the Times doesn’t employ a single columnist who was vocally supportive of his bid for president. It could change that by hiring some of his prominent backers: philosopher Cornel West, Jacobin editor Bhaskar Sunkara, civil rights scholar Michelle Alexander, labor organizer Jonathan Tasini, and former Nevada Assemblywoman and organizer Lucy Flores could all make strong additions.

2. Donald Trump supporters: Although the Times has numerous conservative columnists, none of them were open partisans of President Trump — whose approval ratings among Republican voters remains high. The Times could fix this by hiring some of the more thoughtful Trump backers, or at least writers who have documented his appeal. For instance, there is Dilbert creator Scott Adams, who admires Trump’s powers of persuasion and correctly predicted that he would be elected. It could also hire the Washington Examiner’s Saleno Zito, who has crisscrossed the country talking to Trump’s supporters, and who has done more than most journalists to document his appeal to the grassroots.

3. Young people: There seems to be a rule that a newspapers’ op-ed pages can’t include anyone under 40, even as editors lament that no young people read them. The Times could break real ground by hiring talented millennial writers like the Washington Post’s Elizabeth Bruenig or Demos’s Sean McElwee. The Times could also go even younger, including the voices of Americans who are rarely heard: high-schoolers. They could hire a regular teenage columnist, or even have students across the country share a regular column — rotating who is chosen to write by racial, gender, class, and other demographics.

4. Arab and Muslim Americans: The Middle East and Islam are frequent topics of New York Times columns, but the paper employs zero Arab or Muslim regular op-ed columnists to write these pieces. This is particularly galling in the face of the Stephens hire, whose reductive writing about the Middle East includes diatribes about the “disease of the Arab mind” and a “Palestinian blood fetish.” It could fix this by employing, for instance, prolific religion professor Reza Aslan or activist Linda Sarsour.

5. Opponents of militarism: The NYT op-ed page is home to Thomas Friedman, who once proudly described the message of the Iraq war as the following: “Well, suck. on. this. That…was what this war was about. We coulda hit Saudi Arabia….We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.” The paper’s op-ed pages lack skeptics of military intervention, but the Times could rectify that by hiring any number of talented writers: The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison, Foreign Policy’s Stephen Walt, or the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko would all be good picks.

6. Scientists and environmentalists: If the Times thinks it’s a good idea to hire someone who questions climate science, it might be a good idea to hire someone who actually studies and practices it to balance him out. They could hire, for instance, leading climatologist James Hansen or environmental lawyer Erin Brockovich.

So let’s take the Times at its word. They want a broader range of opinions on their op-ed page, but can’t seem to make much progress on their own. So let’s send them these suggestions — or any other ideas to truly open the windows there and let in some fresh air.

Top photo: Pedestrians walk by the outside of the The New York Times building in New York City on June 30, 2016.

The post Six Ways the New York Times Could Genuinely Make Its Op-Ed Page More Representative of America appeared first on The Intercept.

Macron Trounces Le Pen, Halting Advance of Far-Right in France

7 May 2017 - 3:45pm

The French public delivered a crushing blow to the hopes of extreme nationalists from Washington to Moscow on Sunday, by electing the moderate, pro-European Emmanuel Macron president, in a landslide victory over the candidate of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, who campaigned on a promise to leave the European Union.

Avec le nouveau Président ?? @EmmanuelMacron. Émue.
Merci. Mon pays tu as l'audace de tout. Tu es grand. pic.twitter.com/uztAEtGC5t

— Axelle TESSANDIER (@axelletess) May 7, 2017

Initial projections, released as soon as the polls closed, put the scale of Macron’s victory at close to two-thirds of valid votes cast, thrilling supporters gathered outside the Louvre in Paris.

The crowd when the result is announced #macron #Presidentielle2017 pic.twitter.com/kFR8Tt6KB8

— Anne-S Chassany (@ChassNews) May 7, 2017

Macron wins.

Projections:@IpsosFrance 65.1%@harrisint_fr 66.1%@Kantar_FR 65.%@IfopOpinion 65.5%

— Alberto Nardelli (@AlbertoNardelli) May 7, 2017

Still, Macron will be forced to confront widespread dissatisfaction with France’s political system, reflected in depressed turnout — with a quarter of voters staying home — and estimates that a record number of the ballots cast, from 9 to 12 percent, might have been blank or otherwise spoiled protest votes.

Highest level of 2nd round abstention since 1969 #Presidentielle2017 pic.twitter.com/XQw3aqhPMA

— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 7, 2017

Nouvelle estimation @Kantar_FR @GroupeONEPOINT @TF1 @RTLFrance @LCI
Macron 65,7%
Marine Le Pen 34,3%

Blanc : 8,4% des votants
Nul : 3,6%

— Cécile Lacroix-Lanoë (@C_LacroixLanoe) May 7, 2017

That Le Pen managed to get about a third of the votes for her extremist appeal to xenophobic French nationalism was variously seen as a triumph for moderation or a frightening advance, 15 years after her father had garnered less than 18 percent in the 2002 election.

Marine Le Pen projected to take around 11 million votes, double her father's score in 2002 #Presidentielle2017

— Angelique Chrisafis (@achrisafis) May 7, 2017

Two ways to look at this. 1. Macron by a landslide. 2. Le Pen gets over 10 million votes.

— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) May 7, 2017

Le FN en 2002 : 5.525.034 de voix
Le FN en 2007 : 3.834.530 de voix
Le FN en 2012 : 6.421.426 de voix
Le FN en 2017 : ? 11 millions de voix

— Ellen Salvi (@ellensalvi) May 7, 2017

Still, French voters fiercely opposed to Le Pen’s politics allowed themselves a moment to celebrate the humbling of the alt-right internationale.

Pierre Haski, a former deputy editor of Libération, the left-wing daily, even trolled Le Pen’s supporter in the White House, Donald Trump, for his tweeted congratulations to Macron.

And thank you to French voters for not choosing a Trump-like candidate. https://t.co/v47rljHgNf

— pierre haski (@pierrehaski) May 7, 2017

Others shared memes mocking the humiliated international “fachosphere.”

Coucou la fachosphère ? pic.twitter.com/GkmpA0JZic

— Pierre Schydlowski (@PSchydlowski) May 7, 2017

Macron’s new political movement now faces an immediate challenge, in the form of legislative elections next month, in which it will have to win a majority of seats despite fielding a slate of unknown candidates drawn largely from outside the political system.

To gain a majority in parliament, Macron’s candidates will have to defeat rivals from the mainstream parties of the left and the right, as well as Le Pen’s nationalists and members of a new grassroots political movement of the far-left, France Insoumise, or, France Unbowed.

After Macron’s victory was confirmed, two leaders of France Insoumise, Raquel Garrido and Alexis Corbiere, suggested that while there is an anti-fascist majority in France, the legislative elections would reveal far less support for Macron’s neo-liberal economic policies.

We don’t know if Macron will have a majority in the National Assembly,” Garrido tweeted. “It could be that Macron will be the opposition!”

"On ne sait pas si Macron sera majoritaire à l'@AssembleeNat ! Ce sera peut-être Macron qui sera à l'opposition !" – @RaquelGarridoFI

— La France insoumise (@FranceInsoumise) May 7, 2017

“We welcome the defeat of Le Pen,” Corbiere added, “but Macron does not have a political majority for his project.”

. @alexiscorbiere Nous nous félicitons de la défaite de Le Pen, mais Macron n'a pas de majorité politique à son projet. #FranceInsoumise

— La France insoumise (@FranceInsoumise) May 7, 2017

Polling appeared to bear that prediction out, suggesting that less than 40 percent of France wants Macron to govern with a majority in parliament.

The challenge ahead : Only 39% of French want #macron to get majority in parliament #frenchelection #Presidentielle2017 https://t.co/hcRepyTJH0

— Anne-S Chassany (@ChassNews) May 7, 2017

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the charismatic leader of France Insoumise, also hailed the defeat of Le Pen — noting that she finished third in the election, behind both Macron and the combined number of abstentions and spoiled ballots — and expressed hope that, after a presidential election marked by “rejection and fear,” the vote for parliament would be an opportunity “to make a positive choice.”

Les élections législatives doivent montrer qu'après un vote de refus et de peur, il est temps de faire un choix positif. #DirectJLM

— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) May 7, 2017

The post Macron Trounces Le Pen, Halting Advance of Far-Right in France appeared first on The Intercept.

White Fear in the White House: Young Bannon Disciple Julia Hahn Is a Case Study in Extremism

7 May 2017 - 9:45am

Steve Bannon, who is no stranger to controversy, faced a torrent of reproval when it was revealed not long ago that he had praised a detestable novel envisioning France invaded by an armada of brown-skinned migrants from India. The French novel is called “The Camp of the Saints,” and Bannon recommended it on several occasions when he was executive chairman of Breitbart News, to justify what he perceived as a mortal threat that whites face from immigration.

The book, published in the 1970s, had existed for decades as an obscure cornerstone of the utmost fringes of white racism. The Indian children in the novel were referred to as “little monsters,” and the adults were described as sexual maniacs who filled their ships with “rivers of sperm, streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.” The novel ended with hundreds of thousands of them taking over France and, by extension, the West. When it came out in the United States, Kirkus Reviews noted that “the publishers are presenting ‘The Camp of the Saints’ as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event.”

Bannon, now a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, made his glowing comments during radio programs he hosted in 2015 and 2016. But his comments were brief and in passing. The most enthusiastic endorsement of the book from anyone at Breitbart, and certainly the longest endorsement, came from a young reporter who wrote a gushing 4,000-word article that said “all around the world, events seem to be lining up with the predictions of the book.” The article, which neglected to mention that “The Camp of the Saints” is widely regarded as utterly racist, merely described it as controversial, and made conspiratorial parallels between its fictional characters and Pope Francis, Marco Rubio, and even Glenn Beck.

The Camp of The Saints

The Breitbart reporter was Julia Hahn, a Bannon protégé who followed him into the White House as a special assistant to President Trump. Bannon and other alt-right figures in the West Wing, including Sebastian Gorka, have received enormous amounts of criticism for espousing ideas that are seen as racist or ridiculous. Gorka is reported to be leaving the White House, and there have been reports that Bannon might be edged out, too. But Hahn has gotten almost no notice for writing what appears to be the longest and most laudatory article about “The Camp of the Saints” that has appeared in the American media in recent years. The few in-depth stories about her getting a job at the White House have mostly focused on her lashing criticism of Paul Ryan, the House speaker whose conservative positions on immigration were far too permissive for Bannon, Hahn, and the rest of Breitbart.

At a glance, Hahn is an outlier among outliers. She was raised in Beverly Hills, attended a private high school, and the only wisp of political activity in her adolescence was a decidedly liberal, pro-immigration gesture: She raised money for a group that brought foreign orphans to the United States. She majored in philosophy at the University of Chicago, and the sole public trace of her time there is a video of a panel discussion in which she discussed Michael Foucault’s idea that psychoanalysis stigmatizes human sexuality.

Not long after she was appointed to the White House at the age of just 25, one of her college friends reacted by writing on Facebook, “It’s weird because she was always very nice and it’s disappointing when seemingly nice people turn out to be Nazis/Nazi-adjacent.” Another friend asked, “WTF happened???”

The question of what happened offers an opportunity of sorts. There has been a lot of discussion about countering extremism and identifying extremists before they do something that harms themselves or the nation. How do young people become radicalized? The preferred means for answering these questions are not mysterious — find out the ideas that young people are exposed to, find out the social environment they are raised in, and work from there. This framework has been applied mostly to Islamic extremism, with the goal of figuring out why some Muslims become terrorists.

But the tools of “countering violent extremism,” as it’s known, work extremely well for figuring out the riddle of rich white kids who turn to the fringes of the right. How does someone who raised money for foreign orphans write, a few years later, a screed for Breitbart headlined “Muslim Immigration Puts Half a Million U.S. Girls at Risk of Genital Mutilation”? One of the first things you would seek to do, in the effort to understand the creation of this extremist, is to investigate the place where she was raised. It turned out that I didn’t need to search far, because I grew up less than a mile from Hahn’s home, and attended the same high school.

An athletic field at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, California. The private school, attended by Julia Hahn, costs about $40,000 a year for tuition and boasts a high success rate in getting its students admitted into Ivy League universities.

Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

In a way, Julia Hahn is the Patty Hearst of the far right, a daughter of privilege who veered wildly off the expected course. While she has said almost nothing about her journey to the virulent corners of white nationalism, and has not granted any interviews since starting in the White House (she turned down a request from The Intercept), the puzzle of her journey to the alt right can be assembled.

Hahn comes from fabulous wealth. Her grandfather Harold Honickman presided over a soft-drink bottling company that became one of the largest in the nation; in 2002, his net worth was estimated at $850 million. Honickman has used his wealth to support liberal causes, including organizations that help the homeless and efforts to tighten gun control. His family foundation has even provided funding for a poetry prize, and his wife wrote a genteel letter on the foundation website that said, “Our personal belief, at the end of the day, is that we are here to take care of one another.”

One of the Honickman children, Shirley, is the mother of Hahn, who was born on April Fools’ Day in 1991. Hahn was raised in a house that’s not far from Rodeo Drive and is valued at more than $5 million by Zillow. (Hahn’s White House financial disclosure form shows she owns bank and stock funds worth as much as $2 million.) The private school she attended (as I did, a generation earlier) is Harvard-Westlake. It’s hard to imagine a class of people who benefit more from immigrant and undocumented workers — who clean their homes, mow their lawns, maintain their pools, and cook their meals — than Hahn and other children of privilege in Los Angeles. The comfortable life she enjoyed was due, in no small part, to the immigrants she demeaned as a writer for Breitbart.

The dissonance appears to widen when you look at her secondary education. Harvard-Westlake is a model of West Coast liberalism. It is generally regarded as the most competitive school in Los Angeles, its student body drawing on the city’s entertainment and business worlds. When Hahn was named to the White House, the flummoxed student newspaper at Harvard-Westlake published a story in which her history teacher wondered aloud, “She was rather soft-spoken as I recall, so I guess no, I didn’t really see her headed to work for an organization like Breitbart or a person like Bannon.”

Steve Bannon walks to a House Republican meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 23, 2017.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News/Getty Images

Paradoxically, a clue to Hahn’s radicalization is located at Harvard-Westlake. The school has a surplus of famous alumni, from Shirley Temple to Sally Ride, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Matthew Weiner (the creator of “Mad Men” who named one of his show’s characters for a popular teacher at Harvard). But the school has another alum who is more infamous than famous: Alex Marlow, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart.

Marlow graduated from Harvard-Westlake in 2004, before Hahn, and for a long time nobody at the school seemed to know or care where he had ended up. The school took notice in 2016, when Marlow was quoted in a New York Times profile of Bannon. A school official posted the story on Facebook. Parents and alumni of Harvard-Westlake were aghast. “This is an embarrassment to our school, and to our fantastic community,” read one of the comments on the post.

The controversy was duly reported by the school’s student newspaper, which published a story on Marlow and quoted some of his teachers who remembered him as a smart and polite student — just like Hahn. “I would never have imagined that he would get involved with an organization as deplorable as Breitbart News,” said his history teacher Dave Waterhouse.

The upshot is that a single school in Los Angeles was the breeding ground for two of the youngest and most vehement stars of the Trump movement. This raises the prospect of what is known, among experts who study extremism, as a cluster. It goes beyond Hahn and Marlow.

Andrew Breitbart at the Occupy L.A. site, where he was interviewing occupiers in 2011.

Photo: Ted Soqui/Corbis/Getty Images

Where do America’s far-right leaders come from? Hahn and Marlow, who grew up 5 miles apart, are clues to an intriguing fact of political epidemiology. A surprising number of alt-right leaders come from a single wealthy liberal enclave: the west side of Los Angeles.

Andrew Breitbart, who founded the site that bears his name, was raised in Brentwood, at the center of the west side, and was living there when he died in 2012. Bannon, before becoming famous as the chairman of Breitbart and then Trump’s ideologue, was a Hollywood producer who sent his daughters to a private school in Brentwood. Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old presidential adviser who has been wildly provocative on immigration issues, was raised in neighboring Santa Monica, also known as the People’s Republic of Santa Monica because of its liberal politics.

This might seem weird. California voted in a landslide for Hillary Clinton. All of the state’s elected officials are Democrats, from the governor on down. Since 1961, only one Republican has been elected mayor of Los Angeles. But look again. While Trump got far fewer votes than Clinton, California’s population is so large that the only other state where Trump got more votes was Texas (which he won). According to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, California has more far-right conspiratorial “Patriot” groups, 81, than any other state in the country (Texas, the runner-up, has 79). California may be the “Left Coast,” but it is also the beating heart of the far-right coast.

This is not an accident. People don’t like to be told what to think, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that an atmosphere of doctrinaire liberalism might produce reactionaries who delight in defying the dogmas that seemed so repressive when they were growing up. For instance, Miller, a key advocate of Trump’s Muslim travel ban, chafed at the multiculturalism of his high school and its tolerance of gays.

Social progress always seems to trigger a backlash. It’s a paradox that makes sense — environments that are constructed to stop extremism can, instead, provoke it. Trump’s whole rise cannot be viewed through this single lens, of course. But the dynamic is crucial to understanding how and where some extremists are born: when people feel the privileges of their race, gender, language, or religion are threatened.

The skyline of Washington, D.C., including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol, and National Mall, seen from the air at sunset in 2014.

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In the popular telling, a common scenario of Muslim extremism occurs when a susceptible mind falls under the spell of a charismatic leader at a mosque or madrassa, though sometimes the contact occurs online (this happened with followers of Anwar al-Awlaki, for instance). I have reported on this dynamic in Pakistan, Iraq, and other countries that were like emotional depots for the unformed zeal of drifting youths. The spiritual leaders were spellbinding, their warnings were often apocalyptic, and the devotion of their youthful followers was complete, even if the logic of their maximalist ideologies was flawed and inhuman. Young minds, unshaped, were tinder for an ideological spark.

This scenario isn’t true only for Islamic extremists. When Hahn arrived in Washington, D.C., as another just-out-of-college aspirant, she was not political, according to every account of her that I’ve read and heard (I talked with more than a half dozen people who knew her at the University of Chicago). According to the Washington Post, Hahn jolted to ideological life in the first job she landed — as a producer for right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham. “It sparked her evolution,” the Post stated. “She moved quickly to the right.” A short article in the New Yorker reported much the same, that an apolitical Hahn moved to Washington to get a media job and turned to the far right after she started working for Ingraham. The Post quoted a former Ingraham employee as saying, “Laura will do that to people. She can be very convincing.”

This evokes a strange parallel between far-right radio and television empires presided over by the likes of Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Steve Bannon, and fundamentalist mosques and madrassas that manufacture the extremists of the Islamic world. Radical ideologies presented to impressionable minds in these locations are totalistic and comforting in an unsteady world. They offer simplistic antagonists — such as the infidels and the immigrants — and provide simplistic answers to social or economic problems (shut down immigration, eliminate education for girls, and so on). These spellbinding leaders, and the infrastructures around them, are vectors of youthful extremism.

Hahn worked for Ingraham for about a year, then became a spokesperson for David Brat, an insurgent Republican who used the issue of immigration to defeat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Brat, a total outsider, raised just $200,000 for his challenge to Cantor, and part of his upset victory was due to strong support from Ingraham as well as other right-wing media figures, including Mark Levin and Ann Coulter. Whether by design or chance, Hahn was at the center of the alt-right rebellion against not just the Democratic Party but the Republican establishment, too.

The late founder of Breitbart News, Andrew Breitbart, is seen on a T-shirt at the 44th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 23, 2017.

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Redux

Her next step took her to the forefront — as one of the most prolific and strident reporters for the norm-pulverizing machine at Breitbart. Bannon was the dominant figure at Breitbart at the time, “prone to surrounding himself with like-minded young acolytes,” as the New York Times later noted. In an unusual look inside Bannon’s life before he joined Trump’s campaign, a Bloomberg reporter visited Bannon’s townhouse-turned-newsroom and wrote that he had a “group of young, female Breitbart News reporters whom he’s dubbed the Valkyries.” The Bloomberg story had a photo of Bannon at his Capitol Hill home with nine young reporters, including Hahn. After Politico published a story that criticized Bannon, Hahn rose to his defense and described him as “one of the most supportive, kind, inspiring and selfless bosses a reporter could ask for.”

Under Bannon, Hahn produced a torrent of articles that mimicked his incendiary ideas on immigration, Muslims, and Democrats. Her stories were perfectly attuned to the extremist ideas for which Bannon has become celebrated and despised; Bannon and Hahn even co-wrote a story that flayed Paul Ryan. One of Hahn’s stories accused Hillary Clinton of planning to resettle a million Muslims in America, and another article warned ominously that under Clinton the number of Muslims in America would exceed the number in Germany — an irrelevant comparison because Germany’s population is several times smaller. One of Hahn’s anti-immigration articles was headlined “Clinton Releases Plan to Dissolve U.S. Border Within 100 Days.”

That was the usual alt-right noise from Breitbart. But in 2015, when Bannon started talking about “The Camp of the Saints,” Hahn wrote about it too. Her story argued that the book was prophetic because it warned that “the liberalism of the West would cause Western nations to throw open their doors to so many migrants that it would spell the doom of liberal society itself.” Hahn’s story used the book to warn that, as she wrote, immigrants from failed countries will “remake the West in the image of those failed countries.” The book, however, is widely regarded as a racist fever dream. One of its most enthusiastic supporters is Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front in France, who has a copy of it in her office and has tweeted out her endorsement of it.

Even in the conservative world, Hahn went too far for the comfort of some people. At the end of 2015, when she asked a panel of Republican legislators to raise their hands to indicate whether they would suspend or reduce Muslim immigration, Rep. Raul Labrador, a conservative from Idaho, lashed out at her. “I don’t answer questions from you,” he told Hahn, “because you are not a truthful reporter.”

Young Republicans holding iPads take a test, offered by the right-wing organization Generation Opportunity, about economic issues that are important to them at the 40th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., in 2013.

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Redux

The handful of published stories about Hahn have tended to focus on a seeming paucity of information that would explain who she is or how she ended up on the far right. “Hahn’s increasingly watched byline was all the more extraordinary for her utter anonymity,” the Washington Post reported. “Not only did she never appear on TV, she had no public social media presence whatsoever. Photos of her were hard to come by — and conspiracy theories about her true identity were beginning to circulate.” This makes for a good mystery story, but it misses the point. It took little effort for The Intercept to find photos of Hahn (there are some on Facebook, and Bloomberg had published a series of photos that included Hahn and listed her by name). While she does not appear to have been on television, Hahn was frequently on Breitbart radio and other right-wing radio shows.

The mysterious thing about Julia Hahn is that there is any mystery at all. Washington is bursting with strivers in their 20s just like her, eager to find their spot on the terrain of political power, while unsure of what their own attitudes about power really are. The lack of a political center in the young creatures of Washington is the stuff of parody; just watch an episode of “Veep.” Long ago, I was one of these creatures — as a student at Georgetown University, I applied for internships on Capitol Hill and took the first one I was offered, from a Republican representative famous for one thing — his father was Barry Goldwater, the iconic senator from Arizona. The son had little of his father’s charisma and his politics were vague, though he was kind to me and let me drive his Aston Martin. He was no Laura Ingraham.

Karachi and Kabul are a long ways from Capitol Hill but the hydraulics of youthful extremism are remarkably similar in all of them. Julia Hahn’s opposites are not the young and impressionable Muslims who adopt hate-filled ideas about infidels. They are her mirror image.

Top photo: Julia Hahn on July 24, 2015, at the Breitbart offices in Washington.

The post White Fear in the White House: Young Bannon Disciple Julia Hahn Is a Case Study in Extremism appeared first on The Intercept.

A cruzada de um prefeito mimado contra seus críticos

7 May 2017 - 8:52am

“Liga nas de cem que trinca
Nas pedra que brilha
Na noite que finca as garra
SP é fio de navalha
O pior do ruim
Doria, Alckmin
Não encosta em mim playboy
Eu sei que tu quer o meu fim”

Este trecho da canção da banda Aláfia foi removido antes de ir ao ar pela TV Cultura, emissora ligada ao governo de São Paulo. Além da censura na televisão, os vídeos da apresentação da banda no programa “Cultura Livre” também foram removidos do Youtube. Segundo a emissora, a intenção foi “não difundir ideias ou fatos que incentivem a polarização, independentemente do indivíduo a quem esse discurso se destina”. Essa justificativa da TV Cultura fica ainda mais engraçada quando lembramos que Augusto Nunes, conhecido por sua fervorosa militância antiesquerdista, é o jornalista escolhido para mediar entrevistas do Roda Viva.

Apesar de serem notórios defensores da liberdade de expressão em Cuba e na Venezuela, os tucanos nunca se deram muito bem com ela no Brasil.

Nas eleições de 2014, Aécio Neves processou 66 usuários do Twitter que, segundo ele, formavam “um grupo remunerado para veicular conteúdos ilícitos na internet”. Ele requisitou ao site os dados cadastrais dos donos dos perfis, dentre eles o crítico de cinema Pablo Villaça e o jornalista Paulo Nogueira. Em outra ação no início daquele ano, Aécio também tentou censurar pesquisas em ferramentas de busca, pedindo para que Google, Yahoo e Bing removessem do sistema “notícias que o acusam de desvio de verbas na saúde em Minas, além de 19 termos detectados nesses sites às sugestões de pesquisas feitas automaticamente”. Aliás, sobre Aécio e liberdade de imprensa, recomendo que pesquisem sobre o jornalista Marco Aurélio Carone, que ficou preso por 9 meses antes de ser absolvido por denúncias contra Aécio. Obviamente, não vimos nenhuma cobertura na grande mídia a respeito deste caso.

Alckmin também não costuma dar moleza para seus críticos. Conhecido como Santo nas planilhas da Odebrecht, o governador já entrou com ação na justiça pedindo quebra de sigilo cadastral de seis perfis do Twitter que o chamaram de “ladrão da merenda” e “corrupto”. Quanta injustiça!  

E qual seria a postura do tucano mais badalado do momento em relação às críticas nas redes sociais? Bom, o homem que se julga portador de novos ares para a política está lançando mão do mesmíssimo modus operandi dos seus colegas. Quer dizer, temos algumas novidades. Antes de iniciarem um processo, advogados de Doria estão pedindo para usuários do Facebook alterarem conteúdos que possam ferir os sentimentos do prefeito. Uma notificação extrajudicial que, na prática, funciona como censura prévia. Guilherme Coelho usou seu Facebook para criticar Doria por cortar o ponto dos grevistas e recebeu esse pedido gentil através das mensagens particulares do Facebook:

“Prezado Dr. Guilherme, tudo bem? Em consulta à sua página do Facebook, verifiquei a existência de um ‘post’ sobre o direito constitucional à greve em que há menção a João Doria. Como faço parte da equipe jurídica do João, eu gostaria de lhe pedir apenas uma gentileza: que você retire do texto a parte em que se estimula a ‘ovada’. Você poderia fazer isso? Obrigado e bom final de semana.”

Assim como Le Penn e Macron receberam ovadas de protesto nas eleições francesas, Guilherme sugeriu o mesmo para o prefeito, que chama os grevistas de “preguiçosos”, “vagabundos”, “que não merecem respeito”. É assim que o prefeito se dirige aos trabalhadores que exerceram um direito constitucional.

Mas, convenhamos, os advogados têm certa razão em se preocupar. Se uma bolinha de papel já levou político experiente ao hospital para fazer tomografia, pode-se imaginar a alta periculosidade de uma ovada no gestor.

Diante da notificação do advogado, Guilherme decidiu alterar o conteúdo da postagem para evitar uma briga judicial com um homem rico e poderoso. É compreensível. Todos sabemos o peso que isso tem na Justiça brasileira, haja vista seu histórico.

Segundo o escritório de advocacia de Doria, que curiosamente pertencia ao seu secretário municipal de Negócios Jurídicos até ele assumir o cargo, não há nenhum monitoramento das críticas nas redes sociais. As denúncias são enviadas por “simpatizantes de Doria”. Ou seja, os advogados descobrem tudo através de uma rede de caguetas. Espanta a similaridade com 1984, de George Orwell.

E não é a primeira vez que Doria recorre à Justiça contra seus críticos na internet. Ele já pediu a retirada de um evento criado no Facebook chamado “Virada Cultural na Casa de João Dorian” – um protesto contra as mudanças que desfiguraram o tradicional evento paulistano. Também solicitou que fossem fornecidos os IPs dos autores. O juiz não aceitou o pedido de remoção da página, porque considerou legal a manifestação, mas permitiu a divulgação dos IPs – uma flagrante violação do Marco Civil, que determina que os registros dos usuários sejam divulgados apenas em casos de indícios de crime. Era tudo o que Doria precisava para seus planos de intimidação.

É claro que todas as críticas devem respeitar os limites da lei. Mas em um regime democrático, uma pessoa pública, um governante, deve estar preparado e ser tolerante com as críticas mais ácidas. Querer jogar tudo para o campo judicial e torcer para que o juiz decida se é calúnia, difamação ou não apenas revela a pequenez e o pouco espírito democrático do político. Dilma, por exemplo, apanhou muito mais nas redes sociais durante o processo de impeachment e aguentou firme, sem espernear como Doria. Teve sua imagem associada até à pornografia, mas nunca processou ninguém.

Prefeito joga no chão as flores de protesto que recebeu de cicloativista (TV Globo/Reprodução)

O gestor demonstra enorme dificuldades em lidar com as críticas, provando que, como político, ele é um excelente marqueteiro. Mas nem sempre o marketing é capaz de substituir a política. Com frequência, Doria se envolve em bate-boca na rua, responde manifestações contrárias com agressividade e faz promessas pirotécnicas que não será capaz de cumprir.

Outro exemplo da falta de traquejo político foi a demissão da secretária Soninha, feita através de uma transmissão ao vivo pelo Facebook. A impressão é que ele administra o município como uma empresa – ou um reality show – e confunde cidadãos com funcionários. É um patrãozinho bravo que ainda pensa estar apresentando O Aprendiz.

No dia 10 de abril, o prefeito participou em Porto Alegre do – contenha o riso! – Fórum da Liberdade. Lá apresentou seus feitos revolucionários na saúde paulistana, com números que deixaram todos boquiabertos. Mas aí a Agência Lupa, que faz checagem de dados, passou o pente fino no discurso marqueteiro do prefeito e refutou praticamente todas as informações prestadas. Os dados apresentados foram classificados como “exagerado”, “contraditório” e “insustentável” – uma trinca de adjetivos perfeita para qualificar a gestão do gestor que faz política jurando não ser político, mas que já mira as eleições presidenciais.  Como diz Criolo em seu novo disco, “meninos mimados não podem reger a nação”.

 

The post A cruzada de um prefeito mimado contra seus críticos appeared first on The Intercept.

Paul Ryan’s Spokesperson Can’t Be Bothered Coordinating Her Lies About Trumpcare With the White House’s Lies

6 May 2017 - 6:12pm

Congressional Republicans — Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in particular — have been vociferously criticized for passing the American Health Care Act this Thursday before the final version of the bill was scored by the Congressional Budget Office to determine its likely effects.

The biggest change between previous versions of Trumpcare and the bill that squeaked through the House is that the new AHCA allows states to waive parts of Obamacare’s rules about community-rating. This means that people with preexisting health conditions — essentially anyone who hasn’t been in perfect health their entire lives — who live in states that do this would be placed in high risk pools and likely charged far, far more for insurance, so much that it could be totally unaffordable.

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders explained on Thursday why the House was not waiting for a CBO score before voting. It is, she said, “impossible to score a lot of the things that would go into this because it has so many different factors that you simply can’t predict what governors may do in their states.”

Yet on Saturday, Ryan’s press secretary AshLee Strong took to twitter to claim that in fact the AHCA had been scored by the CBO:

While we're setting the record straight: AHCA was posted online a month ago, went through 4 committees, & has been scored by CBO — twice.

— AshLee Strong (@AshLeeStrong) May 6, 2017

CBO has scored #AHCA twice. #facts

March 13: https://t.co/fqlMGmPVdz

March 23: https://t.co/OAJ4M7lhEP

— AshLee Strong (@AshLeeStrong) May 6, 2017

This is true, in the sense that previous versions of the bill were scored by the CBO. It’s also consciously deceptive, in the sense that the version that passed has not been scored by the CBO.

To Strong’s credit, she did reply to emails asking about her tweets, although in ways that were non-responsive.

First, she refused to simply acknowledge that the version of the AHCA that passed was not scored by the CBO. Instead, she repeatedly stated that “the underlying bill has been scored twice already and only narrow changes have been made since the last score.”

In other words, Strong is claiming that the difference between previous versions of the AHCA and the one that passed are insignificant — yet were somehow important enough to make the difference between the bill passing and not passing. Douglas Elmendorf, who ran the CBO from 2009-15 during the Obama administration, recently told Politico that “I don’t see how you can argue that combination of things at the same time with a straight face.”

Moreover, it’s unlikely that Americans with significant pre-existing health conditions (like myself) find the possibility of being priced out of the insurance market to be a “narrow change.”

Strong also refused repeated requests to comment on Sanders’s statement that the version of the AHCA that passed was “impossible to score.”

However, she did say that, “off the record, the point is that people are incorrectly stating ‘there’s no score.’ That’s not accurate.”

This last statement was an interesting example of the standard relationship between the press and high-level politicians and their staff. In theory, both sources and reporters must formally agree to go off the record before doing so. In practice, sources often unilaterally declare, as in this instance, that they’re going off the record without securing a prior agreement with reporters, who frequently play along because they fear damaging their relationship with the source. I made no such agreement with Strong, and “off the record” remarks are often, as in this situation, incredibly banal.

Top photo: U.S. President Donald Trump congratulates House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., after Republicans passed legislation aimed at repealing and replacing ObamaCare, during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House, on May 4, 2017 in Washington, DC.

The post Paul Ryan’s Spokesperson Can’t Be Bothered Coordinating Her Lies About Trumpcare With the White House’s Lies appeared first on The Intercept.

There Are No “Macron Leaks” in France. Politically Motivated Hacking Is Not Whistleblowing.

6 May 2017 - 1:48pm

Here’s some news for the alt-right activists in the United States behind a disinformation campaign aimed at getting Marine Le Pen elected president of France by spreading rumors about her opponent, Emmanuel Macron: The French do not much like having their intelligence insulted by Americans.

Funniest part of #MacronLeaks is the US alt-right, who can't read French, spending time on misinterpreting mundane documents.

— Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) May 5, 2017

Time-tested alliance of Russian propaganda and US far-right Trumpian lunatics looks more like the Three Stooges this time #MacronLeaks

— Pierre Briançon (@pierrebri) May 6, 2017

That theme was repeated again and again in France on Saturday, in response to reports that a trove of hacked documents — nine gigabytes of memos and emails stolen from Macron aides and posted online Friday night, just before a legally imposed blackout on statements from candidates took effect — was first publicized on social networks by pro-Trump propagandists.

Qui est @JackPosobiec le militant pro-Trump qui a le premier relayé les « MacronLeaks » ? — via @lemondefr @pixelsfr https://t.co/Se9GLF7IUJ

— Cécile Prieur (@cecileprieur) May 6, 2017

According to Nicolas Vanderbiest, a Belgian academic who studies social networks, the hacked documents only began to attract attention after they were linked to on Twitter by Jack Posobiec, a Trump supporter who added the misleading hashtag, #MacronLeaks.

Via ce tweet-ci il a offert le premier tweet via 4Chan. pic.twitter.com/4qidML19F8

— Nicolas Vanderbiest (@Nico_VanderB) May 5, 2017

That tag, which falsely suggested that the hacked documents had been leaked by a public-spirited whistleblower, rather than stolen by Macron’s political opponents, and contained evidence of wrongdoing, instead of what appears to be mainly a collection of mundane campaign memos, was soon used by a more influential account, WikiLeaks.

#MacronLeaks: A significant leak. It is not economically feasible to fabricate the whole. We are now checking parts. https://t.co/wLemQiYHT2

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 5, 2017

Metadata of #Macrongate "offshore" document corresponds to Cannon printer which costs over $100k https://t.co/f3BL3oOmgI pic.twitter.com/aAB0q1cLVN

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 6, 2017

As Vanderbiest demonstrated in graphics that chart how awareness of the hacked documents spread across Twitter, a series of tweets from WikiLeaks drew much more attention to the trove — and helped validate it in the minds of many followers of the transparency organization, some of whom wrongly assumed that Wikileaks was the original source for publishing the documents.

Le début du hashtag #MacronLeaks : oh encore lui. Bah ca alors pic.twitter.com/6YKg0eKyan

— Nicolas Vanderbiest (@Nico_VanderB) May 5, 2017

La cartographie animée temporaire et rapide de #MacronLeaks sans les explications pic.twitter.com/aGrW86KEoh

— Nicolas Vanderbiest (@Nico_VanderB) May 5, 2017

Cartographie de #Macronleaks à minuit.
Mauve = Dénonciation
Vert = l'histoire d'amour entre le FN et les comptes US/Trump . Tout est dit pic.twitter.com/QVsyOdGTEi

— Nicolas Vanderbiest (@Nico_VanderB) May 6, 2017

Even as Wikileaks helped spread news of the hack, the group’s French lawyer, Juan Branco, wrote that the “MacronLeaks” dump “disgusts me.”

D'évidence le procédé des "Macronleaks" me dégoûte. On joue à quoi ?

— Juan Branco (@anatolium) May 5, 2017

“What are we playing at?” asked Branco, who is running for a seat in parliament next month as a candidate of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise party.

Instead of important revelations, an initial review of the documents circulating under the MacronLeaks tag by Julien Cadot, a journalist for the site Numerama, suggested that they “seem to be utterly banal.”

“There are briefing notes, bills, loans for amounts that are not excessive,” Cadot explained, along with “strictly personal and private exchanges — personal notes on rain and good weather, a confirmation email on the publication of a novel, the reservation of a table between friends.”

The point of the dump, then, appears to be less about providing real evidence to back up the rumors and innuendo Marine Le Pen’s supporters have been spreading about Macron for months, and more a way to reinforce the fact-free speculation the candidate herself engaged in during a televised debate this week — that her rival, a former investment banker, might be hiding something that would discredit him, like an offshore account.

That was certainly the message Le Pen’s influential deputy, Florian Philippot, attempted to drive home on Twitter, where he asked rhetorically, “Will #Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism has deliberately killed?”

Les #Macronleaks apprendront-ils des choses que le journalisme d'investigation a délibérément tues ? Effrayant ce naufrage démocratique.

— Florian Philippot (@f_philippot) May 5, 2017

That seemed unlikely, however, given the timing of the release — which came just before French media outlets were forced to observe a ban on reporting for the campaign’s final weekend, meaning that any revelations of real significance would not be broadcast outside the echo chambers of social networks and non-French outlets.

According to initial reviews of the documents, the hacked documents also seem to have been stolen nearly two weeks ago. The decision to not release them until it was too late for journalists to dig through them for dirt on Macron strongly suggests that the hackers, at least, had not come across anything incriminating.

Not that the lack of evidence stopped alt-right activists like Posobiec — who previously played a central role in pushing the viral conspiracy theory that Hilary Clinton’s aides were using the code word “pizza” in emails to refer to child sex slaves — from trying to claim that the hacked documents were damaging to Macron.

5% of #MacronGate users account for 40% of tweets. The most prolific tweeted 1668X/24 hrs?faster than one RT per min, all day with no sleep.

— Nicole Perlroth (@nicoleperlroth) May 6, 2017

As Alberto Nardelli of Buzzfeed noted, Posobiec even falsely claimed that a mundane document showing that Macron’s campaign had taken out financial insurance was a suspiciously “huge new life insurance policy” taken out by the candidate.

Unfortunately for Jack here, French voters can read French https://t.co/aCuMtOZXFM

— Alberto Nardelli (@AlbertoNardelli) May 5, 2017

Macron took out huge new life insurance policy in March 2017, per docs #MacronLeaks pic.twitter.com/VHUmQCeJAF

— Jack Posobiec ?? (@JackPosobiec) May 5, 2017

While Macron’s campaign confirmed that some of the documents were genuine, they claimed that the trove also contained forgeries. Among the hacked documents examined by security researchers, some did appear to be obvious fakes — like one receipt for illegal drugs, supposedly ordered by an elderly French politician who used Bitcoin to make his purchase and asked for the drugs to shipped to him under his own name at his parliamentary office.

Bad fakes mixed in too: an old French politician using bitcoin to have drugs shipped to the parliament building? lol (HT @IEPgrenoble) pic.twitter.com/VbwjjsBFG0

— the grugq (@thegrugq) May 5, 2017

Other researchers reported that the metadata of some documents revealed that they had been edited on computers using Russian-language characters.

Dropping files after appending metadata to Microsoft Offices files such as "?????" or "???????_??????" Why? #attribution H/T @voulnet pic.twitter.com/h2KBLimjZn

— Matt Suiche (@msuiche) May 6, 2017

Who is Roshka Georgiy Petrovich? ????? ??????? ????????? 26th Excel file from #MacronLeaks @wikileaks pic.twitter.com/vHFmki5oev

— Bivol (@BivolBg) May 6, 2017

That fueled widespread speculation that the hacked documents might have been stolen and released by Russian intelligence agents, to promote Le Pen, who had a friendly meeting with President Vladimir Putin in March, and has borrowed 9.4 million euros from a Russian bank to fund her campaign.

Deleted tweet of France's ambassador in DC: "To be expected. Last chance offensive in favor of a candidate favored by a foreign government" pic.twitter.com/spU7nbp6vy

— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) May 5, 2017

One Russian paper calls Emmanuel Macron a "psycopath"; another says he has "bulging fish eyes". It's clear who Moscow's backing in this race pic.twitter.com/NoV2f7IqyZ

— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) May 5, 2017

Russia has a lot riding on Marine Le Pen's candidacy. How far would they go to help her win? https://t.co/EkZ3262Sko

— max seddon (@maxseddon) May 6, 2017

“What I get from this clumsy initiative is that it reveals just how much these people think of us as imbeciles,” the blogger Jean-Marc Lafon wrote on Twitter. “You can’t love France and be convinced that the French people are fools,” he added. “You can be a patriot and have a brain.”

As Nicolas Vanderbiest, the Belgian researcher, noted, earlier this week Posobiec and a network of followers and bots were also responsible for spreading an obviously forged document that they insisted was evidence that Macron had evaded French taxes by opening a secret bank account in the Bahamas. In that case, Posobiec had used the English-language hashtag #MacronGate, which, as Samuel Laurent of Le Monde noted, betrayed the fact that it did not originate in the French-speaking world.

Cartographie animée du #MacronGate sur son prétendu compte caché. Comme ça vous avez tous les éléments. pic.twitter.com/XNeUjnAJA7

— Nicolas Vanderbiest (@Nico_VanderB) May 4, 2017

Even though that fake “proof” of a secret Macron account was debunked in the French media, it continued to spread on social networks, successfully confusing some voters, who were also exposed to other forgeries shared by activists from Le Pen’s National Front.

Taken together, the effort to spread forged documents and the late release of genuine material hacked from Macron’s campaign, disguised as a “leak,” might be evidence of an intentional disinformation campaign, aimed at misleading voters into thinking real evidence of malfeasance by Macron had been provided to the media but was being suppressed.

The post There Are No “Macron Leaks” in France. Politically Motivated Hacking Is Not Whistleblowing. appeared first on The Intercept.

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